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Snowboarding Reaches Critical Mass at Slopes More and more kids will be navigating the mountainside on snowboards, not skis, according to the third annual TransWorld Snowboarding Business/National Ski Areas Association survey, released in October. The poll of 232 resorts revealed that nearly one-quarter (22.4 percent) of their visitors in the 1997-98 winter season were snowboarders. Within five years, that figure is expected to increase to more than one-third (34.8 percent). And the group most responsible for growth in the snowboarding market are teens: overall, 59 percent of the snowboarding newcomers were teens who said they had "never-ever" been skiing and snowboarding, compared to only 4 percent of people over 20 who "never-ever" tried either sport. Another 26 percent of teens "crossed over from skiing," compared to 12 percent of people over 20.

With more snowboarders on the slopes, resorts are courting these new customers in a more aggressive, targeted way. Nearly all resort executives responding to the survey said their venues now offer rentals, lessons, repairs, and events related to snowboarding. More are starting to open snowboard shops and snowboard-specific trails.

Resort owners have also realized snowboarding's importance to the bottom line. More than three out of four resorts said snowboarding was important to their overall profitability. "Resort owners would be in a world of hurt if not for the dramatic growth in popularity of snowboarding," says Sean O'Brien, managing editor of TransWorld Snowboarding Business, which cosponsored the survey.

Women are taking to the boards in a big way. The study reveals that female snowboarders are expected to comprise 38.4 percent of all resort snowboarders in five years, compared with 29.5 percent in 1997-98. The largest resorts in the Rockies and the Pacific West are expecting the greatest rise in visits by women boarders.

O'Brien bases snowboarding's broadening appeal in part on Madison Avenue's love affair with the sport, including commercials for products like Mountain Dew that glorify snowboarders and make them look cool. Special events such as ESPN's Winter X-Games and regional competitions have also added to the sport's reach.

By 2002, nearly half (46 percent) of those at the top of mountains in the Pacific West will be snowboarding down them, with 40.2 percent of enthusiasts in the Southeast expected to be on boards. Though the Northeast will still account for the smallest population of snowboarders in five years-27.3 percent of total anticipated resort visitors in 2002-the increase will still be significant, up from 18.1 percent in 1997-98.

And relations seem to be improving between the fuddy-duddy downhillers who lack patience with the wide, flat boards and the "Radical, dude!" youngsters who ride them. Eighty percent of resort owners say the relationship between alpine skiers and snowboarders is getting better. That may be due to the fact that resorts-which acknowledge that about 34 percent of their personnel ride the boards-have added snowboard courtesy staff and more ski patrollers on snowboards.

The Show's the Thing It's official: Televisions that allow viewers to order dinner, shop, and even take part in a local Town Hall meeting with a click of the remote, are here, and ever more sophisticated models are on the way. But do we really want them? A new consumer survey may have manufacturers wondering about that.

Arbitron's New Media Pathfinder Study, released in November, indicates that consumers may not be so hot for the bells and whistles that TV manufacturers unveiled at last month's Consumer Electronics Show. The study found that given the choice, most consumers would just as soon use the tube to watch good-old-fashioned entertainment, rather than as a high-tech device to manage life's duties, such as shopping, sending e-mail, even notifying the police in case of an emergency.

The study surveyed 4,500 consumers between the ages of 16 and 74. Nearly half said they would be interested in watching old movies and television classics, and more than 40 percent said the same of live sporting events. Compare that to the one-third who said they would be interested in e-mailing or ordering tickets via remote. Even less (15 percent) were interested in participating in video discussions on community, political, or consumer issues. Not surprisingly, the younger the person, the less afraid they are of new technology. For example, 53 percent of young adults age 16 to 19 felt strongly that they would send e-mail through their televisions, compared to just one in four of respondents in their 40s.

But when it comes to shopping, youth isn't the deciding factor. Those in their 30s were most interested in looking for product information via interactive television, well ahead of their younger, early-adopter brethren. They also showed a greater interest in ordering catalog merchandise via remote. Younger adults (age 16 to 29) were most interested in ordering groceries through a special television set or looking at menus of local restaurants and ordering dinner, as well as tickets or reservations for movies, concerts, and other events or trips.

People living in the South and the Northeast expressed more interest in shopping through their television sets than those in the Central and Southern states. Those in the South and West said they would prefer to use the TV set to send e-mail, look in on community forums, and participate in a class.

Functional Foods It used to be that food was food- eat healthy stuff and you'll live better. But who really has time to prepare those three squares-or one pyramid-a day? Food manufacturers are wising up to the fact that in this time-challenged era, Americans can use a quick and easy boost to their daily recommended dose of vitamins and minerals. What better way to aid them in that quest than to offer a line of easy-to-prepare products that do double duty? Enter the era of "functional foods."

Early iterations of the "food boost" trend were simple enough-cereals fortified with an extra dose of vitamins or minerals; breads or juices with added calcium. Now, herbal supplements that were once relegated to the back corners of health food stores are becoming big business. How big? Enough for some of the major players in consumer packaged goods-Kellogg, Campbell Soup, DuPont, ConAgra-to stir up some new products, all monitored by the Federal Dietary Supplements, Health and Education Act, which regulates the types of health claims that can be attached to dietary supplements.

Early forays into the functional foods segment met with mixed success. Last year Campbell pulled a line of frozen entrees called Intelligent Cuisine. They were proven in clinical trials to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, but they didn't deliver the taste or variety consumers craved. Johnson & Johnson tried out Benecol, a margarine with stanol ester, a natural supplement supposed to lower cholesterol, but was denied permission to market the popular European product by the FDA, which demanded proof that the supplement was safe.

Undaunted, natural foods giant Hain Food Group is using natural herbal supplements to enhance a new line of soups, Hain Kitchen Prescription, which debuted at the Natural Products Expo East last year. The soups contain echinacea, an herb that is supposed to boost the immune system, and St. John's Wort, a supplement touted as the natural Prozac. And this month, Kellogg is launching a line of cholesterol-lowering foods called Ensemble. The line will include bread, cereal, frozen entrees, and desserts enhanced with psyllium, a natural fiber proven to lower dietary cholesterol.

While some medical doctors may question the effects of herbal supplements, echinacea, St. John's Wort, gingko, and ginseng, among others, are popular among consumers. "People aren't specifically aware of the term 'neutraceutical,'" says Linda Gilbert, president of Des Moines-based HealthFocus, Inc., which conducts a biannual survey of 2,074 primary grocery shopper s about health trends. "But they do know about specific supplements. For example, only 20 percent of those surveyed in 1998 had not heard about ginseng, and only 22 percent had no knowledge of gingko."

Robert's American Gourmet is also trying to satisfy Americans' urge for herbs with Personality Puffs, a snack enhanced with gingko biloba. And the Longevity Company is offering Happy and Healthy cookies, which are supplemented with gingko and St. John's Wort. There are even a host of gums on the market that industry reps are pitching as "serious delivery systems." GumTech International markets Brain Gum enhanced with phosphatidylserine, a nutrient the company claims increases mental acuity. Wrigley's Stay Alert gum works the old-fashioned way-it's packed with caffeine. Want to calm down? Origins' Peace of Mind Gumballs contain soothing peppermint, basil, and eucalyptus.

What lies at the root of the enhanced food craze? "Consumers are becoming more interested in foods that deliver benefits beyond the basic ones ...They are looking for simple ways to take control of their health," says Gilbert.

Findings from the Food Marketing Institute concur. In a 1998 survey conducted by FMI and Prevention magazine, 57 percent of consumers reported that they are more aware of the benefits of a good diet than they were 12 months previously. And nearly half of shoppers said that the desire to manage a specific health condition on their own affected their grocery purchasing decision.

"The focus is on foods that boost performance and prevent disease, but that is evolving toward a focus on wellness," adds Gilbert, who says the trend is yet another product of the aging baby boom. "The whole functional foods segment is driven by 40-to-50-year-old women, who are interested in taking care of themselves and their families," she says.

"It is true that people are taking more responsibility for their own health," agrees Joshua Isenberg, editor of Chicago-based "Food Channel," an industry newsletter and Web site. "And natural products that are enhanced with calcium or vitamins seem to be a good fit. But the FDA is scrutinizing various label claims very closely, so manufacturers have to be careful when they launch products with herbal supplements."

Still, the main thing that will affect the rise or fall of functional foods, says Isenberg, is a product's gustatory greatness, not it's herbal punch. For most consumers, no matter what the health claim, taste still rules.

PC Banking's Next Wave Personal computer banking pioneers have paved the way for tsunamic growth among online financial sophisticates in the next three years, but when it comes to attracting more mainstream consumers, marketers will have to change tactics from those used to lure "early adopters," according to new analyses from Norwalk, Connecticut-based research consultancy INTECO Corp.

The number of American households doing PC banking will double from 4.8 million to more than 10 million by the end of 2001, INTECO predicts.

While banks and financial institutions can gain marketing insight by profiling the existing pool of PC bankers, the "very early adopters" will not necessarily be typical of the next wave of PC banking households.

The lion's share of the next wave of PC bankers will come from what INTECO calls the "early majority," a select 10 percent of well-educated, higher-income households who will look to technology to overcome time constraints, according to INTECO senior vice president Gerry Kurth. Almost all households in this segment consist of married couples with incomes of nearly $90,000. Three-quarters are dual-income families. In 55 percent of these households, both adults have college-level education or beyond, compared to just 10 percent in all households.

As one would expect, residents of households with a larger asset base have more complicated financial lives, so convenience and timesaving for money-management tasks are extremely important, Kurth says. Among these households, there's a higher penetration of fax machines, pagers, cell phones, camcorders, and big-screen TVs. Their expenditure on long-distance telephone service tends to be high. These propensities suggest several options for banks and financial institutions to leverage marketing partnerships with technology and/or telecommunications companies.

Their favorite leisure activities-golf, skiing, international travel, and wines-also present opportunities for affinity programs and marketing partnerships.

INTECO's analysis also reveals that its early majority segment tends toward accepting Web advertising, offering additional revenue opportunities for financial institutions.

Two musts for successful online banking programs are that the service be accessible via the Internet (as opposed to direct dial-up), and that there is no question about online security issues, Kurth says. Well-communicated programs limiting customer liability for on-site security breaches will be the fastest and most effective route around the Web security issue, he adds.

Just as identifying the greatest number of potential customers for online banking is of interest to financial services marketers, they're also keen on pinpointing households to whom advertising such a service is almost certainly a waste.

Fact is, 44 percent of U.S. households fall into this category, INTECO has found. Members of this "laggards" group are, on average, 15 years older than the early majority, are less educated (only 7 percent of the heads of household have a college degree), and are likely to live outside a traditional family structure. In many cases, the head of household is female. There is almost no technological infrastructure; only 18 percent own PCs. Just 6 percent of laggards' heads of household are classified as "managerial, professional, or executive," compared to 75 percent of the early majority.

Normally, bank and financial services marketers identify highly likely adopters of a new service by developing a profile and looking for matches on their own database, Kurth says. Alternatively, clients often mine their own databases to identify relationships and predictors.

INTECO's approach uses its own nationally representative database and offers decision support driven by statistically valid survey data, validated by actual external data.

INTECO not only identified and defined the two extreme segments cited above, but three others as well, using its Custom Modeling Service, which taps into its database that contains results of more than 30,000 interviews conducted in the U.S. since 1993. The three middle segments form the "middle majority," and comprise 46 percent of U.S. households. Although they are quite different from the early majority and laggards, they are not strongly differentiated from each other.

INTECO's complete Profile for Online Bankers consists of more than 223 tables, tabulated by the total population, target definition fit, and segment detail. The research basis is 2,495 detailed interviews, conducted in May 1998 with a sample representative of all U.S. adults. Responses were weighted and mapped to Census Bureau projections for U.S. households (100 million) and adults (194 million).

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