Do vegos have the right communication strategy? **

vegetarian meal-small

Full disclosure before going further: I can’t classify myself vegetarian, but the majority of my diet is and I am quite sensitive to animal wellbeing. I guess we could say I try to practice “sustainable eating” – meaning I tend to avoid factory farmed meat and try to adopt a vegetarian diet as much as possible, but I can’t resist a tender organic beef eye fillet.


Recently, I have often been exposed to the opinion of the two rival clans: the meat lovers vs. the vegos (and vegans).  And they are rarely nuanced.


On one hand, I see meat lovers making fun of vegos and vegans as if they were some weirdos living in the peace & love era. The ones who can’t conceive that a meal without meat is actually a complete meal. And I understand my vegan friends to be upset by this attitude.


On the other hand, I witness vegetarians and vegans display a judgy attitude towards anyone not following what they believe is the “right diet.” You know, that friend that inundates your Facebook feed of videos showing how eating meat is unnatural? But will they convince anyone with these attitudes and arguments?


Don’t get me wrong, I get it. We probably eat too much meat, and factory farming (especially in the U.S.) is both bad for the environment and scandalous in terms of animal cruelty. But does trying to make people feel guilty to eat steak has a high chance to change behaviours in the long term? The guilt approach is typically the one that works when someone wants to lose weight. And guess what? It usually works for a few days (ok, maybe a few weeks), but it doesn’t last. Why? Because eventually you get tired of penalising yourself. And that’s probably how meat eaters see vegetarian meals: penalising themselves.


Which makes me wonder: do vegos have the right communication strategy? If they want to convince more people to adopt a vegetarian diet, shouldn’t they pitch this from a more positive angle? How about making people realise that vegetarian meals can actually be delicious? I’d be curious to do more research on that topic, but my gut feeling is that the perception that vegetarian meals are “not as good” is a very strong barrier to include more of them in people’s diet. We know from our work in food trends about the shift towards ‘real food’ with wholesome goodness: it’s a vegan’s time to shine. And the light might not come from guilt, but from pleasure.


Author: Marc-Andre Savard, Senior Consultant at Harvest Insights, a food & beverage market research consultancy helping brands design the products and services that their consumers want and need.

** Note: this article reflects the opinion of the author only and doesn’t necessarily represents the opinion of Harvest Insights.


St-Viateur 3

I never really understood why my partner got so excited every time he would receive a pack of Caramello Koalas by mail when we were living in Montreal, Canada. Nor did I understand what was so extraordinary about a Golden Gaytime that justified being (almost) forced to eat more than 20 of them every time we would travel to Australia. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine… but that’s what they are to me: fine. Or should I say, that’s what they were to me until I moved to Australia.


As it was my turn to live far away from my family and friends… it hit me: I discovered Foodstalgia (food… nostalgia…I know, I just made up that word). It’s funny how moving abroad influence your perception of food… and help you understand your partner’s excitement for some products. Today, I realise that there are actually 3 things that you miss as an expat: your family (yes, mom, I miss you too), your friends… and your food. And that’s the beauty of food. It is so connected to emotions and memories, that it becomes YOUR food, not just some food. Even if you could rationally admit that some of the dish or products you’re deeply attached to are quite banal, you somehow realise that they are high on your “bucket list” for your next trip to your hometown. In that case, it’s more about the meaning and the rarity of the food than its taste, though some of them taste damn good.


I’m just back from a trip to visit my family and friends (and food) in Quebec, and I thought I’d share my Foodstalgia bucket list.

Bucket list:

#1: give in to gaining 3 kilos by eating at least 1 poutine from La Pataterie and 1 from a stand on the road in regional Quebec
Why is it on the bucket list?
Extreme comfort food. French fries, fresh cheese curds that squeaks in your mouth, and brown gravy. Sounds very simple, but it’s SO HARD to find a decent poutine outside the province of Quebec. In a simple dish, you must nail every ingredient.
I haven’t unpacked my bags yet and I already miss poutine. That’s how foodstalgic this greasy but Oh how much addictive this dish is. It’s almost worth spending $2,000 on a flight to Montreal just for this. Ok, maybe not.
La Pataterie, located in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, may not be on most poutine eaters’ radar, but it’s one of the good places in Montreal for a traditional greasy one. I simply wanted to kill two birds with one stone by visiting the suburb I lived in for more than 9 years.
As for a stand on the road in regional Quebec, I simply wanted to go back to the roots of non-pretentious but savoury food. When visiting the beautiful region of Charlevoix, east of Quebec City, we were recommended to stop at Casse-Croute chez Ginette. It was my first poutine during this trip and it was definitely worth stopping!


Foodstalgic memories:
It’s the typical “3am after the nightclub” meal. Every bite reminds me of those nights in my early twenties in Montreal’s gay village. Otherwise, it’s also a good road trip meal. I guess it’s the Aussie equivalent of the burger with the lot (though nothing compares to poutine).

Poutine-2chez ginette 1

Delicious poutine at Casse-Croute chez Ginette, Saint-Irénée, Charlevoix. I
might have found my new favourite stand in the province!


#2: get a smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s
Why is it on the bucket list?
Schwartz’s is definitely an institution in Montreal. No matter the time of day, there is always a line-up to pick-up what is considered the best smoked meat in the city. I personally believe there are many other places that are as good, but Schwartz’s offer a unique experience.
You can find smoked meat in other cities, but nothing compares to the Montreal-style smoked meat. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of Montreal-style smoked meat, all scenarios lead to the Jewish Diaspora from Eastern Europe. Along with bagels, smoked meat is now deeply rooted in the city’s food heritage.
I decided to go for the usual smoked meat sandwich with their famous side of pickles. The verdict? Not as good as a poutine, but very satisfactory.


Foodstalgic memories:
Eating a smoked meat sandwich while cheering for the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The smoked meat there is nowhere near as good as Schwartz’s, but for me, smoked meat + Canadiens is a classic combination.

Schwartz's 1smoked meat

Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich is a must for any foodie travelling to Montreal.


#3: order a beef tartare from Holder’s
Why is it on the bucket list?
Ok, I know that beef tartare is clearly not a Quebecois dish. However, there is definitely plenty of good typical brasseries françaises in Montreal, thanks to our French heritage.
In my opinion, it’s simply the best beef tartare in Montreal. And for the record, I ate there with a French ex-colleague who had to admit it was one of the very best he ever had. Plus, it’s located in Old Montreal, which has a European feel. For one night, it’s like a mini-trip to France and sophistication.


Foodstalgic memories:
When I worked at Bleublancrouge – an advertising agency based in Montreal – I had the chance to work in a small team of 3 tartare aficionados. 2 or 3 times a year, our boss would thank us for the good work by inviting us to Holder’s. We would go there for lunch, and realise that it would be time to leave when other guests started to come for their dinner reservation!



#4: enjoy the sweetness of an ice cider after dinner
Why is it on the bucket list?
I clearly don’t miss the harsh winters, but they contribute to produce two of the best products in the world: maple syrup and ice cider.

Ice cider is made from frozen apples. Apples can be left on the trees and picked when frozen during winter, or they can be left outside after being picked during autumn. The Quebec winters are ideal for the apples to dry out and concentrate their sugars. It’s a very sweet digestive that you normally drink chilled. You don’t necessarily want to drink this often, but on a special occasion it’s delicious. As I’m writing about it, I wonder why the hell I didn’t bring some back.


Foodstalgic memories:
For me, drinking ice cider is synonymous of Christmas holiday with my family in Abitibi. The region is covered in beautiful white snow, everyone is dressed their best, and it is the perfect occasion to drink a good glass of ice cider from La Face Cachee de la Pomme.

Ice cider

Ice cider is a sweet way to end a great meal with friends.



#5: fall for the taste of dry sausage from Les Cochons tout ronds
Why is it on the bucket list?
I just love good charcuterie with a glass of wine. While it’s easy to find great wines in Australia, I find it more difficult to find good dry sausage. Besides, Les Cochons tout ronds produce award-winning sausage. This small company who was founded in the picturesque region of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine, is also known for treating their pigs very well. Turns out their sausages are fatter than others, but so much better!


Foodstalgic memories:
Pre-dinner drinks with my friends Melinda and Jeanne who also can’t resist dry sausage from Les Cochons tout ronds


Now that I’m back in Melbourne, I understand what’s special about Caramello Koalas, Golden Gaytime, sausage rolls, sausage sizzles, and so on. They are more than food, they are moments. But I have yet to understand what it is about Vegemite. Sorry, I can’t…


Author: Marc-Andre Savard, Senior Consultant at Harvest Insights, a food & beverage market research consultancy helping brands design the products and services that their consumers want and need.

To explore customer emotions and behaviour in food further, drop us a line at

Three Key Lessons from the Field

Qualitative research in-store can produce more than just answers to discrete research questions, it can act as a flexible method to unlock insights that delve beneath the surface of a consumer’s interaction with a product, brand or fixture – and uncover their thoughts and actions towards this subject in-the-moment. We believe that conducting these contextual research activities allows you to build an empathy that ultimately benefits the actions taken to address the opportunity at the centre of the research effort.

The following three lessons in conducting observations and intercept interviews can help to maximise the impact of this type of work.


 1. Stop…reflection time

Iteration is key to good design, and the lesson is just as applicable to research.

When structuring field research for observation and intercepts, consider a pause period, whereby you can step back and take stock of the responses. Starting to analyse the information during this stage can help you to refocus on areas for deep-diving, or new topics worth exploration in the final days of fieldwork. This is particularly valuable for disseminating understanding among teams, where one person is not privy to all of the conversations or observations.


 2. The ones that got away

It’s interesting to observe those who interact with your product or brand, but consider watching the behaviour and talking to those who reject and do not engage at all with the research subject.

This is a powerful way to uncover what is behind a lost opportunity for a category, brand or product. It provides context, and helps you to form hypotheses around some of the behaviours you’re noting in observation, to validate in conversations with shoppers.


 3. Loosen up on the discussion guide reigns

Each project has its own objectives but there is something to be said for letting intercept interviews deviate from a specific question set to follow a shopper’s stream of consciousness. After all, going down the rabbit-hole and asking ‘why’ just one more time can peel back a layer of perception that reveals something game-changing.

Taking a pause to reflect – as discussed in lesson one – is a good opportunity to ensure that you have sufficiently addressed specific questions required and to find that balance between prescriptive questioning and behaviour-driven enquiry.


To chat about qualitative shopper approaches, journey mapping and other consumer-centric research techniques, write to us at

New year – new foodie calendar

Happy New Year, everyone.

We are all food fanatics here at Harvest Insights, so we like to keep a watchful eye out for opportunities to indulge this passion throughout the year, and stay across what’s happening in the food and beverage world.

That’s why we’ve created a handy calendar of food and drink events that we are excited about in 2016.

Check it out below or download a copy of the calendar here.


2016 Food and Drink Events Image


If you’d like to talk to us about your food and beverage research needs, or have a suggestion for another food or drink event we should explore, we’d love to hear from you at

A trip to Eataly

Picture yourself sitting down to a plate of artisanal Piedmontese tagliolini, tossed through a rich parmigiano-reggiano truffle cream – a dish designed to celebrate the ingredients and regions of Italy.

While you may see yourself sitting in an agriturismo farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside or at a cosy trattoria in Rome (we can dream, right?!), embracing a mentality of artisanal produce and a connection to producers is not exclusive to these environments. The decadent pasta dish described above can be whipped up after a trip to Eataly.

This food retailer and eatery, which has a presence across Italy, the USA, Japan and more, is known for its association with Slow Food – the global movement promoting good, clean, fair food, and seeking to empower consumers to be more educated about their food and where it comes from.

In a recent visit to the Eataly store in Florence, I discovered for myself how principles of Slow Food can enrich the in-store experience. Around the shop floor, signage seeks to inform customers about products and production regions. The spirit of connection to land and seasonal eating shows in the month-by-month fruit and vegetable guide perched over crates of produce and packs of seeds.


Eataly standsEataly seeds


Past the grocery aisles and up a small set of stairs a casual eatery serves up rustic Italian dishes, while above this, a formal restaurant shifts gear to offer refined fare. Upstairs, various programs are run to bring customers of all ages together for tastings, cooking classes and other gastronomic events.

The effect for Eataly customers is varied, and can play to a number of motivations. On the surface, it’s a store that offers quality Italian produce. For some, the underpinning principles of fair production conditions and accessibility of price may drive patronage. What Eataly achieves from a service perspective, however, is the creation of an experiential space that is not often seen within supermarket retail. It achieves a paradox in that it gives the impression of big business in its reach and breadth of offerings but at the same time feels small and intimate, as there is a sense of lessening the distance between consumer and producer.

In the experience economy, customers value better engagement with service environments.

By empowering consumers with knowledge about products and producers, and offering hands-on dining and learning opportunities, Eataly becomes a site where customers can fully engage in a store experience that is more than just a trip to the supermarket.

To explore customer experience in food retail further, drop us a line at

3 Lessons in Dating (and Survey Writing)

Things seem blissfully simple in the beginning. You just get each other. You share a vision for the future and it’s going to be everything you hoped it would be. This is the beginning of a beautiful…survey.

Writing a survey is much like trying to meet your soulmate, amiright?

Stick with me for a moment. Dating and survey writing are much more similar than you probably think. While there are many ways a relationship or research project can go horribly wrong, there are three common lessons that are well recognised in dating, but are often overlooked in the equally ‘pupil-dilating-heart-racing’ thrill of survey writing.

Lesson #1:

Don’t get catfished. Are you sure you know who you’re talking to?


Outdated pictures. Filters. Photoshop. When you aren’t meeting face to face, it can be hard to be sure if the person you’re speaking to is indeed who they say they are. If you’ve ever seen the movie Catfish, or the TV spin-off of the same name, you’ll know that there are many reasons to be afraid.

Knowing who you’re talking to is equally also important in quantitative research, and so often overlooked. Won’t somebody please think of the screenouts! Far too many research reports conclude with sweeping generalisations about the entire market for a product or service while neglecting to be clear about who exactly the results are referent to. Even worse, this research design issue can be so subtle that even the researcher themselves may not be aware of the profound implications for the project conclusions.

Once the final questionnaire is complete, a good habit to get into is to write down the exact description of the respondent you are speaking to. For example, “We interviewed non-industry, main or joint grocery buyers living in Australia, aged 18-64, who have purchased and consumed cheese from a supermarket in the last 3 months, and purchased cheese from a specialty cheese store / deli in the last 12 months.” It is often surprising how long this list can get once you stop to write it down. The consultant and client can often recall the top-line that we spoke to those purchasing cheese for self-consumption, but qualifiers such as the latter “specialty cheese store” requirement tend to be forgotten once a report is written, and their natural incidence is very rarely provided in a debrief. If we were testing a new supermarket retail cheese offer in this survey, this one screener may have narrowed our results to a very small sub-set of the cheese buying population. While this may in fact be the intended population of interest, it’s extremely important to keep the screen-out data here, to be able to report back the natural incidence (i.e., “Of the 30% of cheese buyers / consumers we spoke to……..X, Y, Z”) so that the business can make an informed decision about return on investment.

Lesson #2:

Don’t give too much away, too soon. Don’t TMI your way out of a good thing.


We’ve all been there. The awkward silence of one person having moved a bit too quickly in the relationship, and the other not knowing how to respond. There’s a natural order to how we progress in relationships of all types; the kind of information that we choose to share upfront, and then the information that we gradually leak into conversation as we become more trusting of the other person, such as the 500 item-strong collection of Mariah Carey paraphernalia that you insist will be worth something one day.

Surveys are similar. The way that you choose to provide respondents with information has a direct impact on the answer that you elicit. I previously authored an article for AMSRS on the placement of key metrics in surveys; to summarise, best-practice would have them placed at the beginning of the survey to ensure they generalise to the broader population by not biasing the respondents ‘natural state’ based on the other questions they complete prior. Applying this logic to questionnaire writing more broadly, researchers need to carefully determine the correct ordering of survey questions to ensure that subsequent questions are not biased by information or prompts given by prior questions (i.e., ‘priming’). For example, asking about a respondent’s favourite cat memes immediately prior to asking them to rate how funny they believe the internet to be in general.

It’s not always about giving away too much though and sometimes you can give away too little. There’s no point testing take-up of a packaging innovation by placing it on a fake ‘shelf’ in a survey if the client is planning on spending millions on an educational campaign about the benefits of the new format. Here you might keep a sub-cell of respondents to test take-up post exposure to the anticipated campaign. This way the client can understand the varied response of non-exposure, and exposure to the campaign.

Lesson #3:

Put in the hard yards in. A solid foundation can help you with tricky situations down the track.


What ever happened to courtship? The world of dating these days can be fairly brutal, often involving selecting potential partners from a list of over-filtered selfies of people in athletic wear, standing in front of mountains, holding a puppy and inevitably wearing a pair of sunglasses (everyone looks good in sunglasses). We use overly simplistic selection criteria to choose our potential dates, rather than spending the time to really get to know the person. Superficiality aside, when asking couples in long-lasting relationships about the key to their success, they all have in common a mutual understanding built upon friendship that can withstand all of the unexpected situations in life.

As in dating, quantitative researchers should work to build a solid foundational relationship with their analytical techniques. While a research project might not end quite so dramatically, the impact on a client’s business can be disastrous if unguided analytics steers decision-makers to an incorrect, or sub-optimal solution. Market research as a field in particular has few barriers to entry, with many researchers from disparate disciplines acquiring a working knowledge of quantitative method on the job. While a hands-on knowledge of how to run a ‘driver analysis’ (for example, which buttons to press to get a result) generally goes unquestioned, I’d challenge quantitative researchers to at least understand the conceptual fundamentals of what’s going on behind the user interface of analytic software packages. It’s this understanding of the technique that will help you write better surveys in foreseeing the way that the questions will come together to be used in multivariate analytics, and assist you with selecting and justifying your choice of technique as a consultant, as well as being able to confidently present the results.

These lessons can help you avoid commonly overlooked errors of survey writing, or perhaps even to find love*.

*The author regrettably has no formal qualifications, expertise or even sufficient life experience in dating and all suggestions relating to the quest for love should be taken with a grain of salt, or ignored entirely.

Author: Amy Tildesley, Founder of Harvest Insights, a food & beverage market research consultancy helping brands design the products and services that their consumers want and need.


Alchemy and Memorable Meals at Lûmé

We love to explore what’s new on the Melbourne dining scene, so the buzz around Lûmé even before opening was irresistible. A month later, the whole team had taken a ride on the roller-coaster that is the 15 course degustation and have come out the other side intrigued about this unique new offering.

Lûmé offers fine dining in a setting that is warmer than most, and in a similar manner to The Fat Duck, provides an opportunity to appreciate fine food without the pretension that can sometimes follow.

What’s most exciting about the restaurant is that it is consciously experiential. This seems a smart move among a broader shift in focus from service to experience. In a city like Melbourne, which is saturated with dining options, this offers an important point of differentiation.

The generous degustation (those with small stomachs be warned) is innovative and engaging. While there is balance across the entire meal and all textures are explored, each dish seems to profile a particular taste or flavour – from the umami hit in the steamed brioche with shaved truffle to the sour tang of some of the seafood dishes. It can polarise a group, based on a person’s palate and preferences but the cross-table debate about why one dish is superior to another is part of the fun. It’s unexpected and it gets people talking, heightening engagement with the food.

This effect is helped along by the fact that diners only find out what they’ve eaten after their meal. No, I didn’t realise I was eating cow udder at the time but I can appreciate that it is sometimes easier to enjoy flavours when preconceptions don’t get in the way.

Along with the mystery and unique flow of the meal, there is a theatre and element of surprise. Not all is as it seems but I won’t spoil the fun by giving too much away.


Lume room


Lûmé also offers seating at the bar and an à la carte offering that seems to focus on doing (comparatively) simple things well – I’ll never be able to cook parsnip again now that I know what the humble vegetable can be. While I tend to shy away from beverage pairings, the degustation matches sound intriguing and the non-matched selection on offer will keep me seeking a spot at the bar on less formal occasions.

There are lessons here about fearless experimentation and artful cuisine but most importantly for creating a unique dining experience that stands out from the crowd.

For a chat about innovation or understanding customer experience in food and beverage, drop us a line at

The Democratisation of Domestic Science

As another season of Masterchef Australia passes us by in a haze of tears and parfait, we have had a chance to reflect on just how reflective the contestants were of ‘everyday Australians’ they were purported to represent.

When it came to preparing anything ‘protein’ the first port of call for Masterchef contestants was the water bath for a bit of Sous Vide. This go-to option shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to many of us because while some have argued that it sucks the soul out of cooking, it also gives the operator a pretty high chance of getting a perfect result every time.

While Sous Vide cooking started to develop commercially in the mid-70’s (at the Michelin Three-Star Restaurant, Troisgros, naturally…) the chance for everyday Australians to capitalise on its abilities has never been better. Like most benchtop technology now familiar to Australians, democratisation of Sous Vide started with mid-price stalwarts Sunbeam and Breville getting in on the act but in the last couple of months Sous Vide has truly become the property of the proletariat. Now, both Kogan, and perhaps most shockingly Aldi offer inexpensive Sous Vide appliances (Kogan’s is even sold out!)

One can only imagine how seminal moments from that great Australian film The Castle would need to be rewritten should it be set in 2015:

Kitchen table










Kitchen appliance use trends? We’re tracking that. Drop us a line at for more information.


See Through Your Customers’ Eyes With Journey Mapping

“Why on Earth have they done that?!” said everyone ever, facing that too-common occurrence of dealing with a frustrating product or service that just isn’t working ‘how it’s supposed to’.

We’ve all been there.

The challenge for businesses is not just in gathering meaningful insight to understand its customers well enough to avoid the above situation, it’s also in telling their story to everyone who needs to hear it, so that all parts of the organisation who play a role in the overall brand experience are on the same page.

Internal data provide pieces of the puzzle but there’s no substitute for taking a step back and seeing the big picture – the end-to-end customer journey, through their eyes.


That’s where Customer Journey Mapping comes in.

Essentially, this involves researching the customer’s experience with a brand, specific product or service, or even a particular occasion. The output of this exercise – the Customer Journey Map – tells the customer’s story by depicting key ‘moments’ or touchpoints with the chosen focus area and calls out their motivations, feelings and thoughts along the way.

The power of this approach is that it is driven by the customer’s reality and goals, rather than that of the organisation, introducing fresh thinking and challenging internal preconceptions.


While no two customer journey maps will be identical, they will generally contain:

*Phases of interaction or episodes

*Customer goals

*Touchpoints with the brand, product or service in question

*Thoughts and feelings experienced along the journey, particularly reflecting pain points and moments of delight


Conducting a customer journey mapping exercise provides a launching pad for better design, positioning and marketing. Here’s why it’s so powerful:

*Divergent, qualitative techniques can expose previously unknown opportunities for improvement and innovation, and highlight areas for further exploration

*Convergent, quantitative research techniques can size these opportunities to help prioritise design or improvement projects

*Most importantly, it helps everyone in the team to empathise with their customers on the basis of reality, rather than an internal and sometimes siloed perception.


If you’d like to chat more about customer journey mapping and how it could assist your business, feel free to contact us at





Food, Hot Off The Press

If I had told you in the early nineties that your collection of cassette tapes would be replaced by a streaming music service, you might’ve laughed and never believed me. Innovation, even when incremental to an existing technology, can be difficult to imagine integrated into day-to-day life. Fast forward to the mid-to-late nineties, and we’re all rejoicing over the technology that stopped a cd skipping when you were out running with your discman (think about that for a moment).

Food printing is today’s non-skip discman, unimaginable for some, but impending on us at a rate quicker than most realise. These printers leverage the technology of 3D printing, but introduce materials that are consumable. Firstly, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that a forward-thinking food designer could be busy in a lab somewhere developing a 3D printer capable of birthing a spherical cracker that sprouts mushrooms with a result that looks more like art than food. Check it out below:

However, it is difficult to imagine how this technology might change the way we cook an average weekday dinner. Introducing Foodini, a new generation consumer-grade kitchen appliance that prints fresh food, ready to be cooked and served.

Interestingly, Foodini emphasises ‘fresh,’ ‘homemade’ and ‘healthier’ in its media kit rather than ‘convenience’ but it is likely to face an uphill battle owning this territory. Printed home-made ravioli seems a bit like cheating to me, but I bet they once said that about the microwave.

Kitchen appliance use trends? We’re tracking that. Drop us a line at for more information.