On a recent shopping trip, I headed out to refill my fridge for another week’s worth of lunches and dinners. Along with picking up the usual supplies, I came across a package of sliced Braunschweiger in the meat case. My family called it liver sausage, but whatever the name, it was a lunchtime staple when I was a kid growing up in Chicago.

Naturally, I had to get a package. It’s a pretty common sight in Chicagoland, but I hadn’t seen very much Braunschweiger in stores since I moved to Atlanta a few years ago. As an added bonus, it was made by Jones Dairy Farm in Wisconsin, very much an Independent Provisioner type of company. If could support my industry while ensuring some good meals ahead, it’s a win-win for me. Sure enough, a few bites into the first sandwich and I was brought back to my grandma fixing up lunch for me in the summer when I was young.

There is and always will be an emotional attachment to food. People who grow up eating a certain type of food, or a certain brand of food, will go back to it time and time again. A lot of regional brands count on that loyalty. The tricky part comes in keeping the balance of old versus new. If you stick with nothing but traditional products, you run the risk of alienating potential new customers who want a little trendier taste. (Jalapeno and pineapple sausage? Crazier things have sold.) If you completely reinvent the product, you may lose the taste that created those loyal customers in the first place. The whole “New Coke” debacle should forever dissuade food companies from messing too much with their beloved recipes.

The most successful companies are the ones that have a good grasp of what their customers desire and a good product mix to meet both the traditional and newest taste trends. It’s the best of both worlds -- keep those past customers happy while creating a product to capture the loyalty of new consumers.

Preparing for the Top 100

Every year, I make a resolution to stop procrastinating, but I inevitably put it off until later. So this year, I’m trying to break that habit by getting a head start on the Top 100 report, which will be in the April/May 2009 issue. I know some companies out there are wrapping up their fiscal year in December, so this is the perfect opportunity to submit your company’s information for the report. The online form will be available at our Web site, www.provisioneronline.com -- just click on the button on our home page -- and we also will include the form in the next issue. If you want me to fax or e-mail the form to your office, please let me know at gazdziaks@bnpmedia.com or (678) 445-1789.

I wish you all a very happy holiday season, and a prosperous and successful 2009. See you next year.