By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

8 Food and Beverage Trends at Expo WestThis show was crazy – some 3,000 brands and 80,000 people converged in Anaheim, CA recently for the annual  natural products extravaganza. There were several trends showcased, all of which are making their way to us through retailers. And, congrats to all the brands that keep changing the food we eat for the better.

One trend that made me happy was the absence of artificial sweeteners, like saccharin and aspartame. Most companies are switching to natural sugars like dates, honey, maple syrup, agave, and fruit purees. I tested products all day long and I can assure you – they were delicious!

Matcha. Yummy.

One habit I picked up at the show was matcha – energy without the shakes. As soon as I returned to Kansas City I ordered a case of taika Matcha Latte and MatchaKo lemonade. Millennials and Gen Zers are drifting away from caffeine and looking for products that provide the buzz without the jitters.

Back to Basics

Many products are moving back to basics. Aren’t we all tired of picking up a product in the grocery store that has 25 ingredients, most of which we cannot pronounce? Why not just have fruit in a jar, instead of the product being jammed with sugar and laboratory ingredients.


8 Food and Beverage Trends at Expo WestNostalgia was big. Remember all the foods your mom used to buy or cook for you as a kid? They’re back and tapping into those fond memories. Remember Neapolitan ice cream, chocolate sauce and zucchini bread? Brands are having fun exploring and recreating experiences.

NABs, Wine and Spirits

Non-alcoholic beverages have come a long way and were on display everywhere at the show. My favorite Gia and Seedlip dominated, but I was also introduced to many small brands that are emerging. Wine, craft beer – even Guinness was there with a dark beer. Spirits, ready to drink beverages with adaptogens to manage stress and restore balance – even amaro’s. The N/A beverage movement got its start in the natural channel and continues to thrive as evidenced by the show.

I must admit the show, so many people, the traffic in LA and parking were something I had never experienced before, but I can’t wait to go back next year!

Natural Products Expo West - Over 40 brands from Kansas and MissouriBy Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Amy and I are excited for the Natural Products EXPO West show in LA this month!

Natural Products Expo West is the leading trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry where you can see the largest collection of emerging and pioneering brands. We’re ready to be inspired with product discovery, education, and sustainable innovation.

We are also excited to see that there are going to be six first time exhibitors and over 40 brands from Kansas and Missouri.

We strongly believe in their mission in the food and beverage industry:

Natural Products Expo West - Over 40 brands from Kansas and MissouriAt New Hope Network, we are working to cultivate a prosperous, high-integrity CPG and retail ecosystem that creates health, joy and justice for all people while regenerating the planet. We strive to create an environment of mutual respect, free from harassment and unprofessional behavior.

All the exhibitors at this show are committed to moving faster to become a zero waste and net zero carbon business. And to help meet the urgent challenges of a changing world, we are taking accelerated steps to reduce our carbon and waste footprint with the aim of becoming a zero waste and net zero carbon business by next year.

Wherever we can, we are also actively helping our partners, customers and wider markets to achieve the same!

The Absolute Horror of Check WashingBy Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Check washing scams involve changing the payee names and often the dollar amounts on checks and fraudulently depositing or cashing them. These checks are stolen from the mail and washed in chemicals to remove the ink. And this isn’t a thought leadership exercise… this happened to us recently! So please consider this a public service announcement worth taking seriously. Okay, here is the story.

We mailed a check to a vendor in St. Louis, the check was stolen, washed, and cashed for $17,483.15 in unincorporated Fresno, TX.

When we figured out this had happened, we reached out to our bank for help. nbkc Bank had to shut down all transactions coming in and out of our checking account – thousands of them every month with the portals, ACH, checks written and deposited and our company debit cards. They’ve been incredibly helpful through this entire scary experience.

I’m three weeks into this mess and still dealing with the bank every single day.

Check Fraud

Check fraud is not a thing of the past – and these days, it can involve sophisticated criminal operations. Check fraud is back in a big way, fueled by a rise in organized crime that is forcing small businesses and individuals to take safety measures or to avoid sending checks through the mail altogether.

How can you protect yourself?

  1. Consider making all payments through ACH
  2. Use pens with indelible black ink so that it is more difficult to wash your checks – you can buy them on Amazon.
  3. If you receive paid checks back from the bank, shred them.
  4. Use online banking to review copies of your checks to ensure they were not altered. (That is how we found out!)
  5. Do not mail business checks in a window envelope.

The Absolute Horror of Check WashingThe United State Postal Service also recommends that you:

  1. Do not drop off your email in collection boxes after the last scheduled pick-up or directly at your local Post Office.
  2. Do not leave your mail in your mailbox overnight.
  3. If you’re heading out of town, have the Post Office hold your mail.

What to do if you are a victim?

  1. Call your financial institution immediately.
  2. File a report with your local police department.
  3. File a report with the Post Office online at

Please follow my advice and best wishes for this not to happen to you!

p.s. order that indelible ink pen from Amazon today!

LinkedInBy Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Over the past few years, remote work across the world has blurred the lines between work and life. People are starting to post very personal messages on LinkedIn, which has traditionally been a work-focused social network.

I don’t know about you, but this feels weird to me.

When I come across a post that is very personal or religious, I want to comment that LinkedIn is not the place for this kind of message. Why? Because I have seen people receive a lot of backlash when they get too personal on LinkedIn. And what is worse, there are probably quite a few people that don’t want to “stir the pot” with their comment so they stay silent.

LinkedIn will soon have a billion users

That is a staggering number of people that have a LinkedIn account. Out of curiousity, I did a People search on LinkedIn just now and filtered the results to the Kansas City Metropolitan area. There are about 1,130,000 results. And if you take a look at population data, you will see that the KC Metro has about 2.2 million people. This means the majority of people working in Kansas City have a LinkedIn profile.

Interestingly, the number of posts on LinkedIn grew 41% from 2021. A driving factor for this uptick was that people could no longer see their colleagues, clients, and potential employers in person because of Covid. So they started interacting more on LinkedIn. As you can imagine, as people became more comfortable sharing on LinkedIn, the topics became more personal in nature.

Broad cultural attitudes toward the workplace, as well as what’s appropriate to share, are evolving.

LinkedInThis again is partly driven by the pandemic: people were suddenly given free rein to be vulnerable and express their fears online in front of their colleagues. Remote work simultaneously lowered inhibitions and eroded much of the in-office etiquette people are accustomed to.

With a generational shift, younger people sometimes have no problem oversharing. (They grew up in an environment where everything was sharable online.)

Exactly what is and isn’t acceptable on LinkedIn depends on the norms of your industry. Played right, it can help you stand out and get ahead – if you don’t push it too far. Opting out of the rat race entirely by not having a LinkedIn account, or no photo or description, may also be viewed as a red flag professionally.

In my opinion, it all comes down to this.

Everyone has to decide where they are at on the spectrum of information sharing online. The bookends are no sharing all the way up to sharing everything. It’s important to think about the ramifications of what you are sharing, especially knowing people may not tell you that they didn’t appreciate what you shared. Staying away from hot button topics like religion and politics might be a good idea if you are trying to bring people together versus the real risk of pushing people away.

What do you think about all this? Let me know in the comments!

Bourbon Women National SIPosiumBy Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

In August, I went to Lexington, Kentucky for the nation’s ONLY female whiskey consumer conference. The Bourbon Women National SIPosium showcases and celebrates whiskey education and industry trends to 400+ women from across the nation.

There were exciting excursions, seminars about mixing whiskey cocktails, history and unique experiences like going to the contemporary art museum and designing whiskey labels with experts in that field.

Women account for 40% of all whiskey sales in the United States.

Bourbon Women National SIPosiumAlex Castle, Master Distiller and Senior Vice President told one of the most inspiring stories of the conference – she had graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, but had to start at the very bottom, rolling barrels, to get into the distillery business.

The men, who owned all of the distilleries at that time, fought having a woman in the room. Even though she had her degree in engineering, she felt every day that she was going to be fired because she kept telling them that what when they were constructing the stills, they were not doing it right.

Another story I loved was about a woman distiller in that lived high on a mountain called Black Rock in the Appalachians in the early 1800’s.

All the women distilled whiskey from leftover fruit, rye and corn, and there were over 15,000 distilleries spread across the US. She would see the Whiskey Tax men coming down the river and would run up a red flag over her house. This would alert the women to dismantle their stills and hide them in the woods. They would cover themselves in flour and start baking, because the smell of whiskey distilling in close to the smell of baking bread. They never got caught!

Bourbon Women National SIPosium Bourbon Women National SIPosium Bourbon Women National SIPosium

Meet and Greet with Bill Samuels, Maker’s Mark

We were also lucky enough to tour and meet with Bill Samuels – his mother and father started Maker’s Mark. She had a great presence behind her husband and was responsible for all the marketing, including the distinctive shape of the bottle and the red wax.

North Kansas City Woman Distiller

We have a woman distiller right here in North Kansas City – Benay Shannon is the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Restless Spirits Distilling Company. She went from teaching high school chemistry to making beverage alcohol for a living, sort of like Walter White but clean and legal. Her current best-seller is a gin, but she’s got an Irish Whiskey and is aging an American Single Malt.

Check out the organization at

Bourbon Women National SIPosium Bourbon Women National SIPosium Bourbon Women National SIPosium


By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Italian Driver in the Office?Most people know that I love Italians and Italy. Their driving? Not so much.

With your co-workers, it’s always best to communicate with confidence and be decisive about decision making.
With zero decision making, Italians propel themselves into traffic without making sure it’s safe.

In a meeting if you hesitate, people assume that you are thinking about the correct way to answer.
Italian drivers assume hesitation means you’re not going. They will go around you, which makes it even more difficult to eventually insert yourself into traffic.

When someone asks you to stop something you are doing, most people are courteous and listen to what their co-worker needs.
Italian drivers consider a stop sign a suggestion, stop signs in Italy mean the coast is clear. There may be no need to stop, or even slow down. And if you do stop when it’s not necessary, you may get rear-ended.

A well know Italian saying about driving is, “You watch your front, let everyone else watch your back.” Not true, if they feel that 100 miles per hour is not fast enough, they will get inches from your bumper and start flashing their lights incessantly. They also love to straddle the white line, while trying to intimidate you. This behavior would not last long in an office setting.

A turn signal means “HERE I GO!” not I want to go, or I’m waiting to see if you will let me go. Can you imagine the disruption in meetings?

Italians are passionate, using hand gestures, strong words, and aggressive driving and honking. It cracks me up when I drive there, but I would not under any circumstances allow this behavior in the office.

The moral of the story? Don’t behave like an Italian driver in an office setting. If you do, you may crash… hard.

Burning BridgeBy Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

There are times when you need to consider firing a client. It’s always a delicate and stressful situation that requires a lot of tact.

Before you decide to fire the client, evaluate the benefits and risks of doing so.

  • How will this affect your reputation and resources?
  • Are there unresolved conflicts that could be resolved?
  • Is the client too demanding, expects impossible deadlines and wants more than they’re paying for? (Sound familiar?)

I’ve had to fire clients in the past because of the way they treated my team. If you don’t let your employees know that you will stand up for them, how can you inspire loyalty?

Parting on Good Terms

If you decide to move forward, it helps to do some planning. When you talk to your client, you should have an honest message that explains why you’re dissolving the partnership, what you appreciated about the relationship and how you will handle the transition. (Having an exit strategy will help avoid misunderstandings, disputes, and legal issues.)

The way you talk to your client about your exit can make a big difference. Don’t blame or criticize them. Don’t accuse them of any wrongdoing even if there are good reasons to do so. Of course, if they did something illegal, that is fair game.  Focus on the positive parts of your relationship and acknowledge their contributions.

A Bridge in Kansas CityWe can’t forget that even though this is a business relationship, people’s feelings are involved. Most importantly, Kansas City is a VERY small town, so be respectful.

You should also consider maintaining the relationship with your former client if possible. They can still be a valuable source of referrals and insights. You never know when you might cross paths in the future.

Post Breakup

After the transition is complete, reflect on the experience and learn from it.

  • What worked and what didn’t?
  • Was there something you did in the beginning that led to parting ways?
  • What lessons did you learn that will help you make sure the next partnership works well?

Some people are going to be angry. Some people will understand. All you can control is making the right decisions for your team and your company. And if that means parting ways with a client, even one that’s important to your business financially, trust your instincts and act. There’s a reason your gut is telling you it’s time to make a change.

Customer Support Hold Times are NO FUNPeople really, really hate contacting customer support – so much so that they would rather spend a night in jail or shave their head. (Source: Gray News)

A recent  survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Twilio Flex asked 2,000 Americans what they would rather do than contact customer service. The poll found that 30% of people would rather do their taxes, 28% would rather go to the dentist, 25% would rather go to the DMV, 24% would rather shave their head, and 22% would rather spend a night in jail.

People are willing to go to those extremes to avoid contacting customer support because, on average, it takes three attempts and more than 1.5 hours on hold to solve just one issue with a customer service representative, the survey found.

Here are some things that a company can do to help their customers:

  1. Customer Support Hold Times are NO FUNMake sure the issue is resolved on the first call – customers hate having to call a company multiple times to resolve an issue.
  2. Don’t transfer the call so that they must repeat all the details again. Give the next person relevant information to their issue if you can’t resolve it.
  3. Have more than one option to reach customer service: we have a help line, local and 1-800, and a email our clients can use.
  4. Make sure they can reach a live person quickly and not spend too much time listening to bad music.
  5. Have a good connection – nothing is more frustrating that getting disconnected or a hard time hearing the representative.
  6. Make sure you give your employees the power to resolve an issue so that the customer does not have to wait for an answer.

The survey found that because of these frustrations, the average person waits 16 days to contact customer support about an issue. There are always issues in any business, ultimately, your success depends on how you resolve them.

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

The Paper ShortageWhile we’ve felt the pains of the paper shortage in the printing industry for a long time, the extreme, national paper shortage is creating order delays and some printers are refusing work since they just don’t have any paper on the floor.

The paper shortage can be attributed to many factors such as tightening capacity, labor shortages and supply chain disruptions. During the pandemic, many mills switched to making cardboard because everyone was ordering everything online.

The misalignment between capacity and demand has led to longer production lead times, late deliveries, and volatile pricing. Experts tell us we can expect capacities to remain tight through 2022 and potentially into 2023.

As we continue to navigate this tumultuous market here are some tips to bear in mind.


As a result of high capacity and strains on the supply chain we are seeing unprecedented lead times, some as high as 12 weeks. Planning and communicating needs for upcoming campaign can allow us to source the appropriate material as needed.


In certain circumstances, it may be easier to source an uncoated vs a coated stock or an 80 lb. stock vs a 100 lb. stock. If you are unsure of a paper substitute our team is happy to make recommendations. All the “cool” papers that designers loved to spec have just disappeared from the market.


We have certain paper stocks allocated to us every month and thankfully our plant manager, Mike Leavey, started advising me to buy skids whenever they were available.

As always, we are here to help and answer any questions you may have regarding the paper market and any upcoming changes.

Value PropositionGot a product or service to sell? Then your company has value beyond the sale. Innovative companies communicate this value, directly and indirectly, every time they send a direct mail piece, blast an email, or design packaging for their products. How do they do that? It starts with creating a value proposition.

Create a value proposition.

A value proposition is what your company promises to deliver should people choose to buy your product. Ideally, it is something distinctive to you.

Let’s say you are a boutique furniture store selling pieces crafted from reclaimed wood, metal, or architectural salvage. Your value proposition might be: “We offer unique pieces that fit your style while reducing the burden on our landfills.” Your customers could buy furniture anywhere. By communicating your value proposition, you are explaining why they should come to you. This concept applies to any market. If you’re a plumber, your value proposition might be, “We show up within a 15-minute window—or your money back.” If you’re a dental office, it might be, “We are the friendliest dental practice in town.”

Fulfill on that promise—every time.

Once you communicate your value proposition, fulfill it every time. Fill your dental office with happy, colorful wall stickers and train your staff to serve with a smile, even when they’re having a terrible day. Always have a backup plan in case a plumbing job runs long. By ensuring consistency between your marketing message and your customers’ experience, you create a sense of trust and loyalty. In a world filled with uncertainty, that has value far beyond the products and services themselves.

Speak to customers based on that value proposition.

Reinforce that value in your marketing images and messaging. “By purchasing from us, you have helped to keep 3,000 pounds of scrap wood, metal, and glass out of the landfill.” Create brochures with images of children with dazzling smiles and parent testimonials about the helpfulness of your dental staff. On your direct mail pieces, add online reviews about the promptness of your plumbing service.

By communicating a value proposition and creating consistency between that value and your customer experiences, you develop loyal customers who trust you—and who keep coming back.

Interested in learning more about MEDiAHEAD’s value proposition? We would love to talk with you!