Harvey Hartman retired as CEO of his cutting-edge consulting firm in Bellevue earlier this year but kept coming to the office.
On Thursday, he and the firm will unveil what he has been working on, a website called HartbeatVista.com that shares videos about food from Hartman Group researchers and others.
“The old way of communicating research results is exactly that, it’s old,” Hartman, 66, said. “Video is taking over almost everything.”
So is the popularity of food information, and Hartman hopes HartbeatVista will become a go-to site for people interested in all aspects of the subject.
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Like Hartman’s research, the new Vista site is wide-ranging and packed with information.
Over the years, Hartman has learned by spending time with consumers as they shopped and were at home. It found that what people say they eat isn’t always the same as what they actually eat.
The firm’s analysts, which include people who hold doctorates in anthropology, sociology and ethnography, talk on camera about everything from the dilution of the organic label to gluten-free foods to eating alone.
Many videos are as short as one minute.
There’s also a feature in which Hartman researchers interview consumers in the field the way they do for corporate clients.
A video on student snacking was hilariously insightful, with one University of Washington student saying he snacks on “vegetables like fruit.”
Like most Hartman data, the videos often include surprising facts. For example, 48 percent of all adult eating happens between meals.
Hartman also synopsizes much of its research into a comic-book-style feature called Foodville, which follows the fictional Appleton family.
In Episode 1, the stay-at-home dad struggles to feed breakfast to a family on the run, then plans dinner for his gluten-free daughter and a son who eats only grilled-cheese sandwiches and French fries.
Hartman has given away much of its research for years, notably in weekly emails with articles ranging from the latest information on health and wellness to its early prediction that Tesco’s Fresh & Easy chain in the U.S. would not do well. Tesco, a U.K. company, said in April it is looking to sell the chain, which has cost it billions of dollars.
Although Hartman gives away a lot of data, the firm hopes to sell advertising on the video site and to partner with clients on video projects. It traditionally has made money by charging manufacturers and retailers for proprietary research on products and stores.
A couple of years ago, the Hartman Group helped revamp the Bellingham-based Haggen grocery chain.
Retired Coca-Cola executive Don Short was so impressed with Hartman’s work when he ran Coke’s Minute Maid operation that he hired the firm to help him with two post-retirement startups, Roxor Artisan Gin and Sync Wellness healthy drink “shots.”
“I found his [Harvey’s] consumer insight was better than what everyone else was doing,” Short said.
Most consumer-research firms suggest putting together focus groups, Short said.
In contrast, he said, “Harvey was putting the product in people’s homes, letting them use it and then getting feedback and even film of how the product was fitting in the fridge, how families were using it at the table, how the kids were using it, how Mom was using it.”
Harvey Hartman started the consulting firm in 1989 after years in marketing and sales in Silicon Valley.
Anheuser-Busch was Hartman’s first client, and Whole Foods was a key client for many years. Now the Hartman Group works with large consumer-goods companies, including Kraft Foods, General Mills, ConAgra Foods and Kellogg’s.
Hartman hired his first Ph.D., a cultural anthropologist, in 2000.
“People said, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ But it gave us a different view of the business,” he said.
Now the firm has about 50 employees, roughly a quarter of them who hold doctorates. Hartman, who owns most of the firm, does not disclose revenues.
Its new CEO, Laurie Demeritt, has an MBA in marketing and environmental management from the UW.
She was among those who initially wasn’t thrilled with the idea of speaking on camera.
But the staff has come around, and about 90 percent of them have made videos for HartbeatVista.com. The firm hired three video specialists to handle production.
Even its website developer, Phil Kane, composed and sang a song on camera.
“We’ll help you understand the why behind the buy,” Kane croons.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @AllisonSeattle.