Why is lime flavor suddenly everywhere?


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If you go to any grocery store in America today you will most likely find something — chips, soda, beer, or even condiments — that are “hint of lime” or “con limon.”

Now it’s cucumber-lime flavored Gatorade at the 7Eleven, even a whole section of supposedly Latino-themed beers — all with lime.

“Now you got not only the American companies coming in,” says comedian Adrian Villegas, standing in an Austin 7Eleven aisle, “but now you have Mexican companies with [fruit-flavored] Modelo Chelada. You’re already a Mexican beer and you’re trying to make it more Mexican.”

Fellow comedian Guillermo De Leon agreed.

“Five years ago I was in the store and I was looking for Mayonnaise and McCormick has mayonesa and it’s mayonnaise with a little bit of lime in it,” De Leon says, “and I thought that was interesting, it was the first time I’ve seen anything specifically targeted.”

After the success of mayonesa, American brands realized there was a whole market of Mexicans and Central Americans who were ready for a hint of lime on almost any food product. “It’s a very cultural thing… it’s ingrained in the traditions. It’s very common to see lime at the table,” says Korzeny.

And it’s a lucrative market: Last year Latino Americans spent $1.5 trillion on consumer products in the US.

But Latino Americans are not the only consumers of lime flavoring, the whole country has hopped on board. The owner of the Austin 7Eleven can barely keep his lime products in stock.

“I’m running low on that flavor, I’m waiting for my next shipment in, so the chips, the hybrid Doritios … Is it Latino kids buying them? No, it’s all kids.”

The App That’s Uber for Gasoline

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Lots of entrepreneurs see laziness as a business opportunity: There’s grocery delivery, dry cleaning delivery, fast food. Now you can add gasoline delivery to that list.

It’s like Uber for gasoline – except it’s perfectly legal. Serial entrepreneur Wisam Nahhas and his business partner wanted to start an app with a service component. He thought of the one thing he dreads every week.

“We sort of figured, ‘how about gas?’” Nahhas says. “We hate going to the gas station. Why can’t gas be delivered to you?”

So this month Nahhas launched FuelMe: it’s a fleet of three trucks with trailers full of gasoline. Drivers buy gas from a distributor every morning and go car-to-car filling up tanks.

“One of our goals is to be the world’s largest gas station,” Nahhas says .

It works like this: customers use the app to signal that they want gas, and leave their fuel cap open when they park. Nahhas or his employees get the alert and drive to the car. The FuelMe folks set up some safety cones and a mat to catch spills, then they unroll the hose and fill up the tank.

Nahhas says he knows exactly what you’re thinking.

“It doesn’t sound legal… That’s the first thought we said and then we quickly started researching, looking into it,” he says, “We were like, it doesn’t seem like it’s illegal – seems like if you can get the right permits for your tanks and the right licenses for your drivers it seems like it’s a doable thing. Sure enough it was.”

Nahas says getting gas delivered is no more dangerous than getting a fill up at a regular station. But can it be a good business?

Bernard Weinstein, an economist at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University thinks maybe not.

“I think it’s unrealistic. I would expect the demand for the services of FuelMe to be fairly limited, so I don’t know it’s an interesting concept, but only time will tell if it’ll work,” Weinstein says.

Right now FuelMe charges customers a $5 delivery fee, plus the price of gas. Nahhas says he’s averaging 100 customers per week. The best customers? Women.

“Both men and women value their time but we have seen that women generally are probably less price-sensitive to this because…they hate the gas station,” Nahhas says.

Right now FuelMe is only available on the University of Houston campus. That’s the type of place the margins for this type of business make sense right now: places where thousands of cars are parked in the same area, like universities, airports and big tech campuses.

“When we structured the whole thing we envisioned it as an employee perk because at the end of the day it’s an employee perk that nobody else can offer,” Nahhas says. “We’re the only ones that offer this type of service, so if they’re interested in doing it we have a model to where they cover the five dollar delivery fee for employees and the employee just pays the gas price.”

Gas is what economists call a utility goo; there’s a limit to how much gas a city needs. That means if Nahhas succeeds in his dream of becoming the Citizen Kane of gas in Texas, some gas stations might go out of business. Historian Dwayne Johnson thinks that would be a real shame.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia about gas stations, about the gas companies,” Johnson says. “There’s still folks that have great loyalties to certain gas companies … and there’s a lot of interest in them. It’s probably going continue to stay that way,m because they are disappearing so rapidly.”

Jones says Texas is one of the few states where you can find a lot of really old gas stations, and they’re cultural landmarks. But at his mobile pumping station, Wisam Nahhas says he keeps filling up a lot of the same tanks week after week. Which leads him to think his customers – at least – aren’t all that nostalgic for the good old days.

Does Your Water Bottle Really Need to be ‘Smart?’

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Imagine a world where you could count every sip of water you took – and your boss could see it too. That’s the idea behind brothers Jac and Davis Saltzgiver’s new invention, Trago.

“We allow coaches and teams or even parents to monitor an entire groups of people with multiple bottles so a coach or trainer could make sure their entire team is well hydrated before a game,” Davis Saltzgiver says.

I had to ask Jac Saltzgiver the obvious question.

“Thirst that is good for most people especially people that are really in tune with listening to their body and the way we feel but many of us aren’t very good at that essentially,” Jac Saltzgiver says. “We are working out, we’re always on the go, we’re working really hard and long hours and we don’t really take the time to step back and really kinda realize hey I should be drinking water now or this is how much I should be drinking after I train and Texas heat you know after a long run that day.”

The tracker is for serious athletes, maybe not for joggers or weekend warriors. But the more than two dozen fitness trackers out there are marketed to the everyman.

Austin-based Map My Fitness was acquired by Under Armour this year, now the company says it will hire one hundred tech workers in downtown office.

“It really makes Austin a great place to start a company like this that really will plug into those platforms that are already tracking people’s workouts,” Jac Saltzgiver says. “Those are platforms like Map My Fitness and MyFitnessPal and in Europe the big one is Endomondo. And right now all three of those sit under the Under Armor umbrella.”

But tracking our sleep, our calories, our steps and now our water, Professor Prabhudev Konana at the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business says it might all be too much.

“Do you really need it in real life? The body reacts to not having water. My take has always been if it can provide you some feedback that is useful to the people so be it. A small segment that says this kind of notification is cool,” he says. “Whether I use it or not – that’s a different thing. It’s cool so I’m going to buy it.”

Konana says the reason gameification is a buzzword is because it’s effective. Take Fitbit.

“I walk around but I never paid attention. But sometimes you keep working and suddenly it beeps you, you’ve been sitting for so long -get up,” he says. “Believe it not my reaction is: I wake up, I get up.”

Konana says real test of whether the market has been over-saturated with fitness trackers is whether people keep them. Tech analyst group Parks Associates predicts the fitness tracker industry will be worth $5.4 billion by 2019. We’ll have to see if the demand matches the hype.

The Way We Board Planes Is Inefficient – But It’s Not Changing


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If you’re traveling soon, you know the drill.  You arrive at the airport, kick your shoes off, pass the security checkpoint, sit at the terminal, wait for the flight attendant to finally call your boarding zone…wait, what’s your boarding zone again?

And when the attendant finally scans your ticket, you’re stuck in a line at the boarding bridge with dozens of other frustrated people, waiting to finally sit down. Mathematician Jason Steffan was in that familiar situation, but unlike the rest of us, he thought he could actually fix it.

“I work primarily in exoplanets studying planets that are orbiting distant stars,” Steffan says.

He used the same model he uses to measure the chaos of the universe to find a system of boarding a plane that would be less chaotic.

“So what you want to do is you want to spread the passengers out all throughout the interior of the airplane so that everyone can put their luggage away at the same time and sit down at the same time,” he explains. “The best way to do that is to have passengers that are next to each other in line be separated by two rows in the airplane itself.”

Steffan says the way we get on a plane now is actually not any quicker than seating people at random.

Bernie Leighton writes for Airline Reporter. He says while boarding groups may not be the quickest way to get hundreds of people into a flying tin can, it is the best way for airlines to get them to pay extra for a premium seat.

“People have hidden preferences and overt preferences when they’re making their choice, so they might say ‘I would like to board the fastest’ but if that ticket is $20 or $30 dollars more they’ll say ‘You know, I can suck it up and then complain later,’” Leighton says. “It’s one of the quirks of the airline business that I think most of us, as both passengers and industry insiders, have just come to groan about.”

Leighton says short of the airplanes becoming shaped like triangles, you’re going to have to arrive at the gate 30 minutes before departure time.

But next time you take off to a far-off destination and you overhear the person in front of you asking why boarding a plane is the absolute worst, you’ll have something to talk about.

Is Southwest Airlines Coasting On Its Friendly Reputation?


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Greg Puriski has worked as a ramp worker for Southwest Airlines for 19 years, and he’s always felt like he was an asset to the company.

“The last few years – I want to say the last five years or so – the culture has changed, from where we’re more like a regular legacy carrier or regular corporation, to where we’re not really appreciated anymore, and it just feels like there’s procedure changes all the time,” Pruinski says. “We’re just basically like another airline right at the moment with our working conditions.”

That doesn’t sound like the Southwest that gained a reputation through the 90’s as an affordable carrier with a great attitude and a talent for quirkiness. Remember the rapping Southwest flight attendant that went viral in 2009?

The airline has aged since then. Some people say it’s lost its fun. It still has the lowest add-on fees in the industry, which puts the airline ahead of many of its competitors in terms of customer satisfaction, though by less and less every year. Seth Kaplan is the editor of Airline Weekly.

“In some markets, like Austin where people are very familiar with Southwest, they still enjoy the open seating and some of the things that they’ve been used to all these years,” Kaplan says. “But as it goes into new markets, you have people that might be willing to pay even for a seat assignment if they could get one but they can’t.”

Since it acquired Air Tran, in 2014, Southwest has steadily been raising its fares. It’s not a cheap airline anymore, and it’s not the underdog – it brought in a billion dollars in profit last year.

“Things have changed over the last few years, it is quite sad, you know when I started 19 years ago,” says Purinksi. “I was Greg Purinski Southwest Airlines ramp agent, and now I’m nothing more than 36425, which is my employee number.”

Kaplan says disgruntled employees can be bad for business.

“Definitely one of the things that customers have liked about Southwest over the years are those very friendly employees who sing to them during the safety demonstration and all those things,” he says. “So if the workforce really became far less happy overall than it once was, then yeah, that could affect customer perceptions of airlines.”

The People Who Profit From Disasters



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Recovery is underway in Van and Denton, Texas, after a series of tornados swept through on Mother’s Day. The Associated Press reports two people were killed in Van by the EF3 tornado that blew through the small town just southeast of Dallas.

Mark Hanna is a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas. He says the amount of damage to homes and businesses made by the 130-140 mile an hour winds will make the rebuilding costly.

“It’s really hard to put an exact dollar figure on it right now, but it’d be easy to say that the insured losses would be well over $1 billion,” Hanna says.

Once the storm passes residents naturally will want to make insurance claims. But some try to make a quick buck from the disaster by scamming insurers. State Senator Larry Taylor recently sponsored a bill he says will make it harder to file a false insurance claim.

“People block walking going door-to-door, phone solicitations, these aren’t people that have problems with their insurance agents and go look for a lawyer, these are people that lawyers go look for people to make a lot of money and now that’s the difference,” Taylor says. “It’s a money grab.”

When the repair process begins, contractors, carpenters and electricians move in. Sarah Burns is with the Texas Roofing Contractors Association.

“They’re called storm chasers [in the roofing business], and typically in an area that’s been heavily impacted there will be a lot of people that at least pose as doing business as roofing contractors that hit the area door knocking, handing out signs, sometimes putting signs in people’s yards, crawling on the roofs and inspecting them as well,” Burns says.

Most are on the up and up, but roofing and repair scams are all too common– the Texas Attorney General office regularly issues scam warnings and prosecutes scammers after almost every major storm or wildfire.

“Go to a reputable contractor, a building contractor, preferably someone who lives right there in your community,” Hanna says. “You want to refrain from dealing with anyone who is coming out from out of the city to take advantage of a bad situation.”

Rain and thunderstorms are expected in northern Texas for the next 10 days.

If You Want To Target Multicultural Millennials, Start In Texas


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People of color are pretty used to seeing their cultures portrayed in a stereotypical way, especially in advertising. Remember when Ashton Kutcher played a Bollywood director for Popchips? Or the Taco Bell Chihuahua?

UT Journalism student Ashanti De Luna rolls her eyes when we talk about multicultural advertising.

“To be honest I don’t like any of the ads, like the for example Taco Bell and the Chihuahua – I’m not for that.” she says.  “To me it’s kind of a disgrace to both languages to be combining them in an ad.”

It seems like it is so easy to get it wrong. Zayna Usman says she’s studying public relations because she’s determined to get it right.

“When there’s an ad that’s like exceptional and it’s not just there as the token person of color in the ad then I like them but most of the time it’s four white person and one black person or one brown person,” Usman says. “I guess the commercial aspect of it bothers me.”

Tokenism. That’s what Alejandro Ruelas wanted to avoid when he co-founded LatinWorks – a Hispanic advertising agency in Austin.

“It’s doing your homework,” he says. “It’s dedicating enough time to understanding what it is that you’re solving for, knowing that it’s not a one-size fits all answer.”

Ruelas says he’s been able dominate the Hispanic market with this strategy, so he’s taking it to the next level with a new agency to target multicultural millennials: Sibling.

“The reason behind the establishment of Silbing is because we see a void and an opportunity to consumers that are part of the millennial cohort if you will, and they are a group that traditionally has not been focused on by marketing organizations,” Ruelas says.

In 2013 ABC and Univision launched a cable channel to target multicultural millennials. The Miami-based channel has modest ratings but a solid social media presence.

State Demographer Lloyd Potter says if you want to launch a national project to reach multicultural millennials, it makes sense to start in Texas. It’s the youngest and most diverse state in the country.

“Well Texas already is a minority-majority state and has been since the mid 80s,” Potter says. “And when I say that I mean non-Hispanic white compared to all other race ethnic groups.”

Latinos and Asians under 45 are the fastest-growing demographics in Texas. Those are just two of the groups Alejandro Ruelas is hoping to target with his agency.

Houston Gets Ready To Take Texans To Cuba


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It may be a while before any commercial flights leave for Havana, but the Houston Airport says it’s already discussing how to get customers to Cuba with at least three carriers. Joe Martin writes for the Houston Business Journal.

“United, which has its largest hub here in the United States, they said I think back in January that they were interested in having a Cuba flight, so you would assume, but that’s pure speculation,” Martin says.

These talks between airlines and airports are just the beginning of a long process. Houston will have to work with the Cuban government to make sure that country’s airports are prepared for U.S. flight carriers.

But Martin says customers won’t have to wait much longer.

“They expect to make a trip sometime this year to Cuba just to discuss logistics and to make sure the Cuban airport, you think Havana when I say that, are ready to accept American passengers, and have the ability to do so from a security standpoint, from a logistic standpoint, just to make sure all is kosher on both sides,” Martin says.

And once that happens, travel agents like Michelle Weller, are set to make a lot of money.

“Having a nonstop flight going straight into a Caribbean destination is going to be so excellent, not only for people from Houston, but also kind of from all over Texas,” Weller says. “If you can drive into Houston and then jump on a plane and go nonstop to Cuba I think you’d see A LOT of traffic.”

AirBnB found that nearly a third of Americans would be interested in visiting Cuba. Among Latino Americans, it’s closer to half, and that leaves a lot of monetary incentives for airlines to get on board.

Why Can’t My Iphone Speak Spanglish?


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A lot of Texans switch back and forth between English and Spanish effortlessly, without even thinking about it. But if you’re typing on an iPhone, switching between the language keyboards mid-sentence is a big hassle. With more and more multilingual users, why isn’t one of the top smartphones up to the task?

Jennifer Kutz says she has some software that can help– it’s prediction keyboard called SwiftKey, that’s already on more than 250 million devices.

“The difference with SwiftKey is you can literally just start typing in one language or another assuming they have the same layout on your keyboard and the keyboard will understand and detect what language you’re typing in and adjust what word is coming next,” Kutz says.

Kutz says it takes some time for the keyboard to really adapt to the way the user speaks. But trying to get Siri – iPhone’s voice-to-text messenger– to work, is a whole other story. We spoke with Andrew Dillon, who teaches at the University of Texas School of Information, about why Siri isn’t better at this.

“With speech, there is this assumption that only intelligent creatures and intelligent beings can talk, and very quickly when you speak to most computerized applications you find out pretty quickly that they’re not that intelligent,” Dillon says.

What happens if you ask Siri why she doesn’t speak Spanglish?

“I’ve never really thought about it,” Siri responds.

John Roescher, a technology consultant in Austin, says Spanglish might not be too far off for our dear Siri.

“I think it’s fair to say that would be easy, relatively easy to incorporate, the intelligence that you build into it it’s obviously easy to do it one language, or another language only one at a time, but it’s not impossible to do it for both,” Roescher says.

So what’s stopping Siri? Roescher says that the failure in the tech industry is really a diversity issue, not at the programmer level, but with the higher-ups.

“A company could benefit from having more diverse decisions, or more diverse champions, for these ideas in their organization to even have the inspiration to make a case like this,” Roescher says.

If decision makers realized the market in the U.S. alone, for a bilingual operating system, the company could stand to make a lot of money. Almost 40 percent of Texans speak multiple languages, and a lot of us like to do it at the same time.

Texas Payments Are Still Waiting For BP Payouts

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British Petroleum has set aside a $20 billion trust to settle claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. So far, Texas received more than $18 million for restoration projects along the coast.

But while the state is being compensated, individual plaintiffs in Texas have had a much harder time getting the money they say they deserve.

Charles Herd is a maritime lawyer in Houston.

“By my last count we have 224 clients in the BP oil spill and about 17 percent of those have been paid to date – which means that 83 percent have not been paid,” Herd says.

Herd says the clients that have been compensated have gotten checks from anywhere from $7,000 – $133,000. Most of them work in the seafood industry.

Economist Charles Mason was a witness in the U.S. civil trial against BP. He says shrimpers were especially hard hit by the spill.

“Imagine that a shrimper coming out of East Texas in the Gulf Coast works his way along the Gulf from west to east, harvesting shrimp,” Mason says. “Now he has to go farther to find viable population, so there’s extra cost associated with that – maybe the quality of the shrimp is suspect.”

Mason says the extra cost involved trickles down through the rest of the Texas Gulf economy.

“Someone who runs a restaurant and they find that they can’t access the quality of seafood from the Gulf that they were once able to – or there’s a perception amongst patrons that the quality is suspect – so they take a hit, their workers take a hit, the places where those workers went to shop, they’re probably going to take a hit and these effects are kind of going to spiral out,” Mason says. “They’ll interact and weave their way through the entire fabric of the community. All that stuff is ongoing.”

Despite that, the Gulf seafood industry isn’t doing too badly right now. It’s been buoyed by a strong dollar and locally-sourced foodie trends. Andrea Hance is with the Texas Shrimp Association, she says the impact of five years of deflated prices has still left a scar on the Gulf economy.

“It’s particularly challenging for fishermen and people who typically work with their hands and they’re not keen accountants – that’s not what they do,” Hance says. “And if they were keen accountants, they might not be fishermen.”

Hance says the industry lost more than half a billion dollars since the spill. In Texas, shrimpers have received less than $70 million from the settlement trust.

But if that number seems low, shrimpers have been the most successful in receiving compensation; most plaintiffs are still waiting.

The deadline for filing an individual claim for compensation from the BP trust is June 8.