Takeaways From 4 Mega-Trends Every Food Marketer Must Know

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Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Food Leaders Summit in Chicago where I was reminded of two things: 1) I love Chicago and 2) I love food. A perfect two and a half days, where attendees had the opportunity to immerse themselves in discussions about food (from sustainability and transparency to packaging and messaging) and how consumers are driving change across the food industry.

After stopping by Garrett Popcorn Shops® and wandering through Walgreens on State Street to be fascinated that I could, if I so chose, buy sushi at a drugstore – I felt not only satisfied (thanks to the popcorn) but also in the right frame of mind for the conference (thanks to the side trip to Walgreens' newest concept, where shoppers can pick up dinner as well as aspirin). For at the conference, I heard loud and clear from speakers from ConAgra to Cargill that consumers are buying their foods differently than in the past. I’m more conscious of my food choices and more convenience is the name of the game for me – and millions of consumers like me. 

Although I hate to be stereotyped when defining myself, I do support the point our PR agency’s client Julie Berling, Director of Strategic Insights & Integrated Communications for GNP Company, made during her own speech at the Summit – that as a consumer, I shop with my head as well as my heart. 

FoodLeadersSummit_2015Last week, GNP Company’s Just BARE brand of all natural chicken posted on its Just Dish blog a recap on the Food Leaders Summit. (Read “Top 5 Hot Topics Food Leaders Are Talking About” here and also begin following Just Dish! It’s a great blog offering excellent insights into food topics.)  Here’s a quote from that Just Dish blog recap: “According to food developer, author and Food Leaders Summit speaker Barb Stuckey, the type of food we eat is changing. She says, ‘our lives are changing, but restaurants and grocery stores haven’t.’ Yet. In fact, she said four mega trends are disrupting the food industry, which will change the ecosystem of where we live, buy food, and eat.” With the permission of Just Dish, I’d like to expand upon those four mega retailer trends. What follows are thought starters for food and consumer packaged goods marketers in particular, yet apply to all marketers.  

Takeaway: Build in-person experiences and consider every touch point with your brand

Mega-Trend #1 – Set It and Forget It Food

Just Dish: “Are you subscribing to your food like you are your makeup (Birchbox) or dog’s treats (BarkBox)? There are numerous food companies that want you to order their pre-made sample boxes on a subscription basis. Simply enter your name, address and credit card information and magically, food arrives at your doorstop. From Nature Box, Conscious Box and Love With Food, consumers now can receive products they love – and even new products to sample – without leaving their homes.” 

MaccaPR: I’m not typically a big shopper…so you would think these subscription service concepts would appeal to me. In fact, it’s the opposite. I like to grocery shop, pick out my own makeup and stop by my neighborhood coffee shop.  It’s not because I have all the time in the world…it’s because I like to enjoy the experience, personally see what my options are and make choices based on my wants and desires. Key to me: the experience. For consumers, all interactions with products – from understanding its attributes and ingredients to exposure to marketing, reviews and philanthropic causes– impact decision making. While not a new concept, it’s important to reiterate that brands are about a consumer’s perception of them…and marketers benefit from thinking about every single experience a consumer has with their products. Food and CPG marketers are already realizing the effects of online retail, but focusing on the IRL (in real life) experiences can help brands stand out on store shelves – and build brand loyalty when shopping online. As Enjoy Life Foods’ CEO mentioned at the Summit, his company strives to think digitally, but act in analog. That in-person experience can be so important. 

Takeaway: Recognize the importance of video and how-to content  

Mega-Trend #2 – The New Scratch Cooking

Just Dish: “Companies like Blue Apron and Plated are taking subscription boxes one-step further by offering full meal kit delivery. With boxes full of fresh ingredients, portion sized condiments and even step-by-step instructions, those individuals who are novices in the kitchen and cook only on special occasions (millennials, this means you) can now have a meal time experience they can enjoy more often."

NYT_CookingTechniques

MaccaPR:  I’m proud to say I’ve raised a millennial who is a bit of a foodie. My son loves to cook. But that doesn’t mean I did a good job of teaching him. He’s shared with me many a time how he goes to YouTube to get inspired, learn new methods of preparation and find recipes. His favorite? Eggplant caviar. (I’ve never cooked an eggplant in my life!) Marketers: my son is not alone. The power of video, such as The New York Times Video database, in teaching and influencing consumer behavior, cannot be denied. Video and step-by-step instructional content should be a part of every marketers strategic plan.          

PeopleClaim - The Review of Reviews

Takeaway: Encourage trial and make it easy to share review  

Mega-Trend #3 – The Breakdown of Category Silos

Just Dish: “When shopping, consumers generally go from one side of the grocery store to the other to get everything needed for, let’s say, taco night. Tried-and-true grocery store aisles are being switched up. Stuckey says that food retailers – both online and in-store – more and more will bring everything together, making it fast and efficient for us to pick up the tomatoes, cheese and ground chicken for a Mexican fiesta—all in one place.”

MaccaPR: As stated earlier, cooking at home for consumers (millennials in particular) is a special event, one in which cooks express themselves through not only the food, but also the event itself. Marketers can benefit by helping consumers create these dining events. Be a part of these experiences by offering themed recipes, entertainment ideas and unique refreshments. How? By developing online platforms for consumers to gather and authentically share opinions and tips for entertaining, even ideas that involve your product. Positive consumer experiences and reviews, as indicated in this PeopleClaim infographic (right), impact the bottom line. And hey, it’s fun to be a part of an online community.

Takeaway: Think of your product in digital terms

Mega-Trend #4 – Food on Demand

Just Dish: “For the sake of convenience, busy consumers across the country are letting others make meals or do grocery shopping for them. Available in some markets, GrubHub and UberEATS deliver freshly prepared meals concocted by restaurant chefs, while Instacart sends shoppers to grocery stores to pick out food on your behalf. No more going to grocery stores and going up and down the aisles. Your next meals can be ordered online, and delivered to your home.”

MaccaPR: Stuckey made a good point during her talk that marketers need to heed: visually, products must be online-ready. Meaning, with more and more consumers doing their shopping online through sites like Amazon Fresh, consumers may no longer have the tactile experience with a product that they would have had if they had gone to a grocery store. Manufacturers should think about how their products stand out from a features and benefits standpoint, but also from how they are visually displayed on a website or hand-held device.

 

If you implement these takeaways from the conference’s food retail mega-trends, you’ll find yourselves ahead of the rest. Enjoy! In the meantime, I’m going to hold some focus groups so I can get even more insight into what motivates the millennial audience to cook. (Meaning, I’m going to work extra hard to get an invitation to my son’s home so I can taste that eggplant caviar!)


Image Sources: Maccabee PR

About the Author

Jean Hill

Jean Hill is senior vice president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

Topics:  Brand Strategy

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