What’s Next for Natural?

La Croix sparkling water in the official JT Mega mini fridge

Like many other office kitchens, the official JT Mega mini fridge is slowly being taken over by La Croix sparkling water. Once a refuge for artificially-sweetened soft drinks, the shelves now burst under the weight of “pamplemousse”, “mure pepino”, and “cerise limon.” And like most new beverage items on the market, each can proudly proclaims “100% natural flavors.”

Replacing artificial ingredients with natural ones has shown positive sales results across all food and beverage categories.  So imagine our surprise seeing a report by food and beverage flavor developer, FONA International, proclaiming “The jig is up for manufacturers hoping to win [consumer] confidence with a natural claim.”

While we adamantly reject the notion that “natural” is losing meaning with consumers, it does raise an interesting perspective about how we maximize the effectiveness of “natural” claims moving forward.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

First, we have to understand why consumers were drawn to “natural” in the first place. In its recent report, The Hidden Drivers Behind Natural & Organic, Technomic states one of the key reasons consumers gravitated towards “natural” was because it provided an efficient mental shortcut:

Today's consumers demand transparency around each step their food takes on the way to their plate...across the spectrum of health, taste, sustainability, social responsibility and more. So how can you give consumers that much information without overwhelming them? By using umbrella terms. Terms such as 'natural' and 'organic' convey many things to consumers by perceptually encompassing a wide variety of other health claims and benefits.

In short, “all natural” became an easy way to convey both higher quality and health attributes.

But without a consistent definition of umbrella terms between the FDA and the USDA, brands began using the same words to describe various farming techniques, animal husbandry practices and ingredient parameters. Which unfortunately led to mass confusion: 82% of consumers said they confuse natural and organic at least some of the time1.

So one can see why FONA International would argue companies should be using more single-attribute claims like “no preservatives,” rather than umbrella terms like “natural”, when marketing to consumers to minimize confusion.

Which begs the question, “which one is right?”

WHAT WE THINK

You need both. Umbrella terms and single-attribute claims serve different purposes for different consumers.

We know umbrella terms provide a very necessary mental shortcut for consumers looking to delineate between conventional and non-conventional food and beverage options. And for many people, seeing a “natural” claim is all they want (or need) to make a purchase decision. For consumers demanding a deeper level of detail, single-attribute claims function as proof-points for the umbrella claim and demonstrate a higher degree of transparency.

WHAT’S NEXT

You can effectively use both umbrella terms and single-attribute claims in marketing communication by building a messaging hierarchy:

Start with the umbrella term 

Umbrella terms (natural, organic*, clean, simple) should be featured most prominently on the package/marketing communication. Its primary purpose is to help a customer more easily distinguish this as a non-conventional product.

Field Trip beef jerky packaging featuring prominent umbrella terms, 'all natural' and 'gluten free'.

 

Follow up with additional single-attribute claims 

Next, highlight single-attribute claims that are particularly important to your category and/or target audience.

Field Trip beef jerky packaging featuring supporting single-attribute claims

Finish with umbrella term clarification

Lastly, provide additional clarity as to what production and/or ingredient practices back up the product’s classification as the umbrella term.

Field Trip beef jerky packaging featuring the clarification of the displayed umbrella terms.

*Note: while the FDA and USDA have strict guidelines on how organic is labeled, many consumers are either unaware or confused as to what it means. As such, we classify it as an “umbrella” term in this post. 

1 “Natural: 2018 Trends and Insights.” FONA International. 2018.

 

The Reality of Virtual Trade Shows

March marks the beginning of a much anticipated–and somewhat derided–season in the food sales industry: trade shows. This month, we’re busy finalizing booth graphics, email blasts, customer events and lead capture plans for many of our clients. Despite the nuances of each channel, there is one universal objective: maximize valuable face-time with current and potential customers.   

Which is why a February 2 headline in the IFDA daily e-newsletter caught my attention: “Jake’s Finer Foods Has Partnered with vFairs to Deliver an Interactive, Virtual Food Show.”

Many of you will remember virtual trade shows as a tech trend that began back in the 90’s that never gained real traction. But recent advancements in tech, mobile and other devices made me wonder if virtual shows were worthy of a second look. I called in our digital mavens, Sandri Dekker and John Schneider, for their expert opinions.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Through conversations with media partners and many of you, we know that the travel and resources required to attend trade shows are increasing. For some customers, it has meant additional scrutiny about the ROI of attending. Which makes a virtual/digital trade show, in theory, attractive to many in the industry.

We contacted the team at VFairs to give us a behind-the-scenes look at Jake’s Finer Foods showcase and understand what’s happening in the virtual trade show space:

Much like an in-real-life (IRL) event, the show floor allows attendees to navigate a series of manufacturer booths.

Much like an in-real-life (IRL) event, the show floor allows attendees to navigate a series of manufacturer booths.

Courtesy of VFairs https://www.vfairs.com/

Once inside the booth, customers can click on various tabs to learn more about products, download marketing materials, or even live-chat with a sales representative.

Once inside the booth, customers can click on various tabs to learn more about products, download marketing materials, or even live-chat with a sales representative.

Courtesy of VFairs https://www.vfairs.com/

WHAT WE THINK

The current virtual trade show platforms fail to create an authentic supplier-customer interaction. Tech vendors are focusing too much on replicating a trade show floor, rather than optimizing the content with current technologies.

Trade shows are intended to bring our brands, products and company to life with customers in exciting ways. While the technology potential for virtual trade shows is enormous–video, live chat, interactive digital engagement and virtual reality–we’re still waiting to see a company successfully execute a virtual solution.

WHAT’S NEXT

As an agency, we understand that virtualized sales events will become more prominent across the food-business landscape as resources are tightened and time becomes an even more valuable commodity. We also know that these events–regardless of technology savviness–are important to attend. Here are our top 3 ways to maximize your participation in an upcoming virtual event:

Be Strategic with Graphics

In a virtual environment, graphic space is small and limited. Opt for close-in product photography, your company logo, and short but informative copy. 

In a virtual environment, graphic space is small and limited. Opt for close-in product photography, your company logo, and short but informative copy.

Talk Like a Human

We naturally type/write more formally than we talk. In a live-chat environment with customers, keep it conversational and don’t be afraid to inject some personality.

In a live-chat environment with customers, keep it conversational and don’t be afraid to inject some personality.

Bring Content to Life

Your content strategy will be largely dictated by the technology offered within trade show hosting platform. Talk with the vendor to see if options like video are available to bring the content to life. 

Just some Thought for Food

 

Questions, comments or want to learn more? Let's connect! weshouldtalk@jtmega.com

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