Your brand is your foundation

It was a curious scenario: the company had incorporated digital advertising into its marketing program, sales were up and the return on ad spend had increased. But brand affinity was in serious decline (brand affinity being a metric that lets market researchers make predictions about how a consumer will behave).1 In fact, a relevancy study showed their flagship brand was in the bottom third of 400 measured brands.

Speaking at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2017 Masters of Marketing Conference, Clorox CMO Eric Reynolds recalls finding himself in a situation many corporate marketing teams are currently facing. By focusing almost entirely on short-term objectives, Reynolds says their marketing and advertising became very rational and very functional.

“In a time when we have all this data and technology…why is our brand effectiveness failing? We would argue it’s because we forgot about brands. Customers didn’t fall in love with [our] brands.”

It’s an all-too-common story. In today’s ROI-centric business environment, the value of brand building has been forgotten.

Chart: Brand Building and Sales Activation Work Over Different Timescales

BUT WHY?

In the last few years, there has been a fairly significant change in effect from long-term to short-term brand activation.

Not long ago, long-term brand building accounted for 69% of brand relevancy. But according to recent studies from Les Binet and Peter Field, that impact has been reduced to 47%, as short-term activations have risen from a 31% to a 53% majority share.

And that’s problematic. Because brand building does more than shore up brand awareness, brand preference and even, in some cases, increase sales. Brand building is critical because strong brands command a higher price and ultimately lead to long-term sales growth.

WHAT WE THINK

Brand building is the most important strategic marketing priority to ensure long-term profitability.

We understand that in today’s business environment, demonstrating ROI on marketing and advertising investments is more important than ever. While brand building efforts may not necessarily increase revenue in the short-term, doing it effectively allows companies to charge higher prices over the long-term. And increasing profits, not just sales, is the ultimate return-on-investment.

WHAT’S NEXT

Standard ROI calculations are great for short-term marketing and advertising initiatives. But measuring and assessing the impact of long-term brand building means using an alternative guide to performance.

John Kearon, CEO of System1Group, recommends measuring a brand’s ‘share of voice’ relative to its ‘share of market.’ He explains

“An established marketing principle dictates that a brand that spends above its size (and achieves excess share of voice – ESOV) can expect its market share to increase in that period. A brand that spends below its size (does not have share of voice sufficient for its size) will decline. Binet and Field indicate that, on average, across all campaigns, 0.5 percentage points of growth are achieved for ten percentage points of ESOV.” 2

For example:

  • BRAND A has a share of market at 10% and share of voice is 20%
  • Excess Share of Voice is 10% ( 20 – 10) = 10
  • The 10% ESOV means it stands to grow by 0.5 percentage points over the period

This also means brands must prioritize resources to measure, test and evaluate effectiveness of brand building campaigns over the long term.

Save yourself from the trap of “saving” labor

Like many working professionals these days, I take my lunch breaks at my workstation and use those precious 30 minutes to read through the never-ending stack of industry publications on my desk. I was flipping through a recent edition of FoodService Director today when a small line of copy on a page ad catches my eye:

“Fully cooked chicken wings are easy to prepare, saving time and labor back-of-house.”

But looking at industry headlines from the past six months will tell you that “saving” labor isn’t the issue. It’s finding and retaining labor.

So how can we better align brand and product narratives that speak to the very real labor challenges today’s operators face? It starts with a better understanding of the labor crisis facing foodservice decision makers.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

On May 4, the U.S. Labor Department reported that unemployment had reached a record low of 3.9%; the lowest rate since 2000 and a sign the job market has become even more competitive.1 And it’s putting immense pressure on foodservice operators.

In a recent conversation with Casey Saeger, Human Resources Director at Blue Plate Restaurant Company, she shares: “As a collection of community restaurants, we see the challenge of labor BOH pervasive in the Minneapolis market. We have begun to focus on investing in employee development and incorporating lifestyle perks like dining discounts to retain our employees.”

The biggest challenge operators face, across commercial and non-commercial, is the recruitment and retention of employees. And the latest turnover stats are sobering:

  • For BOH positions, virtually all restaurant companies said they are constantly understaffed in critical kitchen positions
  • For limited-service restaurants, hourly turnover was at 146.2% in August 2017
  • For full-service restaurants, hourly turnover was at 102.8% in August 20172

And for many foodservice operators, this means adopting aggressive retention strategies to prevent back-of-house staff from being poached by other restaurants or other industries.

“What we’ve seen recently is a spiraling up of cooks’ wages,” says JJ Haywood, owner of Pizza Luce in Minneapolis. “We have to meet twice a year [with managers] about who they want to protect in the kitchen.”  As the market tightens, operators are being forced to offer more competitive wages to keep kitchens staffed, which puts additional pressure on already tight margins.

WHAT WE THINK

We need to change how we talk about our products and labor benefits in marketing and advertising.

It starts with acknowledging the limitations of our products. No matter how good, products cannot “save” an operator labor when their kitchen is understaffed. Food marketers must go beyond “labor-saving” generalizations and get specific as to which challenges products can actually impact/solve.

WHAT’S NEXT

The best way to adjust your brand/product labor-solution narrative is to talk to operators in the context of their own kitchens. This dialogue will help you and your marketing team understand HOW to talk about your product’s labor benefits. For example, here are two ways we believe brands can go beyond “labor savings” to communicate specific real back-of-house solutions:

Labor Savings —> Maximizes the labor you do have

Most restaurants and non-commercial kitchens are understaffed at a time when operators are expected to do more. Operators need their people using their time in ways that increase profitability so products that simplify complicated or time-intensive preparations help maximize personnel resources.

Labor Savings —> Skill-proof quality and consistency

Culinary education programs have seen sharp declines in enrollment the last several years, which means operators are facing a serious skills gap in the kitchen. Brands should talk about their Ingredients/products that can be prepared by employees possessing any level of kitchen skills without sacrificing quality.

Just some Thought for Food™

[1] “Unemployment Rate Hits 3.9%, a Rare Low as Job Market Becomes More Competitive.” The New York Times. 4 May 2018.
[2] “Restaurant Turnover Rates on the Rise, Again.” Restaurant Business. 13 October 2017.

The “New” Convenience

It’s Wednesday around lunchtime and, like many working professionals, I’ve hopped over to the local grocery store in search of a quick meal before my next meeting. Expectedly, the line for the salad bar is four or five people deep, as well as the Asian wok station, the sushi bar and the deli counter.

Yet one spot remains eerily empty, despite a plethora of convenient meal options: the frozen entree aisle. The situation seems almost counter-intuitive; an endless assortment of cuisine types ready to go in under 5 minutes and not a soul around. So why the lack of customer traffic?

A sample of several frozen meals, which are no longer considered “convenient” by the modern consumer.

As the Hartman Group explained at their 2018 Food Culture Forecast a few weeks ago, one of the main factors is that frozen meals are no longer considered “convenient” by the modern consumer.

The “New” Convenience, as CEO Laurie Demeritt states, is much more than the intersection of speed and efficiency.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Convenience food is nothing new for the industry. In fact, the ’50s and ’60s began a golden age of convenience-eating with food innovations focused on giving housewives easier ways to put a meal on the table. Frozen, single-serve meals. Canned soups and stews. Jars of pre-made sauces and gravies. Boxed meal solutions.

These product solutions became even more widely used in the late sixties as more women began heading to work and had less time and energy to prepare a home-cooked dinner.

But as the Hartman Group explains, the very qualities that made these products so enticing decades ago are now at odds with today’s consumers’ food values. Reliability has given way to health and wellness concerns. Experience is now prized over efficiency. Uniformity has been replaced with authenticity and predictability is now second-fiddle to distinction.

A graphic comparing cultural values between generations.

Source: “The New Convenience.” A.C.T. Food Culture Forecast 2018. The Hartman Group. April 2018.

WHAT WE THINK

It’s not that convenience is no longer relevant, it’s that many brands haven’t changed how they think about–or talk about–convenience as a product attribute.

Consumers today no longer believe that opting for convenience foods (easy, quick, and accessible) means sacrificing freshness, quality, and health and global influences. Our marketing and innovation however, haven’t fully caught up to modern expectations. To be considered a convenience brand/product we must expand our messaging to include these new consumer expectations.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Hartman Group identifies three distinct attributes consumers are looking for when it comes to modern convenience products.

Easy –> Empowering

Despite the news that consumers don’t want to cook, they actually do see the value of a home-cooked meal for themselves or their families.

  • Old Convenience: making it easy to assemble a meal in as few steps as possible
  • New Convenience: empowering users with a new skill or knowledge to successfully prepare a meal

Despite the news that consumers don’t want to cook, they actually do see the value of a home cooked meal for themselves or their families.

Quick –> Engaging

Time is even more of the essence. But consumers no longer want to sacrifice interesting, customizable fare for speed. Brands should think about, and package, products as components that can be “arranged” in different ways to create personalized meal solutions.

  • Old Convenience: the ability to prep and serve a meal in the least amount of time possible
  • New Convenience: the ability to customize and personalize my meals, no matter how small

Consumers no longer want to sacrifice interesting, customizable fare for speed.

Accessible –> Flexible

Functionality remains critical when it comes to convenience foods, but ensuring products can be sized, scaled, and streamlined to meet unique consumer needs are equally as important.

  • Old Convenience: pre-cut vegetables that can be combined to make a salad
  • New Convenience: a complete salad kit that can be eaten as a side OR added to grilled chicken to make a meal

Ensuring products can be sized, scaled, and streamlined to meet unique consumer needs are as important as functionality.

Trend Alert: Adaptogens

While some take their coffee with extra cream or even a dash of cinnamon, Four Sigmatic is proposing a unique alternative: mushrooms. The blend promises increased productivity, focus and mental creativity due to naturally occurring compounds found in mushroom varietals like Lion’s Mane and Chaga.

Blending coffee with mushrooms promises increased productivity, focus and mental creativity.

So in late April, those of us attending the Hartman Group’s 2018 Food Culture Forecast sat inside a hotel ballroom and sipped the fungi-infused beverage as we listened to presenter Davey McHenry talk about a growing consumer awareness of, and demand for, products that address brain health and functioning.

In fact, mental health is the second most-mentioned health priority by American consumers (#1: weight control). Which makes it a unique and highly attractive area of innovation exploration.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Despite advancements in technology and the ability to multi-task from anywhere, adults today are busier and more stressed out than ever before. Consider the following:

A graphic showing the increase in time spent working, commuting, and caring for children for the average American family.

Source: “The New Convenience.” A.C.T. Food Culture Forecast 2018. The Hartman Group. April 2018.

And that’s led to a sizable increase in the number of consumers who say it’s taking a toll on their mental health:

  • 55% of all households are treating or preventing anxiety and stress
  • 61% of Millennials say they’re treating or preventing anxiety and stress
  • 31% of teens say they feel overwhelmed1

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re seeing an increase in products like foods, beverages and supplements that utilize adaptogens (substances that help manage stress) and nootropics (substances that increase cognitive functioning).

WHAT WE THINK

New innovations that provide mental health benefits are ripe for growth, but require approachable and educational messaging to entice consumer trial.

Many of the adaptogens and nootropics used today are completely unfamiliar–and even unpronounceable– to the vast majority of consumers. Food marketers will need to utilize branding, naming and messaging to clearly communicate sought-after mental health benefits. Manufacturers will also need to provide basic education on ingredients and their origins in marketing communications to make products approachable to the mass market.

WHAT’S NEXT

Take a cue from the following brands on how to successfully market food and beverage products that promise enhanced cognitive functioning:

Brain Alchemy Latte by Project Juice

A new offering by the San Francisco-based restaurant and juice company, Project Juice, this company also uses a clever yet descriptive name for its new adaptogen coffee drinks like “Matcha Energy” and “Golden Immunity”

  • The website describes it as a “therapeutic and deeply nourishing formula for the brain.” It also utilizes the packaging to educate the consumer on the definition of adaptogens. Key ingredients of their Brain Alchemy latte include:
    • Lion’s mane (mushroom) and guta kola (Chinese herb); both credited with increasing cognitive functioning

Project Juice utilizes the packaging of their beverages to educate the consumer on the definition of adaptogens.

Brain Dust by Moon Juice

A super-food powder blend created by the company Moon Juice. The name ‘Brain Dust” is described on its website as Edible Intelligence™, which efficiently and succinctly communicates its key benefit to the audience.

  • The product description, “an adaptogenic blend of super-herbs and super-mushrooms that help combat the effects of stress” gives the consumer a high-level understanding of the key cognitive benefit. Key ingredients include:
    • Rhodiola root extract, which is credited with increasing resistance to stress, and ashwagandha leaf extract, which is said to treat anxiety and stress

‘Brain Dust” is described as Edible Intelligence™, which efficiently and succinctly communicates its key benefit to the audience.

Tulsi Clarity Herbal Tonic by Goldthread

One of a variety of herbal tonics from Santa Monica-based Goldthread Herbs, I like how the company has named its concoctions by what mental state consumers can achieve upon consumption.

  • The description–Sweet and fragrant, with just a touch of spice, tulsi…has rejuvenating effects upon the body, mind and spirit”–also provides both education and approachability to the consumer. Key ingredients of Tulsi Clarity include:
    • Tulsi, an herb credited with reducing stress and increasing energy, and lavender extract which promotes calmness

Goldthread Herbs has named its concoctions by what mental state consumers can achieve upon consumption.

Just some Thought for Food™

 

1 “The New Convenience.” A.C.T. Food Culture Forecast 2018. The Hartman Group. April 2018.

Start Caring About Sharing

“Do we need to be on Instagram?”

It’s a snowy afternoon in mid-January and I’m sitting with our integrated planning team talking about the most frequently asked questions from clients. From understanding what to expect in audience engagement, platform usage and content demands, the team agreed social media warranted a deeper dive for our foodservice clients.

So last month, we partnered with Datassential for a proprietary research study with over 400 operators across all segments asking about a variety of topics including social media, advertising content and trade shows. For this month’s Thought for Food, we’re giving our readers an in-depth analysis into operators and social media usage, as well as considerations for your 2019 marketing plans.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Our decision to invest in operator research began while reviewing Datassential’s 2017 Media Engagement study, which showed the most popular types of media used by foodservice operators to get information for their business. The data didn’t just confirm our team’s intuition on operator social media use, it showed adoption of these tools was deeper than conventional wisdom would indicate. That intel provided us a point of focus. 

Datassential’s 2017 Media Engagement study showed the most popular types of media used by foodservice operators to get information for their business.

Source:“Pulse Topical Report: Media Engagement Chapter.” Datassential. December 2017.

Knowing that many of our clients are weighing the investment in social media, we felt it was important to dig deeper and understand:

  • What percentage of operators are actually following foodservice and/or beverage suppliers?
  • Which platforms do they prefer/use most often?

In our follow-up Omnibus study with Datassential, we found that 52% of all foodservice operators follow foodservice and/or beverage suppliers on social media, with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter being the most used platforms.

WHAT WE THINK

Social media must become part of our operator engagement strategies moving forward.

As the foodservice decision-maker demographic shifts to include more Millennials–the most active generation on social media overall–manufacturers will need to be active on these platforms to reach this group. Many B2B industries are already involved in social selling–the use of social media by sales professionals to interact with and sell to prospects, by offering content and answering questions until they are ready to buy–and foodservice is not far behind.

WHATS NEXT

Not all platforms, segments or content types are created equal when it comes to social media. Because engagement requires a long-term resource investment, here are three questions to answer when developing a social strategy:

Who should we target?

Certain segments are more active than others on social media and gravitate towards different platforms. Commercial and C&U operators are most likely to be engaged, while Healthcare and K-12 decision makers are least likely to be active.

Illustration showing how various segments are more active than others on different social media platforms.

Source: “JT Mega Operator Omnibus.” JT Mega and Datassential. February 2018.

What is the most popular platform?

Facebook is the most popular–likely due to its longevity in the marketplace. But that doesn’t mean it should be your go-to platform when investing in a social strategy. Your content plan, marketing objectives, target audience and budget will largely dictate which social platform makes the most sense for your brand.

Facebook is the most popular social channel–likely due to its longevity in the marketplace.

Source: “JT Mega Operator Omnibus.” JT Mega and Datassential. February 2018.

What type of content is most valuable?

Food and consumer trends, new product updates and company news were frequently sought after by all operators, while white papers, contests and success stories scored low across all audiences.  

Food and consumer trends, new product updates and company news were frequently sought after by all operators on various social channels.

Source: “JT Mega Operator Omnibus.” JT Mega and Datassential. February 2018.

Final Thoughts

Investing in a social strategy is a long-term commitment. It requires consistency to build brand awareness and brand loyalty over time. Social can be a very powerful tool for your brand, but it needs resource prioritization.

Look for more social media insights in our upcoming “Marketing to the Modern Foodservice Operator: Social Media ” e-book scheduled for release later this month.

 

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

 

The Dawn of Flexitarians

Last month, casual dining chain TGI Fridays announced it was adding a buzz-worthy option to its 465 nationwide locations: The Impossible Burger. Made from all natural ingredients like wheat, coconut oil and potatoes, this plant-based burger is unique in that it bleeds, smells and sizzles like a regular beef patty thanks to a naturally-occurring iron compound called heme.

The Impossible Burger is made from all natural ingredients like wheat, coconut oil and potatoes, but it has very unique characteristics.

With less than 2% of the U.S. population identifying as vegan, many industry skeptics wonder why TGI Fridays believes a plant-based burger will thrive on a traditionally carnivorous menu.

The answer: Flexitarians.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

A 2017 consumer survey by the Nielsen Group found that 40% of U.S. consumers were incorporating more plant-based foods into their diets. Not fully vegetarian or vegan, but consciously limiting their consumption of meat and meat byproducts, these new eaters are called flexible vegetarians, or simply, Flexitarians.

In a separate 2017 survey by Mattson, nearly 30% of U.S. adults said they followed one of two Flexitarian eating styles: Somewhat Vegetarian and Mostly Vegetarian.

Source: “What You Need to Know About the Meteoric Rise in Flexitarian Eating.” Mattson. August 2017.

What’s driving the shift towards plant-based cuisine? Based on Mattson’s research, consumers are drawn to plant-centric cuisine for health & wellness benefits and environmental concerns.

The top reasons why consumers are shifting towards plant-centric cuisine center around health & wellness and environmental concerns.

Source: “What You Need to Know About the Meteoric Rise in Flexitarian Eating.” Mattson. August 2017.

WHAT WE THINK

Investing in plant-based innovations is important, but widespread consumer adoption is still a ways off.

There is a significant movement with consumers experimenting and adopting more plant-centric diets. But 85% of the U.S. population is still eating meat and meat byproducts. Food and beverage companies should continue to look for relevant plant-based innovation opportunities, but set realistic volume and sales goals based on current consumer adoption trends.

WHAT’S NEXT

It’s important to keep the following in mind when vetting potential plant-based innovations:

# 1: Consider at-home vs. away-from-home consumption

According to Mattson’s research, 67% of consumers are most likely to try plant-based cuisine in a home environment. Meaning trial is more likely to happen in the grocery aisle than at a restaurant.

  • 54% say they are most likely to try plant-based dishes at home
  • 13% say they are most likely to try plant-based dishes at a friend or family’s home
  • 33% say they are most likely to try plant based dishes away-from-home

# 2: Identify the need you intend to fulfill

For any plant-based product, the consumer needs must go beyond “I want a plant-based dish.” Is it intended to satisfy a craving for vegetable fare OR a craving for a traditional meat-based item made from plants? Is it meant to provide satiety and protein fulfillment OR the feeling of wellness associated with lighter, fresh ingredients? These answers will help craft your product narrative, and also help identify your target customer.

# 3: Know who your target customer is 

Not all plant-based innovations will appeal to plant-seeking consumers in the same way. Here we see a consumer test of two plant-based burger concepts with two different “likely customer” outcomes:

Black Bean Burger 

  • Satisfies a craving for a plant-forward burger experience
  • Most likely customers are Somewhat Vegetarians, Mostly Vegetarians, Vegetarians and Vegans

The Impossible Burger

  • Satisfies a craving for a beef-burger experience but made with plant-based ingredients
  • Most likely customers are Mostly Vegetarians, Vegetarians and Vegans

Source: “What You Need to Know About the Meteoric Rise in Flexitarian Eating.” Mattson. August 2017.

While True Omnivores may experiment with plant-based cuisine because of curiosity or a periodic craving, they shouldn’t be counted on to drive sales of plant-based innovations either at home or on the menu.

What does this all mean for TGI Fridays? Because their core menu is centered around traditional meat and meat byproducts, it could be a challenge to get vegetarian-leaning consumers in the door for just one item. After the initial excitement wears off, time will tell if their traditional (True Omnivore) customer-base can sustain the item long term.

Big Game. Bigger Opportunity.

This Sunday, as we watch the country descend on our snowy metropolis for Super Bowl LII, nearly 50 million Americans are expected to partake in a sacred tradition: purchasing takeout/delivery fare.

1.35 billion chicken wings will be spiced, sauced and devoured1. Domino’s and Pizza Hut will bake off 33 million slices of pizza2. And party guests will shell out $58 million on grocery deli sandwiches and another $10 million on grocery deli dips to go along with their potato chips3.

Why settle for a snack stadium when you can build your own Viking-inspired snack ship?

Why settle for a snack stadium when you can build your own Viking-inspired snack ship with this video-tutorial, courtesy of  Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine.

But with Sunday’s big event comes an often-missed marketing opportunity: takeout/delivery packaging.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

The consumer demand for more delivery and takeout options is a fairly recent phenomenon, with Uber Eats making its first delivery in 2014. Unfortunately, the packaging world has found itself scrambling to develop travel-friendly containers that not only maintain temperature, but also control humidity.

David Chang, world-famous chef of Momofuku and founder of Ando–a delivery-only restaurant in New York City–spent two years trying to solve this mystery and redefine restaurant delivery. He developed a travel-friendly menu and experimented with different packaging methods for improved transport. Yet Chang and his team consistently struggled to ensure hot, fresh food arrived to its customers. Industry analysts believe it was a contributing factor in Chang’s decision to let Uber Eats acquire Ando last month.

Because the functionality of takeout and delivery packaging has yet to be solved, marketing and branding opportunities have largely taken a back seat.

WHAT WE THINK

As packaging becomes more important in the food delivery/takeout space, it’s likely consumers will pay closer attention to its features and benefits as well.

Just as packaging innovations are made to improve food quality and portability, branding and storytelling opportunities must also be addressed. While consumers largely overlook the containers, boxes and bags today, companies will begin to differentiate their brand with packaging through functionality, storytelling and play. 

WHAT’S NEXT

Here are three examples of how we see companies utilizing delivery/takeout packaging with customers in the near future:

Functionality

Responsive packaging systems react with stimuli in the food or environment to enable real-time food quality and food safety. While this coffee lid turns red to alert a consumer that their beverage is too hot to drink, this concept could be used for quality assurance purposes. Packaging could use the color-changing technology to indicate whether food is still hot and fresh upon delivery.

Responsive packaging systems react to stimuli in the food or environment to enable real-time food quality and food safety.

Storytelling

Innovative companies will reimagine boxes and carrying containers as a canvas for branded storytelling. A 2017 campaign for Pizza Hut Malaysia by Ogilvy Malaysia demonstrates the power of narratives on the pizza box itself to showcase popular reasons why customers order a pizza for delivery. In this case, the all-too-familiar dinner fail.

A 2017 campaign for Pizza Hut Malaysia by Ogilvy Malaysia highlights storytelling on the pizza box.

Interactivity & Play

Other brands will use packaging as a way to interact and engage with customers. In celebration of the McFlurry’s 22nd Birthday, McDonald’s Canada collaborated with the University of Waterloo to create a limited-edition drink-tray boombox that works with any standard smartphone. In addition to being portable, the tray-based sound system is 100% recyclable.

McDonald's Canada collaborated with the University of Waterloo to create a limited-edition drink tray boombox that worked with customers' smartphones.

Just some Thought for Food

1 “Wing-Onomics.” National Chicken Council. 29 January 2018.
2 “The Staggering Amounts of Food Eaten on Super Bowl Sunday.” ABC News Online. 2 February 2017.
3 “From Live TV to the Grocery Aisles, Americans are Prepping for Super Bowl 51.” The Nielsen Company. 30 January 2017.

New Year. New Options.

This week, millions of Americans renewed their gym memberships and promised 2018 will be the year they start eating healthier. Yet a committed subset of this group took their resolutions to the next level by enlisting the scientists at Habit to create personalized wellness and nutrition plans. 

A high-profile disruptor in the food-tech sector with the backing of Campbell’s Soup Co., Habit uses biological samples to identify genetic variants and biomarkers within a customer’s DNA to create a personalized nutrition profile and, in some areas, even deliver personalized meals based on their biological profile.

Example of a Habit personalized nutrition profile

The process isn’t for the faint of heart, as author and contributing writer at the Washington Post, Sophie Egan, found out the hard way. The $299 (plus shipping and handling) investment requires a DNA cheek swab, core measurements and the ingestion of a proprietary Habit Challenge™ Shake. But perhaps Egan’s most astute observation came toward the conclusion of her essay when she wrote:

“On the face of it, personalized nutrition makes sense. Many people feel that the existing national dietary guidance of one-size-fits-all has failed them.”

Unlike other diet/nutrition companies that promote the ability of users to customize their programs, Habit is unique in its promotion of nutrition personalization. And the latter is quickly becoming the new consumer expectation.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Personalization is the direct result of the consumer shift from Affluence to Influence. As Generation Z witnesses the true death of a majority at a conceptual level, mass fragmentation will make the idea of ‘majority’ irrelevant for both brands and marketers. As A.T. Kearney explains:

“Affluence Model consumers bought the fiction that ‘one size fits all.’ Alternatively, Influence Model shoppers believe ‘one size fits nobody–except possibly by accident.’ Societal fragmentation will be celebrated as personalization in the Influence Model.”

WHAT WE THINK

The desired result of personalization vs. customization is identical: a better customer experience. But the paths to get there are dramatically different.

  • Customization: Brands provide a single set of choices that consumers can adjust based on their preferences
  • Personalization: Brands curate choices already tailored to a consumer’s preferences based on previous behaviors/interactions

WHAT’S NEXT

To achieve true customer personalization, brands and marketers must leverage the power of customer data. Below are a few ways personalization will likely come to life in food and beverage marketing:

Loyalty Programs Get Personal

In a November 2017 consumer study, Restaurant Hospitality found that 59% of consumers said they would be more likely to participate in a loyalty program if rewards were customized to their prior purchases. For example, instead of offering a generic “Free Drink” reward, Starbucks could utilize consumer transaction data to instead offer this customer her most frequently ordered beverage: a grande salted caramel mocha with extra whip. 

Loyalty Program Email Evolution Sample

Consumer-Designed Food

Back in 2014, Barilla introduced the world to their 3D pasta printer, which could print unique shapes in under two minutes. Contests are held each year to come up with new designs and, as Saveur Magazine explains, the 3D software can sculpt forms that could never be made by hand or machine. As technology becomes more accessible, consumers could theoretically craft and print their designs for a truly personalized pasta experience at home.

Menu Recommendations

UFood Grill recently installed new ordering kiosks with facial recognition software at their Owings Mills, MD, location. Customers who opt-in for having their face scanned sync it with a credit card and the system begins tracking their orders. On the next visit, a quick scan by the kiosk can bring up past orders for quick ordering. Proponents of the technology say facial recognition, paired with data algorithms, will soon be able to serve up personalized food and beverage recommendations.

UFood Facial Recognition Kiosk

 

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