Emergent participates in panel with food industry luminaries.
On Monday morning, January 25th, in front of top supermarket and CPG industry executives, a panel discussion moderated by Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Senior Vice President Mark Baum, took a look at the future trends and issues that will impact shopper behavior – and the future of the food business.
On the panel were Tom Phillips, senior consultant with Deloitte who presented outcomes from a comprehensive nation-wide consumer study; Bob Wheatley CEO of Emergent focusing comments on evolving best practices in marketing and retail brand building; Tracey Massey, President of Mars Chocolate North America who offered perspective on change from the industry side; and Brandon Barnholt, CEO of KeHE – a leading distributor of natural and organic food and beverage brands – who focused attention on category developments and innovation.
The headline: we are witnessing the biggest sea change in food and beverage trends and marketing practices in the last 50 years. Chief among the shifts is a broad-based move for nearly all demographic shopper segments towards looking for healthier, higher quality, real and less processed food and beverage options. While marketing has shifted from persuade and sell to engage and help.
Highlights from the panel:
1. Health and Wellness Rules!
In a recent Deloitte survey of 5,000 American consumers, co-sponsored with FMI and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, over half now “weigh factors including health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience and transparency” in their purchase decisions. This is a sharp departure from historical emphasis on taste, price and convenience as primary drivers of food and beverage purchases.
2. Help Over Hype
Transactional thinking, marketing strategies and feature/benefit focused selling are disappearing as brand relationships – retail or product – are now forged around creating alignment with consumers’ lifestyle passions and interests. Culinary adventure being a key ingredient, along side a desire for higher quality, fresher and simpler foods and beverages. Eating healthier and better is big. Devoting energy to enabling consumer interest in trying new cuisines and cooking with high-quality ingredients is key. Helping them resolve the balance between indulgent and better for you choices is an opportunity waiting to happen.
3. Transparency is Not Optional
People want to know what’s in the foods they consume. Where ingredients are sourced. Are ingredients responsibly farmed and raised? What is the impact of a company’s carbon footprint? Manufacturers now have an obligation to open up and explain what goes on behind the curtain and reveal their practices and standards in the supply chains and their kitchens. Emerging brands and businesses are building their marketing stories around these commitments, thus considerable advantage is being gained by those who provide disclosure, and as a result, mine increased consumer and stakeholder trust through transparency in their business practices.
4. Growth Engine: Healthy Kid Snacking
Indicative of the shift towards higher quality, better-for-you solutions is widespread innovation and new brands entering the natural and organic snack category. Snacking is no longer a day-part or occasion in the traditional sense. It’s now part of a continuous eating cycle of smaller ‘mini meals’ that occurs throughout the day. Parents, especially, are looking for healthier options for their kids to fill this need. This is creating new opportunities for business growth and sufficient volume to warrant creating a destination at retail specifically for this accelerating business category.
Cultural Change is Pervasive
It was clear from the panel discussion that the path to business growth has changed permanently. It is a cultural shift that has altered the playing field and determines what brands will win and lose; how marketing is best deployed; how stores should be designed; and what manufacturers must do to optimize their portfolios and find ways to build relevance and value with those they wish to sell to.
The panel discussion served as an affirming moment of the key principles outlined in Emergent’s Validation Marketing model. The principles of validation and social proof align with the mega-trends as an improved path to building marketing plans that work for both retail and product brands – and most importantly, are relevant to today’s evolving shopper.
We’re pumped. And look forward to helping organizations improve their strategies in a business environment characterized by new rules of behavior and a requirement that company business behavior match the marketing message.
Emergent regularly discusses many of these trends in our blog. You may find our 3-part “Reimagining Food and Beverage in America” series of interest:
Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact [email protected] and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.