The Food and Beverage industry is a large sector that includes everything from multinational brands to small local producers, from home delivery services to large, organized distribution, from fast-food chains to retail, up to the single five-star restaurant. In short, it’s a colossal, complex, and unique industry. It also has a rather unique feature: The food and beverage industry impacts all of our lives in a profound and pervasive way, on a daily basis. Therefore, the theme of personalization is especially relevant. We’ll come back to this later in the post.
This maximum attention to the audience, and to what is on the horizon, translates into an analysis of “sentiment”, with the ability to quickly grasp new trends and to keep our eyes focused on the key words or themes influencing the sector and how they are changing.
5 new keywords and trends of the Food and Beverage Industry
We have addressed the issue of “sentiment” in this blog post; in another post, we focused on the food and beverage industry trends looming on the horizon. Here, we will focus on how the keywords, the key themes of the sector are changing, which we have distilled down into the five most decisive ones.
The attention towards balanced diets and ethical and personal food choices, towards allergies and intolerances, and more generally towards healthy food is at its highest today.
It’s a trend that you can find everywhere, from dedicated shelf space in your local supermarket, to the menus of your favourite restaurant , to television commercials or YouTube videos. It’s also backed up by data. A recent report, “Healthy Eating in America: Insights on Bridging the Head-to-Stomach Gap,” by Partners & Napier, focused on American consumers. According to 37% of them, having a healthy diet is “very important.” Another 41% said it was “important.” Together this represents 78%: a majority share. However, consider this other side: less than half of the respondents said that they actually follow a healthy diet.
Translated: the margin is still very wide, and it is up to brands to push in this direction, to intercept these needs (still unexpressed) and this target.
Moreover, so-called “healthy food” is becoming central for younger age groups, including those from “Generation Z” (the generation that most bases its choices on social; we’ll come back to this later).
2. Sustainability at the center
Public and consumer attention focused on environmental sustainability issues has never been as high as it is today.
The food industry, in particular, represents a huge pool of resources, but also of waste. Sustainable food and drink consumption is clearly and steadily increasing in developed countries, but attention is also focused on distribution and packaging, which must be increasingly eco-friendly.
According to a study conducted by Barkley, when it comes to new products, consumers focus on sustainability first, above taste, flavor, nutritional values, and quick and easy preparation (learn more about this study here). In short, “sustainability” is a keyword that has been emerging in the industry for several years, and it’s not just about consumer preferences. In fact, there is great pressure from institutions who have enacted current and future regulations that companies will have to comply with in the next 10 or 20 years.
It is important, however, not to limit oneself to “obligations,” but to see and exploit the opportunities that they make possible.
Let’s talk about “brand reputation.” First of all, a sustainable company today is one that can count on the trust of its customers. This trust translates into a level of loyalty that is difficult to achieve in any other way. And it is from here that the path begins to transform “consumers” into “prosumers,” and therefore its customers into ambassadors of the brand, its quality, and the ethical responsibility of its choices (which also become “ours”).
This process is absolutely central today; just think of the power of social media or the importance that, in the world of marketing and communication, the so-called “influencers” and “micro-influencers”, have assumed. This is especially true for younger population groups. And this brings us to the next point.
3. Who are the Foodies?
Good question! For the first use of the term we have to go back to 1984 (in short, a few decades before Instagram), and to a book written by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, “The Official Foodie Handbook.” According to the authors, a foodie is a person who deeply loves food, without being a professional gourmet; he is the one who travels following this trend, who studies and embraces new trends, who shares these experiences.
In short, almost 40 years have passed since 1984 and we have all become a “foodie.” Just consider a recent survey by Accenture: on Instagram, Food & Beverage is the topic of greatest interest for British users. Mind you, Instagram is the fastest growing social network, especially when it comes to younger users.
This is why it’s important to shift focus beyond the simple “food as a product” to “food as an experience,” on so-called “foodtelling.” This is how you can reach millennials and even more so, members of “Generation Z”; those born between 1995 and 2010 who, for the first time, are independently involved in catering, but also in the purchase of food.
These new consumers are already changing the face of the sector, and one thing they are clamoring for is personalization.
4. More and more personalization
Perhaps more so than any industry, the Food and Beverage sector is about individuals. Perhaps more than any other industry. It has to do with individual tastes and habits, with ethical and health-related choices.
So, how can companies adapt to the focus of individuals, to address everyone based on their unique habits and characteristics, when we’re talking about a potentially endless pool of targets? It is technology that comes to our rescue.
Thanks to the dynamics of data-driven marketing, brands (large and small) are learning how they can get to know their audience, their characteristics, their behaviors, and how they change over time. It is on this data that brands are directing their marketing operations, customer service, and production processes. Based on the analysis of such data, big data, we can talk about segmentation and clustering. But you can go even further, to focus on individuals.
It’s about really getting to know who you’re dealing with, person by person. This requires tracking individual habits, individual customer journeys, and monitoring all touchpoints, making sure they are ready “at the right time, in the right place,” building specific communications, different for each one, in a one-to-one dialog.
There are now many examples of successful custom marketing in this sector, from a historic Coca-Cola campaign to a personalized app recently launched by McDonald’s. But there is also Kroger, the retail giant, which generated more than 6 million unique and personalized offers to its customers in 2017 alone, and there are smaller companies like the wine producer, Vinome, which produces bottles based on the buyer’s characteristics (in this case, even the buyer’s DNA is taken into account!).
5. Accountability and transparency
Consumers increasingly want to know more about the food they are eating, where it was produced, how it was produced, and how it was distributed.
In short, they are looking for maximum accountability and maximum transparency regarding ingredients and production processes.
Come to think of it, these aspects are deeply connected to those of health and sustainability, with which we have opened this five-point list. In an extensive study on the importance of transparency in the Food and Beverage sector conducted by the Label Insight and Food Marketing Institute, the researchers asked this question: would you switch to a different brand if it provided more information about the product, in addition to the information on the classic label?
Thirty-nine percent of people responded “yes” in 2016; in 2018, as many as 75%!