Thoughts on Today’s Food Marketing Landscape

August 21, 2014


Taking a frequent pulse on what matters in today’s food marketing landscape helps guide us in further increasing the consumption of our clients’ products. We recently landed on a dozen select insights about the U.S. marketplace based on published research, personal conversations, and professional experience.  In this post, we are sharing six of those observations and will share the other half in a subsequent post.

  1. Eating has replaced cooking
  2. A recent report by Daymon Worldwide and Hartman Group pegs this as a “seismic cultural shift.” Not everyone cooks, but everyone eats. And “cooking” itself has been redefined. Today it stands for everything from the truly home-made to the simply assembled (take this, add that). For many, if you apply heat, you’re cooking – even if it’s just to warm up the fully prepared meal you bought at the store. While complex dishes have their place for those who really “Cook” (with a capital “C”) the win for most food marketers will be convenience. That means minimal-ingredient and single-pot recipes, under-20-minute prep times, and taste profiles that please everyone at the table.

  3. Food starts with the grower
  4. People tend to hate food companies but just plain love farmers. So the best place to begin in telling your food story is almost always the same place your food begins: with the people who grew it.

  5. It’s not all about mom
  6. The traditional food-shopper target audience is no longer a simple bull’s-eye. The number of childless and single-person households is on the rise and eating and shopping are becoming more spontaneous. Women are still in the lead but compared to the past men are taking on more of the shopping responsibility.

  7. The first ingredient is scrutiny
  8. This is the era of the high-information food consumer. Is it local or is it corporate? Is it GMO-free or is it “Frankenfood”? Is it organic, sustainable, safe, and fair trade? Is the label there to help or to hide? More and more consumers might just as well be called “detectives” instead of “shoppers.” They have a ton of questions and they expect a ton of answers.

  9. Answers can come from anywhere
  10. The fragmentation of traditional media and the rise of the “citizen journalist” have loosened the definition of “expert” and these days nearly everyone qualifies. As a result, “popular” and “accessible” have become confused with “credible.” In fact, the greatest amount of information out there possibly may be mis-information. One survey said that 67 percent of nutrition information in the marketplace is based on personal beliefs and half-truths rather than published, peer-reviewed research. The watch-out for marketers? Keep the academic stuff and true experts and major media outreach – that’s still important – but also get as close as possible to the consumer and their immediate sources of information. It’s critical to be a part of “unofficial” conversations and build word-of-mouth support for your messages.

  11. RDs are taking food messages to the street
  12. Twenty years ago you would have been hard pressed to find a Registered Dietitian (RD) on TV unless she happened to be in the studio audience. And you wouldn’t have found one in a supermarket unless she just happened to be shopping there. Today RDs are not only staples of the food marketing landscape; they’re the best friends a nutrition-based product can have. Media RDs are direct conduits to consumers, spreading the word about research, debunking nutrition myths, and showcasing on-trend foods for old-school situations and classic foods in contemporary ways. They have their own columns and blogs, segments and shows. They’re celebrities in their own right, and they’ve replaced the old gatekeepers. Want on a popular show? We used to pitch the producer. Now we pitch the RD who pitches herself as the guest. And Supermarket RDs? According to they’re the fastest-growing job title in grocery stores around the country, and they’re providing an in-store communication channel that barely existed before they came along. Newsletters, store tours, classes and consultations are all under the command of these front-line nutrition experts. When you talk to them your consumer can hear you.