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consumer interests and passions

What’s Ahead in 2017: Food Ideology Drives Business Growth

January 17th, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, Human behavior, retail brand relevance, shopper behavior 0 comments on “What’s Ahead in 2017: Food Ideology Drives Business Growth”

Beliefs and Business Now Bedfellows

Nielsen’s recent study, “Unlocking the Millennial Mindset” underscores just how far we’ve come on the continuum from product feature and benefit selling to something akin to religion-style commitments in how brands and retailers come to market. Millennial consumers especially expect companies to behave openly and conscientiously.

  • 81 percent want to know more about how foods are produced
  • 80 percent want access to the behind-the-scenes story on how companies operate
  • 73 percent are willing to pay more for sustainable brands
  • 81 percent are willing to pay more for foods with a health benefit
  • 51 percent check package labels for evidence of social and environmental impact

Pressing on every corner of the food and beverage industry is a pervasive consumer desire for greater meaning, higher purpose and ethical business practices from the brands and retailers they prefer.

Ideology is rapidly becoming the new ‘currency of commerce’ as consumers seek to be a part of something that’s greater than themselves. As a result deeper, genuine values and beliefs match, and in some cases exceed, improved formulas as a choice and purchase driver.

Quick litmus test:

  1. Is your business driven by a profound, visible, human-relevant belief system?
  2. Is your company grounded in and built on a higher purpose?
  3. Does your food or beverage brand have a recognizable soul?

At the root of this purpose-driven phenomenon is cultural change. And nowhere can this be seen in greater relief than the food industry’s passing of the leadership baton: emerging brands with a clear mission and belief system are gaining significant share of interest and engagement over their less ideologically-informed legacy brand forbearers.

Ideology, in fact, has risen to be an essential part of the recipe for crafting an engaging brand proposition; one that will invariably insert the consumer’s interests and passions at the top of go-to-market strategy. Some of these consumer-relevant interests and passions include:

  • Changing the food system
  • Protecting the environment
  • Eliminating hunger
  • Supporting family farming
  • Rewarding sustainable agriculture processes
  • Offering super transparency
  • Improving health and wellbeing

Brands as Enablers of Being Your Best

In essence, brands that contribute to the betterment of people and society, while rethinking industrial food practices that have defined the industry for 50 years, are on the more prosperous path. To be clear, this is deeper than company mission statement stalwarts like treating employees and vendors fairly and responsibly.

Food ideology has more in common with religious principles than it does with garden-variety mission statements.

What’s going on here? The consumer has evolved. What people care about has shifted.

The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion every year publishes the results of a national poll on New Year resolutions. And for the first time in 2017, Being a Better Person rose to number one, edging out weight loss, the perennial winner in three previous polls.

Better person-ship plays a role in how consumers are making brand and retail choices. It is an expression of their profound interest in healthy lifestyle, the environment and doing good for others.

Actions consumers take in brand purchase are now symbolic representations of the values they espouse. When a brand puts beliefs and values at the center of business strategy, it is catering to this notion of improvement in a tangible, meaningful way. The devotion to ideological principles also infers and imbues the brand with markers of higher quality and integrity.

Putting beliefs and values at the center of your business isn’t about just doing good for its own sake! In the end, brands with belief at their core are in alignment as enablers – helping people be, and achieve, their best. The metrics of this approach will continue to play out in share shifts and emergence of new categories. These new categories will arise from innovations; not just in formula or ingredients, but also in brand and business behavior and credo.

The Higher Purpose Audit

So what’s the optimal approach? There’s no one-size fits all solution. Every business is unique and requires a custom-designed approach – whether it’s refinement of a current mission or the development of a new strategy from scratch.

Emergent provides this due diligence in the form of a Higher Purpose Audit designed to assess current conditions in a client’s category, an inventory of brand and business practices and behaviors that may be aligned or inconsistent with the right ideology. We translate that audit into tangible strategies and ideas that will inform brand position, marketing and communication.

The end game: harnessing the requirement of true ideology as a business builder.

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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. 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 and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.