Posts tagged "premiumization"

Pet food transparency

The Pet Food Business Dilemma: Obfuscate

April 10th, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, Pet care, Pet food, Pet food marketing, Pet nutrition, social media marketing, storytelling 0 comments on “The Pet Food Business Dilemma: Obfuscate”

When communication is intentionally blurry, muddled, cloudy and befogged

It’s not often I get to employ a $50 word in a story, but in this case obfuscate may be the perfect verb to characterize the occasional disconnect from a pet parent’s desire for more clarity and transparency in how pet food is presented, and the sometimes confounding and less straight-forward information actually served.

Is it crystal clear to you?

Dirty water makes it hard to see the bottom of the pond.

In the eyes of the consumer, pet food is a leap-of-faith business. Brands make assertions about the quality, origins and freshness of ingredients; the correct and superior combinations of real food ingredients that ultimately make a difference in the health and wellbeing of four-legged family members.

  • What’s in the little brown kibble pellet? We’re required to believe it contains fresh, deboned chicken, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef or vegetables, fruits and other human-friendly whole food ingredients. We also know that animals can’t talk and consumers aren’t food scientists. So trust and faith becomes the currency that defines brand relationships.

Transparency means transparent.

When at the butcher counter in your food store you can see the steak, its marbling, height and color. You can make judgments on its quality before buying. In contrast, kibble or canned pet food from brand to brand looks roughly the same and so verification of food quality by visual examination is not possible. Casting statements on ingredient decks can be confounding to many but the most ardent students of pet food ingredient terminology; those able to translate code for higher-quality proteins from something less than that.

Transparent behaviors in this industry couldn’t be more important. The frequency of pet food recalls serve as the reminder for vigilance…and can breed consumer skepticism. This uncertainty is amplified against an evolving food culture where people today want to know the backstory behind the foods they buy for themselves and for their pets. How did this new-found interest in ingredient transparency come to pass?

The desire for transparency is a cultural phenomenon that got traction when people fully connected the dots between the quality of the food they eat and the quality of their lives.

They expect no less of their pets’ diets.

If ingredients are sourced from local farms and ranches, brands should show and tell this story. If there are standards on the quality of ingredients to be used, they should be stated clearly and simply so it can be understood by anyone. The curtain raised on how manufacturing is done, what form ingredients take, how and why they are combined – the trail from farm to can or bag that helps belief materialize in a trusted, credible way.

  • If belief is to be achieved in what is essentially a faith-based business, truth must be multiplied by transparency and clarity. People want to see all the way to the bottom of the supply chain pond, so to speak. The sum of these interactions and conversations is to validate, rather than obfuscate, what we want people to know and believe about pet food.

Wordplay vs. Openness

The core essence of trust creation is the deployment of words and what they mean. When honesty and integrity rule the relationship with pet parents, then parsing definitions to create more palatable descriptions – while obfuscating the truth – is at best misguided and not based in sound strategy…and at worst is disingenuous.

Pets are no longer owned assets to be maintained. They are family. The impact of quality nutrition of their health and welfare is a real thing. Moreover, when answering what the customer wants, it is this: “healthy, high quality food choices, just like I prefer for myself and my family.”

  • So how are honesty and openness best served when the form the product takes leaves no trace of evidence on which to base judgments? Pull back the curtain and tell the story, fully, completely, in video where words and pictures combine to let everyone in to see for themselves.

Outside independent verification testing and deployment of Blockchain technology may close this loop fully to provide the assurance people want. But importantly, what’s embedded in your brand values and mission will inform how all this goes, and whether or not crystal clear is the true call to action for company behaviors.

What’s at stake?

Trust and brand reputation.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

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 Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

 

 

 

2018: Time for Real-vertising in the Go-to-Market Plan

January 10th, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, CMO, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Culinary inspiration, Food Trend, Healthy Living 0 comments on “2018: Time for Real-vertising in the Go-to-Market Plan”

The Four Conditions and Traps Impacting Food, Beverage and Lifestyle Brands

Last year was, if anything, another period of transformation for the food, beverage and lifestyle business as new and emerging brands took the spotlight for innovation and growth. In 2018 the impact of these conditions will require a shift in thinking and planning, as brands, both new and legacy, navigate in a business environment controlled and managed entirely by consumers.

At Emergent we are obligated to stay at the forefront of these cultural changes; providing guidance and strategic leadership to our clients and business community on how best to traverse the unprecedented pace of evolution in consumer preferences and behaviors.

  • In this article we will unpack four conditions impacting the future of food, beverage and lifestyle brands in the year ahead.
  • And flag four traps that, if left unattended, could dilute desired marketing outcomes.
  1. Product narrative IS the marketing

The single most important insight we can provide on marketing and communication is the requirement of story behind the product. Consumers want to know everything – to peer behind the curtain and go back stage to see how things work. That means we’ve entered the era of real-vertising: honest, open communication around ingredients, sourcing, sustainability, quality standards, craftsmanship markers, and product creation providing the litmus test of what should be at the center of brand and business communication strategies.

How does this play out in the plan?

  • All messaging and content must work in aligned fashion with social channel integration and community building.
  • Consumers believe the opinions of other people – especially those of friends and family members – as they are more relevant to them and operate in their best interests, ahead of a brand’s own published material.
  • Thus, aggregation and repurposing of User Generated Content (UGC) will be critical in the brand communication eco-system.
  • Video is by far and away the most preferred and shared type of content. No surprise as it is one of the most engaging and entertaining forms of communication in the toolkit.
  • The role of influencers and earned media continues to grow because of the trusted source factor that defines what works vs. what doesn’t.
  • Digital channels allow for amplification (some of it paid distribution) and repurposing of earned and influencer content, so earned media becomes a more measurable asset in the arsenal.
  1. Higher quality is the new healthy

We’ve been saying this for some time as a forecast of further evolution in food culture. It’s now a verified reality borne out in the marketplace. Examples keep piling up of higher quality fresh products and more innovative versions of legacy brands, displacing the latter while the former gains more shelf space. The premium, artisanal treasure hunt marches on!

What’s driving this? Consumers are demanding higher quality food experiences. Cleaner labels, real food ingredients, fresh products, less-processed options secure greater share position for the very reason people believe they are healthier and thus will contribute to their well-being and happiness.

  • Indulgent and healthy are no longer polar opposites, and often coalesce together as accepted experiences in a healthy lifestyle. That said, there is a trailing requirement for real food over anything that appears to be overly processed.

For legacy businesses this condition recommends a wholesale rethinking of product platforms, formulations and supply chain in an effort to upgrade and bring greater premiumization to the innovation table.

Related to the previous point about importance of product narrative, if there isn’t a compelling story to tell about ingredients, sources and quality, then there’s risk now to brand relevance. Saying, “but we’ve always done it this way,” or “it’s difficult to change our supply chain commitments” is simply going to put the business in conflict with consumer preference. New upstart, high quality businesses are advancing across a broad swath of categories from staples like mac and cheese to the meat case.

  1. Meal kit is the instrument of food adventure

We predict the meal kit business will continue to consolidate and evolve – and that it’s likely food retail will get invested in the business. The fundamental premise of a food kit is consistent with consumer preferences. Consumers are looking for fresher, higher quality meal experiences featuring ingredients with a backstory, and menus that deliver low risk experimentation with new flavors and cuisines.

We also forecast continued improvements to food kit business models making them less onerous on expensive subscriptions, providing greater ordering flexibility and ease of preparation for those who want less challenging menus.

It is food-adventure-in-a-box that gives consumers an attractive meal option and step-by-step instructions on how to execute. That said, as food retailers move into this space with fully prepared, semi prepared or scratch cook alternatives, the advantage of being able to decide a menu at a moment’s notice, we believe, will be extremely attractive to a significant segment of the consuming public.

Simply said, many households don’t plan ahead for dinner and are making preference decisions at 5 pm. It’s a form of impulse meal buying that, if available at an attractive price, will help food retail gain additional shopper traction.

Could this presage more mergers of food retail with food kit operators? Perhaps, so.

  1. Snacking is the universal meal occasion

Call it what you will – mini-meal, fuel up or reward – snacking is a predominant behavior across all day parts and is influential in the foodservice channel as well. Snacking starts early and goes late as consumers both young and old graze their way through the day.

Some of this behavior is functional and related to recognition that the human body will periodically experience lagging energy levels requiring replenishment. People now recognize the connection between food and performance, thus a compelling reason to look for hand-held options that deliver energy-enhancing protein in meat, veg and dairy forms.

  • Snacking crisscrosses indulgent and good-for-you needs with portions that seem manageable in a healthy living view. (I’m snacking on almonds as I write this).

With added pressure for performance in work, school and outside pursuits, functional snacking is likely to be a major opportunity in the year ahead for innovation. We expect retailers will devote more in-store real estate to brands in this space.

Avoiding traps that take wind out of the sales…

Trap #1 – the inauthentic mission

There’s no question that consumers look for brands with similar beliefs and values. Operating with a mission that transcends commerce itself is now a marker of a brand’s cultural relevance.

In many instances new and emerging brands are built alongside a mission designed to benefit others and contribute to making the world a better place. Authenticity couldn’t be more important.

Consumers are able to sniff out posers in relatively short order. Mission is not philanthropy. It is not something that’s bolted on to the marketing plan as a campaign theme because it’s popular now.

A real, human-relevant, and unselfish purpose is a purpose – and in the long run devotion to it will indeed maximize financial performance. Absence of real beliefs here is a trap.

Trap #2 – marketing over meaning

Want to build a closer connection with core customers? Then imbue the brand with greater meaning based on relevance to their lifestyle passions and interests. Consumers can’t be viewed as walking wallets nor should the marketing plan stray towards looking at the customer relationship as purely transactional.

The brand’s voice gets added value when its connected to the consumer’s interests, be that their love and relationship with a pet, passion for outdoor lifestyle adventures, or desire for creativity in the kitchen.

When the conversation with consumers begins with what’s relevant to them, then marketing no longer looks like traditional marketing. Instead it becomes valued and useful. Conversely overt selling is a trap and path to disconnection.

Trap #3 – trust is at the center, or not

Lack of consumer trust is perhaps the most significant destroyer of businesses over time. Instead, brands built on earning trust gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

If trust creation is not a core component (active not passive) of the marketing plan it’s time to step back and reassess. Brand relationships today are taking on the give and take characteristics of human relationships. No lying or deception allowed.

To earn trust means putting the consumer’s welfare and wellbeing at the forefront of strategy. Not doing so it a trap.

Trap #4 – do you really know me?

It’s easy to think that as long as the business is devoted to making a quality product and standing behind it, then all is well. Yes, high quality is required. However, there’s more complexity now in building sustainable relationships with consumers.

This goes beyond knowing what flavors they prefer or their patterns of shopping behavior. It’s vital to understand the whole human, their desires, wants, needs, interests and concerns.

Today there are more tools than ever before that permit a closer look at customer lifestyle interests. Making the investment here to get close and gain greater understanding of wants and needs beyond product use, is the link to more engaging brand communication.

Too many emerging brands sidestep this important insight research requirement because the demand for building basic go-to-market infrastructure gets first priority. Yet the very thing that sits at the core of long-term success is neglected: consumer insight and relevance.

Brands are built on the back of mattering. Basing communications on hunches and assumptions about what’s meaningful and valued puts the marketing plan into a blind spot. Avoid the irrelevance trap by mining insight.

The year ahead will be a tug of war between competing channels and sources of higher quality, unique and differentiated food and lifestyle experiences. The winners in this battle for share of spend will fall to those who put the consumer first – and by virtue of doing so reap the benefits of deeper connection.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

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 Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Pull Back the Curtain on Pet Food Creation

December 9th, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, Pet care, Pet food, Pet food marketing, Pet nutrition, Sustainability 0 comments on “Time to Pull Back the Curtain on Pet Food Creation”

The case for super transparency…

For all of the talk about a desire for greater transparency in the food system, much of the pet food world’s product creation work remains behind closed doors. Is it time to open up the curtain and shed more light on ingredients, sources, standards and processes in service of securing greater consumer trust?

Unrelenting premiumization of the pet food business is being driven by the continued humanization of furry family members. At the apex of this anthropomorphic trend is a near lockstep upgrading of pet nutrition formula and nutritional bona fides that closely follow the food culture preferences of people.

No surprise the primary fuel for all of this is a belief held by consumers that the quality of the food they consume impacts the quality of their lives. Therefore, the same rule applies to their pets and the perceived nutritional benefits they can receive in their diets. In sum, people want healthier food solutions for themselves. Pet foods now face the same evaluation.

Thus the current drivers of human food preferences quickly find their way into the pet nutrition business. Chief among them is an increasing demand for transparency. According to a recent study by Innova Market Insights, the number one priority in 2018 for both human and pet foods will be cleaner labels. Innova calls this the arrival of  “Mindful Choice.”

What is that? Health and wellness is the leading call to action. However embedded in this trend are the same concerns people have about the food they personally consume – interest in sustainability, visibility to ingredients and sourcing, ethical production and safety. The Innova research study reports, 70 percent of consumers want to know and understand (human) food ingredient lists. This can be challenging in pet food where historically ingredient decks expressed on kibble packages are lengthy, complicated and employ terminology foreign to most people.

Additionally, the rapid migration of grocery shopping from packaged food center aisles of the store to the fresh perimeter departments is evidence of preferences for real, fresh, simpler food that is less processed. ‘Real’ food ingredients on labels are wanted. According to a recap of Innova’s study published in Pet Food Industry magazine, the number of human food products launched this year with a healthier claim increased to 49 percent. It’s a reflection of the growing desire to address consumer demand for healthier foods.

So, how foods are made will matter. Right now clean label is center stage. It should be noted that ‘clean label’ itself is an outcome of efforts made during product development; work which includes standards for ingredient sourcing, optimizing nutritional benefits, and committing to higher integrity around recipe formulations.

A recent study on the topic by Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute found that:

  • 73 percent of consumers read ingredient lists
  • 66 percent examine the nutritional panel
  • 94 percent say they would be loyal to a brand that adopts complete transparency
  • 99 percent say they will also pay more for a product that is transparent

Pet diets are for the most part a highly processed food where the more popular delivery vehicle of dry kibble in varying shades of tan to brown, appears to be identical from brand to brand. Deconstructing the kibble is another matter and it is in this arena where differentiation (and consumer trust) can be found.

What’s needed in pet food: super transparency

The Hartman Group’s Sustainability Report for 2017 says consumers expect companies to “openly share sustainability practices” and 73 percent of consumers are aware of what transparency means with respect to business practices.

Pet food brands with a strong nutritional story to tell could benefit from a super transparency approach. Kibble can’t really telegraph any specific information one-way or other. The ingredients used to make it, on the other hand, present an educational opportunity.

Pet brands that tell stories about ingredient sources, suppliers and product creation can effectively address integrity questions in a meaningful way.  What’s really bubbling underneath: issues surrounding health and quality of life.

Traditionally the pet food industry has operated behind closed doors, but the consumer is asking that the door open more fully. Far enough for consumers to have improved access to knowing more about the ingredient standards and food quality that goes into their pet’s diet.

No question; pet food and people food are not the same thing, even though some brands would like you to believe that the steak you had for dinner is inside the kibble bag.

  • When higher quality pet food makers take their commitments and standards on ingredients and bring them to life, they can improve their ability to secure trust and belief from the humans selecting foods for their four-legged family members.

Ultimately the desire for product transparency is a demand for validation and evidence of what most pet brands claim in their package messaging. The move to super transparency (which really means taking the consumer behind the product creation curtain) is a way to bring better understanding about what their pets are eating. And yes, pet parents truly care about this in the same way they care about how foods are made that they eat themselves.

Super transparency is now a furry business-building opportunity!

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

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 Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

five year anniversary

Emergent Celebrates 5 Years of Fresh Thinking

June 15th, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, food experiences, Healthy Living 0 comments on “Emergent Celebrates 5 Years of Fresh Thinking”

When we started Emergent, it was based on an overwhelming body of research and evidence that food & beverage industries are in a state of transition – and in need of new, fresh, refined and more relevant business-building solutions.

Of all the conditions impacting change, from the demand for transparency and clean labels to fresh foods – healthier lifestyle is the dominant driver of the consumer desire for improvement in food and beverages.

Evolution makes healthy all-inclusive

In the past, ‘healthier’ was an addition-by-subtraction model based on removing “bad” things – like sugar, calories and fat: so-called diet foods. Quite often, taste and eating satisfaction were also eliminated. This approach was bound to be problematic because it existed in conflict with the human inclination for indulgent food experiences. Guilt only goes so far.

As the concept of healthy started to shift, due to pervasive changes in U.S. food culture, the proposition started to look more like addition by addition. Healthy was about real, fresh, authentic, higher quality, less processed foods – more so than food science wizardry. The definition of healthy became more inclusive, broader and lifestyle-oriented.

In a manner of speaking, the concept of healthy morphed to become more three-dimensional. People decided they want higher quality foods, beverages and lifestyle products to go along with their overwhelming desire for a higher quality life. The key insight: consumers came to understand that the quality of what they put in their bodies and what they do are connected directly to their happiness and wellness.

In sum, we’ve encountered the premiumization of everything.

When we first formed Emergent, we believed our agency – devoted to mining this insight and bringing fresh thinking to the table – should become the leading voice and guide in this period of change.

Clients have come to Emergent seeking expertise to navigate these seismic changes. Some examples from our case studies page:

  • Transforming Jamba Juice from a smoothie shop to a healthy lifestyle brand
  • Helping Schuman Cheese expose food fraud in the hard Italian cheese category through True Cheese
  • Leading local grocery chain, Potash, in its transformation to fulfill consumers’ new healthy and culinary preferences

Food & beverage brands are feeling the impact today

Large cap CPGs have been losing ground for years. We know that new, emerging, purposeful brands are gaining traction and attention in kitchens across America – and so now we witness the next wave – a true food renaissance taking place around us.

1. People are coming back to the kitchen, looking to exercise their creativity and control over preparations and quality of ingredients.

2. We’ve entered a period where transparency, health and wellness, safety and authenticity drive purchases more so than the food marketing stalwarts of taste, price and convenience.

3. We know the founder backstory and commitment to a real mission beyond the product itself is a critical component of the new brand marketing playbook. We’ve developed a new proprietary planning model that reflects this understanding – one that demands fresh thinking of how brand relationships are formed and thus how communications should be created.

Over the last five years, our clients have recognized that we at Emergent…

Are experts in this space; our services are aligned with answering these changes.

Help legacy brands re-stage and new brands accelerate. We understand the consumer and how they think, how they behave and how they consume information.

Create traction in a changing retail environment and are on point with where the world around us is headed.

Emergent has predicted changes in the food culture landscape over the years. These changes are now driving the new realities companies are facing as they reassess their growth strategies.

Contact Emergent to learn more about leveraging these food culture trends to your advantage.

Editor’s Note: I would be remiss in this anniversary message to not share my thanks and deep appreciation to those who have made contributions on our path. Thank you to our clients, my top-notch leadership team, our staff and specialty teams, and friends of Emergent. Here’s to many more! – BW

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

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 Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

The Relentless March to Premium

June 26th, 2015 Posted by Food Trend, Healthier habits, Healthy Living, Indulgent brand strategy, Insight, Navigation, Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, Uncategorized 0 comments on “The Relentless March to Premium”

Part 3: Reimagining Food and Beverage in America

At the very center of the remarkable and unstoppable change reinventing food and beverage in America, is the advance to higher quality. It is a cultural shift up. And when food culture elevates, you must move with it or risk losing relevance.

This prompts a very fundamental question: Is the broader American population becoming increasingly “foodie”? The answer is yes. And the shift is in motion. What constitutes a higher quality food and beverage experience is changing, and with it comes a host of opportunities to redefine existing categories and create new ones.

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The Food Brand Marketing Sea Change

June 19th, 2015 Posted by brand marketing, change, storytelling 0 comments on “The Food Brand Marketing Sea Change”

Part 2: Reimagining Food and Beverage in America

Family At Farmers Market

Let’s start with defining what brand means. CPG businesses have been building temples to brand strategy for decades. The brand is supposed to be the emotional bridge and equity vessel that supports a premium price and drives preference at the shelf.

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