Fasten Your Seatbelts, Eaters…The Speed of Change in Food is Accelerating

There’s never been a more exciting time to work in the food world. Once relegated to recipes featured in the Wednesday newspaper food pages and women’s magazines, the discussion about food has deepened and broadened exponentially in the last decade. What hit me smack between the eyes this month is the feeling that the pace of this change is now in hyper-drive. Two recent events stand out: Ketchum’s January 12th publication of its newest Food 2020 consumer research and a visit to the San Francisco Fancy Food Show six days later.

Koda Farms Logo

Koda Farms Logo

 

18 Rabbits Logo

18 Rabbits Logo

Ketchum’s fourth global Food 2020 study found that an influential group of what we call Food eVangelists may be emerging as the new core food consumer. Food eVangelists are a small but globally powerful group who want to impact the way food is raised, packaged and sold. This cohort engages in conversation and share their opinions about food online or in person multiple times each week. First identified by Ketchum Food 2020 in 2013, this group has grown 10 percent in just two years and now accounts for 24 percent of the general population. That’s a tremendous rate of change and because of their influence, Food eVangelists are now in charge and food producers are rapidly responding.

Jelly Belly Logo

Jelly Belly Logo

 

Purely Elizabeth

Purely Elizabeth

This massive change in priorities of consumers is resulting in an explosion of small- to mid-sized businesses who have engulfed the specialty food industry with organic, local, non-GMO and sustainable foods. Big food is also heeding the call and opting in to the movement by cleaning labels of favorite foods and purchasing purpose-driven brands when they are ready for mass distribution. I’m thrilled by all of these developments because they show that consumers really can affect change. It feels darn right democratic!

Georgia Grinders Logo

Georgia Grinders Logo

If you don’t believe me, you should have walked the halls of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center last week for the 41st Winter Fancy Food Show. You would have been flooded by a mixture of USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified B Corporation, 1% for the Planet labels on everything from oatmeal and granola to nut butters, tuna fish and rice. Even Jelly Belly jellybeans  are in on the game.  The word ‘sustainable’ was ubiquitous and ‘heirloom’ is coming on strong. Cricket flour  created far more buzz than cupcake sprinkles in this venue. Gone are the days when the Fancy Food Show specialized mostly in gorgeous chocolates and phenomenal cheeses, although thankfully you’ll still find plenty of these to enjoy!

 

Safe Catch Logo

Safe Catch Logo

If you’re reading this @ppetite post, it’s highly like that you are a Food eVangelist yourself or that you know one, or that you have attended either the Winter Fancy Food Show in SF or the Summer version in New York City. I’m so glad you are here and look forward to hearing your thoughts. Do you see this acceleration of change? If so, how and where?

Bitty Foods Logo

Bitty Foods Logo

Promote vs. Protect: Why Global Integration is a Two-Way Street

For decades, we have collectively praised the notion of global integration but few have achieved nirvana where all activities are seamlessly threaded without borders or boundaries. There are many reasons why this doesn‘t happen. I would offer that in the food and beverage industry it shouldn‘t happen. Rather, we should take a different strategic approach. I‘m going to state the obvious here. The food and beverage sector is still very much focused on local brands that speak to varying cultures and lifestyles – and rightly so. Building relevant market strategies to promote brands requires exceptional insights about local mindsets, behaviors and trends. The marketing tools and tactics that resonate in one area may well fail in another. What is less obvious – and may even seem counter-intuitive to local brand-building best practices – is the necessity of taking a global approach to issues and crisis management. Situations affecting brands and business rarely start in or stay contained to a geography. The majority of issues impacting the industry today are a set of common negative forces affecting nearly every brand and corporation in every market in the world. They may play out to varying degrees in each market but they are typically the same core issues.

These issues are fuelled by a shift in power to the people enabled by democratized social and digital platforms, which have removed the ability to control, isolate and starve out simmering issues and activists. In an instant, like-minded consumers can aggregate and agitate for change online. Who are these people? And can they be reached? Our Ketchum Food 2020 global research identified a new consumer influencer segment we have dubbed the Food eVangelist. They are self-appointed agents of change who are neither activists nor affiliated with groups or each other. They view themselves as serving a higher purpose to warn and protect others from food-related risk by way of sharing and questioning the status quo. They are not the extreme, small percentage of the population that can never be reached or satisfied. To the contrary, our research shows Food eVangelists are and can be the moveable middle on many issues. What’s more, data shows that they exist in every country, and we have learned that the drumbeat heard around the world from Food eVangelists is remarkably similar and consistent. Conversely, we know that if dismissed or dissatisfied they will congregate and collectively agitate for change on a massive and public scale. The borderless and fluid ability of these groups to ignite and fuel escalation is expanding exponentially. Command and control strategies no longer work. In fact, we‘ve seen evidence that they actually backfire, accelerating the issue. The drain on local resources to fight each brush fire is overwhelming and, frankly, this approach is ineffective. In any business, there is a time to sell and a time to tell. There are also very different strategies for promoting versus protecting your brands and business and confusing or integrating the two can have serious negative consequences. Waiting until you see fires burning can be even worse. Concerned Food eVangelists are continually urging everyday consumers to pay attention and take action. Bonfires become a raging forest firestorm all too quickly.

At Ketchum, we advocate building a two-way approach to global communications in the food industry. Promoting from the inside out locally in parallel with PROTECTING from the outside in regionally and globally is the new paradigm. By adopting relationship-building, reputation-enhancing communication initiatives between Food eVangelists who share common concerns and expectations, it is possible to build a base of support, and acceptance that will surround, strengthen and shield local marketing strategies. A skilled firm that is steeped in food and agricultural work should have separate teams working on these two paths at all times – one regionally focused on protecting while the other is locally focused on promoting. It is crucial they be aligned but each requires deliberately different messages, channels and strategies. We’ve all seen that bad things happen to good people – and to good brands. When a crisis hits that disrupts business or threatens the brand materially, you need a plan, a protocol and a firm that can instantly mobilize and align across multiple borders. Our global crisis team runs simulations on a regular basis to ensure our clients are prepared from the inside out. Broad-reaching technologies like our mobile crisis app called Mobile RepProtect allow our clients to have their crisis plans available to them instantly via their smartphones as well as to instantly contact the main crisis manager on breaking situations via email or a phone call within the app. This technology allows all our necessary parties within Ketchum and the client organization to quickly activate across the world. Global integration is and will remain an important aspect of business. But, at Ketchum, we believe the food industry requires global and regional reputation-building and crisis management infrastructures that align and work in parallel with local marketing programs. Protecting and promoting is, we believe, a two-way street.

The Spotlight on Sugar: Proposed Initiatives Call to Reduce Sugar Intake, Imply Not All Sugars Created Equal

As Jaime Schwartz addressed in her recent post, new nutrition labeling changes could have big implications for marketing and communications professionals. This summary takes a deeper dive into labeling concerns looking at the implications of added sugar labeling in light of the guidance WHO proposed last week.

Not All Sugars Are Created Equal

Source: ligfebridgeblogs.org

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The Changing World of Food Communications

Over the years I’ve had the honor of being able to conduct proprietary research on behalf of my organization, Ketchum, a global marketing firm that has been dedicated to food and related companies for over 6 decades. The ability to look in corners where no one is looking; to challenge conventional wisdom and to peer into the future while others focus on quarters is a great opportunity and a gift we share with our clients and friends freely. Happy World Food Day! Enjoy the latest from our Food 2020 research series!

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