The food and beverage industry has moved onto a “conversation age”, where successfully selling said products requires more high quality and taste, according to a new report from MSLGroup.
The latest report in the company's People’s Insights Series, The Future of Food Communications, analyses six consumption drivers: health and wellness, culture, reputation and advocacy, visual stimuli, recommendation and appetite appeal. The report advises F&B businesses on how to take advantage of those drivers: by committing to enhancing the health and wellness of consumers, being dedicated to sustainability, embracing the advent of social media, and building a contemporary and trustworthy brand.
Key point: Health and wellbeing concerns
While the F&B industry’s move into the “conversation age” is global, there are trends that apply specifically in Asian markets. The most important is Asian consumers’ much heightened consciousness about the health and wellbeing value of the food they consume.
China serves as a good example. As its middle-class expands, disposable income and quality of life increase, prompting people to not only care about basic material satisfaction but also aspire to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In addition, food scandals in recent years, most notably the tainted milk scandal in 2008, make consumers, especially parents, highly alert to the ingredients used in products and the safety of production processes.
Other parts of Asia underwent a similar shift in consumer consciousness in the last decade, with the main driver being food shows on television, which emphasised the importance of using fresh and healthy ingredients.
- Communicate a commitment to consumer health and safety by informing and engaging people in the company's initiatives to make F&B safer and healthier.
- Proactively inform consumers about ingredients by attaching labels and providing easily accessible and reliable information. Such transparency is conducive to establishing trust.
- Use healthier, natural and organic alternatives to artificial additives, colours and preservatives
Other consumption drivers and corresponding strategies
- Keep up with newer tastes, such as local cuisines with exotic twists.
- Tailor communication to the new food audience. For example, provide millennials with helpful recipe videos along with foodstuffs to pique interest.
Reputation and advocacy
- Demonstrating a commitment to making products healthier is likely to appeal, whereas being proactively transparent regarding safety concerns builds brand trust.
Enhancing sustainability shows eco-friendliness and a commitment to fulfilling corporate social responsibilities, which helps the company stand out from competitors.
- Strategies include sustainable crop cultivation, food waste management and water foot-printing.
- Using GMOs in products is also healthier and more sustainable. The report suggests as long as businesses are transparent about the methods they use, sales will normalise pretty quickly.
- Restaurants can use sustainable consumption as an appeal, by boasting seasonal menus and personalised portions, which are not only eco-friendly but also attractive to customers.
- Make food attractive and aesthetically pleasing enough so it is click-worthy and shareable across social media.
- Establish visual consistency, so products are easily recognisable by consumers
- Friends and family remain key influencers of food preferences, but exploiting social media allows brands to “intercept” that channel of communication.
- Partnering with celebrity chefs and other KOLs allows the brand’s promises to be communicated to and more easily accepted by consumers, who have grown distrustful of experts’ opinions, according to the report.
- Enable easy sharing across social media, for instance with short recipe-videos and GIFs.
- Create inclusive menu and food lines for all palettes—meat-lovers, vegans, paleo, halal, gluten-free—while localising your approach if you are targeting a specific country market.