Digital influencers and outreach can spread brands' nutritional message
- Food companies can promote transparency for processed items through consumer education about the benefits of processing, Linda Eatherton, partner and director of the global food and beverage practice for Ketchum Inc., said during a recent talk reported by Food Business News.
- Reaching out to consumers with solid information and trying to find common ground — through methods like QR codes, video and animation — may permit those in the food industry to earn enough trust that consumers will listen to scientific facts they might otherwise reject. Her firm's research shows that 66% of consumers want more information, and 50% expect manufacturers to engage with them via social media.
- "They’re not saying, 'I want zero processing in my food,'" Eatherton said, according to Food Business News. "They’re saying they actually do recognize the importance of convenience and convenient foods, and their lives are very busy. So they see a value here. What they’re saying to us is, 'I don’t necessarily love process, but if you give me a good reason why these processes and these ingredients were used in this food, then I’m going to be okay with it.'"
This type of consumer research is increasingly informing the direction of food companies, particularly when it comes to communicating with what Eatherton described as "food evangelists," or those "incredibly opinionated" people who regularly use social media channels — mainly Twitter and Instagram — to communicate their feelings about brands to friends and acquaintances.
Of these consumers who comment about food four or more times each week, 40% share their choices about brands and types of foods and 40% share views on eating About two out of five (38%) share positive and negative opinions about food brands and 44% do the same about individual products, according to Ketchum's research.
In a recent study, aseptic packaging firm Tetra Pak called such consumers "Super Leaders." They were defined as consumers between 25 and 34 years old who are connected online six to eight hours a day through an average of 2.5 devices — iPhones, iPads, smartphones, tablets, PCs or something wearable. According to Tetra Pak, 95% of these plugged-in consumers write reviews about brands and really want to give their opinions about products and services.
Whatever they're called, Eatherton said those in the food industry need to embrace them — plus tools like YouTube videos and QR codes — to get important brand information more widely distributed.
It's not as easy as it sounds. Surveys show not all consumers regularly use the QR codes on food labels and more education is needed about how and why to access them for nutritional and other information. While a growing number of products feature QR codes as part of the Grocery Manufacturer's Association's SmartLabel initiative, that effort has not yet been widely publicized.
A multifacted outreach approach is needed to be effective in today's environment, which is why some large food companies are hiring digital engagement and e-commerce specialists to direct overall strategy and vision for such functions. Hain Celestial recently took that direction, as has Albertsons and Campbell Soup. Others are taking advantage of more traditional venues. Sanderson Farms is using TV and radio ads to explain why it has chosen to buck a poultry industry trend and keep using antibiotics in its processing operations.
Not all strategies fit all companies, so an individualized approach taking consumer input, brand status and market appeal into account should be the best option.
- Food Business News Engaging consumers to communicate food science