- The food industry has largely shied away from posting on social media about COVID-19, with only 8% of its content mentioning the crisis since March, according to a report by ListenFirst Media. Overall, posts from the food industry were down 12% compared to 2019, but engagement from consumers with brands was up 2%, the report found.
- The grocery category has the most present voice on social media during this time with 35% of the activity, followed by the candy category at 11%. The nuts, fruits & spreads category is also a large presence (8%) with the volume of engagement rising 45% since 2019.
- Food and beverage brands are favoring content that is user-generated or that offers practical tips and tricks in the kitchen to engage their communities. Food brands are seeing high engagement around social media posts discussing donating their products, the report found.
Social media can be a key communication tool for companies looking to talk directly to consumers that have drifted away from traditional media outlets. Companies have adapted their marketing strategies to focus on connecting shoppers to a brand through storytelling on these platforms, but it appears CPG brands don't know how to behave with the stories of doom and gloom surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, these companies have regrouped on strategy as posting activities dropped in the first two weeks of March when shelter-in-place orders began being issued by governments around the U.S. Posting rose again in the weeks following March 23, as brands showcased helpful content to humanize the companies and build trust and credibility during this uncertain period.
As more brands start to post about the pandemic, one approach is to serve as an information source. Food industry posts on Facebook jumped by 41% the week of March 23 compared to the week of Feb. 24 as they began to write about how they were helping support essential workers. Other companies chose to highlight their response to the pandemic by presenting their philanthropy. This approach generated 19,632 responses on Instagram for Beyond Burger when the company gave away one million burgers in a month. Utz Snacks posted on Facebook about donating a truckload of its snacks to medical professionals, which generated 4,070 responses, according to the report.
By featuring their good Samaritan actions, these brands are providing consumers with a look into a company’s culture and begin a two-way conversation with consumers. The strategy also plays into consumers’ desire to feel good about the companies they support.
Social media also offers companies an opportunity to provide content that engages with isolated consumers. With more time on their hands, brands are offering consumers kitchen tips to preserve the large stocks accumulated during panic buying as well as recipes to creatively use those ingredients.
Bush's Beans, Green Giant and Red Gold Tomatoes are particularly active on social media as consumers have bought more canned goods throughout the pandemic. Sales of dried beans and canned meat were up more than 30% the last week in February, according to Nielsen data.
Packaged food is in demand as well with Credit Suisse is predicting that U.S. packaged food companies' retail sales will grow by an average of 15% to 30% from March to May 2020. ListenFirst Media revealed in its report that convenient, packaged options are popular on social media, with consumer engagement in the nuts, fruits and spreads category up nearly 50% since last year.
By reaching out to consumers during this period of crisis and offering practical advice and storytelling narratives, food and beverage brands are positioning themselves as a trusted source for consumers. If brands can work to establish trust now during such an uncertain time, they have the opportunity to foster a deeper connection to their consumer base, which could lead to long-term sales.