Natural food companies are revamping their marketing to boost online sales
- Food companies are changing their branding, packaging design and other marketing strategies for e-commerce, driven partially by stronger sales since Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods.
- Amazon has encouraged the crossover of offline and online shopping, and some suppliers see the online space as a proving ground for gaining access to Whole Foods' shelves, Inc. reports.
- However, the acquisition has not worked out equally well for small suppliers of Whole Foods. "Smaller, natural food suppliers who historically may have seen Whole Foods as an easier entry point to the market will have a harder time gaining distribution at Whole Foods as they compete with the private-label brands for shelf space and online visibility," Christina Anderson, an e-commerce analyst at Kantar Consulting, told Inc. Anderson suggests successful companies may envision their products as online commodities from the beginning.
As Amazon leverages more Prime benefits in Whole Foods and signs up new members, it's driving natural product shoppers to its site. Small suppliers — many of whom have experience selling to brick-and-mortar stores but might be shut out of Whole Foods under the chain's new buying policies — see an opportunity to boost their online sales.
But to reach those these consumers, they need to shift their approach. Companies are re-imagining online branding and formulas to encourage repeat buys rather than the impulse purchases they might have relied on in the stores. They're also amping up their packaging so colors, typography and other elements stand out on computer and phone screens.
Suppliers would do well to push the uniqueness of their product. After all, if shoppers can’t find New Zealand Manuka Honey in their local brick-and-mortar shop, they might turn to an online vendor. Still, some smaller food companies must be worried they will be squeezed out by larger food companies who have capabilities to distribute nationwide already, and as larger companies continue to acquire smaller food companies, such as Campbell Soup Co.’s purchase of Pacific Foods, or Nestlé's acquisition of Sweet Earth, which makes vegan bowls, burritos, and sandwiches.
Short of being bought out by a larger food company, some smaller producers are taking matters into their own hands. Take Lillabee Baking, a small outfit that began selling allergen-free baking mix at a local farmer's market in Colorado. The spouses who launched the product in 2010 weren’t thinking about an online presence, but that’s changed in the past year or so. The company hired a graphic designer and illustrator to redesign packaging that is brighter and has more white space, which promotes the product’s health benefits and taste. They also put products into pouches rather than boxes for easier delivery. What’s more, the company is even looking at launching new products specifically geared toward online sales.
Smaller mom-and pop- sellers have reason to worry they could be squeezed out as Amazon pushes for increased online sales and in-store sales. At the same time, other grocery outlets are stepping up their sourcing of local and niche products. This includes major players like Kroger as well as online startups like Thrive Market.
No matter where they sell, the companies most likely to succeed will figure out ways to package and stylize their products for a younger, digital-savvy customer base, as well as create new products most likely to appeal to online buyers in the first place.