- Innova Market Insights ranked storytelling as the No. 1 trend for 2020, according to Food Business News. Other trends, in order, are plant based, sustainability, choice, texture, macronutrients, hybrid products, star ingredients, ingredients that contribute to beauty and personalization.
- The market research firm’s study, which was presented at Food Ingredients Europe in Paris, estimated that 56% of global consumers say stories about a brand influence their purchase decisions. “It adds a layer of depth to consumer products as well," Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova, said in a presentation. "So now we’re saying you will win with words. You have to tell a story about your product.”
- Innova Market Insights said companies can tell stories by positioning ingredients in the context of culture and tradition, sourcing methodologies, or describing how ingredients are processed, Food Business News reported.
Consumers no longer just want to be fed. They want to feel like each purchase is a conscious effort to make them a part of something bigger than simply stocking their pantry. To accomplish this, consumers are more frequently looking for the story behind the brand, and in recent years, companies have responded.
The number of global food and beverage launches with social and ethical claims grew 20% in 2017 from the prior year, and packaging imploring consumers to “share” went up 50% during the same time period, according to Innova Market Insights.
Storytelling can take many forms. It can create a narrative from the founder's point of view or it can explain an ingredient's origin and the cultures that it comes from. Offering consumers insight into how products are produced and the source of individual ingredients promotes a dialogue and builds consumer trust in a product. A couple of growing beer brands today also have associated their products with a certain mood, like Michelob Ultra with the health-conscious consumer or Corona with relaxation and the beach.
However, one of the biggest advantages of storytelling is its ability to a convey a brand's sustainability efforts. In today’s market, sustainability and environmental consciousness are major concerns for shoppers. According to Nielsen, almost half of U.S. consumers are likely to change what they buy to meet environmental standards.
Although just about every company puts together a sustainability pledge, not all enterprises are communicating those pledges in a way that resonates with or even reaches consumers. Consumers are willing to pay more for increased transparency and connection to their consumption habits. A Nielsen survey from 2015 found 66% of millennials said they’re willing to pay more for sustainable products.
Several brands have done this storytelling well and created narratives that place them squarely in the consumer conscious as environmentally friendly products — factors which positively help their bottom lines. Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea is one of these brands. To give credence to its name, the brand launched an “Origins” web series in 2012 that offered a detailed look into the organic and fair-trade farming practices of international growers.
High Brew Coffee also has successfully told its origin story by describing the backstory of its founder who chose a clean, simple process to create a beverage that has become wildly popular in only a few short years. The brand focuses on its direct trade partnership, calling it “Direct Trade, Direct Impact” to convey its involvement and care for the farmers it sources from.
Other brands have launched stories that have not been so well received. PepsiCo is a prime example. Two years ago, the company ran a spot with Kendall Jenner quelling tensions between social justice protestors and police by sharing a can of Pepsi. The ad didn't resonate with consumers and the backlash was so loud that the company pulled the spot and apologized within a day.
The trend toward sustainability stands in opposition to the consumers’ demands for choice – the fourth most important trend for 2020. Food waste is a concern for many consumers, and they could see the proliferation of choice as contributing to that.
Companies, however, can spin the narrative to position choice as a complement to sustainability. Selection gives consumers an opportunity to purchase exactly what they like without the risk of trying something new, finding out they don't like it and it ending up in a landfill.
In addition, promoting choice can also play into a company’s narrative with brands highlighting how they came up with each idea. That story could involve engaging with consumers and the unique sourcing and ideation process that, in the end, resulted in a product that people will love – because they asked for it in the first place.