Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert says food and beverage manufacturers will make food more “tactile” in 2018, according to Food Navigator. Food companies, including retailers, should also focus on products that are "multisensory," appealing to consumers' hearing and visual senses in addition to their taste buds, he noted in a report.
Responding to consumer demands for “experiences,” manufacturers will need to make food fun to touch and manipulate, Lempert said in his Food and Retail Trends Forecast. This trend is in response to a “food information overload” as consumers try to learn more about products, their origins and ingredients, he noted.
By using their senses to engage with food, the experience becomes more memorable, according to Lempert. Examples cited by Food Navigator include baked peanut puffs made to deliver an extra crunch, and popchips' brand "Galaxy Puffs" modeled after Star Wars characters.
Mom was wrong. It is okay to play with your food. At least that’s what Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert predicts food and beverage manufacturers will be telling consumers in 2018. After years of focusing on food nutrition, origin and ingredients, shoppers are ready to re-connect with food in a more emotional way, Lempert says.
“Tactile” food means just what it sounds like — food consumers can touch. But the trend also extends to food that appeals to the other senses. Think of the crunch of a crisp snack chip, but made crunchier through the manufacturing process. Or the taste of beer, enhanced through a virtual reality experience (as Guinness recently did).
The tactile and multisensory trends don't just include direct food and beverage consumption. Lempert says that tactics like YouTube influencers turning up the volume to make the sound of them eating or drinking in videos affects viewers. Food manufacturers can even use certain sounds to trigger food euphoria, through a primal reaction called autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).
Using the psychology of marketing to affect consumers’ senses is nothing new. A Harvard Business Review article claims that sensory marketing has been a tactic for at least twenty years.
The efforts to create those connections are not always transparent. HBR details a South Korean Dunkin’ Donuts' efforts to use sensory marketing on passengers on a municipal bus. “When a company jingle played on municipal buses, an atomizer released a coffee aroma. The campaign increased visits to Dunkin’ Donuts outlets near bus stops by 16% and sales at those outlets by 29%,” the article states.
In the same vein, an article in Fast Company describes a Brigham Young study showing that triggering certain senses could affect behaviors. For example, ads highlighting sight and sound made people delay their purchases, while ads that highlighted touch and taste led to consumers making purchases sooner.
Interesting though these cases may seem, manufacturers and retailers should make sure they maintain transparency in their sensory-focused marketing efforts, and don’t cross the line into consumer manipulation.
Grocery stores, meanwhile, should jump on the bandwagon by upping their sampling and other sensory-focused marketing efforts. Costco, one of the industry's leading samplers, has seen sales soar lately. As supermarkets try to outmaneuver Amazon and drive store traffic in an increasingly online-focused industry, playing up food experiences in-store will become all the more important.