Hungry for trends coming out of the food-industry equivalent of the big game? After more than 3,000 brands and CPG buyers gathered in Anaheim, California for the Natural Products Expo West this past week, everyone is abuzz about what’s next in food. At M Booth, we’ve read all the think pieces and the hot takes, and we’re here to serve up the healthiest and ripest places that we recommend focusing on within F&B and CPG brand marketing and communications to drive impact right now.
1. Success is not an “either or”
We’ve been living through a golden age of delicious food startups, but as the capital is starting to dry up, an ugly truth is emerging: a lot of dollars went to performance marketing and many forgot to roll up their sleeves and build brands. Performance marketing brought eyes and attention, but demand for stronger metrics and profitability can only come if we simultaneously create brand fandom and strengthen brand narrative. This requires a combination of performance marketing and brand building. Brands that are not already investing in building brand need to invest in communications and put brand at the table with the rest of the business leads. Our client, Sovos Brands, Inc. is on the path to $1 billion in annual sales for Rao’s Homemade by branching further into different departments within the grocery store. And even with all of the brand success, awareness at only 58 percent. Consistent volume-led growth will come from an integrated marketing mix, including strong brand narrative and building brand zealots who will rush to purchase as Rao’s Homemade moves into new supermarket aisles.
2. Value does not have to be defined by price, even during inflation
Rising inflation is taking a toll on natural and organic sales throughout the U.S. Sales growth slowed dramatically last year and will likely continue to drop this year before rebounding slightly in 2024, according to data presented at the Expo. This doomsday headline is splashed across every sector. What this means is that, more than ever, brands have to be communicative and specific about their value—what they are worth and why, pound for pound, dollar for dollar. Points of difference and value to consumers’ life need to move front and center in messaging, packaging, and programming.
3. Sustainability is on the menu
As consumers wake up and smell their pantry’s relationship to environmental decline, founders are serving up food and CPG products with sustainability solutions at the forefront—and consumers are buying them off the shelf. Brands like Rind Snacks and Vital Farms are built this way from their core mission. But what about brands that aren’t born from the core of the earth yet still want to take a bite out of bettering the world?
The first step is internal team engagement. Employees must have the desire and confidence to push programming into sustainability and an understanding of short- and long-term corporate vision. From there, compelling storytelling—on packaging, in campaigns, and within partnerships—plays an integral role in building and bringing sustainability to market. M Booth has helped propel Planet Oat to the #1 share position in oatmilk, helping to drive 31 percent growth and 5 percent HH penetration through 360-degree programming. Through the Planet Oat Project, a pledge to support organizations that better the world we live in, our partners and thousands of volunteers have made a positive impact by cleaning up more than three million pounds of trash from the environment, exploring and documenting underwater ecosystems, participating in tree-planting efforts, and rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals. This campaign helped the brand get first-time shelf space across all Whole Foods stores.
4. Get in on the alternative to the alternative
Despite dire headlines (I’m looking at Deena Shanker and her incredibly researched cover story for Bloomberg), plant-based food is not dying—and in fact, consumer interest is rising. Coefficient Capital found that 50 percent of Gen Z and 53 percent of Millennials said they are interested in eating more plant-based foods. A January poll by Gallup found that 31% of non-white Americans had reduced their meat consumption in the past year. But nowhere has the vegan diet taken off more than in the Black community. According to a Pew Research Center survey, eight percent of Black Americans are strict vegans or vegetarians, compared to just three percent of the general population. Recently, a January poll by Gallup found that 31 percent of non-white Americans had reduced their meat consumption in the past year, compared to only 19 percent of white Americans. So not only is omnivorous marketing smart, but it’s also inclusive and enables reaching audiences where heart meets hunger. And while plant-based meats are getting attention along with cell-based and jackfruit, it’s really the alternative to the alternatives that we predict as the future. Take milk: oat milk may have made it into the dictionary, but this year’s Expo show floor included milk alternatives made from nuts, grains, fruit, and other ingredients.
5. It’s Tik Tok o’clock
As shopping habits change and grocery infrastructure fluctuates to meet online demand, brand discovery looks a lot like #FoodTok, which features everything from unusual recipe mashups to parents making kid-friendly dinners to fun grocery finds. If Tik Tok is not already the centerpiece of your brand’s marketing strategy, it might soon be. Of course, stay current with the latest news and controversies related to TikTok’s efforts to maintain data privacy of U.S. users (or call our Issues and Crisis team). A stunning 83 percent of Americans view food and recipe content on social media, with 61 percent of them viewing it weekly or more often, according to an Instacart survey among more than 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by The Harris Poll. And we know firsthand that #FoodTok trends translate into purchases: M Booth helped keep Campari at the center of the swirl around the recent viral Negroni sbagliato with Prosecco moment with House of the Dragon actress Emma D’Arcy, which led to a massive sales surge across the board.
For more information, or if you want to discuss where to focus your food and CPG marketing and communications for impact, please contact FraniC@mbooth.com.