We asked PR and growth experts in the food & beverage industry: What are Top PR Trends in Food Right Now? What are great examples of branding in the industry? Which exhibitions, platforms, food & beverage networks are trending? How to create a buzz for a food brand right now? Here are their answers:
Alison Seibert, Founder + Principal at The James Collective, a boutique integrated communications agency in NYC and the SF Bay Area that specializes in CPG food, beverage, travel and wellness.
“The food industry is in an incredibly exciting moment, probably one of the most pivotal moments that I’ve seen in my career. I think the biggest trend that we’re seeing is how so much of what is happening in the world both directly affects food, and the food industry likewise acts as a microcosm of what is happening more broadly in the world. Consumers are expressing a serious interest in understanding where their food comes from and how their purchases both affect the planet (both through issues like climate change and labor) as well as how their purchases reflect on themselves. Likewise, there’s a natural collision of food and beverage with wellness, and ultimately, consumers are seeking experiences over things — thus looking at food and beverage from the lense of experiences.
This directly affects us as public relations professionals and marketers. Transparency, credibility and authentic storytelling is key, as is reaching people where they live in an integrated manner. No longer is a great placement in a top publication enough. We need to strategically create opportunities for these products to be covered through media, have a solid social media presence for the right audiences, create experiences that emotionally and physically communicate the brand’s value in our lives, while always understanding that distribution and availability of food and beverage products are also key to sales and business growth.”
Jessica Butera, PR Supervisor at The Food Group, a full service marketing agency specializing in food and beverage.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of the food & beverage industry. Innovation is booming with today’s biggest trends — functional ingredients, CBD, adaptogens, plant-based, on-the-go, clean-label, sustainability — influencing how we eat & drink. With new, on-trend products being introduced every day, PR is a great way to build buzz and demonstrate what sets your product apart. However, traditional tactics no longer cut it. Here are a few ways we’re driving awareness for our clients…
1) Experiential: The best way to generate excitement about food & beverages is by allowing people to experience them — how does it taste? does it smell enticing? is it instagrammable? is it craveable? Experiential opportunities like pop-up shops, events, and immersion trips where people can sample the food and beverage is not a new concept, but it’s one that has staying power, especially in such a saturated market..
2) Partnerships: Partnering up like-minded brands or influential tastemakers can be a great way to amplify awareness around your brand.
3) Content: Content, including recipes, influencer tips, photography, videos, etc. is still an essential way to drive awareness around your brand.”
Rachel Kay, Founder + President at RKPR, a boutique PR agency that has specialized in national food & beverage brands for 13+ years:
“A fiery political climate is fueling a heightened interest by food and beverage brands to communicate elevated cause-related or sustainability programs. Previously, tying back to heated political topics was avoided by brands (and PR reps); but now, the benefit of being a champion for change overrides the risk of alienating some consumers. It also makes for great storytelling as consumers want products that reflect shared values. Brands realize it’s no longer enough to be recyclable or to donate samples to a foodbank. To breakthrough, there needs to be a specific effort, opinion and measurable outcome. Programs reflecting things like regenerative agriculture to female empowerment to body positivity help build a deeper brand narrative.”
Candace MacDonald, Founder and Managing Director at Carbonate, a creative strategy and brand communications agency operating in the food & hospitality space:
“We co-produce an annual trend report every year with af&co., a food, hospitality and lifestyle PR & marketing firm based in San Francisco, which has become an industry standard for food & beverage trends. (2020 report here)
The big overarching trend this year is an increase in the importance of authentic sustainability messaging. Companies have been making the shift towards more sustainable operations, but especially for food companies, all of this is easier said than done. So companies are having to find ways to accurately be able to say what they are doing while still having a PR hook. We are seeing that lasting strategic partnerships are key to amplifying that message across a much wider field and also create brand synergy. Partnerships with brands that live in the sustainable space allow food companies to communicate values, create news angles, build trust in a brand, and reach new audiences.
Examples we love:
• KFC partnered with Beyond Meats for a custom plant-based fried chicken, which was test-launched with great success (in the South!) with new green (instead of red, and a symbol of sustainability) buckets with the slogan, “It’s still finger lickin’ good.”
- The partnership lends sustainability credentials to KFC
- The new branding supports the sustainability ethos while remaining true to the KFC brand
• Sweetgreen partnered with David Chang to launch the Tingly Sweet Potato and Kelp Bowl, touting the environmental benefits of Kelp harvesting
- The news hook is not just about the environment (and economic advantages) but the trust in a celebrity figure like David Chang to promote it
• We work with Chowbotics, a food tech company focused on making fresh healthy food available anytime, anywhere — and they partnered with a southern salad restaurant chain to put a Salad Station robots in hospitals throughout the south, offering fresh healthy salads 24/7 to hospital staff and visitors.”
Michael Vaughan, Account Coordinator at HeraldPR, a full service Public Relations + Digital Marketing agency:
“QReal, a Glimpse Group subsidiary, is creating lifelike 3D and AR content for social media campaigns, web content, and e-commerce purposes. Their augmented reality (AR) platform is also expanding into the restaurant and food services space thanks to their unique partnerships. According to founder Alper Guler, there are “many opportunities” ahead for AR to be utilised in FMCG and grocery.
Qreal’s high-end experiences and 3D assets enable food makers to present products in 3D and provide visualisation of dishes using advanced scanning technologies.
The Glimpse Subsidiary has attracted the attention of big brands and over the summer it worked with the likes of Grubhub, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Domino’s and Magnolia Bakery to develop AR campaigns. They’ve worked with partners to create augmented reality Snapchat ads and activations.”
Diane Welland, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Communications Manager at Kellen, a leading global provider of management and strategic communications services to trade associations, with deep expertise and extensive relationships in the food and nutrition industry:
“Right now, the biggest food and beverage trends are plant-based products, from nut butters to meat replacements, which has gone mainstream to restaurants, fast food and grocery stores everywhere. Beverages are getting really exciting, and right now, the biggest trend are dairy alternatives such as oat based, nut and seed based and fruit based. CBD infused drinks, candy and ice cream are also picking up steam as is interest in functional ingredients. In terms of diets, Keto is still king and is expected to remain a top diet trend for 2020. We’re seeing brands taking products to the next level and stretching flavor profiles, such as Frito Lay’s Cheetos Popcorn or Churro-inspired Oreos. A great way to create buzz around your brand is to know who your audience is and connect with them in an honest way in the places they care about. Storytelling with shareable content that people can connect with can help elevate your brand in big ways.
You can read more about top food and beverage trends in our 2019 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo Recap.”
Sarah Walters, Director of Public Relations at RMD Advertising — The Integrated Advertising Agency for Food and Only Food
“In food, the top PR trend is also one of the most tried-and-true strategies: targeting consumers where they live, and where they shop. Working with food brands, it’s critical to support a PR program that focuses on national media, trade media and regional targeting. This allows the brand to be positioned to consumers at precisely the right time — just before they shop, and ongoing to stay top of mind. Perhaps just as importantly, this PR strategy also demonstrates to important retail partners and customers that the brand is investing in the relationship — a key competitive differentiator — and helping to drive feet into the aisles.
Some of our favorite examples of branding of recent in the food category can be found in the Keto Snack and Pork Rind categories. Brands such as ParmCrisps came out of the gate strong with a powerful integration of key strategies, including powerful package design, to clearly communicate with precision that they were there to solve a very real snack dilemma. They also effectively communicated they were bringing the taste leader to the snack food aisles to do so. Pork Rinds, on the other hand have been transformed as a category over the past 3+ years. The results of Southern Recipe Small Batch’s efforts, specifically, have catapulted the core consumers from a 65+ year old males to millennial women. Transformations such as those do not and cannot happen overnight, or by chance. Integration of all efforts, including product innovation, is required for such a transformation.
Today in the food category, Natural Products Expo West is the go-to expo for food brands and product launches. There are others, for sure, but this is the gold standard.
Currently, creating a buzz for a food brand requires innovation, time, creativity and carefully orchestrated and timed execution of marketing strategies. The best “buzz” seems almost spontaneous — but few really are… Strategic planning and flawless execution are mandatory.”
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