6 PR tips for the food industry

If you would say one thing that has always existed in the human history, food would a given answer. Earlier, many thought about food as part of survival. Today, people, just like myself, don’t want basic eating. We live in a foodie culture thriving as never before.

As a company in the food and beverage industry, you’re competing against thousands of other brands. You constantly need to make a good impression and differentiate yourself in the mind of the consumer, quickly, if you want to succeed. At the same time, the industry is experiencing PR-related issues such as lacking trust and increased consumer demands. These are my top 6 tips for smart, thoughtful communication.

1. Let people know you’re part of their lives

Food is inevitable — regardless the level of interest, it’s always there. As an actor in the food industry, you should follow people through their lives and become part of their daily moments. Good PR activities has the potential to create awareness among consumers i.e. to gain brand recognition. In other words, you should let people know you exist.

Thanks to the strong emotional and cultural significance of food, companies have particularly good opportunities to create positive values in their brands. Food companies that successfully incorporates storytelling in their PR could connect with their consumers on an emotional level and lead to increased sales. Through relatable stories, a brand can position itself from competitors in the consumer’s consciousness. This means that one must share stories that derives from real context. Find angles when consumers experience problems or just feels. In what way do your products ease/enhance these moments?

2. Use PR for transparency and to gain trust

This is probably the point when good/bad PR will have the biggest impact on the brands equity. With nutrition being an inevitable part of our daily lives, it’s no wonder why a scandal in the food industry hits brands harder than they might do in other markets. Consumers are getting more interested in how a product is actually made — we want to make informed choices. The horsemeat-scandal in processed beef products and hidden sugar are just two recent controversies.

PR is not only important for crisis management, it’s a way to build a respected brand in an industry where trust has been badly eroded. I cannot stress enough the value of clear communication to avoid misconstrued promises that have previously haunted food companies.

Thinking before acting — don’t be afraid of honesty

Thoughtful communication is thus crucial for food companies as they have increasingly been called upon to take responsibility in reducing one of today’s major health problems — obesity and its consequential diseases. As a result, they are today forced to proactively communicate and engage in incentives that helps improve public health and sustainability. Meanwile, the same companies, in reality, want increased sales. This goal can, however, only be achieved through consumers eating more. So what to do in this dilemma and age of awareness?

The key is transparency. Food companies are today under increased legal obligations to inform consumers about their products (such as improved labelling). To achieve long-term consumer loyalty and brand value, a food company must support these consumer priorities and convert them to communication tactics. Good PR should be used to go beyond what’s needed according to law — basically, tell them all.

3. Follow the mobile lifestyle

Today, consumers live a mobile lifestyle. People can work, enjoy life and communicate anywhere they wish. Eating, consequently, often take place in motion. This lifestyle holds great potential for brands implementing PR activities. We demand food that are quick, easy on the move, whilst still being healthy and responsible. Keep in mind this lifestyle and consider how your products can easily be moved with us — always within easy reach.

Importantly, some argue that used-generated content contribute to long-run sales growth. It then becomes valid to ask: Are your products social media friendly? Remember that we today eat with our eyes through our phones.

4. Take advantage of current events and trends

PR is all about knowing your audience. To identify market needs, trends and events, you should constantly undertake business intelligence. The generated insights works as a basis for how your products can be worked into added customer value. It’s also about knowing what makes people engaged. This means that PR-pros have to be sensitive to what the brand’s audience is talking about, what they appreciate and try to find ideas that combines these aspects with the product/company they are promoting.

A company in Sweden that successfully takes advantage of current trends is Delicato. This post, for instance, plays with the annoucment of Kellyanne Conway earlier this year.

Tonight, 13,2 millions Swedes* eats a Delicato cake. 
*Alternative facts

5. Integrate your custumers in the product development

With the changing digital media landscape, there are great opportunities to integrate customers into the product development. Listen to your customers and embrace their creativity, interest and needs. For instance, some brands now have online polls about new flavors and bringing old classics back.

The Swedish fast food chain Max is a brilliant example of integrated customer feedback. Last year, a person self-composed a vegan dish. Soon, the dish went viral online and was discussed by enthusiastic consumers that called it “The Oumph Box”. One after another, consumers began to order “The Oumph Box” and a movement was mobilised online to get Max to add the dish to their menu (yes, a petition was actually made and handed to the restaurant). The restaurant embraced their customers creativity and now has the box as an official dish on their menu.

The famous “Oumph-box” first shared online.

6. Answer and act against larger corporations

In Sweden alone, 732 food companies were formed between 2010–2014. As a start-up, you’re facing a tough market with great competition. However, start-ups are today experiencing fewer barriers to market entry as they can reach and communicate with consumers and sell products directly online. According to a recent survey from KPMG, giants in the food and beverage industry are experiencing an increased pressure from start-ups. 35 percent of the executives say that competition from new actors is the biggest threat to their business.

A small-sized food company might use strategic PR to defend itself from corporate attacks, to gain consumer acceptance and penetrate markets through disruptive innovation tactics. They can also work together with non-profit organisations to engage to advance causes that promote public health and the environment.

In Sweden, the industry underdog Oatly seeked to challenge the national dairy industry through extensive integrated communication campaigns. Although Oatly went through court proceedings, they became a pressure group that arose in opposition to a leading giant. As a result, Swedes are still questioning their diary habits.

Thanks for reading and good luck!