I began my marketing adventure working for CPG brands before making the transition into foodservice B2B marketing. The evolution of marketing since 1983 has been amazing. Regardless, I still maintain a consumer centric mindset. What I find mind-blowing is how knowledgeable the food consumer has become over the years.
To me a good starting point of where consumers stepped up their knowledge about the food, they consumed was the introduction of the U.S. Nutrition Facts label back in 1994 which has now been revised several times. Fast forward. Today consumers are demanding healthier food products. As a result, the “clean label” movement has evolved. There is no standard definition or legal requirement for what “clean label” means. Market research indicates the term “clean label” means different things to different consumers around the world. Note: A study conducted by London based research company Canadean found 34 percent of consumers do not actually have any understanding of what it means at all. It generally refers to F&B products with short ingredient lists with familiar sounding ingredients and no artificial ingredients. Finally, the pandemic had a major impact on the eating habits of consumers. In addition to being concerned about personal wellness, they became conscious of planetary wellness since COVID-19 made consumers more aware of the essentials of the interconnected food system supply chain. Globally consumers are embracing both personal and planetary wellness influencing their purchase behavior. Consequently, healthy sustainable food has become the new consumer hot button.
This much I do know: Since I began my marketing career, the one constant has always been the challenge for food and beverage manufacturers to clearly communicate the key decision drivers which deliver consumer value. The list of drivers has grown significantly over the past four decades – improved nutrition (e.g., increased fiber, sugar reduction), cleaner labels (e.g., less additives), sustainability including responsible sourcing and regenerative agricultural practices. The latest decision criteria consumers are buzzing about is a company’s 2050 commitment to net-zero carbon-neutrality, etc., etc., etc. Bottomline: Delivering the right consumer value has become an extremely complex process. However, leading global CPG companies utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science to cull through all the data/consumer insights to develop predictive analytics (a.k.a. consumer algorithms) which provide direction (R&D, Marketing, Sales) of how best to develop solutions to meet the needs of the consumer to guide their food choices.
Jimmy: As always I find myself agreeing with you. But I would also observe that providing consumers with information is all very well. But do they have enough knowledge to process it meaningfully? Fibre is ‘good’ – but why is is it good, in what ways can it also be ‘bad’, how much of its is ‘good’, is it better than other things (exercise perhaps)? I don’t expect peoplel to have the answers to all these questions but having (probably significantly) more knowledge than they have now, is probably, a good thing. So big questions arise: What knowledge should peoplel have about food? And who is going to provide it?
Peter: Thank you for weighing in. My concern is how much information can the average Joe absorb. You ask who should provide the information. I firmly believe the category leader tells the story in English, English. One category I am currently struggling with is seaweed. Average Joe hears it is good for both human and planetary health, but the information out there is floating all over the place.
I agree that there is a lot more information about the subjects you identified than ever before… some of it is good, some not so much. In the years before the internet it was much more difficult to inform consumers or raise consumer awareness on various issues. Today one article or one influencer can create a buzz that goes viral in hours. Just because something trends on social media doesn’t mean that consumers have any real knowledge about the subject other than it’s hot. AI can take in all that excitement in and come to the conclusion that “x” is a mega trend, but absent any solid consumer research that might suggest the trend is more nuanced (segmentation) to include in its analysis, we would all be misled.
Great POV. My concern is TMI will cause some marketers to overprocess in their “go to market” strategies. I also wonder if this marks the end of impulse purchasing.