It’s no secret: the food industry often plays by its own rules. This penchant for unpredictability can spell big headaches and small returns for marketers. However, with skillful analysis and a little insight, we can take a very educated guess at what’s to come. Per our panel of industry pros, here are the top trends to watch out for in 2018:
Cory LaGrange – Digital Marketing Strategist
Going All-In for Transparent Marketing
Food brands will blow the doors of transparency WIDE open this year. The Specialty Food Association has identified “Product labeling 2.0” as a top 10 food trend for 2018. As food brands embrace transparency in labeling and make a conscious shift toward value-based marketing, we should see a new age of full disclosure in food marketing. Smart brands will create content that speaks not only to their values but to their processes as well.
Cherie Hebert – Partner & CEO
Securing Customers with Tangible Tactics
You have to taste it and test it before buying it. Obviously Amazon is an amazing online storefront — offering the ease of purchase and doorstep delivery to consumers. However, there are still items that I’d like to touch and taste before purchase. Food brands must get their product into the mouths of their consumers before they can expect online sales to soar. Marketers who find new ways for potential consumers to engage with their brand and become advocates will be the real winners.
Chris Witham – Director of Account Strategy
Revival of the Analog Experience
Savvy food brands are going to shift their primary focus from digital delivery back towards the analog experience. Digital has not replaced analog, nor will it any time soon. A dangerous ledge exists for brands who race to embrace digital at the expense of analog, especially when consumers want both. In 2018, more consumers will turn off and tune out due to ad blindness. Brands who aim to intersect the two and can reach consumers in physical spaces will reap the biggest rewards.
Andre Dugal – Associate Creative Director
Storytelling Will Snag Seismic Results
Brand story will be the real focus in 2018. This speaks not only to the ever-rising trend of knowing how food is made, but also the story behind what makes a specialty food item special. As the specialty food space becomes increasingly competitive, brands will have to find impactful stories to tell to differentiate themselves. Brands that have a strong vision and set of values will lead the pack as the organic, clean eating wave grows larger.
Monica Hebert – Media Director
Although Direct Response Reigns, Frequency Still Matters
With so many food products available in-store and online, the ability to cut through the clutter will be paramount to a brand’s success. Multiple touch points will be needed to develop brand recognition, including digital, video, and print content. Those that combine these features with a real life, physical experience of the product will reap the biggest rewards.
Bria Wheeler – Account Service Director
Educational Insights to Increase Engagement
More than ever, consumers are engaged in the conversation about the quality of their food. As the collective consciousness around eating habits rises, consumers will seek content to educate themselves and make better dietary decisions. Historically, food industry advertising has only told part of the story (fat-free, low calorie, easy to prepare, etc.), so I predict companies will begin to invest a larger percentage of time and resources into more engaging, educational content for consumers.
Daniel Kedinger – Digital Marketing Director
Downsizing for a Brand Boost
Larger conglomerates are currently buying smaller, healthful and natural-based brands. This trend is tied to consumers’ brand perceptions of large food companies and their transparency. The specialty food industry, on the other hand, is generally open and praises their ingredients and processes, making them desirable to the consumer. Specialty food brands should capitalize on this, positioning themselves as a disruptor brand to further grow their consumer base. Using hyper-targeted ad tactics, these brands can then create direct messaging that tells a more effective story, which will resonate better than large-scale national ad campaigns.
Emily Burke – Senior Account Executive
Culinary Convenience Will Take Center Stage
The food delivery business is going to expand immensely in 2018. Grocery stores will continue to jump on board, cooking subscription services will continue to rise and food delivery apps will include more local, specialty restaurants that could not afford to provide consistent delivery otherwise. With the pace of American life moving at breakneck speed and the consumers’ needs for convenience, this growth should be no surprise.
Samantha Rebowe – Lead Project Manager
Major Movement Towards Lifestyle Marketing
In 2018, I think we’ll see even more connections between specialty food companies and the causes they support. Consumers are willing to spend more money on products that support their lifestyle and align with their values, and food is no different! Brands will need to be even more authentic in the way they advertise who and what they support — it’s not enough to write a check and share a picture. Brands will have to live and breathe their values through the stories they tell.