Food Marketing Has Changed - How To Adapt

FLM Harvest

Nearly overnight, COVID-19 has required American consumers to reset their relationship with food, from where they eat to how they shop.

As food marketers, we must likewise rethink how we communicate our messages to consumers during this pandemic and perhaps for years to come.

Here are four considerations as you adapt your strategies:

FOCUS ON THE BASICS

As the New York Times reports, as restaurants shutter, many consumers are simply learning how to make their own meals: “All at once, it seems, many Americans are scrambling to learn how to cook. A week ago, Google searches for cooking videos hit Thanksgiving-level highs and traffic to cooking websites is skyrocketing.” AP spotlights families accustomed to quick take-outs as they shuttle their kids to sporting activities are now Googling he most basic recipes for their hungry, restless kids.

CONCLUSION: Marketers should pivot consumer food messaging to simple starter recipes for newbie cooks then evolve as their expertise grows.

EMBRACE TRADITIONAL AS THE NEW TREND

Two months ago, media and consumers were fascinated by the explosion of plant-based meats and health boosters. Today, it’s chips, popcorn, meat, potatoes and traditional produce. As Bloomberg notes, “American shoppers who were taking up healthier eating are gravitating back to old ways as they hunker down to weather the coronavirus pandemic.”

CONCLUSION: Your messaging should focus on how your food can play a central role in hearty, simple, comforting, traditional and sometimes indulgent foods.

SHARE YOUR COVID-19 STRATEGY

You can be specific about your values and about COVID-19. For example, Applegate is asking its followers what content it wants during these times. Monterey Mushrooms calls out the importance of fresh produce for good health. Manufacturers are sharing their food production plans.

CONCLUSION: As long as it is in service to others, it is safe and appropriate to directly address COVID-19 in your overall communication strategies.

SUPPORT GRASSROOTS EFFORTS

The restaurant business is decimated in the short term, and independents in particular will struggle to relaunch post pandemic. Recently, chains organized the “Great American Take-out Day” to encourage consumers to order “at least one delivery or pick-up meal on Tuesday to show support for the restaurant community.” At the same time, DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats have launched Open for Delivery (#OpenForDelivery), urging consumers to order from local, independent restaurants. In communities nationwide, award-winning chefs are organizing efforts ranging from offering supplies to laid-off hospitality workers to cooking food for the hungry and/or displaced.

CONCLUSION: Food marketers should keep eyes and ears open for campaigns in service of the food industry that you can amplify, support with donations or sponsor.

BONUS TIP: THANK A GROCER

The L.A. Times reminds us that supermarket employees are among our new superheroes, showing up every day to organize, stock and sell us our food. As food marketers, we have greater insights into their struggles than most. Next time you shop, take a few extra moments to tell the stockperson you appreciate their work. Give thanks to the cashier trying to stay positive while being on their feet for eight-plus hours. Be patient with the grocery store staff and with fellow customers. These kind gestures can carry us all through this pandemic and beyond.

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