I live in Northern California, just North of San Francisco. This area is home to some of the cleanest, greenest, healthiest food companies in the US. I’m a foodie and pickie eater, so I love how deliciously these companies are taking care of business.
They’re also having a positive impact on their supply chains and the environment.
Now if you’re running an organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, sustainable & scrumptious food company, heads up. We’re here to feed you intel that will help you succeed.
I did some heavy lifting and curating to figure out what you’re up against this year, and where the opportunities are for healthy food companies. So here goes:
LET’S START WITH THE ISSUES.
1) Shopping habits now center on how you spend your spend time.
a. Seventy-one percent of your customers are now shopping in micro- moments.
b. Now is the time to perfect your online presence and up level your user experience.
c. And be ready on the shelf to excite impulse purchases.
2) Sustainability has reached a tipping point.
a. Plastic packaging has to go. Even Trader Joe’s is making that shift.
b. It’s time for 100% transparency about your ingredients and the sustainability of your supply chain.
c. More of your customers are now willing to pay a premium or change their eating habits to reduce environmental impact.
3) Values are right up there with value for today’s shoppers.
a. 44% of food and beverage consumers are attracted by a brand’s sense of purpose.
b. Again, it’s time to demonstrate and communicate sustainability in your marketing and innovation.
c. Your customers still value saving money, and saving time, more than ever. More shoppers are looking for ways to simplify their lives.
4) Is advertising and marketing effective? Big issue there.
a. Points to the value of digital marketing, since you can analyze everything you do, and make changes accordingly.
5) Food safety and traceability is a critical concern, now more than ever.
a. Testing and accountability that recognizes the fact that food-borne illnesses are on the rise.
6) The rising cost and availability of commodities.
a. Take the high road and create community among your growers. And paying them a living wage will pay off in countless ways.
AND NOW, FOR THE OPPORTUNITIES:
1) Google will maintain its focus on mobile first indexing for SEO. That won’t change. What’s new? A growing emphasis on voice searches. Think narrated recipes that take your customers step by step through a culinary creation.
a. Imagery counts more than ever. Rich, enticing, beautifully-styled photos and videos (even short clips). Add a healthy scoop of rich metadata, playful cooking directions, and special attention to your ingredients. Here’s some sage advice: Hire the best food photographer in town or learn how to light your own way to drool-worthy photography AND video. Don’t scrimp on that one.
2) Innovation will drive sales. American consumers demand newness. You already know that. You have to continually thrill and delight your customers with your ingenuity. And that doesn’t stop with new flavor profiles.
BuzzFeed’s Tasty started out as an overhead video juggernaut designed by smart people who kept thinking beyond the recipe. Their Product Lab is now fostering a simpler culinary lifestyle. (I’m not sure they realize that.) Imagine combining the Tasty One Top with SaladMaster’s (clean and mostly vegan recipes and cookware. A tiny kitchen for tiny houses.
3) Content, content, content. Compared to the mongo CPG brands, your health-oriented company is likely to be on the small to medium side. Companies like yours can work magic with content, though. Lots of magic. A solid content marketing strategy can help you get on the right shelves, where you’ll be found, chosen, cooked, gulped, crunched, repurchased, and socially shared. You don’t need the big advertising bucks. You’ve got an emotional connection with customers, and a beautiful story to tell.
a. Right out of the gate, you have something the mainstream biggies don’t. Your origin story. Your WHY. You can create content about the forces – both positive and negative – that drive you to do your best work.
b. You have meaning and purpose on your side. As it is so beautifully-said in this article: “Passion is about finding yourself. Purpose is about losing yourself.”
c. Consider creating engaging content about your production processes, sustainable packaging, and the origin of your ingredients.
d. And don’t forget to stay connected to customers post-purchase: Email, and the power of onboarding new customers and giving them every reason to love your brand forever.
4) The trends are with you. Healthy and nutritious foods and drinks are on the rise and have been trending upward for some time now. There’s no end in sight.
a. Video is alive and kicking some ass across all social platforms. Imagine the impact of seeing and hearing someone snacking on your NEW snack flavors. Of course, you have to be very very clever here. Keep those talking heads to a minimum and infuse your videos with authenticity and bright ideas.
b. UGC. User-generated content. (See? It already has an acronym.) Think contests and fun showcases and something no one has ever done before.
c. Private label foods are on the rise. Is there an opportunity here?
d. Free-from foods are attracting more and more shoppers. No-gluten, no allergens, non-GMO, low sugar. I’d add low sodium. I just tasted a sample chip in Whole Foods that was waaaaay too salty. As I gasped, I drew a small crowd of people who thought so, too.
e. Plant-based foods, and I’d add cultured meat to that one, too.
f. Locally-grown and produced. There’s food for innovative thinking there.
g. Organic. Here’s how Califia talks about the fact that they’re not entirely THERE. “While our full line is not organic, all Califia Farms products are 100% plant-based, non-GMO, carrageenan-free, gluten-free, vegan and made with no artificial ingredients. Some of our consumers want an organic option, so that’s why we also have a line of USDA Certified Organic Homestyle Nutmilks.”
h. Ethnic and international foods and flavors. Remember when quinoa was exotic?
i. Functional foods – including green tea, probiotics, omega 3s, coffee, and honey. Eat and drink your medicine.
j. And CBD- and cannabis-infused foods. A fast-growth category if there ever was one. The mega-companies are buying up smallholder farms in Mendocino. That should tell you something. One small note of caution: both research on benefits and rising regulation could chill down this hot market.
And now, I’d like to end this on a high note:
Clean labels with high ethical values are more important than ever, particularly to a growing segment of consumers with special dietary needs, which means, lab-created artificial and “natural” flavors are not in demand; consumers want real ingredients from nature. Consumers are seeing their purchasing decisions as a form of activism – they are “voting with their dollars,” supporting companies that align with their personal beliefs and hope for the future. There are pioneering companies that have embodied these sustainable values before it hit mainstream consciousness, and now we’re seeing the broader food industry get on board. Now, the biggest food conglomerates in the world are taking heed and listening to the demands of consumers – these companies realize that they need to make enormous, systemic changes for the better of our people and planet in order to stay competitive.
– Ahmed Rahim, Founder & CEO, Numi Organic Tea