Making less mean more: How to win in the new world of F&B communications
With much of the world facing an obesity crisis, and an upcoming ban on certain unhealthy food and beverage advertising, brands are embracing 'better for you' products and, says Murillo Meireles, Strategic Planner at Missouri Creative, that presents an opportunity.
We are in the middle of a health crisis. Not the Covid-19 pandemic, but an obesity crisis. According to Sky News, in the UK two thirds of all adults are overweight, and one third of those are obese.
However, around the world the scales are tipping in the wrong direction and the Covid-19 pandemic has added to that as nine in 10 deaths globally took place in countries with a high obesity rate [Source: Sky News]. In the UK, the government is introducing a ban on HFSS (high-fat, salt and sugar) food advertising. Similar restrictions – albeit not as punitive – are also being implemented in other countries, including Australia, Canada, France and Mexico.
If you already have a new better for you product in your pipeline, you may be wondering how you can position, package and communicate these line extensions.
Change is coming across the whole food and beverage category, and not just because of a change in government policy.
A major shift in consumer behaviour has been taking place for years. In fact, 51% of consumers claim to have switched ‘traditional’ snacks for high-protein or low-sugar ones in the last year [Source: FMCG Gurus]. The same is true for alcoholic drinks. In the US, sales of non-alcoholic beer grew by 34.8% in 2020 [Source: Forbes].
If you already have a new better for you product in your pipeline, you may be wondering how you can position, package and communicate these line extensions. Fortunately, this is charted territory. No and low alcohol brands have been doing this for years. Rather than seeing it as a negative, we see a lot of opportunity for brands to make ‘less’ – calories, alcohol, fat, sugar, salt – mean ‘more’.
As some media channels become off-limits, your ‘better for you’ products will become the new heroes. They will help to keep your brand salient, giving consumers something to talk about. In the last two years, organic social media conversations about no and low beverages were up by 85%, whilst conversations about alcoholic beer were down by 23% [Source: Forbes].
In the last two years, organic social media conversations about no and low beverages were up by 85%.
And because there is always going to be appetite for indulgent treats – 64% of consumers globally believe it is okay to enjoy them as part of a balanced diet [Source: Nielsen] – your ‘better for you’ products will take up the role of recruiters for the wider portfolio.
Above: In the last two years, organic social media conversations about no and low beverages were up by 85%, whilst conversations about alcoholic beer were down by 23%.
There are many reasons why people are now choosing ‘better for you’ products – culture, increased health awareness, greater variety, and improved quality. All of them make the ‘better for you’ category a large and diverse market waiting to be conquered. In the case of alcohol-free beer, the World Health Organisation estimates that the size of the market is equivalent to 57% of the world’s population [Source: WHO].
The ‘better for you’ category [is] a large and diverse market waiting to be conquered.
So, rather than seeing ‘better for you’ products in your portfolio as niche, look at the enormous potential to increase brand penetration. Lower fat, salt and sugar food products are not only more likely to come into the consideration list of consumers following strict diets, but they can be consumed with more frequency too.
Technology and social media have enabled new, nimble brands in the ‘better for you’ sector to disrupt categories that were previously dominated by a few heavyweights. One thing all of these challengers have in common is an inherent ability to break the rules: playing with pre-established category codes and conventions, with an incredibly high level of social media fluency, and their focus tends to be on e-commerce.
Younger generations are more willing to set themselves apart through the brands they buy.
A shift in consumer behaviour is also fuelling the playful nature of these brands. Younger generations are more willing to set themselves apart through the brands they buy and see up-and-coming brands as a tool to achieve that goal. Being ‘new kids on the block’, these brands are not bound by category codes and conventions, or by attributes like heritage and behaviour from the parent brand. But with new products in the pipeline, your brand has an opportunity to create impact as well.
Above: Ben & Jerry's always manage to compellingly incorporate their products and messages into larger social movements to scale their communications.
One of the biggest opportunities for alcohol brands when launching no and low product extensions is the possibility of making their brand present in previously unimagined occasions. In fact, 20% of all non-alcoholic beers are sold as replacement to soft drinks, instead of alcoholic options [Source: Wall Street Journal].
Nine in 10 Gen Z consumers think brands have a responsibility to help address social and environmental issues.
From sponsorship deals with Formula One to pop-up experiences like fitness classes and drive-thru tasting stations, drinks brands can now target new and existing consumers in different places and occasions. As a result, even sales of their standard alcoholic drinks are up. In the case of Heineken, by 8.3% in 2019; their best performance in over 10 years [Source: Yahoo Finance].
Your brand’s purpose and activism are good starting points when trying to find a message that can overcome the incoming channel barriers. In fact, ‘purpose’ is already one of the main drivers of purchase for some consumers, in particular Gen Z and Millennials. Nine in 10 Gen Z consumers think brands have a responsibility to help address social and environmental issues [Source: McKinsey].
'Purpose’ is already one of the main drivers of purchase for some consumers, in particular Gen Z and Millennials.
A brand that understands this well and has leveraged brand purpose and activism to connect with young consumers is Ben & Jerry’s. They always manage to compellingly incorporate their products and messages into larger social movements to scale their communications. As a result, Ben & Jerry’s is the eighth most loved food brand amongst 13-17 years old, despite them facing tight marketing restrictions [Source: YPulse].