In 2017, major food makers and big beverage brands continued to battle the ever-accelerating headwinds of consumers’ shift toward fresher, “cleaner” consumables.
The quest for solutions in the face of stalled or declining sales growth for so many traditional CPG brands was reflected in several of my best-read food and beverage articles in 2017.
Prominent case in point: A report in June on a survey by Condé Nast and Goldman Sachs that probed millennials’ favorite brands and what factors drive their preferences drew exceptionally large readership. Not surprising, given that cracking the code on how to woo Millennials — and the increasingly important Gen Z cohort — is the quintessential (even existential) challenge for traditional food and beverage companies.
In fact, the key findings of that research warrant repeating here, because they so clearly point up the reality that (like their elders) millennials exhibit complex, often seemingly contradictory behaviors — e.g., punctuating an insistence on clean, healthy food with frequent consumption of items like candy and super-sweet cereals.
The list of millennials’ top 20 food and beverage favorites (in order), per this study, provides a snapshot of their varying proclivities: San Pellegrino, Angie’s, Haribo, Duncan Hines, Bertolli Frozen, Nespresso, Poland Spring, Starbucks, Yoplait, Noosa, Ferrero Rocher, Justin's Nut Butters, Coca-Cola, International Delight, Kashi, Dove Chocolate, Pillsbury, Clif, Cheez-It and Fage.
One critical principal behind millennials’ choices: When price and quality are consistent, brand ethos is paramount. As we reported, the survey confirmed that consumers — and millennials in particular — are focused on authenticity, transparency and connectivity when it comes to the brands they buy.
Which means that to succeed, brands need to be absolutely clear about what they stand for. “Millennials are looking [for brands] that connect with them and fit into their lifestyles,” summed up Condé Nast chief marketing officer Pamela Drucker Mann.
Other top-10 Marketing Daily food/beverage articles that spoke to brands’ focus on winning over elusive millennials including ones covering Stella Artois Cidre’s innovative, whimsical new ad campaign; Lays potato chips’ revival of “Do Us a Flavor,” with a twist; and Pizza Hut’s offering free prizes on “ESPN College GameDay.”
Other core 2017 trends among food and beverage CPG makers that we’ll continue to track in 2018’s coverage include changing product formulations to make them clean (or cleaner); launching healthier brands with adventurous flavor profiles (like Mondelez’s new Véa snack brand, shown above); acquiring fast-growing companies whose brands are already viewed as clean and authentic by Millennials; and finding new channels for selling existing and new products and brands.
On the last front, large manufacturers’ heavy focus on expanding e-commerce promises to be the most disruptive trend of all in the months ahead. That includes partnering with giant platforms like Amazon and China’s Alibaba, and with growing businesses like meal-kit companies. Even more notable are the big food/beverage companies' major investments in the platforms and marketing needed to grow their own, direct-to-consumers sales channels.