Branding Food: An Industry That Has To Care


Whether it be breakfast cereal or fast food chains or even alcoholic beverages, the
food product and services industry must recognize brand in order to succeed in a
rapidly migrant market space. As we already know, consumers are not looking for
product benefits nearly as much as they are recognizing the person the product
represents. This reflection and representation is what creates brand (regardless of
what most average advertising agencies might tell you). With regard to the food
industry, “You are what you eat” has more meaning than it initially presents.
Consumers want to know how what they eat reflects who they are. So how has the
food industry changed with the fad dieting, new nutrition, weight-conscious times?
It all comes down to a matter of taste.

Food trends have definitely not always been about brand. In Luke Sulllivan’s Hey
Whipple, Squeeze This, he shows a series of pictures he created for the trend in
breakfast cereals when he was growing up. The first box shows a simple designed
box of “Flax Flakes,” the next box shows “Sweetened Flax Flakes,” and the presence
of sugar in cereals increases with every box until the last box reads, “SUGAR (no flax
flakes inside).” Ironically, you would be hard pressed today to see a cereal box in the
grocery store that did not scream Whole Grain or High Fiber. High-protein, low-
sugar, organic, non-processed, and low salt have taken over.

Food propositions used to be entirely about taste regardless of the pounds of
butter, amount of sugar and preservatives and milligrams of cholesterol. If it tasted
good, people needed it. Eventually the effects were tangible, and the times have
most definitely changed. Taste has taken a back seat to nutrition as our nation gets
increasingly obese, and let’s face it, being unhealthy is a lot less important than not
being fat (but that is a whole other issue in itself). Food trends can almost be
defined by the decade. Not to say that now all people want to eat nutritious food,
but most people want to appear healthy and as though they are in control of their
bodies and eating habits.

What has been the solution for food brands? How have they adapted to this
consumer mentality of control and self-consciousness? Why do we still buy Cheerios
rather than Grocery Store X’s Toasty O’s that cost a dollar less? The ingredients are
the same, and the box is the same size. We buy Cheerios because Cheerios care
about us, or at least we believe they do, and that is what matters. Smirnoff cares
about us because they tell us to “Drink Responsibly.” McDonalds cares about us
because they let us have salads and yogurt while our kids have McFlurries and
cheeseburgers. It was not long ago when no one ever thought they would live to see
the day when fast food chains actually offered low-fat options. Now, hardly any food
establishment can survive without a wider spectrum of options for Bill on low-carb,
Sue on low-fat, Jan on Weight Watchers, and Ted on Atkins.

The real value is not in the actual food offered, which represents “product,” it is in
the fact that the offer is available and encouraging, which represents “brand.”
Consumers want to be acknowledged and always want to feel as though they have
made the right choice. The choice to take on an active, nutritious lifestyle is
something every person needs to consider; that is basic biological knowledge. What
is not basic knowledge is that people who do choose to take on this challenge need
a lot more help than they admit. The food industry must be able to absorb this
trend and must be able to provide a solution to the problem rather than fuel to the
fire. As for the rest of the population who do not make this choice to live better,
they still like to think that they could if they tried.

In order to differentiate in the food business, the brand must be able to directly
show how it can potentially help the consumer achieve his/her goals. The brand
must be able to show the consumer that his/her goals really matter to them. This
connection and relationship is what initiates trial and then encourages continued
use. This message of partnership for a healthier lifestyle does not fall on deaf ears.
Regardless of how out of shape and overweight Americans prove to be, the desire to
reach an ideal, better image is forever behind the purchase decision.

Molly Sunderdick
Brand Strategist

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

Losing weight will keep you healthy and have a long life. Cheer Up!

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