It’s an amazing and whirlwind time to be a business owner in the food and beverage industry. Whether you’re running a restaurant, a food production facility, or a hyper-local artisanal foods enterprise, we are coming into an era when more and more Americans are changing the way they think about what they eat, drink, and feed their families. With every passing year more food consumers express interest in and value the importance of reading nutrition labels, buying locally grown produce and grass-fed meats, avoiding highly processed foods and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and are embracing new digital food marketing trends. Now more than ever, consumers demand more information and transparency from the brands they choose to consume.
We Love These Digital Food Marketing Trends
All of our interactions with food have become hyper-digital and socially shared. While photos and videos of artfully prepared meals fill our Instagram and Facebook news feeds, so too are petitions against food producers, restaurants and other businesses, as well as stories and photos of meals gone wrong or poor customer service. In short, while these food marketing trends can help launch a fun viral food video or make a name for an up-and-coming restaurant or chef, it can also hurt your business’ reputation if it’s not handled correctly. If you’re ready to start taking action on some of the most popular digital food marketing trends, keep reading and stay focused on the possible. In no time at all, you’ll be “cooking with gas”!
Use promotions to build your brand
Use promotions as a way to build your brand beyond cutting prices or offering a special discount on a purchase. Use promotions to appeal to customers’ emotions and the issues they care most about and show that what your business has to offers aligns with those values. Examples include, monthly tasting parties for select kinds of foods (gluten-free, non-dairy ice cream, local craft beer…); expert presentations and cooking demonstrations, film screenings and cook book discussions on topics that are relevant to your business’ mission; or special events that promote your business’ offerings to a particular group (all vegan or vegetarian menu, gluten-free pizza night, special “farm to table” locally sourced meals…).
Create or share relevant, useful content
Use your business’ social media accounts and/or blog to create or share content that is relevant to your target audience’s needs and interests. For example, if your family-friendly restaurant is adding new gluten-free and dairy-free menu options, share information produced from reliable, trustworthy sources about how and why these diet changes may be beneficial to all family members. When you focus on providing useful content to your customers in addition to what you have to sell, you bolster your brand’s credibility and trustworthiness.
Get involved in the local and online food community
Reaching out to your target audience in the local community as well as online is a great, advertising-free way to make your brand and produce known. If your business is trying to get grocery stores to stock your kid-friendly veggie snacks, make inroads with local and online parents groups, bloggers, and nutrition discussion boards to get the conversation started and mobilize your target audience. When your loyal customers support your brand and business, they’ll go the extra mile to help you succeed.
Does your food look like a supermodel?
When you’re sharing visual content (photos, videos, memes…) that relates to your business and brand it is essential that your product look amazing. You don’t always need to hire a professional food photographer or videographer (although some businesses do – and with incredible results) but you do need a good eye, a sense of composition, and a smartphone or digital camera. Close-ups of your food or food products send a strong message and are easy to identify during fast-scrolling through news feeds. Focus on bright colors and artful twists that will make your offering stand out from the rest. If you’re getting serious about socially sharing food images and cooking videos, you either need to learn to take eye-catching photos and short videos, delegate that task to a capable person on your staff, or make the decision to hire a qualified professional.
Remember customer service!
When you enter the social sharing arena with your brand, you need to have a customer service plan in place. Remember, customer service is more than just dealing with complaints, it’s also about welcoming people, answering questions, and providing information. Imagine if a customer walked into your brick-and mortar restaurant or business, and wasn’t greeted by a hostess, server or receptionist asking if they could be of help. What do you think would happen? (Ummmm… Chances are the person would turn around and walk out!!!) The same thing happens online, people will come to your social accounts looking for information, and if they post a question, comment, complaint or compliment, you need to respond to them in a timely manner and with a positive and proactive message.
Educate your customers and let them educate you
In the food arena, e-cookbooks, recipe blogs, and video tutorials are all the rage. Tasty, the food tutorial king-pin of social media offers super speedy “Snack-sized videos and recipes you’ll want to try.” and with 1.3 million+ subscribers on YouTube, they are providing cooking education and recipe ideas to thousands of people every hour of every day. Take a lesson from Tasty when it comes to educating your customer base about your products and keep your content fun, vibrant and to the point. And be sure to encourage responses and participation from your viewers. Ask your followers to share their photos, recipes, videos and stories and get the conversation cooking!
Give e-commerce a try
When your business’ website is built on the WordPress platform, it’s super easy to add in a customizable WooCommerce online store. Whether you’re simply selling gift certificates in various dollar amounts or you have a variety of packaged products you want to sell, entering the online sales arena is worth trying. It’s estimated that 15% of Americans purchase food and beverage products online, and this number continues to grow as more consumers become interested in trying speciality products and artisanal creations. However, before you start selling online, it’s important to have a strong idea of what products you wish to sell, what the demand is, your pricing compared to competitors, and how you will handle promotion of your online store and product fulfillment.
Communicate your mission
Every business has a plan and a mission statement. What is yours? Whether you’re passionate about being family friendly, fair trade, non-GMO, value conscious, cage-free, grass-fed, locally grown or any other category in-between, make sure you are communicating that in all of your digital food marketing messages. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about their food and the who/how/where/when/why it is produced. Be honest, be upfront, and communicate your concerns, successes, and struggles to your customers through a blog, your social media photos and posts, and short videos. It’s better to expose problems you are currently experiencing (for example, the price for cage-free eggs has been increasing and you’re at a crossroads – either switch to conventional or start charging more for your breakfast omelettes, and you’re not sure what to do) than to hide the fact and hope that no one finds out.
Care About Waste
Several supermarket chains are now widely publicizing their donations to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens as food waste grows in importance. According to 2014’s award-winning documentary, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, 40 percent of food purchased in the United States each year ends up in the garbage, wasting over $165 billion dollars. What can your business do to reduce your food waste and garner some positive publicity and good-will in your community? From donating fruits and veggie scraps and spent grain for compost to offering packaged goods to regional food pantries, someone somewhere can benefit greatly from what you might throw in the trash.
Get cookin’ with kids!
In recent years, kids of all ages have become obsessed with cooking, and to support this popular activity, all sorts of cooking magazines, kid-focused recipe videos, kids cookbooks, cooking camps and cooking clubs have sprung up. What can your business do to take advantage of this trend that is growing in popularity? If you’re in the restaurant business, consider offering special “Kids Cooking Club” events on a Saturday morning or weeknight when you’re closed or business is typically slow. You can also make kid-themed e-cookbooks featuring some of your popular menu items that can be made at home. Remember, children are a driving force in what their parents buy at the grocery store and where families go out to eat together. When you help foster a child’s interest and knowledge in food and cooking, you’ve not only gained a loyal follower, but you’re also helping to develop the next generation of chefs, restaurant owners, food producers, and all-around “foodies” who care deeply about the work they do and the food they prepare for others.
Digital Food Marketing Trends: We Can Help
As you can see, there are plenty of interesting, fun, and innovative digital food marketing trends that your business can get started with. This list is a sample to get you started with thinking about the marketing trends that best align with your business model, its mission, and long term goals. If you’re brand new to the world of food and beverage digital marketing, don’t worry! Start small, pick one tactic that appears easy to integrate into your daily operations, and go from there. In no time, your digital food marketing efforts will become regular, routine habits in your kitchen and you’ll be luring new customers in with your mouth-watering photos, videos, stories and promotions. Bon appétit!