timeIt was a decade ago that Time made “You” its Person of the Year.  Scoffed by many at the time, it has  proven prophetic. Time’s reason was the meteoric rise of user generated content citing Wikipedia, YouTube and MySpace (look it up kids). What they noticed was the seismic shift in communications that was not only reversing the marketing communications funnel, but blowing it up entirely.

Ten years later we see evidence everywhere of this rise in the voice of consumers, perhaps nowhere more than in our food system. More natural and humanely raised meats, corporate pledges for items like cage-free eggs and antibiotic-free meats, and rises in organic food sales and foods with less artificial ingredients.

General Mills CEO describes it as a “consumer first” approach. Here at PadillaCRT we describe it as a “table to farm” approach that starts with the consumer. It is not unlike what we have seen in food systems where consumer demand is driving change that may never have taken place on its own. For years we have looked at consumer spending as their voice, but that has limited innovation to streamlining processes, and on product and flavor innovation. With this rising consumer voice amplified by technology, change has been pushed back up the supply chain. 

Ten years ago we may have seen a corporation give lip service to consumer concerns by issuing statements on future sourcing guidelines, but when producers adopted these changes those same corporations did not want to pay the surcharge required to cover the costs of these improvements. Consequently there was little incentive for producers to innovate. In today’s age of greater transparency and accountability we are seeing a different story.

chickensMajor supermarket and restaurant chains, along with food manufacturers are all demanding more of their suppliers in response to this new consumer attitude. In the case of General Mills, they are acquiring emerging brands and providing resources to scale operations while allowing them to operate with a level of autonomy to not disrupt what made them appealing to consumers. For the major supermarket and restaurant chains, they are chasing the darling brands like Panera and Whole Foods by rewriting sourcing guidelines. Walmart is looking to grow organic and local sourcing, while McDonald’s is moving the industry to raise chickens without antibiotics and cage-free eggs on a scale never imagined.

As we move into 2017, combatting food waste will be a major initiative. Fueled by efforts from the likes of Dan Barber and Massimo Bottura, consumers are increasingly aware of the issue. In the U.S. it is estimated up to 40% of all food, and 50% of produce is wasted.  Food manufacturers have begun addressing this in two primary ways. First is to find a use for production byproducts. Baby carrots are the classic example when Mike Yurosek found an alternate use for the 400 tons of carrots he was discarding daily on the packing line. Packaging innovation that keeps food longer has also helped consumers at home.

At PadillaCRT we have also changed our approach to consumers. Moving from demographic to behavioral targeting, we are zeroing in on the consumer and what they care about. It takes a deeper dive into what makes them tick and what attracts them to products. In crafting marketing strategies around these ideas, we are better able to develop and target messaging that feels more personal and connects with the heart and mind of our primary audience, you.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a joyful new year.