With consumers becoming ever more aware of their health, many operators are considering how best to adapt their marketing campaigns to reflect the wellbeing trend. In association with Speed, The Caterer held a roundtable to discover the best strategies. Janie Manzoori-Stamford reports
There has been a lot of talk about health and wellbeing. Has that been top of the agenda this year and how has that influenced your marketing strategy?
Sophie Heath (SH): Health and wellbeing is part of the heritage of Go Faster Food, but we did do a lot of product development around that last year. For example, we put rice protein into two of our six varieties of energy balls; we chose that because it is plant-based rather than whey protein, which would not be vegan. In terms of labelling, we brought our vegan claims to the forefront by putting ‘vegan-friendly' on the front of packs, a term we chose so it wouldn't alienate people who aren't vegan. "Vegan friendly" or "plant-based" labels are for people who are aware of the environment, their health, wanting to do good and wanting to eat less meat. Being a bit softer on the claims is probably more attractive to more people.
Imogen Waite (IW): We focus on two different areas. One is gluten-free, and with Mexican food that's massive. We took the decision to make our new restaurant completely gluten-free, which shows what a big trend we feel that is and, for us, it's worth making that decision. OK, we can't do burritos in our new restaurant, which are quite good business in one of our other sites, but we are hopefully going to have that publicity around being entirely gluten-free and that assurance for people. It's a massive market.
â¨Has the health agenda made it to all ends of the foodservice industry?
Celine Leslie (CL): At Gravetye, we have an emerging market base that is very health-conscious and we have a very traditional clientele that still come. With Michelin-star-level food, we're having to keep everyone happy and that's been a real challenge over the past couple of years.
In some ways it's easier for us because we grow most of what we supply. We've got a two-acre kitchen garden, polytunnels, glass houses - you name it. It totally drives our chef George Blogg's menus. The message is constantly there. The first thing we talk about on our menu is time and place, because we serve what is at its best at that point in time. You won't get strawberries all year round at Gravetye.
But with a luxury hotel, people's expectations are very high and some people want a strawberry in November. It's a difficult balance to achieve, but we're getting there.
The health agenda is tricky. We're a luxury place and a lot of people come for a special occasion. They're not looking to be healthy; they want to go all out. We're talking about slightly changing our menus to offer more choice. That way if people only want two courses, they can. But if they want to do the seven-course tasting menu, they can.
Matt Smith (MS): We're coming at it from almost the opposite end of the market. People understand that our products - crisps, snacks, pork scratchings - are a treat. Five years ago, health in our category might have been no artificial colours or flavourings, or about salt or fat. Now we've gone into allergens, which has always been important in pre-packaged products, and more.
In the food game, taste is king. We're in treats and our challenge is that people are not prepared to compromise taste for a healthy product. How do you deliver taste and a healthier product and how do you satisfy a much broader spectrum of demands and needs? How many people are truly coeliac and how many people are just choosing to eat gluten-free just because they feel it's a better solution? We need to respond to that through labelling and product development.
If you can produce as good a product without gluten as with, why wouldn't you?
SH: It's more about having options. I love to eat healthily - it makes me feel great - but I've just done a course on intuitive eating and it's about being mindful about what you eat and enjoying food. I love crisps and I will always enjoy them on a Friday night with a glass of wine. Sales of crisps are undoubtedly going to reduce, but I think there's still a place for more indulgent options. It's about how you market it.
â¨Is intuitive eating and a growing interest in offers that support mental wellbeing a trend that is influencing your operation?
IW: I would say mental health is something that we have to deal with from an HR perspective more than anything else. It doesn't really affect customers coming to our restaurants. It's too hedonistic an experience to be related to mindfulness. But we definitely need to think about our staff being more mindful and we engage quite a lot with that through one-on-one coaching and support.
SH: I do think that it will be in the communications, such as social media, of a lot more companies that sell food. Our founder Kate [Percy] is a busy entrepreneur and I'm always telling her she needs to write on Instagram about how she copes with being so busy and still maintaining a healthy balance by posting about going for walks at lunchtime to clear her head, for example. It's tapping into mindfulness from a business point of view as opposed to suggesting that eating our energy balls will do X, Y and Z.
Sarah Firth (SF): It's the human story. We're seeing a lot of that with the brands we work with. We talk about emotional storytelling, but what we're really saying is put human beings front and centre. In this increasingly technological world, we respond more and more to stories to which we can relate. That's hugely compelling for any brand.
What trends have you identified beyond â¨the health and wellness agenda?
Austen Donnellan (AD): One of the biggest trends that we're seeing across food, drink and hospitality is around Britishness, whether you're a Remainer or a Leaver. We have seen through the report and tracking studies that on both sides of the political debate there are warmer feelings towards British brands, though for slightly differing reasons. They both see the value in British brands. Whichever sector you're in, is there a way to leverage that? Because it's a long-term trend that we're seeing more and more.
How can technology help operators get the most out of hospitality and food and drink trends?
Richard Carter (RC): One of the cool things that we're going to be launching later this year is augmented reality food ordering. It offers customers the ability to see exactly what menu items look like. This insatiable desire for more data about the product is being translated to the greatest extent of information we can provide, both digitally and visually, as well as the ability to share socially.
We've also got a fun piece of functionality that internally we're calling peacocking. It enables you to hold up your device and, with the permission of the restaurant and other diners, see what other tables are ordering and gift products to other tables.
CL: It's interesting to talk about people wanting more information because within fine dining and Michelin-starred restaurants it's definitely a trend to have less information on menus. I don't think that's driven by the customer, but rather the industry and I don't know if it's necessarily a good thing.
Some two- and even one-Michelin-starred restaurants will just have the cut of meat and maybe 'chestnut' and 'potato' written underneath. That's it. You actually have no real idea of what you're getting. I'm not so keen on that and I don't know why this is the route that fine dining is going down.
What other information do customers want beyond what's on the menu?
Hayley Conick (HC): I think consumers want to know more about the places that they're purchasing from, such as sustainability information, what they're doing with food waste. Consumers say they want this stuff. But I still have an open question around the extent to which they're actually willing to change behaviours. Ask any group and of course they'd rather shop more sustainably. But while 45% of UK consumers are more concerned about the environmental impact of their food and drink habits, just 29% have changed the way that they consume or purchase food and drink as a result.
That means there's 16% that are more concerned in the last 12 months, but haven't changed their behaviour. Maybe they're just the honest ones.
MS: There are three approaches. One: if a customer can do it without any cost or compromise to them, then why wouldn't they? Two: there's encouraging people to do it, like the government's five-a-day scheme, which actually doesn't work very well. Some people do it, but it is a relatively small number. Three: regulation, where essentially they're forced to do it.
The reality is the ones that work are at either end of the spectrum, where it can be done without personal penalty or it just has to be done. The one in the middle requires genuine philanthropy from consumers who ultimately just want to get on with their lives.
Cat Jennings (CJ): Reward is going to drive a lot of that, such as getting a discount on your coffee if you bring in your own coffee cup. There's a café chain that gives you a bucket to go out and pick up and fill with trash to get a free meal. The younger generations who are savvy on social media will be just as savvy around this. They'll be both willing to change their behaviour and pay more for it.
Should you be looking at more reactionary trends or continue with your core values when it comes to branding?
CJ: There seems to be more awareness that if you don't have a mission or a value set, or you're not communicating that, then that's a miss. Everyone knows that's a really important marketing tactic that you need to have and you need to be practicing what you preach. But you also need to be looking at trends too and thinking about your value system, how that relates to some of the trends that are happening and how you can relay that unique selling point. I don't think it's one or the other. You need to be doing both.
Highlights from the Speed and Brayleino Food & Drink Report
Britishness is important
For brands that have a genuine claim to it, now is the time to capitalise on their British ingredients or heritage, with consumers on both sides of the Brexit divide actively seeking out British products.
Moderation is the new cool
On average, people are more health-conscious than ever. The rise of trends like free-from, no- and low-alcohol drinks and dietary principles like veganism reflect this continuing trend.
Brexit pressure, Brexit opportunity
Consumer pessimism about the impact Brexit will have on prices is tempered in some areas by expectations that it will boost product quality. And, for brands, a more difficult trading environment for EU products in the UK may present opportunities.
The evils of plastic
BBC's Blue Planet II catalysed an already swelling anti-plastic tide, and brands would do well to look at how their packaging can be made more environmentally sustainable before losing ground to competitors that do.
Your audience is not like you
The language and terminology we often use as marketers holds little meaning to most consumers. Understand what's important to your consumers and communicate in simple, regionally relevant messages.
About our sponsor: Speed
Speed is a full-service PR and communications agency, passionate about the power of communication to help brands and businesses change their world. Combining business brains with creative muscle, it's redefining PR in how it helps clients respond to constant changes in the way consumers and business customers consume content and connect with brands.
Future food forecasting is a critical part of the agency's approach for all its food and drink clients, and thanks to its specialist team they are always one step ahead. A quarterly menu of food and drink trends forms a springboard for creative content to drive cut-through and coverage. The agency helps its clients have a strong point of view and guides them to deliver it in memorable and engaging ways.
To find out how their team of communications experts can help you navigate any of the opportunities raised in this article or to receive the 2019 trends report, which is currently being produced, please contact Cat Jennings at email@example.com
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