Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - North AmericaEU edition | APAC edition

News > Manufacturers

Read more breaking news



Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Clean label 2.0 and other top marketing strategies for natural products

By Elizabeth Crawford

Last updated on 24-Mar-2017 at 14:40 GMT2017-03-24T14:40:37Z

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Top marketing strategies for natural products
Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Top marketing strategies for natural products
Loading the player...

When it comes to marketing products in the natural channel it seems like there are as many strategies as there are products; but just like how not all products resonate with all consumers, not all marketing strategies do either. 

At Natural Products Expo West in California this month, several major marketing trends stood out, including promoting clean labels, using free-from claims and plastering packages with a plethora of certification seals and badges that cover the gamut of issues. Walking the show floor it also was hard not to bump into bloggers, social media influencers and even a few lower-level celebrities who were there to promote brands – which really underscores the growing marketing power these groups have.

But how effective are these strategies at setting brands apart from the pack – especially if ostensibly everyone is using them?

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast, Jeff Hilton, the chief marketing officer and co-founder of BrandHive, discusses the benefits and shortcomings of these and other popular marketing trends used in the natural channel.

First on the docket is the clean label trend, which began several years ago as a movement to simplify products and remove unnecessary or undesirable ingredients, such as artificial colors and flavors. But over time, this trend has grown to include much more and continues to evolve so that industry is now on the cusp of what Hilton calls clean label 2.0.

Currently, “consumers are interested in what we call clean, but what they would call simple, renewable, more visible or transparent,” Hilton said. He explains that this demand in part grew out of consumers’ rising awareness about health and prevention and their ability to track their progress with wearable devices.

“All these things combined, in my mind, presents what I call consumer 2.0, which is a consumer who is really engaged and really informed, but totally confused and overwhelmed,” Hilton said. As a result, they are looking for products that are simple and made from ingredients that can be found in their kitchens.

“We as marketers have to translate that consumer language and need into what our products can deliver on and that is where the connection happens, and that is the connection that I don’t think is totally happening at this point,” he said.

The emergence of Clean 2.0

This focus on the ingredient deck is what Hilton calls Clean 1.0, and while these demands are not going away they are quickly dissolving as points of differentiation from a marketing perspective, and instead becoming attributes that are simply expected, especially by millennials and younger generations.

And as this happens, Hilton says, a Clean 2.0 is emerging.

“I think 2.0 clean is going to have much more to do with the process leading up to the sourcing behind the label. So, you have got the label and the simplicity and I think consumers’ antennas are up on that, but I think the whole story of fair label, fair trade … is what clean label 2.0 will look like,” he said.

The increasing role of users to promote brands

As consumer marketing demands evolve, Hilton says so too must manufacturers’ techniques for delivering that information. He says that marketers can’t simply tell consumers what to believe and expect them to blindly follow. Instead, they need to forge a stronger connection with consumers to the point that they will actually advocate for the brand.

“The paradigm has shifted. Consumers are getting their information from user generated content, I call it. It is things they read from peers,” or on websites such as Amazon that feature user reviews, he said.

“User generated content is what it is all about. People want to hear about what people are doing who don’t have a vested interested in the brand,” he explained.

This trend significantly diminishes the role of spokespeople, who consumers might view as a “paid shill” that does not bring credibility to the brand, he added.

Micro-marketing is the future

Tapping bloggers and micro-influencers also allows companies to more easily position products to meet the specific needs of different sub-populations, which Hilton says is critical for gaining mass market appeal.

“You can’t just take one product and say, ‘It is for everybody! What do you think? It does all these things!’ because millennials will use the same product for different reasons” than a baby boomer, he said.

As such, Hilton explained that he increasingly advises clients to micro-market. “Match a product with a particular segment and not try to appeal to everybody because I think fall in the cracks now adays when you try to talk to everybody because you don’t talk to anybody,” he said. “Segmentation is the name of the game today. It is matching that product with that audience.”

How useful are certifications?

Finally, Hilton talked about another marketing trend that is so pervasive that it is hard to ignore, but also hard to judge in terms of efficacy. And that is certifications and all the tiny icons that come with them that often line the front and sides of product packages.

“There is worth in them, but putting 20 symbols on your website, I think that brands are smarter to use fewer certifications and education about what the mean and what they are,” he said, noting that even with a certification as popular and prevalent as for non-GMO doesn’t mean consumers understand what genetic modification is, let alone what it means to be free from it.

“The symbols have limited value unless you illustrate what that means to the consumer,” which can be done easily on the product website or on social media, he said.

Ultimately, Hilton says, the key takeaway from all these marketing trends is that manufacturers cannot become stuck in how they communicate with consumers. The consumer is constantly evolving and so too must the messages manufacturers present and the way they tell their stories.

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How brands can defend against private label

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How brands can defend their shelf-space against encroaching private label

The Great Recession of 2008 may be long over, but the penny-pinching it inspired...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How to refine a pitch

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How to refine a pitch to woo investors and score retail distribution

Whether it is trying to raise money, build brand awareness or convince a buyer...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The rise of high pressure processing

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The rise and potential of high pressure processing for fresh, clean products

In general, talking about how a food or beverage is processed is not a...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Ads that show cooking with kids are relatable

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Tweaking ads to show cooking with kids makes brands relatable

Images of mom preparing dinner alone in the kitchen for her busy family have...

Soup-to-Nuts podcast: The return of consumers to home kitchens

Soup-to-Nuts podcast: The opportunities & challenges of consumers' return to home kitchens

Despite continued pressure from the on-the-go lifestyles that dominate today’s culture and have fueled...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Key strategies for innovation from Kraft Heinz

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Key strategies for innovation & renovation from Kraft Heinz

A commonly held perception of the ongoing renaissance in the food and beverage industry...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What does it take to win a pitch slam?

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What does it take to win a pitch slam?

For time-strapped entrepreneurs who are brave enough to take the stage, competing in pitch-slams...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Can duck be a dark horse of animal proteins?

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Can duck become the dark horse of animal proteins?

When it comes to eating meat in the US, chicken, without a doubt, is...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The business case for kosher certification

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The business case for kosher certification

Ethical claims on food and beverages sold in the US are almost as ubiquitous...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Hemp is overcoming hurdles to become superfood

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How hemp is overcoming hurdles to become the next superfood star

Nutrition-packed, environmentally sustainable and already notoriously well-known – although partly for the wrong reasons...

As soda sales fall, kombucha rises

As soda sales fall, kombucha rises

Tumbling soda sales have opened the door to the mainstream market for a variety...

Bonafide Provisions expands bone broth's appeal with Drinkable Veggies

Bonafide Provisions expands the reach and appeal of bone broth with Drinkable Veggies

As recently as two years ago, bone broth was virtually unheard of by the...

Defining dietary fiber at the 2017 IFT show

VIDEO: Should we define dietary fiber on the basis of what it is or what it does?

Which ingredients should be classified as dietary fibers and why? Elaine Watson caught up...

Sugar Reduction: What’s next? At IFT, companies weigh in

How will added sugar labeling change the market? At IFT, companies weigh in

The controversial requirement to list added sugar on the nutrition facts panel has divided...

Corbion's trans fat-free emulsifiers allow manufacturers to 're-engineer' cakes

Corbion's trans fat-free emulsifiers allow manufacturers to 're-engineer' cakes

"The conversion away from partially hydrogenated oils is really an opportunity to re-engineer cakes...

Cargill R&D VP talks ‘processed’ food, EverSweet, at IFT 2017

VIDEO: Cargill R&D VP talks ‘processed’ food: ‘All food is made of chemicals’

To many consumers, ‘processed food’ is just another term for ‘junk food.’ It’s hard...

Entomo Farms talks edible insects at IFT 2017

Entomo Farms: 'We’re one of the most recognized [edible insect] brands across the world now'

Canadian bug powder supplier Entomo Farms is still doing most of its business with...

Clean meat labeling and regulation in focus at IFT 2017

VIDEO: Will we need a new regulatory framework for clean (cultured) meat?

Producing ‘clean’ meat by culturing cells – instead of raising or slaughtering animals -...

IFT 2017 green banana flour in focus

VIDEO: ‘Green banana flour has the functionality of a starch and the label of a fruit…’

One product that generated quite a buzz at the IFT show this year was...

Retail competition heats up as consumers seek more ethnic products

Competition among retailers heats up as consumers seek more diverse, ethnic products

Consumer demand for products that are authentic and ethnic is not only prompting brand...

Key Industry Events