Consumers more likely to trust iconic brands, but are open to innovative startups, survey shows

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Related tags: Brand

Consumers are more likely to trust iconic brands from large corporations with long track records of consistent performance, but younger, smaller companies can edge out Big Food with meaningful innovation and positive, direct consumer engagement online, suggests new market research from BrandSpark International.

The consumer research firm’s annual American Shopper study​ with more than 38,000 shoppers this year placed Big Food brands such as Betty Crocker, WonderBread, Kellogg’s, Kraft and Hershey’s at the top of the list for most trusted baking products in bread, cereal, cheese and chocolate respectively. Likewise, the title of most trusted brand went to heavy-hitters Foglers for coffee, DiGiorno for frozen pizza, Breyers for ice cream, Smucker’s for jam, Heinz for ketchup, Tropicana for juice, Jif for peanut butter, Barilla for pasta and Hellmann’s for mayonnaise. Campbell’s also takes home the title for soup, as does Coca-Cola for soft drink and McCormick for seasoning.

But it also revealed a few relatively young major brands worked their way into the most trusted spot for their categories, including Monster for energy drinks and Silk for non-dairy milk, primarily by offering innovation to fill unmet needs, expanding their category or capturing a strong share of voice in market, Robert Levy, president and CEO of BrandSpark International told FoodNavigator-USA.

He explained earning consumer’s trust, which mostly is based on positive past experiences with a brand, is key for securing future purchases.

For example, 66% of shoppers say they stick to their preferred brand name for butter, yogurt and hot sauce. This climbed to 75% for shoppers of baby and children’s products. And overall, 67% said they try to purchase their most trusted brand names on sale rather than buy generic or store brand versions.

This doesn’t mean that Americans don’t want to try new products, Levy said. On the contrary, he noted, 75% of American shoppers say they like trying new products, but 68% say they like it when those new products come from brands they already know and trust.

This loyalty to iconic brands is eroding though with 43% of American shoppers saying they are less brand loyal than they were a few years ago. This shift is making space for new companies and brands to earn consumers’ trust and dollars.

“Younger brands can disrupt categories where major, meaningful innovation has been absent, and take advantage when larger players allow their product offerings to fall behind more innovative competitors,”​ Levy said, explaining that “market leaders may not want to disrupt their own categories, thereby leaving that opportunity to new players.”

To take advantage of this opportunity, startups need to offer a compelling reason to try a new brand, such as an unmet need. Then, “if the experience lives up to the promise, brands will gradually grow their own base of trusting shoppers,”​ he said.

Magnify consumer conversations

Another opportunity for startups to build trust is by fostering and magnifying positive consumer conversations about their products online, Levy said.

Sixty-five percent of American shoppers say they regularly search for consumer reviews when considering purchases and are more likely to purchase products when they can find recommendations from other consumers,”​ Levy said. He added “95% of those who reference online reviews say they are doing so as often or more often than just one year ago.”

Levy also emphasized that fostering consumer voice is more challenging for iconic brands.

“Major brands need to ensure they don’t get complacent and continue to listen to the consumer and ensure their products are fulfilling consumer needs as well as the best newer players. Sometimes this can be done by maintaining a strong core product, like Heinz ketchup or Coca-Cola, but even those dominant brands will remain on guard to maintain their edge,” ​he said.

Respond to problems quickly

He also advised all companies to elevate consumers’ level of trust in them by responding to problems quickly, transparently and in a way that shoppers perceive as fair and ethical. This will take different forms for different consumers, he added.

“While some shoppers will look for social equity and equal treatment of all consumers, or support of other meaningful causes, others will look foremost for the respect for the consumer they perceive in a fair consistent price,”​ he said.

Tailor messages to generate trust

Finally, he advises companies of all sizes to target marketing rather than opting for general mass communication, which “is becoming less relevant.”

He explained that targeted messages more effectively address consumers’ unique concerns and will, therefore, “create the emotional response that sets a foundation for deeper level of trust.”

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