27 January 2017
By Tetra Pak Editorial Team
 

A photo posted by JUST water (@just) on

In today’s highly competitive food and beverage market, forging and sustaining a personal connection with consumers is increasingly complex. Consumers interact with brands as if they were people, and will want to build on these relationships to ensure that their purchasing power continues to support brands reflective of their own taste, ethics and beliefs.
 
Thus 2017 is the year that the bar for authenticity will be raised, putting brands in the hot seat to deliver a richer consumer experience through packaging, messaging and social engagement. Here are the trends we believe will help build brand loyalty and affect purchasing behavior in 2017, and a few companies already delivering on them:
 
Focus on what’s inside the outside
 
Packages’ physical design, down to their raw materials, is becoming part of the consumer experience. Just ask newly launched water companies JUST, Flow and Rethink. All offer water in a paperboard carton made chiefly of renewable materials, and tout packaging as a key differentiator. JUST specifies that its cartons are made up of 54 percent paper from FSC®-certified forests and 28 percent plant-based plastic; Rethink draws attention to its package through the hashtag #unbottledrevolution; and Flow underscores the eco-friendliness of its box by stating that it uses “just enough material to keep [our] package stable.” Each instills a real sense of deep concern and care for the environment, an inviting prospect to those who share the same commitment to sustainability.

As we’ve written here before, the market for sustainability remains a growing one: 84 percent of consumers globally say they seek out responsible products whenever possible, according to the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study. The same survey also reveals that 90 percent of consumers would switch brands to one associated with a social or environmental cause – making the next trend all the more important.
 

A photo posted by Pacific Foods (@pacificfoods) on


Keep up the cause-driven storytelling

Given the above statistic revealing that almost everyone would change allegiances for a brand more aligned with their ethics and beliefs, there is an opportunity for brands to clearly communicate the causes they support, what goals they’ve set and how they are meeting them. This dialogue can be had on packages, blogs and websites – and even in person.

Last fall, Pacific Foods launched its Nourish Every Body Tour with stops across the Pacific Northwest at road races, supermarkets, museums and other high-traffic locations to meet fans, give them a complimentary taste of its bone broth, oatmeal and non-dairy beverages, and share how consumers can help fight food insecurity in their neighborhoods. This live extension of its online campaign, #NourishEveryBody (in which the brand donated a meal to a family in need for every meal made with Pacific Foods’ products, photographed and uploaded to social media with the campaign hashtag), helped people connect with the brand on a personal level. By talking to people about the substance and real work to be done behind its cause, Pacific Foods was able to empower its consumers and prospects to not only tag the brand on social, but also to become an active part of the solution.
 

A photo posted by Fawen Drinkable Soup (@fawensoup) on

 
Be a fun dining companion

Social media continues to be an ideal platform for direct connection with consumers. The fact that many people scroll through their social feeds at mealtimes – more than half of Millennials “tweet and eat,” according to the Hartman Group – certainly gives food and beverage brands an advantage over other companies unrelated to eating and drinking. Fawen, a drinkable soup company, smartly fills its social channels with images related to nutrition and fitness to position itself as a healthy lifestyle brand, not just as 
a food company. Its Instagram feed features recipes using its products and pictures of its soups at a Soulcycle studio, promoting the idea of Fawen as an ingredient to play with in the kitchen and as a post-workout treat, respectively. On Facebook, the brand posted a workout “goal” picture shortly after New Year’s Day, encouraging consumers to adhere to their exercise resolutions and think of Fawen as a companion in meeting them through pairing the image with a product giveaway. The more brands genuinely insert themselves in various aspects of people’s lives, the more people will be drawn to them as buyers and advocates.

By tripling down on authentically connecting with consumers through environmentally sound packaging choices, thoughtful, honest conversations on shared causes and engaging social content, brands can foster greater brand loyalty with current customers and win over new fans, too.
 

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