Consumer tastes change over time. Sometimes literally. Food and Beverage PR has to shift along with it, or brands that were once all the rage will fade away.
Sometimes, an influx of options can create a massive sea change in the marketplace. Such is the case for soup brands. Canned soup has been a staple in American households for a century, and at that time, Campbell’s has been the brand to carry the market. But today’s younger consumers are more likely to wear a graphic of a can, courtesy of Andy Warhol, on a t-shirt than they are to stock up on the red-and-white labeled can of soup. Millennials want less processed foods and preservatives, and other brands have flooded the market with “fresher” canned alternatives. Faced with near-flat sales for the better part of the past decade, Campbell’s is shifting its marketing efforts to its organic lines.
Millennials need only ask their parents and older siblings, and they will all share stories about how Jell-O was a staple snack in their childhood. From the fruit varieties to the puddings, Jell-O was a nearly ubiquitous American kid favorite. Not so much anymore. There are simply too many other items that are pre-prepared and marketed as “healthier.” Jell-O slowly transitioned from being a kid’s treat to being the thing grandma brings over for holiday dinner. For Jell-O to make a comeback, the brand needs to shift its perceived identity in the marketplace.
Speaking of brands that need to shift perceptions to become popular again, Chef Boyardee had fallen out of fashion. The brand no longer represents the company when it was founded by Mr. Boiardi back in 1928. Shifting consumer tastes have led to slumping sales, as consumers are consistently choosing “fresher” over “convenient.” Con Agra, which owns the brand, recognizes this, and they are proactive, updating recipes and using high-quality ingredients in the hopes of winning back customers who feel they have “grown out of” what’s perceived as a cheaply made kids’ pasta for busy moms or college students.
There was a time when millions of American kids dreamed of being featured on a Wheaties box. TV commercials featuring star athletes encouraged kids to “eat your Wheaties,” implying that, if they did, they might achieve greatness in athletic contests. Those kids are grown now, and they’re not really interested in eating their Wheaties. Millennials want food they can eat on the go, so breakfast bars and granola are trending, as are burritos and other heat and eat fare from coffee shops. Meanwhile, a big orange box of flakes sits on the shelf.
Some people might be surprised to see the King of Beers on this list, but the numbers are what they are. Bud has fallen from the top spot in domestic beers sales thanks to a combination of new varieties and trends toward different beer styles. Between microbrews, craft brews, and IPAs, Budweiser has struggled to keep up with changing tastes and an increasingly competitive market.
Each of these brands has an opportunity to review the market and shift toward consumer trends, or they can dial harder into their remaining core fan base and focus on encouraging them to buy more than they currently are. How successful these choices will depend on many factors, but the PR component is vital to the viability of either.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5wpr, a leading food and beverage PR agency.
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