Who took a bite out of Kraft? Independent food and drink producers, that’s who

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By now, you’ll probably have seen the news surrounding Kraft Heinz, their 27% drop in stock, and the fact they’re writing down their Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands by £11.8bn. Albeit a balance sheet number, it’s pretty significant when you consider the investment they make in advertising, publicity and retail activation.

Healthy, natural, authentic

What’s interesting is how Kraft Heinz saw their merger as a way of bettering financial performance, because it consolidates their operations and saves money. The long term disease isn’t the factory, or the brand. It’s the products, because processed foods are — quite simply — less desirable. The Kraft Heinz brands are big and strong enough to have sustained quite an aggressive product innovation programme over the years, which could have suitably diversified their portfolio. Kraft did it with Philadelphia. Even McDonald’s have managed to successfully innovate their food and restaurant experience in line with evolving consumer preferences.

It’s all good

This is good news for independent food and drink brands. Not only do they naturally tap into the zeitgeist, they’re the ones driving the change. But for big brands, it’s death by a thousand cuts. As consumers look to shop local, indie brands look to source local. Emerging online marketplaces and new platforms means consumers can stumble on independent brands continually. Advocacy drives trial, and with Amazon set to enter the food and drink space, it definitely won’t be long before they’re dominating the direct channel to market.

Who’s doing it well?

This month we’re really loving Dr. Will’s ethical condiments. Their brand is perfectly formed and their marketing is on point. They’ve got an interesting brand story that resonates with consumers, and it’s topped off with sugar free bbq sauce, so what’s not to love? We’ve got their products sat in our agency kitchen right now. It’s new, it’s relevant, it tastes great, and it says something about the people we are.

How to do it:

Go native: Particularly when seeking out sampling opportunities. Use digital platforms to grow and engage your communities, and encourage attendance and sampling at local events. We recently launched Chang Beer’s Sensory Trails, a programme designed to inspire deep engagement with smaller targeted groups of influencers, who in turn drive advocacy — amplifying the brand.

Growth hack: Take the opportunity to build your brand discreetly, through highly engaged communities. For this to work you need a sound brand strategy, a great story to tell and loads of content.

Keep it real: Consumers want to connect with brands that are authentic, and be part of the story themselves. House of Peroni, Martini and other ‘exclusivity’ brands are struggling, because they’re not letting people in. While smaller accessible brands positioned well are very much open for business.

So, whatever you do, make sure you’re tapping into the consumer psyche, as they continue on the hunt for provenance, authenticity and sustainability. It’s up to you to make every opportunity count.

Saman Mansourpour is managing director of AgencyUK

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