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How to capitalise on the opportunities currently available in the food industry

By Emma Milson, Junior account Mmanager

Stir PR


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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March 19, 2020 | 6 min read

The food industry is growing at an impressive rate – recent figures show that £230bn is spent on food and drink each year, and that figure is only set to grow. Which means big business for brands in the industry.

Stir PR look at the latest trends and challenges affecting the food and drinks industry.

However it’s a landscape that is constantly changing, and in order to capitalise on the potential opportunity, brands have to get under the skin of what is driving that evolution – namely the societal trends that are having an increasingly greater impact on the industry, and which are pushing consumers to make bolder, selective and ultimately, more informed choices when it comes to what they eat and drink.

Emotion is at the heart of each of these purchasing motivations, and it’s that which dictates whether it’s tossed in the trolley or stays on the shelf. So, since we’re all about stirring emotion, we thought we’d explore some of the trends shaping those emotions and the implications for the world of marketing.

Health and wellness

It’s no secret that as a society, we’re more preoccupied with our own health and wellness than ever before. But, far from being a consideration which is left behind in the gym, this trend is creeping into decisions around what we eat and drink.

Convenience is king and, paradoxically, fast food is no longer an ugly word when it comes to the health-conscious consumer.

Smart brands, which enable consumers to cut corners while still delivering the goodness they’re looking for are on the up, and far from being reserved for the gym’s resident muscleman, protein bars are taking the place of sugary treats. For brands that are able to deliver the full health and wellness package, get your message out there – far and wide. For those that can’t, maybe it’s time to think about innovation, or perhaps there’s an ingredient, process or service which can be leveraged to start playing within a new space.

The Gen Z effect

The generation we all saw as kids 20 years ago has grown up, and by 2021, they will make up 31% of the world’s population. It’s time to listen up and take note of what makes them tick. More than any other generation, they’re ad savvy – they know when they’re being marketed to, and want to be courted with clever tailored creative, not patronised with blanket advertising. Feeding into this is their steadfast views around gender stereotyping, which is where a lot of brands are slipping up, still falling back on outdated typecasts and marketing to a gender, rather than a person. They believe in conscious eating, but want to be able to indulge while doing so, which means that brands who can tick both these boxes – a la Greggs' vegan sausage roll – rank highly. Thinking about framing a product which has previously been considered as ‘naughty’ into something more positive opens up an entirely new market.


Sustainability is the buzzword on everyone’s lips, but for the food industry. It's a theme that is beginning to stretch beyond just packaging and throughout the whole supply chain. Consumers are more aware of the impact their purchasing decisions have on the environment. They’re willing to do their homework to find out more, but expect a reciprocal approach from the brand and want to see them doing their bit too. Having a positive story around what your brand is doing in this space is a great way of generating additional exposure – it doesn’t have to be a complete rewrite, but a packaging refresh or a small change in a recipe can make all the difference when it comes to consumer perceptions.


Long gone are the days when a product was chosen solely for its standout ability on a shelf, consumers are now purchasing products based on how they align with their values and beliefs. Having a standpoint which is communicated in a relatable way can give you a competitive edge, but ensuring it’s genuine and that it runs as a red thread throughout all your comms is crucial to not disaffecting your audience. Above all, balancing profit and purpose is key – it can’t happen overnight, but making small changes, from sample send outs to the energy consumption in your office reinforces your standpoint.

Social commerce

Our favourite brands are now not only available without us having to leave our homes, but also without us having to stray away from our preferred social media platform. Social influence is a massive driver in purchasing decisions and allows brands to sell direct to consumers. Lots to be positive about, but ensuring that this is done in an unobtrusive and authentic way remains a challenge. Brands who do achieve in this area, succeed in future proofing themselves, while gathering data and insight to improve customer experience and interaction with the brand.

The above represents just a handful of trends and influences which are shaping consumer motivations when it comes to purchasing. The list is endless, but what is certain, is that consumer expectations are higher than ever before when it comes to the brands they interact with.

The food industry is no exception to this. The challenge for marketers is how best to communicate their offering to this group of consumers whose purchasing decisions are, more than ever before, governed by their emotions and beliefs. If you’d like to find out more about how you could stir emotion with your brand, feel free to email us.

Emma Milsom, junior account manager at Stir PR.


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