Being a food and beverage brand is a bit of a blessing and a curse.
The blessing? Everyone’s gotta eat and drink, so to a certain extent, demand will never diminish. Food and beverage retail sales will reach an estimated $1.23 trillion in 2022, and that figure is expected to grow to $1.37 trillion by 2026.
The curse? Well, it just might be a four-curse meal:
To keep your brand in the conversation, it’s more important than ever to stay up to date on all the latest food and beverage marketing trends.
Hungry for more? Here are four trends to watch as you shape the advertising strategy for your food and beverage brand(s).
According to the Institute of Food Technologists, inflation is driving Gen Z and millennial consumers back to the kitchen—six in 10 people age 25-34 are cooking more dinners at home than last year—and they want their meals easy and economical, healthy, at times plant-based, and sometimes saucy and spicy (perhaps experimenting with recipes to replicate the dining-out experience). Now, each of those could be a fully baked trend in and of itself (and we’ll slice into the “healthy” aspect more shortly), but the big takeaway here is that higher-priced food and restaurant staffing shortages have made cooking at home more attractive. Online research behaviors reflect this, too: searches for “air fryers” have remained above pre-pandemic levels, and interest in “meal kits” and related phrases continues to trend.
And as we gather more often in each other’s homes, charcuterie boards are taking center stage. From how-to searches to visual inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram, folks are showing more online interest in the self-serve party trays and the bites they host, to the point where global grocer Aldi has created a Charcuterie Board (yes, those were capital letters—we’re talking about a board of directors made up of seven gourmet food and wine enthusiasts) to track food and beverage grazing trends.
To appeal to the at-home chef, food marketers can benefit from showing how easy it is to cook with their ingredients (and maybe even offer some 30-minute quick-prep recipes), how cost-effective their options are, and how yummy the plated product appears on the dinner table.
The trend of cooking at home requires food from the grocery store, but many consumers are opting to buy their groceries from the comfort of their own homes: e-commerce will make up more than 10% of grocery sales in 2023, lifting Instacart’s reputation and Walmart’s digital revenue, and “click-and-collect” grocery sales are forecasted to rise steadily as a share of that e-commerce. And for those who want to skip cooking altogether, intermediary delivery services (think GrubHub or DoorDash) are poised to grow in the next half-decade, too.
Even Prime Day in July 2022 saw food and grocery purchases grow 12% year over year, the third highest category growth of the year for the annual online megasale.
Meal kits also fit into this category, and although the post-pandemic near-term saw users drop their subscriptions, the market outlook sees meal kits growing from a $6.9 billion industry in 2021 to more than $10 billion in 2024, with one forward-thinking service working with dietitians to develop meal plans aimed at helping patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease manage their health.
Investing in your digital presence can help your brand(s) stand out—or, at least, keep up—in this increasingly competitive space. The flexibility and nimble nature of programmatic advertising can help you navigate today’s unpredictable market, and it can put your most valuable messages in front of your most valuable customers in their true moment of need. And as consumers spend more of their food and beverage budget via digital channels, combined with the fragmented and complex nature of the digital space, brands can also benefit from investing in digital advertising automation tools to streamline processes, keep up with the industry’s ad spend trajectory, and navigate today’s unpredictable market.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic got many of us to pay more attention to our health. This has a significant impact on food and beverage brands, as consumers are thinking about how to take better care of themselves via their diets.
There are myriad bite-sized trends inside the larger “health” trajectory, including:
All in all, the industry has plenty of lanes to swim in to meet consumers’ health demands!
Marketers in food and beverage can take this opportunity to toot their own horns (the buzzword here is “transparency”) in their advertising and product packaging. Maintaining presence, relevance, and helpfulness in a conscious consumer’s journey is key, and following up with advertising to close the sales loop can help put your healthiest options in their fridges and pantries.
The perception of “scarcity” is one of those trusty marketing tactics that generates sales because it plays into people’s fear of missing out—or, as we’ve come to know it, FOMO. From hybrid foods to celebrity-curated meals, limited-time offers (or LTOs) are re-energizing brands and causing curious consumers to spend before the chance slips through their fingers.
The combo of limited-time menu items and influencer marketing has been on display on fast-food menus for a while now: McDonald’s Travis Scott combo boosted declining US sales at the Golden Arches in 2020 and inspired more partnerships like Justin Bieber and Tim Hortons, Megan Thee Stallion and Popeye’s, and Charli D’Amelio and Dunkin’. These quick-service restaurants see their marketing amplified by social media word of mouth, and they benefit when customers download mobile apps that make ordering and paying faster and in-app communications possible.
Other examples of limited-time offers include merging flavors or even food items (how did it take this long to invent pretzel beer?!), experiential events, social media challenges (bet you can eat just #OneChip), and exclusive partnerships (C-store/pizza chain Casey’s partnered with Busch Light on a beer cheese pizza and Mountain Dew on an exclusive fruity flavor mix).
Even if these ambitious moves aren’t in your meal plan, food and bev brands have plenty of ways to generate excitement and/or curiosity—or even coordinate with product teams to create and introduce a limited-edition shock flavor—for a fun and buzzworthy way to showcase your brand and boost sales.
(And in a world where actual scarcity brought about by supply chain issues is very real and ongoing, maintaining advertising levels can help you stay top of mind, expand your reach, show off a bit, and maybe recruit from the talent pool created by the Great Resignation.)
In the bigger context of supply chain issues, product shortages, and inflation, reaching your target audience where they are is more critical than ever. And as food and beverage advertisers face the deprecation of third-party cookies, the challenge of doing so is about to increase dramatically.
Check out our guide, Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Overcoming the Identity Crisis, to get the latest on the next generation of identity solutions in digital advertising.