Authentic in the Experience

How brands are adapting as the trends change

The changing markets of food and beverage has brands thinking outside the box for ways to keep up with today’s trends in the industry. During the age of millennials and the upcoming Gen Z, brands are exploring new materials, and new marketing tactics to reach these audiences.

Waste Not

Sustainability has dominated the food and beverage market as the millennials and beyond yearn for more waste-less products.

“Sustainable packaging is important among millennials and I think that’s something that’s been niche for a while and is now entering the mainstream,” says Celsae Vandenberg, new business and innovation, Wallace Church & Co. “Your typical consumer before wasn’t really concerned about sustainability. The green-movement is picking up and people are much more conscious of waste than they have been in the past.”

Not only is sustainable packaging being heightened, but consumers are looking for small product packs so that the food they are buying isn’t wasted.

“People don’t want things that are over-packaged. I would say even from a design standpoint, we’re even able to produce stuff that’s one color and it can be as impactful as a typical package you would see on shelf, which is actually kind of good news. People are getting clever with recycled jars and bottles and things that are a little bit more handcrafted,” says Wendy Church, director of creative services at Wallace Church & Co.

According to Mintel’s Global Packaging Trends report, the lack of waste created by packaging is a concern for the consumer. Nearly 40% of Canadian adults who drink coffee or tea agree that single coffee or tea pods should be compostable or biodegradable.

Authenticity is in the experience

“Something that we’ve talked about for a little while is the shift of the experience economy and experiences being paramount to things,” says Vandenberg. “People are spending more money on travel and experiences, rather than clothing or products. So brands are really tapping into that and inviting some type of experience.”

For example, PepsiCo has been globally putting together pop-up experiences. These experiences give the consumer the ability to see that it’s much more than a soft drink.

“They want you to have an experience with the brand that feels more personal and authentic,” Vandenberg concludes.

Mintel’s Global Packaging Reports sees packaging as a key component to the creation of memorable consumer shopper and user experiences, in-store or in-use on building brand values as a means to motivate purchase intent.

Plants playing a role

The search for non-GMO, certified organic or vegetarian food and beverages are becoming increasingly seen.

Founder and CEO of Blossom Water, Steve Fortuna came up with the idea to infuse water with flower blossoms from his many years of gardening as a hobby. His brand, Blossom Water is a refreshing, light and healthy option to water, infused with flavorful, aromatic oils of flower blossoms.blossom

“Back in 2013, we saw more established trends going on, and one of them was the movement towards ‘better for you.’ People were starting to look closely at labels—understand what ‘natural’ means, understand non-GMO, gluten free, basically look at all the ingredients carefully,” Steve Fortuna says.

The brand wanted to be as genuine as possible right out of the gate, and include an ingredient list good for the consumer.

“Not only the ‘clean label’ aspect of our drinks, but also the creativity and freshness of our flavor profiles (with unusual floral-fruit pairings) have special allure, I think, for millennials,” says Gale Fortuna, chief operating officer, Blossom Water. “Millennials tend to have expansive palates, and demand more innovation and nuance from their flavor choices; they might be viewed as the sweet spot of our customer demographic.”

Mintel predicts that in 2017, the food and drink industry will welcome more products that emphasize plants as ingredients in recipes for home cooking and packaged products.

Companies that are really established have to keep up with new players, too.

“You want to have the correct ingredients, be more health focused, geared toward dietary issues, and things like that. A lot of our bigger clients are specifically trying to put products out on the market that lend to the newer generations,” adds Church.

Packaging speaks on shelf

Blossom Water designed their package to be very differentiated on the shelf, with a glass bottle and original artwork label applied through a clear shrink sleeve.

“You’ve got to encourage trial, and the way you encourage that is shelf ‘pop,’” says Steve Fortuna. “When consumers walk into the supermarket, they’re facing a sea of beverages. So how do you stand out? You have five seconds to get their attention—to have them actually pull the bottle off the shelf—and if they pass you by, they’re not coming back.”

Gale Fortuna adds: “We made sure our artist created not only striking but also accurately detailed botanical representations of the actual flower and fruit in each of our drinks—down to the petal count, color variation, growth habit and so on! Millennials, in particular, care a lot about the authenticity of a product, from its inspiration to its final form on the shelf.”

Reaching a new audience

It’s apparent to brands that the millennial generation is all on social media, so marketing to the generation and the generations to come is getting thought provoking.

“We see a lot of overarching trends in packaging. We’ve been doing a lot of work on classic nostalgia having a comeback, things that look handcrafted and original It plays into this role of harkening back to traditional wellness, a more holistic lifestyle which is, ironically, new but also old,” says Vandenberg. “Gen Z is still coming of age and developing and you can’t quite know what they’re going to want; and maybe they don’t even know yet.”

Vandenberg says recently, she’s seen something called brand-less branding, with millennials and Get Z, a rising trend is platform-less retail and brand agnosticism.

“It’s sort of a reaction against this brand craziness that we all saw in the ‘90s and 2000s with big logos and flashy promotions, even in music and pop culture. I think we’ve sort of taken that off the pedestal and what’s interesting is now, you see brands pulling back from that and taking a more humble and honest approach, less branding, something that is more of an experience. A package that you see and you want to snap and share; the name alone isn’t really speaking for itself,” Vandenberg concludes.