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Published August 12th 2016

Consumer Insights for the Food and Beverage Industry

Social intelligence can surface consumer insights for the food and beverage industry, spotting emerging trends in order to respond with effective strategies

The food and beverage industry has always operated at the mercy of the changing tastes and preferences of the consumer. Social intelligence forms an essential part of the research mix as food and beverage brands attempt to spot burgeoning trends and social change in order to respond with effective strategies.

Regardless of industry, the biggest companies don’t get to the top simply by virtue of having the biggest marketing budget. They do it through a deeper understanding of their customers than the competition.

The growing focus on consumer and market insights in the social intelligence space attests to this. Making social intelligence a part of your research and insights toolset helps to build a more rounded picture of customers, and can surface consumer insights that traditional means cannot reach.

Consumer insights in food conversations

Social intelligence can surface consumer insights for food and beverage brands in a variety of ways.

The importance of brand awareness and brand recall for any industry is paramount, and the food and beverage industry is no different.

Social intelligence can form a vital part of the mix when brand tracking, and is unique in it’s approach to collecting the voice of the customer when measuring share of market.

It brings in a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methodology, enabling you to look at the macro and get a flavor of how much buzz you are generating, or dive into the micro and view things on an individual level.

Trend monitoring

The food and beverage industry is seemingly one of the most susceptible to changing trends, micro-trends, and local trends. If you are still talking about Quinoa when the rest of the world has moved onto cauliflower pizza, you are in trouble.

Consumer Insights for the Food and Beverage Industry on social media

As The Economist has reported, giants of the industry are finding it difficult to keep up with fast-changing consumer markets. Consumers increasingly want brands and products that align with their cultural identity, and the assumptions of the past are being challenged.

In the face of changing tastes and fast-moving trends, monitoring and predicting food trends is both hugely important and very difficult. Online conversations might be the harbinger of the next pulled pork, and spotting those trends early means you can lead the conversation.

Google has authored a food trends report based on internet searches, and it highlights several trends. The problem for consumer insight professionals is the report uses a lot of internal Google data, unavailable to the public.

Finding food trends through Google searches

The national restaurant association surveyed 1600 chefs for their take on trends, showing us surveys still have a valued part to play. The only issue here is that the dataset is obviously limited, and personalized surveys can be costly.

Social intelligence can quickly surface consumer insights around food trends. Writing a larger search that covers an entire food category provides a pool of data in which to go fishing. Using categorization to further segment the data makes the process much more manageable, and stops you from being a lone fisherwoman in a dinghy in the middle of the Atlantic.

Discovering negative feedback quickly

The tide of consumer opinion can be monitored for less positive aspects too. When a negative situation occurs, brands need to know about it, and fast. Social intelligence tools like Brandwatch provide intelligent early warning alerts, so you can monitor threats that you didn’t even know existed.

Indian food producer Patak discovered their ‘new improved’ lime pickle recipe wasn’t a hit with consumers after it had launched, with thousands asking for the condiment to revert to the original recipe.

Amazon Pataks review

Similarly, Whole Foods faced a social media backlash when they launched a pre-peeled orange as a new product. After tens of thousands of Twitter users retweeted an outraged post, the supermarket backed out of selling the product, stating “Definitely our mistake. These have been pulled. We hear you, and we will leave them in their natural packaging: the peel.”

Monitoring allergy conversations

A recent survey conducted by the UK’s Food Standards Authority found that 23% of allergy sufferers will complain on social media if they encounter a food business not providing allergy information.

Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation, recently stated how many people are part of the conversation that often food companies aren’t even aware of. 

“The food allergy space is fascinating. You have these private Facebook groups with 10,000 to 12,000 parents of kids with a food allergy. When I tell companies about these private groups, they have no idea”

R&D for new products

Capitalizing on consumer trends by bringing new products into the marketplace is often an expensive and slow process. While taste tests will always be of paramount importance, understanding consumer appetite for new products can begin with an analysis of the online landscape.

Health conscious consumers

One of the biggest drivers of change in the food and beverage industry has been the raised level of awareness in health related matters. The global obesity epidemic, rising concern about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), fair trade produce, animal welfare and the organic food movement are all increasing areas of interest.

Robyn O’Brien believes social data has an important role to play here too. “A good corporate executive will pay attention online—and the companies that do are succeeding… Applegate just announced it is going non-GMO for its livestock, and that’s 100 percent in response to conversations with consumers online.”

Marketing and influencers

Food is always a popular topic on social. The top Instagram hashtag #food has 182m posts, but the list is almost as varied as dishes on display: #foodporn, #foodie, #foodstagram, #foods, #instafood… and it goes on.

There are millions of food blogs and recipe sites, providing opportunities to engage influencers and promote new products beyond owned channels. Brandwatch can surface the most relevant influencers for your brand, from the big players to the micro-influencers.

Our new Audiences tool can find these important individuals easily and quickly, and help you do a deep dive into networks of influence.

The huge breadth of social conversations, combined with the categorization capabilities of a smart platform and human’s love for eating, photographing and discussing food means social is the ideal place to do research. Consumer insights for the food and beverage industry are lurking in every corner of the web. Tuck in.

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