We recently headed over to The Speciality & Fine Food Fair at London Olympia. Not only did we visit Nizami Foods to see our newly launched work, but we also wanted to see how brands in this growing market are talking about themselves.
Trend #1: It’s all super, naturally
Multiple health benefits are flagged up, whether on pack or through other communications. It’s all Superhealth, Superfoods, Supernatural. Everybody’s doing it to the point of well-being overkill.
Gluten-Free, Vegan, Low in Saturated Fat … the list goes on. Rude Health Dairy Free Drinks proudly proclaims no less than six health benefits.
Unhealthy ingredients are replaced with “natural” alternatives. This is good. But the word “naturally” is being massively over-used. What does “natural” mean anyway? Bear Alpha Bites replaces sugar with coconut blossom nectar for “natural sweetness”, while Peppersmith Tingz claims its “Monstrously tasty sweets are seriously good for teeth” because they contain Xylitol, a “natural sweetener” that actively reduces plaque.
When it comes to claims, less is more. A claim or two is great, particularly when it’s something quite unique. But when a product shouts about a raft of them at full volume, consumers and retail buyers will just be confused. One chocolate brand claims so many “health benefits” that the salesperson we spoke to couldn’t remember them all.
Trend #2: Pure and simple
Some brands, like Little Pod, are taking purity to extremes, emulating personal care cues and eschewing obvious taste appeal in favour of a clean and pure aesthetic.
Borrowing cues from other categories is an excellent way to stand apart from the competition, but don’t do it at the cost of the core message. Purity is important, but taste is paramount. Little Pod does this successfully by colouring its bottles a warm vanilla pod brown.
Other brands at the fair were less successful, usually involving stark white backgrounds and a palette of pharmaceutical-looking secondary colours that were anything but appetising.
Trend #3: BIG (masculine) flavours
The antithesis of stark purity and health obsession is the celebration of big bold flavours and ingredients. How refreshing to see brands actually revelling in taste and enjoyment without worrying too much about the side effects! The approach seemed most notably adopted by brands targeting men.
None less so than Bad Mama Classic whose strapline is “Bad Mama made me cry – and I loved it”. Their extremely hot chillies are so ‘bad’ they’ve been put behind bars! Manfood says it all in the name. Big, punchy, crunchy pickles and sauces – big ingredients and big flavours. The Grown Up Chocolate Company has an overtly masculine feel with a plethora of capital letters and the claim “Nice try kid, but it’s not for you”.
It’s great to see brands celebrating taste, having the courage to identify a narrow target market, and then enjoy going for it full throttle. But let’s see some more brands targeting women’s taste buds (and not just chocolate brands) – they enjoy full on big taste food too.
Trend #4: Provenance is still big
In an age when consumers are increasingly concerned about their food’s provenance and authenticity, it’s more important than ever for brands to be honest with consumers about their story, ingredients, and supply chains. Witness all the news about brands that have failed abysmally on this front in recent months.
We got talking to one of the partners at Hasslachers, a fascinating man with a wonderful story about his Colombian blocks of outstanding “Hot Drinking Chocolate” and “Organic Panela” (one of the “most wholesome and healthy sugars in the world”).
The chocolate brand that most captured our attention was Amelia Rope Chocolate. Apart from its wonderful taste, Amelia tells her story as an unsuccessful contestant on Masterchef, encouraged by presenter John Torode to invest what little money she had in chocolate making courses. The result is a range of high quality chocolates in unusual flavours, proudly produced in the UK, right down to the hand-foiling of the chocolate bars.
Mash Direct highlights five generations of farming and a long heritage of growing and selling vegetables, now packaged and marketed as ready meal side dishes. It’s a great concept and story. But more could be made of it by putting the “Hamilton” family name above the door. See our earlier post on the benefits of eponymous branding.
It’s encouraging to see that Speciality and Fine Food brands are growing up when communicating their brand messages. But in their quest to be different and relevant, they need to ensure their messages are clear and focused.