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January 4, 2024

What Are Winning Food Brand Marketing Strategies for 2024? We Have Some Answers.

Tony Treadway

Food Brand Marketing Strategies for 2024. Blog article header image.
Image of grocery shopper browsing deals on their phone.

Wrapping your brain around winning strategies for food brands at retail starts with a reality check on a big change in shopper behavior. Here is the current state. According to Ibotta® a mobile couponing company, three years ago, if an average American shopper visited the grocery store 52 times annually and rang up 20 items each trip, today they’re visiting the store less than 48 times and ringing up only 18 items on each trip. This means fewer dollars and tougher choices. And the prognosis is not necessarily positive. Morgan Stanley predicts consumer spending to slow more in 2024 and 2025.

For food manufacturers price increases on their products have had a drastic impact on unit sales. Overall, while sales dollars are up for food manufacturers, unit sales are down by 9%.

YoY Quarterly Sales Growth graph.
An example of one food manufacturer’s dilemma. Price increases have impacted unit sales so severely, overall net profitability is at zero.

Beyond the overall drop in unit sales, a disturbing result for food brands is an extraordinary shift by consumers from their favorite brands to lower-cost private-label store brands. On some private label products, sales outpaced their national brand competitors by more than 5X. On average, the growth rate for a randomized private label sample was 2.3X that of their national brand competitors.

Typically, private label sales escalate during recessions or periods of high inflation then brands eventually steal back their market shares when the economy improves. Yet retailers are leveraging more sophisticated marketing tactics this time around and winning back market share will likely be much more challenging. That is our current state, and our retail clients are looking to us for the right strategies to win back unit sales, combat competitor and private label incursions, and grow dollar and unit sales through new customer acquisition. While each client has its own set of core strengths and challenges, here is our overall approach.

1 – Turn To Your Brand Promise & Point of Difference

Screen capture of TV spot that communicates brand differentiation.
Here is a great example of a TV spot we produced that clearly states a client’s point of difference. Click to read the case study.

Some food manufacturers know what makes their products unique, but don’t clearly communicate those points of difference in their advertising. Don’t be subtle in your message. Clearly state your case on why your brand is better and make it memorable across all platforms (TV, social, in-store merchandising, etc.).

2 – Be Both Strategic and Tactical

Maintain your strategic messaging strategy overall. Then, take a long look at your most important retailers impacting declines or increases in unit sales. Employ specific tactics toward unit sales growth and discourage their efforts to steal share from your brand with their own private label brand. For example, you may offer a mobile coupon of 75¢ off to consumers of some retailers and $1.25 off to retailers that need attention.

3 – Pay Attention to The Top and Bottom of The Sales Funnel

At the top of the funnel is the use of broadcast or cable TV advertising that is good for reaching new customers, we recommend a more intelligent strategy for luring back lapsed customers of your brand. They already know your brand, thus a tactical approach to coax them back is warranted. By using Connected TV (CTV) that leverages first-party data of buying behaviors, then geo-targeting to 5–10 miles of each store is much more cost-effective. At the bottom of the funnel, turn on mobile couponing to give lapsed and interested new customers to buy your product. This top-and-bottom approach works. Helping food brands address the unit sales dilemma is one of our specialties that adds value to engaging with Creative Energy. Ultimately, we build cult-like followings of consumers and the brands of our clients. Today like never before, status as a cult brand is your best hedge against shifting consumer behaviors that can wreck profitability. Let us know if you need help in growing your brand.