Last week Livingbridge hosted a breakfast roundtable for healthier eating brands. The event – ‘fitness fad or long-term lifestyle: how can healthier eating brands build loyalty’ – was an opportunity for entrepreneurs in the space to discuss how emerging brands can acquire customers. David Leahy, who hosted the discussion, shares his thoughts on some of the key themes that came out of the morning:
It was fantastic to welcome Milena Lazarevska who heads up the Find side of Sainsbury’s Future Brands team, and entrepreneurs from brands including Young Foodies, Detox Kitchen, Ape Snacks, The Primal Pantry and Deliciously Ella. Together we discussed the changing attitudes towards health and nutrition, the relationships between health-conscious consumers and products, and how brands could put their best foot forward when looking at distribution partners.
Health and provenance – but at what cost?
Something that came out of the discussion was the belief that at shelf decision making is still price and quality driven rather than by health and provenance. What this means for brands is that it is exceptionally hard to educate the consumer in-store, but instead they must build awareness and engagement with their customer long before they make that decision. What this often means in practice is a changing relationship as to who is educating who, and products should be led by the consumer and their demands for a healthier eating lifestyle.
For earlier stage businesses this makes starting out and in-store trials significantly tougher, as brands must be sought after by consumers due to the engagement created outside of the supermarket.
Between stock and a hard place
For emerging food brands, getting stocked is always one of your biggest challenges. This becomes even harder when the product you’re pitching is an all-new category – for many healthier lifestyle brands the type of product on offer wasn’t even on anyone’s radar a year ago.
In this scenario, data is your friend, and you will need to use consumer data to evidence demand before pitching. It can be tempting, especially in the world of social media and the prevalence of healthy lifestyle influencers, to prioritise direct to consumer. But realistically distribution partners are still vital as basket values are usually not high enough to justify it, and it misses the crucial impulse purchases.
Small brands and differentiation
Over recent years cost pressure and consolidation from major brands have led to less innovation and more homogeneity in goods. As well as providing fewer options for consumers, it also means the brands over-rely on price-cutting and special offers to drive purchasing decisions. Longer term I would expect distributors to rationalise some of these homogenous items and look to smaller brands who can offer genuine differentiated products, and emotional engagement with their customers that in turn creates an increased willingness to pay full price. This means it’s an exciting place to play if you’re an innovative brand tapping into broader consumer trends.
If you are a consumer brand we’d love to hear from you! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about Livingbridge and to sign up for our future roundtables.