Would You Feed Your Future Children the Same Foods That I Ate?

March 9, 2016

March 2016 – Food is a big topic of conversation around our house, and over the holidays I started to list for my grown daughters a number of national brand foods I ate as a child.  My question to them was this: “would you feed your future children these same foods that I ate?”

The passion and consistency of their answers—almost all “no”—made me think that the game is already over for big brands.  The next generation of consumers has already made up its mind, and it’s not good news for national brands or the dominant fast-food chains.

I’m enough of a marketer to know that you don’t draw sweeping conclusions from such a small sample, but this insight from my daughters dovetails powerfully with much of the research that is emerging about the shopping habits and preferences of Millennials.  If a brand cannot reformulate to an authentically cleaner, fresher ingredient list with genuine supply-chain transparency, the outlook is bleak. For many time-tested brands, I suspect the game is almost over.

Now, everyone still needs to eat, and it will be interesting to see how consumers fill the void created by this turning away from national brands.  Surely it will create incredible opportunities for emerging companies and niche brands to get a foothold…as well as for retailers and private brand manufacturers that can catch this consumer wave.  The skills required to succeed in this more diverse food landscape are quite different from those of the mass-food era, and those companies that can’t adapt will face large—if not existential—challenges.

I wonder what it will take to make food brands relevant, healthful, appealing, and on-trend again. Will reformulation be enough, or must change be even more profound? Investment in new manufacturing practices? Will regulatory changes come into play? This is one of those situations where the problem is obvious but the solution is complex.  Do you think there’s a fix? 

As you ponder your strategic plans, feel free to reach out to me @ JimH@daymon.com to discuss how Daymon can help you find new ways be relevant.