Lorna Bush
Lorna Bush

Today’s U.S. food and beverage brands have the world at their fingertips when it comes to product sourcing, consumer reach and public engagement. As the business of food becomes more complex geographically, the challenge to maintain authentic and true to core brand values can be a challenge.  How are today’s food and beverage brands embracing opportunities for growth and technological innovation, while continuing to deliver an authentic brand experience?

In recent conversations with our agency’s clients, more food and beverage communicators are embracing artificial intelligence technology, specialized influencer marketing and increasingly sophisticated social media content to increase brand authenticity and improve the overall consumer experience.

O'Dwyer's Mar. '18 Food & Beverage PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Mar. '18 Food & Beverage PR Magazine

Artificial intelligence? Wine not?

For many food and beverage artisans, the environment in which a product is grown or made is a vital part of the overall product experience. Quintessa is a renowned 280-acre wine estate in Rutherford, one of Napa Valley’s most distinctive properties, with five soil types, hills, valleys, a lake and a river. The diverse estate inspires the impressive wines for which it is known.

“At Quintessa, our strongest asset and differentiator is the world-class estate from which we source our wine,” said Leslie Sullivan, DWS, Napa Estates Director of Huneeus Vintners, who manages communications for Quintessa. “For those consumers and trade who are able to visit the estate, we are able to build ambassadors; however, our reach is limited. As a result, we’ve begun to better utilize technology to connect with our consumers and trade. For instance, we’ve used video, drone footage, 360 video and virtual reality to allow our consumers and trade to engage with our property. While nothing compares to the full sensory experience of enjoying a glass of Quintessa at the estate, we are able to better express and share what Quintessa is all about.”

Community, convenience, quality

With a 68-year heritage and nearly 12,000 locations worldwide, Dunkin’ Donuts continues to evolve while keeping its focus on fast, friendly service and community involvement.

According to Public Relations Senior Manager, Justin Drake, Dunkin’ Donuts maintains its focus on fast, friendly service while delivering innovations that today’s consumer expects from sophisticated food brands:

“As Dunkin’ Donuts continues to grow and evolve, remaining authentic to the core of our brand is very important. Dunkin’ Donuts was founded as a brand offering high-quality coffee and baked goods to our guests, all served with fast, friendly service and at a great value, and we remain true to this mission to this day.”

“We’ve expanded our coffee and espresso menu in recent years to include options like Cold Brew, Rainforest Alliance Certified Dark Roast Coffee, and Macchiatos. These menu additions remain true to our 68-year heritage as a coffee company, while also staying on trend in terms of what customers are looking for today from a coffee brand. We’ve launched On-the-Go Mobile Ordering for DD Perks members through the Dunkin’ Donuts mobile app, where guests can place their order in advance and then speed past the line in-store to pick-up their order. This innovation remains true to our mission of offering fast service and unparalleled convenience to our guests.”

Community giving is a core value for Dunkin’ Donuts that empowers franchisees around the world to give back and strengthen their own communities:

Continued Drake, “At Dunkin’, we feel fortunate that our restaurants are part of the fabric of so many communities and neighborhoods around the globe, and our franchisees value the role they can play in strengthening their communities. Our franchisees donate millions of dollars annually to local non-profits. Additionally, our organization collectively supports our national foundation, The Joy in Childhood Foundation, which is dedicated to bringing joy to sick and hungry children.”

Consumers seek, expect info online

For family-owned poultry producer Foster Farms, a robust social media presence is required to address the questions and provide the reassurance that consumers actively seek.

“Increasingly consumers are asking more and more questions about where their food comes from and how it is made,” said Ira Brill, Foster Farms’ Director of Communications.  “Our commitment to product quality is at the heart of authenticity, and Foster Farms as one of the west’s true authentic brands — having been founded in 1939 on the values of locally grown, and continuing as a family owned company today — has continuously evolved to include digital and social media tools to enhance our consumer engagement and contribute substantively to consumer conversation.  From engaging influencer programs, to enticing recipes and social media content, Foster Farms aims to be a part of the discussion at every touchpoint.”

Building authenticity with influencers

Social marketing strategists at Collectively understand how deeply consumer brands and consumers value authenticity.

“Influencer marketing works best when creators are empowered to make decisions about how best to present a brand story to their audiences, said Natalie Silverstein, Collectively Vice President of Brand, Marketing and Culture. “Creators are truly the experts in understanding what resonates with the people they're in dialogue with every day. Authenticity shines through when an influencer actually believes in the product and has integrated it into their content in a way that feels almost effortless.”

“For our food and beverage clients, we're bringing opportunities to a wider set of creators beyond the more expected food and cooking influencers — lifestyle, health and wellness, parenting, photography, and more.”

Silverstein agrees authenticity is a higher priority now for food and beverage brands: “‘Authenticity’ has been the most-used buzzword of the industry for quite some time, and it continues to be a key goal for most brands. We believe this is a direct result of the broader cultural transformation around trust in institutions and other traditional gatekeepers of information.”


Lorna Bush is Senior Vice President of Fineman PR in San Francisco.