Atlanta Rafferty
Atalanta Rafferty

As competition in the food industry thickens, food brands, both new and old, are looking to stand above the noise and win mindshare. In the past, food companies focused on competing through innovation in ingredients, flavors, branding and packaging. But now, forward-thinking food companies are raising the stakes. Enter technology: the newest way for food companies to improve customer experience.

Technology is what’s next in food, and it’s set to help food brands develop an entirely new competitive edge focused on one core consumer benefit: convenience.

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

The recent launch of the Amazon Go store in Seattle is an example of just that. By simply using the Amazon Go app, Amazon subscribers can select and purchase their favorite foods without ever waiting in a line, thanks to new AI technology. Other partnerships have similar implications: Ford Motor Company and Domino’s have been testing driverless delivery cars since last August; and Toyota and Pizza Hut recently announced their partnership to explore driverless pizza delivery. 

Large CPG companies are also embracing technology to pair convenience with better product standards. PepsiCo’s Drinkfinity, a customizable pod-based flavored water with a reusable water bottle, is ordered online and delivered directly to consumers’ homes. What’s more, it contains no artificial flavors or sweeteners and is more environmentally friendly than a standard water bottle. With the integration of technology, PepsiCo has been able to completely upgrade their customer experience, while simultaneously tapping into the issues that matter most to their customers.

As companies continue to innovate, it’s important for communications professionals to recognize how the value proposition for a food brand will evolve. For those of us who have worked in the food industry for years, we know that taste has always been paramount. But in this competitive, ever-changing environment, it’s no longer the only factor at play. As technology advances, so will customer experiences and convenience. We must be ready to re-position brand narratives and build tactics that bring consumers value above and beyond taste alone.

At the same time, we need to remember that technology for the sake of it is almost as dangerous as no technology at all. We are responsible for grounding our clients in decisions they make insofar as improving their overall brand experience with technological advances, and striking a balance between taste and overall experience. We must keep a critical eye and ensure brands are staying true to themselves as they evolve. 

As competition grows, so will innovation within the food industry. From innovation at retail and by brands, consumers are expecting more from the foods they eat and are increasingly demanding convenience. The food industry is, without question, rising to the occasion. For communications professionals, the implications are clear: tomorrow’s brand value is different than today’s, and the story we tell consumers will change. In a new era of engagement, 2018 promises to be a year of evolution, and we’re excited for the challenge.

***

Atalanta Rafferty is Executive Managing Director at RF|Binder.