Dan O’Connell – CEO

At Foodmix Marketing Communications, we’ve been helping the biggest and best names in food create Brand Love for the last 30-plus years. Coca-Cola, ADM, Smithfield, Cargill, and Heinz are just a few of the hundreds of food brands across all food channels that Foodmix has helped with the goal of creating enduring Brand Love.

After the pandemic, some things will return to normal, but not everything. Our relationship with food and technology has fundamentally shifted – even Grandma is on Zoom and ordering her food remotely, in some way, shape or form. During the pandemic we took comfort in our homes and the brands of the past. The most loved brands of our youth returned to our favorites list. During long hours of internet searching, we also discovered new brands to love – often from places we could no longer visit. Yearning for the open spaces of Alaska, we ordered fresh crab; hungering for BBQ brought us to the online smokehouse in Texas; and the love of pizza led us to the virtual streets of Chicago and the famous stuffed pizzas that the city made famous.

What will last? What are the trends created during this unprecedented time that will stick and grow? What does food Brand Love look like post-pandemic? Here is our take…

GHOST KITCHENS WILL FOSTER ADVENTUROUS FOODIES – The investor community got behind ghost kitchens in 2020 in a big way. These are no longer just locally based entrepreneurs – networks are being created. Branded concepts tapping specialties from across the globe will follow.

FOOD WILL EMBRACE MENTAL HEALTH – The mental health costs of the pandemic are becoming increasingly clear. The role of food in mental health will be brought to life through both suggestion and fact. True food fixes, or partial fixes, to common mental health maladies will lead to a new dimension of Brand Love.

CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE WAYS TO SAMPLE FOOD WILL KEEP PEOPLE HAPPY AND HEALTHY– Food is a sensory experience as we all know – the smell, appearance and even sound of food matters, but taste matters most. Sampling at grocery stores, food shows for food buyers and even food festivals and events are going to struggle. The challenge for food marketers/promoters/mass feeders will be finding more intimate ways to lead people on the sensory path to Brand Love.

TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES WILL MAKE IT CONVENIENT TO KEEP YOUR DISTANCE AND BUY DINNER – The restaurant industry/segment has led with “contact-free” food buying, but other channels will catch up. Both AI and scanning technology will not only make it easy to keep your social distance while making a transaction, but will also help lead you to the right product – and yes, the right brand for your lifestyle.

CONTACTLESS PAMPERING IS COMING SOON – We’ve been cooped up and serving ourselves or others for too long. Many Americans will remain hesitant to return to large dining rooms but will still want to be pampered and served. Food providers that find ways to serve and pamper individuals and small intimate groups – while maintaining social distancing – will create Brand Love for the safe worry-free environments they create.

MEAL KITS WILL EXPAND BEYOND A BROWN BOX – Services that lock consumers into several days of food and boxes of ingredients delivered in bulk will continue to struggle. But restaurants (with those large empty dining rooms), grocery stores (with the large food bars that germaphobes hate), convenience stores (who realize the roller grill is not the answer) and even retailers’ parking lots will offer prepacked meal components that let consumers assemble a meal on their terms – fast and easy – thus, creating Brand Love for those who understand flexibility, safety and delicious choices matter.

PLANT-BASED WILL BE MADE EASIER AND MORE APPROACHABLE – To recruit and keep more consumers in the plant-based movement, plant-based foods will need to taste better and be easier to prepare. We talked about eliminating the “yuk” factor last year, and while work still needs to be done, the focus will shift to full meals and even meal plans. Food brands that figure out not just how to offer plant-based ingredients, but that can help lead the consumer to a full plant-based meal – or longer-term meal plans for the whole family – will win the hearts and love of the health conscious.

BRAND LOVE WILL BE FOUND AROUND THE STORE PERIMETER – Given consumers’ growing appetite for understanding where their food comes from – and how it gets to their table – brands will be more visible in both the perimeter of the grocery store as well as the prepared foods section of convenience stores and other retailers. Produce in particular will see a boom in branding as many produce suppliers already have great stories to tell. Also look for more Brand Love in the deli, meat case, bakery – and floral as well!