7 Hot Topics in Food Marketing

Recently, we were invited to talk about food trends at General Mills’ Brand Experience All-Agency Summit. Our General Mills partners asked us to share a “hot topic” that was on our radar, but of course we couldn’t limit ourselves to just one.

Our team of content strategists, marketing experts, and food professionals sat down and talked about what they’re seeing lately — in restaurants, on social media, and out in the world — and came up with seven big ideas that food brands should be acting on right now.

1. Dine in with Gen Z

While it can be challenging to pin down many universal truths about Gen Z, one thing is for sure: They love to cook. The pandemic impacted this group heavily; according to Knit, a Gen Z insights panel, they started cooking while sheltering at home and never stopped. Cooking is seen as an act of self-care, an expression of identity, and a way to save money.

Similarly, rather than hitting the bars, Zs are hosting cocktail parties and wine tastings at home as they continue to see going out as an occasional activity, not an every night event.

2. Make budgeting cool again

While talking about value has always been on-trend for food marketing, its relevance has been amplified in the past year, with concerns about inflation and other world events. The challenge: how do you communicate this message in a way that doesn’t read like your Grandma’s old Family Circle magazine?

The Washington Post Voraciously newsletter recently published an email series called “Budget Week.” They sent a new idea to subscribers every day, demonstrating how easy it is to make beautiful, on-trend recipes, even when you’re on a budget. And the venerable King Arthur Baking brand posted a guide to baking on a budget that offers tips on how to make the most of leftovers, stretch pricey ingredients, and find less expensive (but equally delicious) ingredient substitutions.

3. Jump on the DIY bandwagon

Speaking of making things from scratch, there’s been a big movement away from convenience foods — why buy it when you can make it yourself? According to Hustle, home canning is back, and it’s blowing up on social media.

The hashtag #canning has over 640 million views on TikTok, and canning content creators like @gracewalkfarm and @fiveacrefarm have hundreds of thousands of followers, as consumers are rediscovering all the amazing foods you can preserve in your pantry: everything from lemon balm to homemade beef broth, fresh salsas, meats, and more.

Facebook communities like Black Girls Can and Black Folks Love “Canning” Too are bringing this Eurocentric preservation technique from the 1800s into a whole new era of inclusivity and opportunity for Black home cooks and preservers, too.

And canning is just one example of the growing DIY movement — according to Google and TikTok, #diycoffeecreamer has over 8.3 million views, with content ranging from clean-eating options to unexpected flavors and ingredients.

4. Create new twists on classics

Nostalgic foods are comforting, but there’s also great satisfaction in making them our own — we’re seeing a renaissance of new takes on old favorites. Betty Crocker, one of the General Mills brands we work with, does a wonderful job updating old-school recipes for a new generation, like Muffin Tin Meatloaf, Cauliflower Mac & Cheese, and New-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie.

We also recently found two fun recipe twists on Delish: a classic salad dressing turned into a soup and a classic soup turned into a meatball.

Back here at the Ingredient studio, our culinary team loves to dream up new angles for much beloved recipes, like an Ojai Pixie Sour, Ramen Carbonara, and Venison Korean Meatballs. These scroll-stopping recipes showcase creativity and seasonal ingredients and help drive interaction for our clients.

5. Build unexpected connections

Food is always trending in one way or another, but you can leverage data and insights to link trending products with other food-adjacent products — and potentially attract a whole new segment of consumers, cross-pollinate email lists and followers, and gather first-party data.

For instance, North Carolina’s East Fork Pottery recently teamed up with several Los Angeles hotspots; the same trend-forward folks that LOVE East Fork love all things L.A., too.

Another example? Recently, Fishwife Tinned Seafood Company, partnered with six other brands to create an Ultimate Kitchen Upgrade sweeps worth $2,000 and featuring everything from kitchen tools to a spice kit.

6. Pair up fashion + food

Back to our friends, Gen Z: According to brand strategist Emily Gorey, writing for The Drum, Gen Z makes up 60% of all TikTok users, and they’re driving a shift in from authenticity to absurdist humor. A great example of this is the coupling of food and fashion, where “branded chaos” is winning hearts and eyeballs.

Case in point: New York artist and designer Nik Bentel recently teamed up with Absolut Vodka to create The Absolute Espresso Martini Handbag. The leather bag is nestled in a martini glass and looks just like the classic dessert cocktail — with a chromed steel chain for a handle.

Similarly, a farfalle-patterned coat designed by Rachel Antonoff to stand out in a sea of drab winter wear, developed a bit of a cult following in the fashion world and on social media.

Even the shelf stable Velveeta teamed up with London-based Nails.INC to produce the Velveeta “Pinkies Out Polish Collection,” which featured a deep yellow called “La Dolce Velveeta” and “Finger Food,” a bright red based on Velveeta’s bold packaging color.

7. Empower your social media team to make decisions ... fast

While it has always been important to be responsive to trends in the marketplace, being nimble has taken on a whole new meaning in a TikTok world. Trends can come and go in days — if not hours — and brands must quickly determine if these trends are relevant to them and how to respond.

This requires an approach to marketing that breaks down the traditional chain of command, giving a smaller team or agency the power to make in-the-moment decisions before the opportunity is gone. It’s a brave new marketing world, and trust is key. Brands that succeed have a strong sense of what they stand for — and having comprehensive, documented brand and content strategies is essential. Are yours in order? If not, we can help!

Want to talk about hot trends in food media, favorite pickle recipes, or content strategy? Contact us at hello@ingredient.mn — we’re here for it all!

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