Authenticity & Transparency in Food Marketing

What is the best way for brands to talk about themselves? And, perhaps more importantly, what do people want them to say?

Let’s start with social media.

Social media outlets are storytelling platforms; they were originally created for people to share personal stories, from vacations and first days of school to what you’re wearing and what you did last weekend.

Over the years, brands have realized that it pays to show up where everyone is talking — but it’s been an ongoing challenge to figure out how companies can be relevant and engaging in a very human channel. The answer: show your human side.

Today more than ever, consumers care about what’s in their food, the people behind the product, and the journey it has taken to get to their table. They’re not satisfied with bright packaging and glossy marketing-speak. The industry is saturated with that stuff. Consumers want to know more.

Whether it’s 1,000 words or simply a photo, successful food marketing today is about being authentic and transparent. As a consumer, if you’re standing in front of a shelf filled with 10 identical bright and glossy products, a compelling story can be the tiebreaker.

We’ve taken this strategy and put it into practice for two of our grocery clients, Lunds & Byerlys and Gelson’s Markets. Our content team created videos featuring behind-the-scenes interviews with store employees, from butchers to the experts behind the cheese counter, giving consumers a sense of personal connection to their grocery store. We’ve also highlighted the fascinating stories behind trending products, such as Del Rey avocados and Ojai Pixie tangerines. The extra effort put into these specialty videos is justified by some pretty impressive results, garnering four to six times more engagement online than other types of videos.

The concept of radical transparency is all about completely exposing the path that products take before they reach consumers — and it goes way beyond social media. In fact, it can go right to the core of a brand’s very existence.

Creating and sharing food is about connecting with others — but it’s also about sharing cultural identity. Spoiler alert: Consumers can tell from a mile away if a brand’s cultural authenticity rings false. Remember the Pace Picante Sauce ad from the 1980s, where shocked cowboys realized the other guy’s brand was made in (gasp) “New York City?!”

A wonderful example of transparency and cultural authenticity is Diaspora Co., a single-origin Indian spice company created in 2017 by Sana Javeri Kadri, a 25-year-old Mumbai native. In today’s spice industry, most products go through a maze of traders, importers, exporters, and food corporations before ever hitting the shelves. This means that spice farmers have little control and see few of the profits — and sadly, most consumers have no idea where their grocery store spices come from.

Diaspora diverges from this practice, cutting out the middle men and sourcing its spices directly from the farmers. With this streamlined, responsibly sourced business model comes a level of transparency that stands out from the competition. With Diaspora, not only do you know that the spices are authentically grown and sourced in India, but you can also visit their website, see reports directly from the field, and meet the family farmers growing and harvesting your spices. It’s a product you can feel good about eating. (And, you can bet that if consumers are faced with multiple options at the grocery store, spices with an authentic, compelling story are going to beat out the faceless corporate brand every time.)

It’s time to pull back the curtain and allow consumers to experience your whole business model, not just the final product. What is your brand story?