Robert Moskow, a senior analyst at investment bank Credit Suisse was quoted in Adweek as saying that “The biggest surprise this year is that consumption of packaged foods remained elevated despite mobility returning and food-service establishments regaining customers.” The questions that I have is whether this consumption behavior is due to the need of so many of us to de-stress due to the pandemic and eat comfort foods, using this time to indulge more than ever or simply that these legacy brands had a strong enough supply chain to retain or increase their presence on store shelves or promote their products thru e-commerce? Is it about availability – or desire? According to NPD Group customer transactions at major restaurant chains were flat compared to the same time last year, but down 12% compared to the same period in 2019. What effect does that have on eating at home? Is it easier, or more fulfilling to reach for that Pop Tart to start the day?
Ipsos reports that more than half of all U.S. adults say they’re cooking more now compared to prior to the pandemic. And when we see these reports of “cooking at home” let’s not fool ourselves. It’s an all-encompassing term that covers everything from scratch cooking to heating a meal in the microwave, and yes, even pushing down that lever on the toaster. Topline is we are seeing lots of marketing activity from some of our best known food brands. Campbell’s Goldfish crackers partnered with McCormick & Company’s Frank’s RedHot to release a hot sauce-flavored cracker. TikTok put Goldfish on its first ever Culture Driver list for its #GoForTheHandful challenge, which featured dancer and choreographer Taylor Pierce and Dallas Mavericks’ center Boban Marjanović, who can fit 301 Goldfish crackers in the palm of his hand. The campaign, supported by ads on other channels, garnered more than 10 billion views in three days. Not to be outdone, Coca-Cola introduced its first U.S. TikTok challenge with help from Grammy-nominated artist Khalid. From Dec. 19-21, Honey Bunches of Oats is running a TikTok challenge under the hashtag #MakeABunchHappen, designed to encourage users to bring some joy into the world through volunteering, donating or surprising a friend. Mondelēz’s Oreo and Sour Patch Kids surpassed 1 million followers on TikTok – by far the biggest snack brands on TikTok.
My hope is that 2022 will bring us innovation in the products themselves that go well beyond the marketing hype and drawing on metrics of followers that may in the long term be meaningless. Reformulations of better ingredients, better health and nutritional profiles are the pathways to building consumer confidence and sales in the long term – especially as our shoppers are faced with higher prices and product shortages. Let’s focus on the long term, shall we?