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Posted by Food & Drink Towers, Tuesday 10th of March 2009 08:06:40 AM.
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When it comes to the crunch...

If we are a nation tightening our belts, how do we make the food and drink industry fit?

By Lyndsey Metcalf, managing director, Inspired PR

Over the last decade, we’ve responded to the market with healthier, locally sourced, organic and traceable products. We have seen the nation rally around animal welfare, demand less packaging, seek out better ingredients and look for fairly traded items. And, manufacturers have duly and quickly risen to those challenges. So, as recession starts to bite, will premium food and drink products be ousted? What are customers’ motivations to purchase? And, should communications strategy be price, price, price?

Well, we’ve seen the discounters doing well in the supermarket stakes. And, in terms of eating out, the faster and cheaper the food outlet, the more successful it seems to be becoming.

However, latest research from the IGD tells us that while more shoppers are citing price as one key influencer to product choice; only one in ten say it’s the most important consideration. Most shoppers are still looking for products where they are reassured by a brand name or where they are confident in the product’s ingredients.

The explosion of celebrity chef culture turning us all in to self-professed ‘foodies’, underpinned by an increasing knowledge and concern for health, ingredient sourcing, ethical production and fair pay for farmers and producers has absolutely uprooted the food and drink industry and put it on a completely new level.

In essence, the rules that applied in the last major recession are no longer valid.

And so, shoppers and diners have not suddenly lost their ethics and morals. We are still more concerned about animal welfare; we are keen to support local producers (with farm shops being a significant growth area) and we do not want to step up our collective carbon footprint with unnecessary food miles.

However, price is still a factor. Buyers are looking for better deals and shoppers might be more selective in exactly what goes in to his or her shopping basket. So what’s the answer? In my view, it’s about communicating good value for money.

Let the shopper know why they should be investing in your product. You know your market better than anyone. If you’ve identified that your brand, product or service is right for the market, then tell them about it. Have empathy with market conditions but offer persuasive reasons as to why what you’re offering is desirable. Protect yourself. Price-cutting isn’t always the answer. If you run promotions, make sure they add value to your customer and your brand. Talk to your customer base, get feedback on what they are looking for and tailor your communications to fit. Whatever the state of the economy, the customer is still king. Let them know!

Lyndsey Metcalf is managing director of food and drink comms specialist, Inspired PR.

Call on 01590 610243 or email lyndsey@inspiredpr.co.uk.

Visit http://www.inspiredpr.co.uk for more information.

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