Leveraging the Trend of Craft Cooking.
Craft cooking is all the rage among restaurants, food trucks, foodies and yes, even the everyday home cook. The degree to which the “craft” is applied is, like most things, relative. Craft cooking as a trend has evolved and bifurcated to include the entire spectrum of consumers which is a good sign and exciting time for us. This is our invitation to “jump on” so to speak and take advantage of this wide sweeping trend on behalf of our brands and products.
A brief history of the evolution of Craft cooking is in order. Originally it meant to mindfully prepare a meal or dish in the tradition of its historical creators. As with all great trends, it began to evolve to include a sense of adventure and full immersion in the procurement, preparation and service experience. Today, it has many meanings with a widely accepted definition and validation of being “craft worthy”. Perfect timing.
Regardless of your role in the food system: producer, manufacturer or retailer, the insight is the same. Consumers want to know where their food is coming from, how it was procured, the story behind the people that brought it to you and health of the land/sea it came from. We have an opportunity to turn a fresh set of eyes to our own process, products and brands to identify the aspects most important to those seeking to include more craft cooking in their lives. To be honest, we can infer the “cooking” portion of this trend as much as the reality of it. This speaks to the relative nature of this trend and the ubiquity of its meaning. The spectrum of acceptance is broad and forgiving which allows room all along the food system to participate in and gain value from this trend. Like any trend it may or may not stick around for the long haul so be careful how far we bend our positioning to meet it. That said, let’s dive into areas we can consider as we begin to stay on top of this particular consumer trend.
If you are in the processing business, whether that’s animal proteins, row crops, whisky or dairy, the story of your practices and facilities is the centre of your craft contribution. There was a time when “modernisation at all costs” was the barometer for success through efficiency. And rightly so, we needed to produce more, quicker and less expensively in order to fulfil the demands. Not that those days have come to an end, efficiency is still the goal. The difference comes in the level of sophistication and importance around our portfolio and the management of that portfolio. Whether your portfolio is two deep or two hundred deep, there is a role for the more commoditised volume outputs and the more refined or specialty outputs. Leveraging each of these is important to the craft enthusiast for different reasons and thus, important to staying relevant and positioning for growth. Consider these five topics for consideration as you position your flocks, yields, gallons and barrels.
- That old fashioned, even ancient, part of your process is not a deficit, it’s a story waiting to be told. While it might not seem very romantic or intriguing to you, it is to those who seek to engage in bringing the “craft” of cooking back to life and it all begins with the processing. Thoughts to consider:
- Is there something particularly pure or natural about the waters you fish or how you pond raise?
- Is the grass your herd grazes special in any way?
- Does the wood for your barrel hale from a particularly interesting part of the world or was it grown in a sustainable way?
- Do you thatch your grain in a way that has been done for centuries?
The value of a well told story from the beginning allows our manufacturers to leverage that story and honour it with further processed products wrapped up by brands that can bring the story to life.
Knowing where our food is coming from is only known if we tell the story as part of the products and brands they become. It’s our responsibility as manufacturers to tell these stories in a way that consumers seek to digest them; and that appetite for consumption changes over time. Similar to the need for processors to “modernise” there was a time when consumers needed to know their food was abundant, accessible, hearty and nutritious. The thing is, we took that a bit too far in some cases and created products that were unnaturally hearty. They were so over processed that they took on a reputation of “not good for us”. This is when we began to see the backlash to over processing and the seeking of more traditionally produced and packaged foods; the craft movement. The timing is indeed perfect for those products and brands that want to take advantage of the craft cooking trend. A few things to consider from the manufactures role in the food system and participation in the craft cooking trend:
- Positioning is key, especially if you have a broad portfolio to consider. Differentiation among your portfolio of products. and even brands at times, can be difficult. When considering where to draw the line on leveraging the story of where your ingredients come from don’t be worried about dilution. The truth is, the more products and brands that carry the same lineage of ingredient procurement the better. You are raising the bar on even the most commoditised end of the portfolio and thus creating fantastic competitive insulation.
- Packaging is a key element in telling the story of where our food came from as well as how it was processed into the product we are considering purchasing.
- The physical package is the canvas for our story, the medium we choose is very telling and indeed the first impression. Make sure your choice of package is congruent with the story your graphics and copy will portray.
- Messaging on the package deliver the reasons to believe and the permission to purchase. Don’t be shy, leverage all you can about your sourcing and processing not to mention the benefits of those practices. We are a benefit driven society and must be deliberately shown the path from choice to benefit.
- Promotion is also a creative rich topic once we have the story lined out. While it’s true, the price at shelf will promote velocity in most categories, it’s also true that impulse purchase is triggered not solely by price but also be emotional connection. Given the ubiquity of this particular trend, the ability to tap into the emotional connection with heritage and well-being through responsible processing and delivery is a very viable strategy.
And finally, the retail arena. Where better to tap into this trend than at the point of purchase. The processors have done their job of shining a light on the where and how, the manufactures have created product and brand stories to communicate the benefits of these important and historical practices and now it’s time to promote the most leveragalble parts of these stories in the shop. A few things to consider as we leverage the promotable portion of a variety of product and brand stories:
- Consider geographical platforms for themed promotions. For example, choose a region, hand pick products which cross the categories and deliver on a creative feast to be prepared by even the most novice of home cooks. The commonality of location that binds these products together is enough of a reason to buy and try from those who are interested in their own version of Craft Cooking.
- Consider yet another promotion which highlights a specific processing or procurement style and can be traced back to a shared time in our history. Positioning a meal or feast as one that may have originated 200 years ago is a fantastic story and reason to buy and try.
- Don’t under estimate the produce and dairy components of these promotions. This is the tangible, fresh portion of the experience which gives the consuming public permission to engage and let that emotional pull to experiment take action.
Don’t miss out on this strong trend towards reaching back into our past to recreate a piece of history that represents simpler times and meaningful meals shared with people we love and care for. The story and heritage are all we need some times to be motivated to change our perspective on what’s for dinner.
We’re fortunate at Root & Toot to have colleagues and friends all round the world. From time to time we ask one of them to provide an insight into some aspect of food or drink. This article was written by Doug Austin of Austin Amplifies who is based in Missouri in the United States.
Doug is a student of the human condition. As a 30+ year veteran of the advertising industry Doug has spent countless hours in countless cities around the globe studying the “whats” and “whys” of consumer behaviour and identifying trends that shape our tomorrows. These observations and insights inform everything from brand advertising campaigns to product and menu innovation.
Today Doug leads Austin Amplifies as he continues to work with brands and advertising agencies around the globe on a variety of projects. www.AustinAmplifies.com