Transparency marketing has become an effective strategy for companies wishing to forge meaningful connections with consumers, as well as other stakeholders throughout the value chain. Never before have consumers, and by extension retailers, been so in tune with the values, ethics, details and practices of the brands they support. The food manufacturing industry is no exception and British Columbian food production companies who fail to act and articulate those values risk losing shelf space and market share.
Ethics Throughout the Food Supply Chain
We live in a strange time. To the cynic, the truth can often seem fungible or elusive. It may even seem disposable. On the contrary, its rarity only adds to its value.
“Food production companies that wish to keep up with consumer ethics demands must invest in top-level employees that are capable of assessing societal concerns and managing practices throughout the supply chain accordingly,” says Alessia Pagliaroli of Goldbeck Recruiting, a Vancouver-based recruitment firm that often works within the food manufacturing space. “Of particular importance is the ability to effectively communicate the company’s achievements and commitments to a consumer base that is increasingly diligent about supporting corporate social responsibility.”¹
Health, Ethics and Communications for Food Production Companies
Consumers are increasingly conscious of the health value of the food they purchase. Is the ingredients list accurate and legible? Are sustainable farming practices used throughout the supply chain? Are both employees and animals treated ethically? Is the packaging recyclable, minimal and made from recycled materials? The safe handling of food is also important, particularly during a pandemic. Meeting demand on these and other issues obviously begins with walking the walk. Those who do should not fail to capitalize on talking the talk through transparent and robust communications strategies.
Tracking Consumer Priorities
Gauging consumer values and concerns should be an ongoing priority. Social media provides an instant feedback loop for those willing to engage the public. Website surveys or third party research are also good options. Companies active in direct sales channels such as farmers markets should not disregard the valuable information that can be gained through simple conversation.
Consumers are intelligent and cannot be fooled. As a food producer, highlighting your successes, owning your mistakes and vowing to keep pace with consumer demands should be the guiding light of your communications strategy.
Utilizing Transparency Marketing to Synergize with Grocery Retailer Brands
Grocery retailers work hard on their own brand reputation, providing an opportunity for savvy food production companies to develop or strengthen their relationships through synergized values or communications campaigns.
SPUD, a Western Canadian online grocery store headquartered in Vancouver, touts their commitment to fresh sustainable foods as well as the quality of their relationships with the farmers, ranchers, fishers, bakers and artisans who serve as their providers. Recently the retailer announced that they would be carrying products from Modern Meat, a plant-based meat products retailer also based in Vancouver. Like SPUD, Modern Meat centers their communications around nutrition and sustainability. The press release announcing the agreement made sure to highlight the similarities that exist between the parties.
“The two companies recognize that they are aligned in some very important ways,” reads the statement. “Both have a strong focus on nutritious whole foods and place tremendous weight on offering sustainable options for customers.”²
Food production companies that are well versed in consumer priorities and retailer expectations, and are able to demonstrate an alignment with those values through good practices and robust, transparent communications, will be able to forge stronger relationships with retailers and consumers alike.
Marketing Local Foods
Consumers often see locally produced foods as sustainable and lower in carbon footprint. With the Covid-19 pandemic causing a re-evaluation of global supply chains, buyers may be keen to extend this trend, providing food production companies with an opportunity to leverage their geographical base.
Trader Joe’s, an American grocer who have created a strong brand, are keen to tout their ‘amazing food and drink from around the globe and around the corner.’ Calgary Co-Op recently launched two new ‘hyper-local’ private brands, ‘Cal & Gary’s’ and ‘Founders & Farmers’, providing an opportunity for local producers.
“That’s very important because reflecting local is not just about creating your own brand locally when it comes to our private brands, but also about some local producers who simply want to have their brand in our stores,” explains Calgary Co-Op CEO Ken Keelor. “We want to be the place where they can grow and almost be a jumping off point to potentially across the province or the country.”³
How Can B.C. Food Production Companies Market Transparently?
The British Columbian food and beverage production industry is broad, with the production of meat, seafood, dairy, fruit and vegetables, wine, beer, soft drink, sauces, condiments, functional foods and bakery items all contributing to the provincial economy.⁴
Companies looking to effectively utilize transparency marketing must define their brand and express it truthfully and authentically. Labelling and packaging should reflect this brand, as should online communications and consumer engagement. Blogs, podcasts, strategic partnerships and digital marketing are all valuable components of expressing your brand. Effectively communicating your value proposition will lead to enhanced relationships with both consumers and retailers, to the benefit of the bottom line.
1 Pagliaroli, Alessia. “Ethics and Communications in Food Production.” Goldbeck Recruiting, October 7, 2020. https://www.goldbeck.com/expertise/production-operations/ethics-and-communications-in-food-production/
2 “Modern Meat Strengthens Its Brand Through Spud, a Leading Food Delivery Service,” n.d. https://stockhouse.com/news/press-releases/2020/10/21/modern-meat-strengthens-its-brand-through-spud-a-leading-food-delivery-service.
3 Finch, Jessica. “Calgary Co-Op Launches Unique Hyper-Local Private Brands.” RETAIL INSIDER. RETAIL INSIDER, June 26, 2020. https://www.retail-insider.com/retail-insider/2020/6/calgary-co-op-launches-unique-hyper-local-private-brands
4 Agriculture, Ministry of. “Food & Beverage Processing.” Province of British Columbia. Province of British Columbia, August 14, 2019. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/business-market-development/food-beverage-processing