By Howard Wright
Since the dawn of time, eating has been a communal activity. The importance of coming together to share food is well documented as being beneficial, both nutritionally and psychologically.
Indeed, in the age of time-starved families and hectic lifestyles, sharing a meal or a snack with our friends and loved ones is often one of the few occasions we find to spend meaningful downtime together. It’s a key focal point for chatting, catching up and relaxing.
Marketers have always been keen to leverage the concept of sharing food and drinks together to elevate brands from product to experience. If we travel back in time to the 1980s, the Oxo family provides a masterclass in connecting the consumer to their product choices as we were all invited to be part of that experience over the course of two decades, sharing dinners with the family as the children grew up on screen. Kellogg’s have been reassuring generations of mums they were doing the right thing, by giving their children a fun breakfast as part of healthy lifestyle and coffee set the scene for romance in the slow-burning liaison between the Gold Blend couple. That tradition has evolved and continues, from the dad that cheers up his newly-dumped daughter with a steaming hot shepherd’s pie in the Colman’s ad to the evolution of concepts of family in Kellogg’s ’Perfect Bowl’ and the McCain ‘We are Family’ Campaign. The bottom line is that the concept of sharing food brings together two fundamental human needs; socialisation and nutrition. Moreover, choosing, cooking and consuming food is not just something that we do for our own wellbeing. It’s also how we show affection and appreciation for others.
Increasingly we are seeing products that are specifically designed for sharing, particularly in the snack aisle with sharing packs of crisps and chocolate and the rise of the grab bag. These sharing packs are not just about occasions or mealtimes, but about spending leisure time together and elevating that time to an experience by enjoying treats together.
The trend has extended beyond snacks and confectionary, however, to almost every aisle. We have moved from tear’n’share bread to sharing platters and ready-made sharing combos, influenced, no doubt, by the ubiquitous restaurant platters and mezzes that grace the wooden boards and slates of hipster eateries. The increased influence of food as a shared experience is inextricably linked to what’s happening in the hospitality sector. Provenance, artisan ingredients and Mediterranean flavours that we enjoy on evenings out and holidays abroad become the experiences we want to share in the home.
We’re even seeing the focus on shared dining and leisure time extended still further with the concept of food as play. Our US team has been working on a brief for The Kraft Heinz Company to create the packaging for Jell-O Play. The new range disrupts and transcends both the dessert aisle and the toy category, establishing the link between sharing food and sharing experience in a way that takes it from the confines of the dining room and into inter-generational fun. That link is made very visually on the pack, leveraging both affection for the core brand and synergies with toys.
If, like me, you’re guilty of eating a sandwich at your desk and grazing your way through mealtimes rather than sitting around the table with your significant others, it’s all food for thought. We eat to live but sharing food together is part of enjoying a richer life and there’s plenty of inspiration on shelf to help us discover the benefits of a shared love of food.