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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Convenience, meet quality

The home dining revolution will be won by brands delivering next-generation experiences, writes Greg Gibson

Food and beverage is a sector that impacts, and is impacted by, pretty much everything – sociological, psychological, political, and technological factors are all relevant. Online is the new normal, and the food and beverage category moves at the speed of culture: FMCG topped 20 percent of total Prime Day sales in 2022.

Just a few years ago, it would have been almost impossible to predict how the world has shifted – especially when it comes to food. There’s no doubt that global lockdowns brought about the fastest, most sweeping changes to how we consume, think about, and experience food at home.

Newer food and beverage brands are now answering a wider problem: that very modern condition of busyness. Convenience has become one of the main factors that decides what, where, when and how we eat, but convenience alone isn’t enough – especially when it means sacrificing on quality.

Innovation tells a story

We’re becoming more discerning at-home consumers, and the future of at-home dining is typified by high-quality, professional meals delivered with minimal effort on diners’ part. Crucially, it’s also about minimal impact on the environment: today, 63 percent of people are more likely to purchase a packaged food product labelled with a sustainability claim.

A great example is Marc Lore’s startup Wonder, which offers made-to-order high-end restaurant food from mobile ‘ghost’ kitchens. Unlike traditional takeaway brands, Wonder isn’t technically a delivery company: the truck parks in front of your home, and the chef makes your meal there and then, before it’s delivered to your door.

The brand identity for Wonder balances familiar tech and startup cues with those that are tied to the home and the grocery store – the soft, playful typography and dark green colour palette nods to the likes of Chobani and Whole Foods. But the biggest piece of the identity is the extension of the core Wonder brand into each of its restaurant subbrands: it all feels cohesive (largely thanks to a consistent photography style), yet each has its own identity. Crucially, Wonder also does a great job of telling its sustainability story.

Creating cultural shifts

Sustainability will be a key consideration for any brand starting up in this space. Brands need to have vision and consider the life cycle of their model. When it comes to packaging, there’s no need for single-use plastic any more – and with new seaweed-based packaging startups like Sway and NotPLA (below), there’s really no need for plastic at all. Food and bev brands are in an existing position to not just react to shifts in culture, but to create cultural shifts.

The customer journey is especially important when it comes to these new models: people have little patience when they’re trying something new for the first time, so it’s vital to design an experience that’s consistent from ordering to delivery to follow up.

Brands like Jot and London Nootroopics (below) are transforming how we make and drink coffee at home, and innovation in this sector is appealing to the more discerning consumer who won’t compromise on quality or sustainability.

Instant coffee has been around forever, but Jot has found a new way to package it as ultra-concentrated liquid in pretty bottles. This new ‘form factor’ is novel and exciting, and the messaging focuses on that. And so far, it’s working – the brand’s content is considered, consistent, and approaches the idea of community in an interesting way. Jot has made a sort of cult from the act of making its coffee: people love to share the simple act of pouring the liquid. It becomes almost like a humble-brag: ‘look how easy this is! And how great it is!’ Normal people, as well as big name celebrities like Tony Hawk and Halle Berry, become instant brand ambassadors by creating content they just want to share.

People demand authenticity

Convenience and novelty will get a brand so far, of course, but it can only do so much if the quality is there. The same can be said for design, if a brand is purely leading on its aesthetics, its ‘Instagrammability’, it’s simply not going to last beyond any immediate ‘flash in the pan’ success. Brands need to be able to show their authenticity, and demonstrate that they have a bigger vision than just their initial target market research findings. Sure, Instagram and TikTok are great spaces for design-led trends for products, but they shouldn’t be mistaken for bellwethers of mass market success.

Authenticity is probably the greatest challenge, and also the greatest opportunity for brands to remain top of mind. If someone buys a product through a social ad, and their experience and product doesn’t live up to the story they’ve been told through the ad and buying journey; then they won’t be a return customer. If that’s the case, brand hasn’t made much progress at all: it’s probably spent as much as the product value in order for someone to buy it for the first time.

Yet when it comes to ‘quality’, brands need to consider that to a point, it’s subjective. While some of us might drool at the thought of a Michelin star meal in minutes, most people probably don’t care too much. So if a brand’s goal is quality for all, then it will be important not to price out people who don’t have context for how the food is better, or why they should make a change.

Delivering consistent experiences

The food and beverage brands that will prove most revolutionary will be those offering the best experiences: just as eating out at a restaurants is as much about the ambience (the lighting, music, the menu design, the staff, the decor, even the toilets) as the meal; that’s becoming increasingly parallel to people’s expectations at home.

For brands, delivering that experience means thinking about things in a thoroughly holistic, 360-degree way: every interaction they have with that product should be consistent to that brand, and carefully considered to deliver the best feelings possible. That means a website and app that are as easily navigable and user-friendly as they are aesthetically pleasing; great customer experience (punctual delivery, transparent processes around things like returns, the brand’s voice on social); great packaging design; and sustainability credentials baked in throughout.

Greater expectations

As expectations evolve, brands should be proactive in upgrading the experiences they offer. Think more delicious, high-quality products, innovative delivery methods, superior customer service, and engaging community experiences. Brands need to do their research, and brand designers need to work closely with their clients and deep-dive into truly understanding their audiences. They should see themselves as becoming an expert in their product and category – that way, they can truly develop a unique point of view that’ll stand out and resonate in culture.

Finally, brands need to bring something new into the world rather than adding more of the same to a trend that’s already visibly resonating with consumers. It’s important that brands on the one hand feel familiar – people want to imagine your brand in their home, so even new brands should strive for a certain timelessness. But they also need to delight in new ideas, building deep and meaningful relationships with consumers through next-generation experiences.



Greg Gibson
Greg Gibson
Greg Gibson is a partner at Grizzly, an independent creative agency based in San Diego that helps adventurous brands challenge convention, impact culture, and move conversations onward. Their breadth of work includes brand strategy, identity, campaign creation and activation. https://grizzly.co/

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