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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Shelf space reigns supreme

The digital world represents an unrivalled platform to kick-start new brands, but there’s still nothing quite like physical, on-shelf presence to create broad brand awareness and true success, writes Scott Dixon

In today’s digital world, there’s no denying that brands and business owners can operate in the comfort of their own homes whilst connecting with consumers. For many, this is their entire business model.

For those launching F&B brands, an online model represents an affordable and risk-free alternative to licensing a commercial space. And, as we all know, there’s countless case studies of start-ups harnessing the endless possibilities of the worldwide web to lay the foundations of a recognisable brand, both small and large.

With many active players in this space, some could interpret it as a signal of saturation. Yet more than ever, these F&B brands are holding the attention of so many of us. Today, more than 70 percent of adults use social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube to source recipes and plan meals. The hashtag #recipeoftheday has been used an astonishing three million times on Instagram. And it’s only going to become more prolific as the next generation start shopping for their household – already, four out of five adults from Generation Z said they enjoyed watching or interacting with food content on social media in 2021.

However, despite a huge percentage of people clearly engaging with the world of food and drink online, in order to create mainstream awareness and drive trial with a broad base of consumers, it is still incredibly important to have a physical product on-shelf and in-store. Many online-only food and drink brands that boomed during the pandemic have recognised that they may well need physical stores to scale, remain relevant and to act as a billboard for their brand and range.

We can see this reflected in consumer habits, too. For example, while 60 percent of people are buying at least some of their groceries online, only 16 percent do all or most of their shopping digitally. Food products remain an incredibly personal and emotional purchase, and there’s still great comfort in being able to pick up, touch and see them in real life before making that buying decision (sometimes referred to as ‘sensory shopping’), vs just seeing it through our screens.

We can also see the ‘proof in the pudding’ thanks to our own recent collaboration with Mob – one of the UK’s leading food publishers. In January 2024, we worked with their team to take their digital brand into the physical space. Together, we created a range of four innovative and game-changing Mob x Flava It! seasoning packets designed to inspire shoppers to try something new and create game-changing dinners. Inspired by some of the most popular recipes from Mob’s website, 720,000 packets hit the shelves exclusively in Aldi stores – the UK’s most popular supermarket.

Anyone who knows Mob will know they have built a truly incredible online following, with over two million followers on Instagram and a further 1.3 million on TikTok. Their halloumi curry recipe – the base for one of our exclusive packets – has over 150,000 views online. They are true masters of the online world.

When we look at their audience in the ‘real world’, it’s probably unsurprising that their audience heartland, and where they have to date had strongest brand awareness, is within a Gen Z and younger millennials age group, predominantly based in in London and the South of the UK.

With the launch of the Mob x Flava It! packets, the team at Mob wanted to not only strengthen their relationship with their existing audience, but also stretch beyond this and begin to reach and engage with a whole new wave of people.

We were confident the partnership was going to be an instant hit with their existing audience thanks to the products being created using our 50+ years of expertise, and the unique insight Mob can provide coupled with their ability to understand what flavours from around the world that people actually want to cook.

However, what really shocked us all was the Mob x Flava It! packets saw the strongest sales figures in the North East, East Anglia and Yorkshire. What’s more, the launch of the packets solidified Mob as the key platform for recipe inspiration with this new audience that they were able to reach, with QR codes on each of the packets generating over 25,000 recipe impressions in the first 21 days.

Taking the first step from digital to physical can, for some, seem like a huge leap of faith. Suddenly, you are entrusting your brand, something you have poured your heart and soul into, to retailers. Added to this are the hoops to jump through to scale and to get products listed in the first place. It’s something we have done time and time again at The Flava People, both on our own brands and with our white label and license partners. But shoppers still trust bricks and mortar retail space when it comes to their weekly shop which is why, for the foreseeable future at least, having a physical, in-store presence will be key to not only succeed but grow in the world of FMCG.

So, what’s next? For the Mob x Flava It! partnership, the success of having a physical product in store has been clear, both in terms of sales but also in terms of increasing and diversifying their audience. The Mob team are on their way to becoming a household name – and we are there to support them every step of the way. We’re currently working together on creating a new range of summer focused seasonings, once again launched exclusively in Aldi, which we’re hopeful will be even bigger and better than before.

For other brands and businesses looking at breaking into the offline FMCG space, our advice would be – don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith. Work out who your ideal target audience is and aim for a supermarket or retailer with similar shoppers and similar values. If it’s right for you and your business, find a partner or partners who have both experience with the retail buyers and who can help you sustainably scale up your business as demand – hopefully – increases. Finally, trust in your product & positioning; if you’re bringing something genuinely fresh, exciting and delicious to the market there will always be a space for that on shelf somewhere.

Scott Dixon is Managing Director at The Flava People, a third-generation family-run business all about creating brilliant flavours and bringing them together with big brands to game-change dinners.  Their expertise in dinner-time flavour creation & brand partnerships means they have been behind successful launches in retail with the likes of Guinness, YO! and Mob. The Flava People also own the brands Flava It!, MRC and Meat Lust.  These brands plus their bespoke capabilities ensure they can deliver differentiated innovation for their customers across retail, food service, delivery and butchery. With a strong growth trajectory you can expect to see more from The Flava People as they continue to add value and disrupt dinners across shelves and menus.

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