Alon Chen, founder and CEO at Tastewise, the food data, statistics and trends platform, spoke about the opportunity in social media marketing during a panel discussion at the virtual Future Food Tech event last week (Oct 1).
In the discussion, on the subject of gaining consumer trust when marketing health promoting foods, he explained that there is a lot brands can do to better personalise their product offerings.
He argued social media brings huge opportunities in terms of getting to understand consumer needs and the way products are consumed in real time.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity for brands when it comes to leveraging the ‘word of mouth’ or in other words, in today’s market, social media.
“These sites allow brands to be close to consumers and close to the moment of consumption and it’s a great way of finding out how your consumers are using your product from day-to-day.”
He says this may be a large part of the reason why smaller startup brands are doing so well today.
“There are a lot of influencers that authentically have been impacted by a small brand and are reporting on it.”
He notes that it’s important when entering this area of marketing to be wary of not adding to fake news and to ensure messages come across as authentic.
“The fake news issue is not going to bypass the food and beverage industry. We have to do a better job of spotting the health experts and nutritionists with thousands of followers and educate them on the risks and opportunities so they can speak on behalf of our brands about the benefits we bring to the table.
“If we can’t convince people to take a vaccine to save their lives how can we expect them to read a label from a big brand and believe it?
“Educating people about science is important – it needs to be proven and unbiased.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of public and private coming together to push the right scientific facts because influencers are not always the right people to talk on the science but we have to be part of this change and make sure we have the right non-profits to get the message across.”
But it's not all about Instagram, Chen says that Tik Tok has a huge influence on younger consumers and trends on this platform are seen by millions.
“We see huge Tik Tok trends involving feta cheese and spaghetti. When will we see a Tik Tok trend that pushes a really healthy food trend?
“Brand have a huge opportunity to play in that ballpark.”
Speaking about how consumer interest in health has evolved through the pandemic, Chen says the 'health' trend has become much more granular in this time.
“Something we saw in the beginning of COVID was that people stopped talking about weight loss which was surprising because obesity is a big cause for death in COVID but consumers became more well informed and specific, so they were more granular when talking about healthy.
“It was no longer cool to say ‘I’m eating this because it’s healthy’, you now need to say ‘I’m eating this for my gut health' or 'for my brain health’ for example.”
On that note, he pointed out that consumers are now far more likely to be interested in ingredients associated with mental health benefits than they were in the past.
“If I had to pull out a specific ingredient within that it would be adaptogenic mushrooms. Consumers think mushrooms will save the world – these have so many different health applications depending on the variety of mushroom you are looking at. And, in general, botanicals are becoming a big thing.”