With their “crowdsourced” social media voices, today’s consumers are the ones with the real power to influence the retail operator’s purchasing, advertising and marketing. They are also the ones driving what manufacturers produce and distribute for retail restaurants, foodservice operators and retail “super delis.”
Today, consumers’ social media voices curtail the absolute production and distribution powers of food manufacturers. They and other supply chain players are listening and reacting much more intently to consumers’ cravings. Every demographic group, from millennials to boomers, is taking its seat at the table, pushing the proactive buttons of production and distribution strategies and consequently impacting operators’ menu planning options.
Much has been written portraying consumers as the centers of the food industry’s world and in the driver’s seat due to their vast purchasing power, while behind the curtains the real strings of power have been pulled by manufacturers and distributors. Often, it was more talk than action about fulfilling the needs of “end-user targets.”
Not too long ago, manufacturers produced what they, from their supply chain boardrooms, said was in demand, based on consumer facts gathered from focus groups, market testing and competitive analysis. Although thorough enough, the data was often flavored by what consumers found available for them to buy, which did not always reflect what they wanted to buy. It’s no longer like that today.
With the communications power of multiple social media channels, consumers are in sync with the virtual means to communicate directly to those responsible not only for development and distribution, as well as for point of contact implementation, such as foodservice distribution, R&D, retail distribution, marketing, sales, communications and merchandising. Together, these groups are advancing influence with more proactive and competitive go-to-market strategies, in contrast to waiting until the other guys pave the way and establish the market.
Tapping the Value of Tell-It-Like-It-Is Voices
Some advice for manufacturers and operators looking to lean on someone else’s market-trends research or to find guidance by peeking at what competitors are producing: You will find yourselves in second place or worse. Today, it’s all about paying close attention to the tell-it-like-it-is social media voices, and being aware of cultural, regional and ethnic influences in the flavors and recipes of those products in your own backyard. The changes are here.
Manufacturers would be wise to address their production manifest, while operators can follow suit by checking their menu options. If you are a distributor or broker, you may not be driving competitive influences much longer—if you have any influence left at all. The consumer appetites of the new food world order are right in front of you within the social media venue du jour.
If you’re not paying attention, you will pay eventually with lost customers, lost profits and lost commissions.