The Next Big Thing In Food Is Personal

Joerg Koesters

Few industries are undergoing the food industry’s scale of change, which affects retailers and consumer products companies. When consumers have more demands and increasing choices available to them, especially through digital opportunities, it’s more important than ever for your company to meet needs and preferences or risk losing relevance – and market share.

Personalization has been a trend for a few years, but so far we’ve seen personalization primarily affecting the fashion industry, such as ordering a custom-fit running shoe. Recently, a Future of Food virtual forum was held with Vivanda CEO and founder Jerry Wolfe and Brick Meets Click CEO and co-founder Bill Bishop about the growing demand for personalized food and food experiences. Fundamentally, why should you care about food personalization, and what exactly does it mean for your consumers?

The demand for consumer choice

Consumers are looking for more choices to fit their personal preferences, and they’re rewarded especially because of the many opportunities presented by online shopping. Wolfe and Bishop, along with moderator E.J. Kenney, VP of consumer industries for SAP, discussed the complexity of consumer choice in a digital economy and how consumers’ desire for companies to match their personal preferences is reshaping the food industry.

Both online and brick-and-mortar food companies have the challenge of trying to meet customers’ demands for choices. Stores need to compete with the many options people have through e-commerce channels. But online stores have their own challenges, such as how to target the main driver of choice in the food business: taste.

How can companies convey the taste of a food product in a digital world? Wolfe said that properly communicating taste is essential to personalization. According to him, online stores need to “help the consumer to understand what a food item might taste like and how relevant it might be to that consumer or that consumer’s household when they’ve never purchased it before.”

Two categories of food to focus your efforts on

Looking for a way to tackle the challenge, Bishop divided food into two categories: regularly purchased items such as bread and milk, and items that are occasionally purchased or new to the consumer.

Grocers can make it convenient for consumers to replenish their regularly purchased items. How do you do it? You could make it easier for the items to be found in the store and employ tools such as prepopulated shopping lists and click-and-collect programs, among other methods. If you know what your customers buy regularly, you could provide tailored recipe suggestions that incorporate staples as well as complementary items.

For those new or occasionally purchased items, a useful tactic is to eliminate distractions and help consumers focus on what they want. According to Bishop, if a customer is looking for savory food, he should be able to find a selection of savory foods without sweets interrupting his search. Stores can bring in creative marketing in this area to drive increased value per visit.

Finding opportunities

Moving forward, your retailer or food products company needs to analyze and understand who your customers are and what they’re looking for so you can provide the right items in the right place at the right time. Technology can give your company data on consumers’ needs and preferences, creating opportunities to market to them and provide the right experiences.

As part of knowing your customers, your company needs to understand and respond to different groups and situations. For example, millennials have wider food preferences, and thus broader expectations, than previous generations. Also, people choose foods based on times of year, events, moods, and even time of day. Your store could respond to people looking for meal ideas around dinnertime, offering food kits and meal suggestions, says Wolfe.

Research and technology offer new approaches that work for both the consumer and your food company. Rather than looking for individual products, consumers are looking for solutions and outcomes. Technology enables your company to gain insights on consumer preferences and needs, turning that information into products, methods, and services that provide the solutions and outcomes consumers want.

Discover further insights and examples of the personalization of food by listening to the full replay of this discussion, and discover additional topics surrounding the changing food industry, as part of the SAP Future of Food Forum.

About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a technology marketing executive with 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products, having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.