We've all been influenced by them -- those late night ads for brand
new types of burgers or the campaigns that tout the benefits of the latest
dietary trend. As fads and trends come and go, food companies are finding
that it's critical to stay on the competitive edge.
So how do they do that? The fact is, food companies spend tremendous
amounts of money on marketing. And they will continue to do so as long as
consumers are bombarded with choices.
Charles Mallowe is an administrator at Saint Joseph's University's Academy
of Food Marketing in Pennsylvania. He explains that food companies face new
challenges, while food marketers now have new opportunities.
"They have opportunities like developing marketing plans and analyzing
operations that will allow food stores to compete and survive in the future
against competition which was non-existent 10 or 12 years ago," he points
To address this new challenge, food companies employ a large number of
people to come up with creative ways of pitching their products to consumers.
And as competition for consumer dollars intensifies, those companies will
be looking for the best and brightest talent that they can find.
Wanted: Next Generation of Food Marketers
Cameron Johnston is vice-president of marketing for Sun-Rype Products Ltd.
He thinks that this talent will be found in the next generation of food marketers.
"While the future looks neutral overall for food marketers in general,
it is particularly positive for the next generation of food marketers," he
says. "This is due to the fact that this sector has not attracted its fair
share of new talent in recent years/decades. Young grads have opted instead
for the perceived excitement of fields like technology or finance.
"This has created a gap for the next generation of food marketers who have
grown up in a new world with new technologies. [They] will be able to apply
their life experiences and knowledge of technology to better market products
to their generation," continues Johnston.
In its simplest form, food marketing is all about selling products to consumers
and having those consumers think of a particular name when they are shopping
-- often referred to as "branding." Branding is often what makes consumers
purchase one product over another.
Skills Required in Food Marketing
According to Johnston, food marketers "seek to understand consumers' needs
and develop comprehensive ways to meet these needs and do so better than the
So where do the best and most in-demand food marketers learn to do that?
Earning a degree in marketing or an MBA is a great start. But that is often
followed by years of retail experience.
"Increasing market competition has caused retailers to compete aggressively
for top management talent for both retail store positions and professional
positions at headquarters," explains Ernie Monschein. He is executive director
of the Food Marketing Institute.
"The smart retailers have arrived at the conclusion that without strong
management at retail, they are at a competitive disadvantage. There are virtually
unlimited opportunities at the retail management level. [And organizations
typically view this level] as the feeder of top talent to the rest of the
In addition, the latest generation of food marketers must understand new
technology, recognize and capitalize on trends, and be willing to explore
unconventional delivery systems. They must also recognize the need to speak
to a consumer who is intelligent, well-informed and dollar-conscious.
"If there is an overall increased demand for food marketers, I would hypothesize
that it is being driven by aging boomers retiring from the field and not enough
new talent being attracted to it in recent decades," Johnston says.
"This, combined with the change in needs that include technology-based
marketing, an understanding of emerging media, etc. could create a supply-demand
imbalance that will grow before it diminishes."
That change in needs may cause certain fields within food marketing to
experience more growth than other areas.
Changes in Food Marketing Strategy
"Anything to do with product and consumer information that can be used
to develop strategic marketing plans and allow companies to see exactly what
appeals to the customer will be in demand in the future," predicts Mallowe.
"Future food marketing professionals will have to deal with information developed
from scanning data and tracking surveys."
John Lord is a food marketing professor and chair at Saint Joseph's University.
He agrees with his colleague about the changing face of marketing in general
and food marketing in particular.
"Marketing is marketing, whether you are marketing highly indulgent foods
or healthy foods; just the messages are different," he explains.
"Marketing, however, is changing. The increasing fragmentation of both
the population and the media have forced marketers to reduce their reliance
on traditional marketing. [They must now] embrace what might be termed 'guerilla'
marketing, using events and sponsorships, product placement and the Internet
in place of measured media spending.
"Food marketers must be [aware] of the changing demands of the consumer,
and create the products and the marketing and distribution strategies that
are effective in getting these products to the consumer. The old ways don't
necessarily work anymore."
And how come those old ways don't work? One reason is that consumers possess
better knowledge of products and ingredients, and how those relate to their
own health and wellness.
Focus on Healthy Foods
"There is a lot of growth in companies and segments of the industry that
focus on health and wellness," confirms Johnston.
"It is changing the types of products consumers want, who they want to
buy them from, where they shop and how they want to be marketed to. It is
driving the need for changes throughout the industry, from the marketing and
research field, through to how manufacturers market to the retail sector.
"Moving forward, there is also expected to be tremendous growth and new
opportunities driven from the aging baby boom population and manufacturers
and retailers that sell products that appeal to this group.
"While it's too hard to pick any individual diet trend or fad, the unmistakable,
underlying current has for many years been pointing to general health and
wellness and how consumers of all ages live healthier, longer lives."
Lord, too, sees a bright future for those considering a career in food
"The bottom line is simple: regardless of how the meals are sourced or
where they are purchased or where they are consumed, people have to eat. So
the industry will always be substantial and significant and will always need
Food Marketing Institute
An organization for food marketing professionals, includes statistics
as well as sections for consumers
Includes resources, career information, industry links, and more
Resources and articles on new food products and trends
Grocery Manufacturers Association
Lots of great information about the food retail industry