15 April 2021, 07:44 AM
  • Passion, personality and strong aesthetics are key as consumers continue to redefine their relationship with food and drink, says Richard Village, strategy director of creative agency Smith &+ Village
Post-pandemic opportunities for fine food and drink

The past year has seen the boundaries of speciality food consumption well and truly blurred. The idea of using the usual entertaining budget to put together a feast at home is now well established.

House-bound gourmands have warmed to the idea of mix-at-home cocktails and having fine dining meal kits and high-welfare meat boxes arrive at the door. Foodie gifts became a desperately needed source of joy during some bleak times. How many of us have sent a special bottle or box of something delicious to a friend in need of a boost?

Many fine food producers sought to make their goods available for delivery, through independent retailers as well as their own websites. Delis and producer outlets became community hubs, with customers feeling more closely connected to the people who make food and drink locally.

For the consumer, the behavioural conventions have gone out the window. People don’t feel they need to wait until they can get a table out to enjoy fine food at home. We worked with much-loved Indian restaurant brand Dishoom to create at-home cocktail kits and meal kits to satisfy their legions of fans at home. These harness beautiful design to help the Dishoom brand grow and keep it alive in people’s minds.

For SME producers and retailers, there are huge opportunities going forward as we continue to redefine our relationship with fine food and drink. The potential for collaborations, different sales channels and promotions can seem overwhelming. But at the end of the day it’s about being true to your brand.

When you’re talking about speciality food, you’re talking about products that people have poured love into, that they are madly passionate about, and that they really believe in. And it’s really important not to let that be diluted when faced with all these different platforms and marketing possibilities.

Take a social media first strategy

If you’re looking at selling online, it’s tempting just to get on Shopify and buy a web transactional platform. But it needs a needs careful thought about how you get the personality of you and your product or service into it. Because that will be the way that you sell it in the real world. You need to be thinking about different touch points – real life, website, social. One bit of advice I would give would be to flip the received wisdom of ‘website first, social media second’, and start by coming at it from a social media point of view, and put the selling effort onto that.

For instance, we worked with Harvey Nichols to reimagine their own brand food and drink as ‘fearlessly stylish gifts you can eat.’ We used a strong design concept inspired by fashion brand behaviour on social, with playful takes on the HN monogram that proved seductive to a new generation of tastemakers and fashion mavens.

As part of our work for another client, Booths supermarkets, we created the Northern Punning bags, with witty wordplay like Preston, not Heston and Wuthering Bites. Travelling well on social and in the streets, they became a revenue stream in their own right, creating a new product category for them worth over £200,000. Both of these ranges uses strong visual cues, inviting members of the brand’s tribe to be part of the it’s world.

How to market fine food and drink

You need to take a joined-up approach to customer experience, so it’s not actually helpful to maintain a distinction between physical and digital retail in the way you approach your business – strategically and in terms of implementation.

It all needs to be driven by the passion for the product. Speciality artisanal food makers sell things through their personality and through their enthusiasm for the things they make. And it’s never a cold transaction. If you can channel that warmth and passion on social, in store and online, people will want it. Marketing fine food and drink is all about the joyful anticipation of good taste, which you can create with strong visual cues and by telling your brand story in a coherent and irresistible way. Customers can engage with the story, and use the produce to create their own.

A year away from bars and restaurants has made many people more mindful and resourceful in how we enjoy food and drink. It’s not all about being waited on. We can look ahead to a summer of hampers, picnic spreads and drinks al fresco, as well as home-delivered delights. For producers and suppliers with passion, a unique aesthetic and a joined-up approach to customer experience, the opportunities are endless.

To learn more, visit Smith &+ Village.

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