KEEP IT FRESH
March 31, 2021
Seemingly overnight, the declining sales and brand relevance of iconic CPG brands rebounded in light of the pandemic. Companies such as Conagra and General Mills experienced momentous growth as Millennial and Gen Z consumers started re-engaging and repurchasing the beloved brands of their parents.
Sean Connolly, the CEO of Conagra, remarked that the brands “clearly benefited from increased at-home eating in the fourth quarter… [and] many consumers tried our modernized products for the first time and then returned for more.” Jeff Harmening, the CEO of General Mills, echoed the sentiment by reporting, “The current environment presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive trial for our brands, and we’ve seen significant and broad-based increases in global household penetration.” As consumers become more accustomed to a predominantly quarantined lifestyle, companies must solve new challenges to maintain their growth while attracting new consumers. Whether it’s embracing meals at home or reaching out to local grocers, CPG brands have a huge opportunity to continually shape and redefine their relevance for the future.
One positive trend that looks like it is here to stay
“As consumers have become accustomed to a predominately quarantined lifestyle, companies must solve new challenges to maintain their growth while attracting new consumers. Whether it’s embracing meals at home or reaching out to local grocers, CPG brands have a huge opportunity to continually share and redefine their relevance for the future.”
While meal kits have already existed in DTC channels for quite some time, CPG brands can take them to the next level. It has been wonderful to see families sitting down and sharing a meal together. This is such a rich emotional experience, so what can brands do to become a trusted and valued part of it? I suggest reimagining meal kits by sorting them by complexity and prep time, so consumers can easily find what is right for them. For example, some meal kits could be labeled for kids which they can prepare on their own if their parents are working, whereas others can be cooked together as a family. Either way, it helps older kids learn independent cooking skills while building memories with their parents. On the other end of the spectrum, “expert” kits can be geared towards consumers with more sophisticated skills and palettes who may want an added challenge in the kitchen. Finally, QR codes on kits that link consumers to instructional videos from your corporate chefs provide an extra level of support and connection to your brand.
Beyond mealtimes, many families have also incorporated TikTok challenges and similar activities to spend time together. There is a huge opportunity for companies to create the same excitement through digital content while engaging younger consumers. For example, I can easily envision multi-generational families preparing their favorite recipes and then the kids jump in and add a quirky twist with ingredients like Jell-O, Miracle Whip
Alongside digital strategies, another way to sustain CPG growth is by leveraging the local with a grassroots approach. Independently-operated or ethnic grocery stores have a broader range of unique proteins and produce as well as richer customer relationships than a traditional
Last but not least, CPG brands must be authentic and find ways to give back to their communities. This more than anything will allow them to build a strong, trustworthy relationship with younger consumers. This is what they yearn for, and CPG brands can deliver. For example, I would like to see all of the major food companies and local grocers form a coalition committed to ending food deserts once and for all. As iconic CPG brands are primarily food brands, it is in their best interest, as well as a human right, to work towards giving everyone access to healthy and affordable food regardless of zip code. While big CPG companies sometimes have a bad rap, especially among Millennial and Gen Z consumers, eliminating food insecurity is such a crucial issue that can help reverse negative perceptions. In turn, consumers will become long-term consumers because they wish to support the brands that not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, of empathy, social justice, and acting on company values. Of course, it is impossible to predict what the future will bring, but I believe that supporting consumers in their kitchens,