2023 Global Food Forum

WSJ Global Food Forum Delivers Insights and Inspiration for Food & Beverage Marketers

As you can imagine, a Global Food Forum curated by the editors of the WSJ does not disappoint in bringing together the best minds in food policy, activism, innovation and marketing. Here are just a few of the many thought-provoking ideas I thought can challenge us to think differently – and more boldly – about the way we communicate brand, product or even service value.

1. It’s not just Food Insecurity, But Nutrition Insecurity

Once Upon A Farm co-founders Jennifer Garner and John Foraker kicked off the conference and set the tone – in my mind at least – to remember that mission can be baked into a brand from the very start. Sessions and speakers throughout the conference reminded us that it’s not just food insecurity but “nutritional insecurity” we must address. For its part, the brand is making organic, cold-pressed baby food available to all with WIC, no easy feat but a non-negotiable for Garner and team.

2. Produce Needs a Marketing Glow-Up

This was an astute observation from an audience member, but fruits and veggies don’t really get the packaging design, celebrity collabs or nostalgia throwbacks so popular in CPG right now, which doesn’t help this country’s health crisis. Still, there are certainly bright spots. Speaker Jennifer Garner’s amazing Once Upon a Farm brand and 360PR+ client Little Leaf Farms are two examples worth checking out.

3. Talk of Death of the Plant-Based Category is Greatly Exaggerated

Plant-based is definitely not too “woke” or elite and Impossible Food’s Peter McGuinness, meati™’s Tyler Huggins and Shiru’s Jasmin Hume, PhD stood up for the space and said just that. “Marketing is key,” and all agreed that the category needs to take back the narrative with less focus on tech and focus on what matters to consumers – great taste, texture and health benefits – to evolve from novelty to staple.

Interestingly, cell-cultivated meats got a big win the same day as this panel as the USDA gave permission to two startups to sell their products.

4. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Trying to Rebrand as Vegan Jerky is Just Too Far

Do we really need adaptogens in our cookies? Does water need to be labelled vegan? Andrea Hernández, Cult Leader at Snaxshot, was the most engaging highlight of the conference for me. She gave us all snack vibes with her insights into how millennials – the “Lunchables Generation” as she calls them – “Goop-ified” snacks to the point where the perfectly great sundried tomato gave a Vegan jerky rebrand a try. Sometimes you do just have to laugh at food marketing follies!

5. That Bottle of PRIME is Giving Me Serious Affluence Vibes

Forget the lipstick effect, that $10 can of sparkling water or bottle of Prime Energy that Gen Alpha is toting around is the new affordable affluence play. Keeping with Andrea’s illuminations, she’s spot on when she says that for Gen Alpha snacks are external – and affordable – signalers much like fashion or car purchases for older generations. I’ll look no further than my own tweens parading around with bottles of PRIME Energy drink to know she’s right.

6. The Bear is Making Recruiting Harder for Restaurants

It may be my favorite show on TV, but celebrity chef Rick Bayless made the point that The Bear’s gritty portrayal of restaurant life isn’t helping advance restaurant work as a stable career choice. In Bayless-owned restaurants, he shared he’s done away with the tipping model to ensure stable and consistent wages to help make being a waitstaff a career, not just a gig. It’s a reminder that pop culture influences not just our product choices and brand loyalty but even our viewpoints.

Of course there was a lot of other valuable discussion ranging from the role of AI in everything from ingredient creation and manufacturing automation to marketing, flexibility in return to work, the value of dupe culture and more, but I’ll leave you with this from Jeffrey Harmening, Chairman and CEO of General Mills: “Brands are living things to be nurtured over time.”

Victoria Renwick is a partner at 360PR+ who runs the agency’s food & beverage practice. Connect with her on LinkedIn.  

Photo Credit: The Wall Street Journal

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