Where it comes from
Gone are the days of blindly reaching for packaged goods without considering their origin – concern about where and how we source what goes into our food has become mainstream. Case in point: the U.S. based food documentary Food, Inc. – which shed light on surprising and often shocking truths – about what we eat, and how it’s produced” received the ultimate validation when it was nominated for an Academy Award. Furthermore, research from consumer behavior firm, Innova Market Insights identified an aversion to overly processed foods as the leading factor that would impact new product development in 2011.
As a result of this shift in ideology, several high-awareness environmental movements are prompting consumers to seek out eco-friendly products and corporations that adhere to more environmentally safe manufacturing processes. One such initiative is the global “farm to table” movement (also known as “farm to fork” and related to the “local foods movement”), which centers on the notion that food is better when produced and consumed locally. Farm to table as an extension of origin is directly impacting the way marketers communicate about food-based products. Brands across the world are embracing a sense of freshness and abundance associated with this dynamic.
Recent campaign examples
The slow foods movement
A conceptual relative of the local foods initiative is the slow foods movement. The globally active Slow Foods organization professes, “everyone has a fundamental right to the pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition, and culture that make this pleasure possible.”
As an advocacy group, Slow Foods focuses on three pillars of food/food production – Good, Clean, and Fair, which are defined by the group as follows:
- Good: a fresh and flavorsome seasonal diet that satisfies the senses and is part of our local culture
- Clean: food production and consumption that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health
- Fair: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for small-scale producers
Innocent Drinks takes it slow
We see UK orange juice producer, Innocent Drinks use of tranquility and agricultural concepts as a prime example of the slow foods movement in modern marketing communications. The company’s television advertising captures a “day in the life” of an orange tree, allowing the consumer to picture where the oranges that turn into juice spend their time before converting into their favorite beverage. The imagery used embodies the same sense of “good” and “clean” as espoused by Slow Foods literature.
In addition to communicating origin within video-based communications, Innocent Drinks also uses gamification to educate consumers about the birthplace of oranges. Its digital game, Orange Harvest, invites online visitors to engage with the brand by catching virtual oranges as they fall from trees, another direct link to the slow foods idea. Using the visual language of origin in this way reflects the effectiveness of gamification as a means of education. In fact, recent research published by Google and U.S. sustainability/gaming firm Recyclebank, indicates that more than 4-in-5 consumers see online gaming as an effective educational tool.
The Fair Trade movement
The Fair Trade movement is perhaps the most well known of grass roots based environmental initiatives embraced by consumers. Accordingly, research conducted by Globescan on behalf of Fairtrade International, reports the following powerful beliefs about Fair Trade as a communication platform:
• 57% of consumers in 24 countries have seen the Fairtrade Certification Mark
• 64% trust the Fairtrade Certification Mark
• 48% surveyed in 5 countries say they’re more likely to buy brands carrying the Fairtrade Certification Markix
Migros makes use of Fair Trade
As a globally recognized movement, Fair Trade pervades traditional marketing environments as well as product packaging. Swiss supermarket chain, Migros, uses imagery linked to multiple healthy lifestyle movements (such as Alternative Energy and Fair Trade) on product labeling. Integrating authentic, origin-related imagery with the already strong Fair Trade Certification Mark serves to elevate its resonance with consumers.
Sustainability: friend or foe?
Deploying sustainability-focused visual language is not without risk. According to research conducted by Proctor and Gamblex, only a small portion of niche consumers place sustainability as top priority above value or performance. The majority of consumers (roughly 70% per region) will not accept sustainability-driven products that do not deliver on a functional promise. Additionally, consumers in Japan are more likely than consumers in the U.S. or Europe to embrace sustainability messaging.
The explosion of organic
Information availability has also led to a deeper understanding of how artificial ingredients and production processes impact our health. This has given rise to the explosion of organic products and all natural ingredients, not just in the food category, but also within beauty and household items. A 2011 study valued the nutraceuticals sector (food-based products that claim to deliver some form of health benefit) at $151 billion and projected its compound annual growth to be 6.5% for the next five years, estimating that it would reach $207 billion in 2016. Consumer demand for products that are natural, sourced locally, and produced responsibly represent another measure of how we are taking back control over our planet and our health.
The power of naturally sourced ingredients
In addition to food-based segments of FMCG, the personal care sector is rife with products that deliver benefits based on “the power of naturally sourced ingredients.” This is achieved by directly integrating plant-based imagery into product representations to visually link health and beauty products with their flora-derived origin.
Global beauty brand, Jurlique relies heavily upon concepts of origin and the power of ingredients in all forms of its brand communication. Under an umbrella mantra of “Nature. Science. Innovation.” Jurlique’s offering is replete with influences of origin, from minimalistic packaging to an ingredients glossary that explicitly defines the functional benefits of its plant-based ingredients.
The consequences of Europe’s tough regulations
Although science-based approaches to visual communication are prevalent within the personal care segment, there are risks to this approach. Innova Market Insights points to the tough regulatory environment in Europe (EFSA) as an obstacle to gaining approval for “active health” based claims. According to Innova, there may actually be a “return to softer claims” as companies forgo the large investment of time and legal oversight required to succeed with “active” based claims.
Jurlique harnesses the concept of origin
Visually, Jurlique intertwines packaging with botanical lineage, placing its products in context with their natural sources. Ingredients are catalogued using simple visuals to communicate unadulterated components. The inclusion of science-related imagery helps brands support various research-based efficacy claims, lest consumers believe that natural origin and effectiveness are mutually exclusive. Julique’s digital and print advertising continues the visual marriage of botany and product, reinforcing the concept of origin as the root of its offering. The products appear to be living extensions of the plant, creating a perception of purity.
FMCG marketers spanning a wide range of services can capitalize on the trend of origin as described within this report. The following guidelines suggest ways in which FMCG brands can create successful visual communications surrounding FMCG and origin.
- Utilize visuals that isolate plant-based ingredients, as they offer a powerful link to nature and promote a sense of purity
- The visual language of origin is more than deconstructing a product’s ingredient makeup – so think about all the elements of a product, including the sources, people, and processes who bring it to fruition.