This is one of The Food Channel’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2011, based on research conducted in conjunction with CultureWaves®, the International Food Futurists® and Mintel International. For the full list, click here.
Getting closer to the customer. Go ahead. Look closely at the pizza in the photo above. It’s not food styled. It’s not machine produced. And yet every ingredient on this pizza is real. This is a big business pizza that laid down the gauntlet after listening to its customers.
As anyone who works for a big corporation knows, the bigger your brand, the larger a target you may become. In today’s world, a corporate mindset might be bad for business. If you are in the food business and you are all about getting bigger, well, so is that bull’s eye on your company’s back. This trend is about people’s perception that “if it comes from a big building, it’s probably bad for me.”
We say perception, because it’s obviously not true across the board, but this trend should be a wake up call from consumers to food corporations. Take Domino’s Pizza for example. The pizza in the picture comes from Domino’s. This is a company that, not even two years ago, put everything on the table—their crust, their sauce, their cheese, their toppings—and said, “What do we need to change?” They faced change the way a small entrepreneur does, and they benefitted from the change. They became a big company that acted like a small company.
Mark our words. The more a business grows, the bigger the temptation there is to add layers of enforcement, layers of control, layers that will eventually mess with the flavor, the customer service, and the value. The more a food business grows, the bigger the temptation to do more things and to standardize them for the sake of economy and, even, for your health.
What we see happening in 2011 is that successful food companies will use all the tools of social media to get closer to their customers. They will listen as though it was a one-on-one conversation. We think that means food businesses will choose to do a smaller number of things and do them very, very well. They will be purposely getting “smaller” in how they think, with a customer in mind instead of a bottom line. They will no longer subscribe to the Henry Ford model of food production, but will actually be okay with being less “finished” and with letting the world see a few rough edges.
They’ll be more like you and me, the consumers they serve.
It’s the reason we consumers like local diners, and why we look for places off the beaten path. It’s why we like cafes. We want to spend our money someplace where the owner knows we’ve been there, and where success is based on producing a quality product at a good price.
For evidence, read: