Avoid Competitor FOMO: Here's What the Most Innovative CPG Brands Are Doing Right Now

Published 29 June 2021 by MaryLou Costa

Non-alcoholic spirits brand Pentire, toiletries brand This Works and Asian food brand Itsu Grocery are tapping into key trends such as health, wellness and at-home cooking - and making their eCommerce platforms premium consumer lifestyle destinations.

 

As the Covid rollercoaster continues, with consumer confidence buoyed by vaccination success yet hampered by new virus variants leading to extended restrictions, it’s clear that the new habits formed throughout the pandemic will lead to long-term lifestyle changes.

Prioritising health and wellness has become crucial, as has elevating the value of in-home experiences such as cooking and dining. Forward-thinking brands have leveraged these trends to cultivate and grow their own channels over the past 12 to 18 months, riding the wave of the seemingly unstoppable direct-to-consumer (D2C) trend. By tapping into the key trends in how consumer behaviour and priorities have changed, big CPG players can create more emotional connections across their e-commerce platforms, inspiring consumers to see their websites as lifestyle hubs.

According to Mintel’s 2021 Global Food and Drinks Trends report, a boost in mental and emotional health awareness is set to further fuel mindfulness and wellbeing as two key growth drivers in the food and drinks sector, particularly in the no and low alcohol (“nolo”) category. 

People will be paying more attention to what they consume and how it makes them feel, Mintel highlights, with data showing that 18% of UK adult drinkers plan to cut down even once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides. 

 

Brands need to up their game despite the growing trend

Mintel’s global food and drink analyst, Martin Pasco, explains that while moderating alcohol has been a trend amongst 18 to 34-year-olds in the UK for the past few years, with the pandemic accelerating the trend due to an increased focus on health, brands in this space have had to up their game on “telling a benefits story”. 

“(Nolo) brands would do better going forward if they emphasise how they can still offer, or imply, the relaxation benefits offered by alcoholic spirits - via messaging in language and imagery,” he advises. 

“Ultimately, 0% ABV spirits, which don’t dial up clear benefits, risk being seen as poor value soft drinks, with a hefty price tag.”

This is a sentiment non-alcoholic spirits brands Pentire has been tapping into, as an important strategy to troubleshoot the closure of key channels such as bars, pubs, restaurants, and events.

 

Creating a lifestyle connection

Pentire founder Alistair Frost says building the brand’s connection with the outdoors has been key in building an audience that is looking to cut down its alcohol intake in search of more adventure. Hence the strapline, “plant-based spirits crafted for active living”, and strong messaging around its connection to the Cornish coast. 

Beyond being a simple eCommerce platform, the Pentire website features a film series spotlighting outdoor adventurers, as well as outdoors-focused lifestyle content and giveaway partnerships with wellness and outdoor gear brands.

“For Pentire it’s about creating something far more than a drink, and inspiring active lifestyles and everything that comes with it. It’s about adding value to the consumer and the sector, and should be for everyone in the space,” says Frost.

“We are always sharing and communicating what we believe in, with everything from the product, to our marketing and how we behave daily. If people have faith to do that then, in the long term, true points of difference can be created. If people go with a ‘me too’ approach they might think it’s clever short term but really it’s not sustainable and burns out pretty quick.

“Every young company that really believes in something and has a shared mission can always have an edge as long as they can execute that vision across every element of their company.”

 

Wellness innovation embraces sleep

Brands already in the health and wellness space have of course been primed to benefit from this consumer shift - but those who have innately understood how the pandemic has influenced sleep quality in particular and sought to remedy that, have proven to be ahead of the curve.

For example, research from King's College London revealed that, for two-thirds of Britons, their sleep quality has deteriorated since the first lockdown. Linked to this, brands such as Cult Beauty, Asos, and Goop have reported a significant rise in sleep aids. Pinterest even nominated “sleep care” as one of its top five beauty trends for 2021. 

Trends intelligence agency Stylus also recently produced its Covid-19: The Beauty Sleep Opportunity report, outlining how independent brands have embraced innovation, experimenting with an endlessly growing list of sleep-enhancing products, from infused pillows and pyjamas, to overnight face masks and oils, to specially developed gummies and mouth sprays.

Stylus’ senior beauty editor Lisa Payne highlights This Works as a brand that has established itself as the sleep leader in the beauty sector, bolstering its sleep-based toiletries range with online content such as blogs and Q&As with sleep experts. She says the brand has set itself apart from competitors by going above and beyond with its online content to build consumer relationships - and ultimately, help them sleep better.

“It's going to be imperative for brands to maintain that sense of being useful to consumers - giving them the sorts of tools and educational things that potentially they would have had to pay for. That's the kind of brand value consumers are really going to be looking for - the ability to elevate the product from the noise,” says Payne.

“Naturally, this online connection is going to continue, because we've learned across the last year how to take our own issues and desires into our own hands, and recreate things at home.”

 

Linking premium in-home experiences to premium online hubs

Meanwhile, in the restaurant sector, brands like Itsu have successfully taken the heat off a huge pandemic-shaped blow by investing in its Itsu Grocery sister brand to capitalise on home cooking, as research from Bain & Company reveals 40% of consumers plan to cook at home more often even post-pandemic.

Itsu Grocery managing director Claudia Santagada says its supermarket cook-at-home ranges, such as bao buns and gyoza dumplings, surged 59% in sales over the past year. While working closely with supermarket partners has been crucial, creating a premium online experience has been equally important.

“We spent a lot of time and effort improving our digital channels, and it's definitely part of our strategy for the future. We’ve since noticed much higher engagement in terms of user-generated recipes on our website,” says Santagada.

“We also did a lot of work to set up our own Amazon shop, which is the first time all our ranges have come together visibly as a brand, giving it a lifestyle element out of the freezer.” 

Pentire, This Works and Itsu all demonstrate the power of boosting a brand’s own eCommerce channels by deploying brand-value based, high-quality lifestyle content to create premium online destinations that their consumers feel at home visiting beyond a transaction. 

Sales and marketing leaders needing to connect more deeply with their audiences to cut through the proliferation of online channels may benefit from learning more about the combination of storytelling, authenticity and relevance when it comes to brand building in the digital age, as well as sharpening their skills on how to optimise a digital store.

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