How much is food choice based on a logical thought process versus an instinctual, “primal” desire?
In a session called “Tap Primal Instincts to Fuel Your Food Movement” a panel organized by the Produce Marketing Association will present at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival 2019 in Austin, Texas, on March 12.
I visited this week with Adam Cooper, senior vice president of marketing for The Wonderful Company about the panel, which also includes Lauren Scott, chief marketing officer for the Produce Marketing Association, Lisa Cork, owner/director of Fresh Produce Marketing and Stephen X. Springfield, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Sentient Decision Science.
In the website description of the session, the paragraph preamble poses the issue like this:
“Parents say eat your veggies but we still crave candy? Understand why what we do and what we actually want are often different, especially when it comes to food. Explore what drives food choices in different situations and why rational thinking alone can’t trump primal desires. Leave this session ready to use instinct to drive consumer food decisions. This is a great discussion for marketers, researchers, consumer enthusiasts, food lovers, policy wonks and health nuts.”
Cooper said he has been on PMA’s “demand creation” committee for about the past year and the South by Southwest presentation is one of the group’s major initiatives.
“This is a great opportunity to be part of a conference like SXSW, (with) culturally forward people there who are innovators. disruptors — really figuring out what’s next in a lot of different spaces including food but also music, entertainment and other things,” Cooper said. The event is a great way for PMA and the panelists to speak into that event and the influential crowd that attends, he said.
When it comes to tapping “primal instincts” to fuel the food movement, Cooper said that the panel will present research diving into the motivations behind consumers’ food choices.
“What we found was although people think they are rational, they tend to not be rational all that often when it comes to food choices,” Cooper said. “It seems like consumers are making a portion of their decisions based on emotional behavior and drivers.”
The consequences of that behavior entail different marketing approaches than have traditionally been used for fresh produce.
Cooper said his presence on the panel speaks to the success that the Wonderful Company has had in marketing citrus, nuts, pomegranates and more.
In making the world a healthier place, Cooper said Wonderful has redefined who they are as a company, thinking of themselves as a healthy snacking company instead of an ag company or a produce company.
“Of course we are all of those things, but at the same time we think of (the marketing arena) as a sandbox, by redefining the scope of our world and the sandbox that we play in,” he said.
That process of enlarging the “sandbox” brings new marketing ideas and strategies to target consumers.
For example, for pistachios, a marketer could think of the sandbox only as the pistachio category, or enlarge the view to think of the nut category, salty snacks or, in broadest terms, all snacks.
The same applies for the Halo brand, he said. “We could be oranges, we could be citrus we could be fruit, we could be all snacks,” he said. “That’s one of the core messages that I’ll be talking about my presentation is really thinking about redefining your sandbox.”
Cooper will review the Wonderful Company’s "emotional and experiential” advertising campaigns, including “Get Crackin” ads that included Snoop Dog and Stephen Colbert.
The company’s campaign with the Grinch tapped into consumers’ nostalgia, with animation created by Wonderful that shows the Grinch smiling when enjoying pistachios. Other campaigns revolve around the social connectivity in football-themed promotions or the stress relief that comes with providing an ample box of Halos to a youth sports team.
“I absolutely think the produce industry needs to evolve,” Cooper said. “We can’t think too narrowly; we need to ask ourselves, what sandbox should we be in?”
I think the concept of “redefining your sandbox” is a perfect analogy for the industry’s marketing challenges.
From marketing to merchandising, from evolving culture and shopper habits, change is coming.
It is time to “Get Crackin.”