Logic, Emotion, and Appetite: Food & Beverage Brands’ Ingredients for Success

By Bill Chidley

Scientists and behavioral economists believe we are unaware of what drives most of our decisions. Combine that notion with the unprecedented abundance of food in the developed world, and negative consequences surface. Lifestyle choices, particularly diet, are blamed for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Food and beverage brands are under increasing scrutiny regarding how demand for their products is created and where their products are distributed. Some food for thought:

The politics of food matters

The mechanisms of hunger and the sensorial triggers that stimulate our appetites reside far from our conscious control. Behaviors we cannot control, some argue, need to be regulated by governments to protect us. The politicization of appetite is a major challenge facing food and beverage brands this decade. It does not require much imagination
 to envision a future where calorie-rich, nutritionally poor foods and beverages are considered toxic (even addictive) and subjected to the same fate as tobacco; social stigma, a period of lively debate about personal rights, and ultimately, legislated regulation. The timing of this scenario may accelerate as Millennials get older and more aware of their mortality. Having grown up in the age of social media, they will likely sprint through the debate and we will see regulation come more quickly than was the case with tobacco and alcohol.

The power to be the change

The potential areas of control are most likely to start with distribution and accessibility (including size and packaging) of the most politically conspicuous products. Recently, New York City failed to limit portion sizes of dispensed carbonated beverages. Although the soft drink companies responded with an aggressive PR campaign, it was the court that ultimately struck down the law.

More limits and rules are inevitable, impacting campaigns, packaging, media platforms, and retail display. Big brands must respond by attracting consumers via social involvement and not just appetite appeal; being instruments of positive social changes that deliver meaningful results against obesity and diabetes.

Emotionalize smart choices

The abundance of choice and access we see today is not universal or sustainable. Food and water are resources that will 
be stressed as giant developing markets mature. Increasing costs of ingredients and distribution will drive up consumer cost and likely reframe how consumers choose in addition to healthfulness alone. Brands that move the emotional positioning of core products to healthier alternatives in their portfolio will be pleasing a more discerning future consumer and securing their leadership position.

Bill Chidley (bill.chidley@interbrand.com) is Senior Vice President & Executive Consultant, Interbrand Design Forum

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