Food manufacturers and suppliers have a simple goal, create desirable products and keep costs as low as possible. While that goal is actually quite far from simple, there is a new threat further complicating this mission, social media activists. These activists are utilizing social platforms to put pressure on the food industry to label their products properly and to use and source healthier and sustainable ingredients.
Social media gives brands and marketers insight into what products to introduce along with helpful consumer trends on how best to market those products. But in recent years, consumers have taken to social media to tell brands not just what they want in their food – but what they don’t want. Food companies have increasingly become targets of complaints – magnified by social media.
Who Are These Activists?
These activists are actually just everyday consumers like you and me who care about the food they eat and what they give their families. That said, social media gives these consumers a voice and rewards them for their activism. These activists run blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and more to communicate with thousands of other consumers on a daily basis. As a result, they can cause quite a stir and occasionally inspire a brand to change directions.
Meanwhile major non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Non-profits, and consumer advocacy groups have utilized their substantial social media followings to also go after food manufacturers.
Both individual activists and large Non-profits are taking advantage of free and highly cost-effective platforms such as blogs, email, text messaging, social networks, online petitions, and user-generated video to enlist the support of thousands of consumers to affect these changes.
Around the world, brands are listening. Kraft recently removed artificial food dye from their Macaroni & Cheese product after 300,000 consumers signed a petition and inspired 10,000 mentions across social channels.
Be Warned, Activists Are Not Easily Soothed
A caution to the brand, make sure you’ve thought everything through. Consumer activists will call out brands that don’t go the distance to make real changes. For example, if you say that you’ve removed Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) from your food, be prepared to back that up with proof as you can see from the below post after General Mills claimed to cease using GMOs in Cheerios.
Proactivity Reaps Rewards
For brands that can see this coming and find themselves in a position to make changes before they are called out by their consumer, the opportunity to gain positive notoriety is there for the taking. See below how Post’s efforts to remove GMOs and certify that action gained them a thumbs up from the social activist community.
Meanwhile retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods are siding with the consumer on this front and looking to stock more sustainable products and ensure better labeling. Walmart is rumored to be studying seafood sustainability and Whole Foods has promised that within 5 years all products they carry containing GMOs will state that fact on their package.
While this can be a giant headache for many in the food industry, it just requires a little more thought into how you make your products, how you market them, and ultimately how you handle your customers. By recognizing that social media activists are looking for an excuse to call you out if you lack transparency, you can hopefully plan accordingly.