Marketing requires tracking customer trends and determining how best to position products. For a small company with no staff researcher that means the owner/marketer (i.e. me) spends weekend and late-night hours searching the web and printed materials for trends research. Finding the article in Brand Packaging, January 2010 - which discussed the "guidelines for making the most of today's top trends" - was like manna from heaven. In it, Author Jonathan Asher identified 4 prominent trends emerging from societal shifts in the economy, the environment, technology and fast-paced lifestyles. These were:
- Small Indulgences
- Making a Statement
Understanding each trend and matching it up with Cream of the West's products and purpose was the first challenge.
Nostalgia - defined as looking back toward simpler, less complicated times - was a 'no brainer'. The company has a 96-year history to look back on. Cream of the West Roasted Wheat, the original product was first produced in a ranch kitchen in 1914. Currently on display in the Cream of the West plant are sample boxes of each design from 1914 to present. Now that quality whole-grain nutrition is in vogue, "everything old is new again".
While consumers don't always understand the difference between the 'all natural', 'organic' and '100% organic' labels, they do understand the importance of Simplicity. They know that products with fewer ingredients and no unpronounceable names are healthier and safer. Cream of the West whole-grain cereals hit a home-run for this trend with an ingredient list that is short and simple: 100% whole grain!
The economy put Small Indulgences on the list. After giving up many 'big things', customers are looking for "relatively modest" ways to reward themselves. Brands with a track record for flavorful, quality products should be able to gain some traction over the generic, bland offerings. A consumer can feel good about spending a bit more time and money for a small indulgence that is healthy and nutritious.
Finally, products that Make a Statement are driving more and more purchase decisions. Customers are seeking out companies who demonstrate commitment to something larger than 'the almighty dollar'. But, the commitment has to be authentic. Cream of the West's owners - a group of Montana farmers and ranchers - are 100% committed to sustainable agriculture. They bought the company and moved it to their rural community in southcentral Montana to help bolster the sagging economy of their small, agricultural town by providing much-needed employment and by adding value to Montana's crops. For these multi-generation Montana farmers and ranchers, sustainable agriculture is more than a passion, it's their way of life.
Figuring out how the 4 trends and Cream of the West fit together was the easy part. The hard work comes in finding answers to questions like these:
- How can Cream of the West capitalize on its 100-year old heritage?
- How will consumers understand the nutritional and flavor advantages of choosing simple foods over expedient ones?
- What will encourage consumers to see that investing in quality products is worth it for themselves and their families?
- How can Cream of the West effectively share our story and commitment to sustainable agriculture?
If you, the reader, have answers to these questions. I welcome them!
Keep in touch: Organic and Active Lifestyle are two more consumer trends that are impacting the food industry in a big way. Check back to learn how those trends are driving changes at Cream of the West.