It’s no secret that social media marketing is fueling a new era in selling for companies of all sizes, and it’s especially true for small food and beverage makers that in the past might have spent years working just to expand locally before dreaming of anything bigger.

Early last month, the new product hall of the Summer Fancy Food Show was packed with small players that were making a name for their products and their brands more quickly than ever before.

“It’s a little bit obvious, but it helps us engage with our fans,” said Kelsey Hopping, marketing director at Cisse Trading Company. The New York-based company sells Fair Trade certified, non-GMO hot chocolate and baking mixes, and has been ramping up its use of social media marketing for the past few years.

In addition to building relationships with fans of the brand, Cisse’s pages and boards on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are increasingly becoming effective sales-building tools that give the small business the chance to reach a worldwide audience, she said. (read more…)

If you followed this summer’s public debate surrounding ride sharing, specifically the car service Uber, you might have heard the term “surge pricing.” The term incensed high-ranking government officials, but surge pricing illustrates the most basic of economic concepts: When demand is high, charge more.

Airlines and hotels have been surge pricing for years. But other than a “market price” for fresh fish or other rare commodities, the restaurant industry has largely stayed away. All this could soon change as mobile ordering gains momentum. Uber raises pricing on the fly based on real-time data gathered via mobile devices, the primary source for ride requests. Digital ordering for restaurants allows a similar opportunity by enabling fluid pricing. If, for example, a concert lets out at Madison Square Garden, Uber might charge higher rates to encourage drivers to come to the area. The local burger shop might also experience a flood of mobile orders. (read more…)

Perhaps the only modern-day phenomenon that’s more striking than people strolling down the street while using cell phones is the ubiquity of food. It’s everywhere – inside Ikea and Nordstrom, fresh from Amazon.com, delivered to your car in rush-hour Manhattan traffic.

Increasingly, food culture and technology converge in ways that are not strictly about purchasing: People share pictures of meals on Facebook and gain inspiration for recipes and ingredients on Pinterest. They use Twitter to interact with chefs and favorite brands. Date night sometimes means a couple sitting at the same table gazing into their smartphones.

These are markers of a revolution in the way people think about eating — and they mean huge changes for food marketers who are used to focusing on consumers’ wants and needs. Going forward, the most successful food companies will pay attention more to what people are actually doing with food, how they play with it and what meals and snacks they make — all activities anchored by the digital world and far different from the “need states” marketers traditionally study. (read more…)

Millennial consumers are having a noticeable effect on food and beverage brands, and their influence is increasingly being reflected in the products’ packaging. As the 21 million-strong generation wields its $1.3 trillion in direct spending power, brands have begun to take note of their product preferences and the trends that are driving their purchasing decisions.

This generation cares more about the benefits of the products, including the emotional benefits, so the goodness should be spelled out on the packaging. Messaging should turn the box, bag or bottle into a brief billboard, according to a report from Kansas City, Mo.-based ad agency Barkley. For example, belVita’s new Breakfast Biscuits tout “Nutritious, sustained energy all morning,” said report author and Barkley Senior Vice President Brad Hanna.

“The claim really hits on the emotional benefit of the product,” he said. “It does say whole grains, but it’s not leading with that. (read more…)

Farmers may do what they do out of love for growing our food, but the business and marketing side of the job hasn’t always come easy, according to Agricultural Marketing Specialist Bill Walker of the New Jersey State Department of Agriculture.

“They’re very good on the operations side, but they’re not always the best ones to write the press release, or have folks out to the farm,” he said. “But local farmers have to compete on marketing with folks who are very good at it year-round. For farmers, they had to grudgingly accept and acknowledge and embrace that you have to market yourself.”

The department’s Jersey Fresh marketing program launched 30 years ago to set standards for food grown in the state and help farmers and small businesses market and advertise local produce. Eateries around the state are increasingly using the program to source local produce from the state’s farmers. (read more…)