We Are Cooking Our Way Through COVID-19 – What Are the Opportunities for Food Brands?

Many of us are spending more time at home given the current period of social distancing brought about by COVID-19, faced with the challenge of adjusting to the ‘new normal’ and searching for ways to fill the day, find joy in the little things and spend quality time with those we live with. Born from this challenge, we’ve seen an endless number of budding home cooks trying their hand at new and old recipes that will line the stomachs but also inspire the maker. 

This week, Nielsen published a study about the rise of food and cooking sites over the last few weeks. It comes as no surprise as we have seen on socials and in the media, everyone going a little cooking mad when spending more time at home, however, it is interesting to see how significant the rise has been particularly amongst younger Australians. This insight has driven our planning and execution for campaigns across our range of food-related clients – aiming to tap into these high-reaching online food hubs wherever possible whether through earned media outreach, influencer engagement or paid partnerships.

Survey Results

Kerrie McCallum, Editor-in-Chief of Delicious Australia, initially mentioned the survey results last night in an Instagram post – above for reference – stating that, over the past few weeks, there has been a 71% rise in time spent on online food and cooking sites across the country with young adults (aged 13-24) seeing the biggest growth with an increase of 144%. 

She goes on to say that her own site – delicious.com.au – has seen its audience more than double in the same time period which could be attributed to the launch of its ‘Out of Office’ series, a section dedicated to providing recipe inspiration, food hacks and ideas to support the local restaurant scene from the comfort of your home. Likewise, we’ve seen other high reaching digital titles within the food space such as 9Kitchen, Best Recipes and Taste.com.au launch their own sections and columns devoted to inspiring Aussies to embrace home cooking and make the most of the time they can spend in their kitchen with their families.

Another article, published by AdNews this week, further highlights some key findings around the same topic: 

  • Australians are buying more key cooking ingredients, such as authentic Asian and Indian grocery items, up 128% and 185% respectively in terms of value sales
  • In the past four weeks Australians have stockpiled enough flour to last 65 days, while bread mix has sold more than double the expected volume and has seen dollar growth of 202%

What does this all mean for food brands and marketers?

  • Be helpful, useful and straightforward. Create content that is easy to follow, not complicated, and uses simple ingredients probably already in the pantry or fridge.
  • Don’t be salesy.  Tell stories that engage and put smiles on people’s faces.
  • Don’t focus on the product. Rather inspire consumers by surprising them with ideas for new consumption moments or simple ways to enhance their current routine.
  • Stay positive.  Use language that is carefully crafted.  Don’t make light of the situation we all find ourselves in.
  • Use your authentic brand tone of voice and stay true to your brand.

At FORWARD we think there is a good opportunity to connect sensitively with your consumers via your brand social channels, positioning ambassadors as spokespeople for earned media outreach and crafting supportive and entertaining messages with influencers by creating interesting twists on old classics, batch cooking and “how to” guides for cooking with the kids. Just for starters.

Some of the best ideas don’t even involve going to the shops but are just about using what is already in your pantry.  Who knew making pasta from scratch was so simple and fun?  Well Jamie Oliver does and he is helping the world to get back to the basics with simple ideas such as making pasta with only flour and water!

We are also seeing the rise of free online cooking classes with celebs and influencers inviting us into their quarantine kitchens.  And, as we are mindful that no-one likes an overly opportunistic brand in the height of a crisis, its a really natural place for food brands to play a role and ensures that you stay connected with your customers in an authentic and helpful way.  If you have an existing foodie ambassador perhaps this could be an idea that can create genuine content that would be truly appreciated.  We are fortunate that the current situation does not create the expectation that content has to be filmed in a studio or be polished and perfect. In fact, if ambassadors are willing to shoot some content in their own kitchens and invite audiences into their homes, it is more than likely that it will feel genuine and generous. 

Or working with an experienced foodie influencer and content creator, it is possible to create one recipe or how-to guides that can be used in multiple ways: on your own social channels, their social channels, pitched to the media and can also live on your website.  

All messages and ideas should be crafted carefully, and we recommend some common-sense guidelines to help ensure that your brand handles any opportunities with finesse and care during this period.

We are experts at food marketing and help brands to come to life in owned, earned and shared channels.  If you would like support in developing ideas and crafting messages that can be implemented easily and at scale, please get in touch!