3 top strategies for Better-For-You food brands in the age of pandemic

As I sat watching TV over the weekend (or was it Tuesday – can anyone really tell anymore?) I caught a new commercial for ShamWow, the super cleaning shammy, featuring the old ShamWow pitchman, Vince Offer. Although I immediately asked myself, “didn’t he get into some kind of weird personal scandal?” somehow, I was happy to see him – kind of like an old, weird, slightly scary college roommate. Then, in the last few seconds, Vince donned an anti-bacterial ShamWow mask (free with purchase!) and the spell was broken. Suddenly, I was back in Pandemic-land, 2020.

Am I the only one so desperate for normalcy that I’m momentarily thrilled the disgraced ShamWow huckster is once again screaming at me from my living room flatscreen? Turns out, I’m not alone. Recent data from Mondelez, reported by Food Ingredients First, shows that 40% of people said they have been eating more snacks, a quarter have splurged on chocolate and another 25% have had more soda. Even more worrying for small food brands is data showing 2/3 of consumers are seeking out trusted, familiar brands for that indulgence. Sales of Oreo, Ritz, Triscuit and Wheat Thins are way up. With schools closed, and everyone hunkered down, people are desperate to remember happier, snackier times. Obviously, everyone is looking for familiarity and comfort wherever they can find it.

So how are small brands to compete against Mondelez, Hershey and Nestlé during this seemingly never-ending snow day? After sorting through a bunch of articles and industry webinars, here’s a list of our picks for the best advice:

Try a little nostalgia – With consumers looking for reminders of better days, now’s the time to poor through the archives for inspiration. Is there a beloved flavor that’s been retired that could be relaunched with minimal effort? What about a vintage package design that could be given new life as a limited edition?

Get comfortable – Since even the most careful eaters are craving old favorites that they haven’t eaten in decades, now is the time to keep innovation close to home. Grilled cheese and chocolate chip cookies are the new edamame and sriracha. Could you introduce a new product that’s inspired by a comfort food favorite like mac ‘n cheese or pancake syrup? Or maybe feature a classic recipe idea that can be recreated with your product.

Think healthy – Now’s the time to reposition your product as not just healthy, but as a way to improve well-being or boost the immunity of your consumer. As reported in Food Navigator, market researcher MMR Worldwide see immunity as the new frontier and brands must find ways to be at the forefront of this global trend. Fortification with vitamins such as D and E will be making a comeback and ingredients such as elderberry, known for its immunity boosting properties, are starting to trend.

Of course, the biggest hurdle for challenger brands in this time of crisis is lack of funds. But the beauty of these ideas is they should be fairly easy and cost-effective to execute. Hey, if ShamWow can do it…