Why Diversity & Inclusion May Drive the Future of the Food Industry

    (and How Natural & Organic Products Could Lead the Way)

    It’s no surprise that the face of the U.S. consumer is growing more diverse year by year. With that in mind, the food industry and CPG (consumer packaged goods) suppliers are increasingly feeling the pressure to brand and market more diversity solutions and food inclusion efforts, especially since diversity is trending, not only for traditional products but also for the Natural and Organic Food sector.

    Furthermore, retailers are now shifting their strategies in order to include healthier options that are more ethnic in nature as well. These increased options allow them to deliver a cultural experience to their consumers while also driving more product offerings across the diverse populations they serve. By doing so, retailers have found a way to not only spice up their product selection, but to heat up their sales as well.

    Consider the fact that the ever-popular international aisles found in most grocery retailers are starting to offer organic and natural Hispanic and Asian products that speak to diverse audiences. In addition, many retailers are realizing the need to expand their international product offerings as well, to include everything from Indian to West African products (some of which are natural and quite nutrient-dense) to appease a wider population of consumers who also want healthier options.

    In appealing to this wider audience, CPG suppliers must be sure to deliver marketing messages that feature diversity and inclusion. Most retailers, however, do not fully understand just how important this aspect of marketing is to many consumers.

    Consider these statistics, for example: Approximately two-thirds (66%) of African Americans and more than half (53%) of Latino and Hispanic Americans report that they believe their ethnicity is represented stereotypically in advertising. Additionally, the majority of Americans report that diversity is important in advertising, and this belief is reflected in their consumer behaviors as well. Many consumers (38%) are more likely to trust brands that overtly demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion in their marketing content.

    There is clearly a significant disconnect between what consumers believe is important and what current marketing strategies actually deliver. For natural and organic CPG brands looking to leverage diversity in their marketing efforts, it is important to be aware of three primary elements that are often overlooked.

    As you evaluate your company’s diversity and inclusion marketing, consider these potential missteps:

    • Not highlighting images of people of color or diverse audiences in your marketing efforts or ad campaigns. To truly uphold a commitment to diversity and inclusion, you have to add more faces and voices to the conversation with your customers and audiences—and just adding stock photos that feature people of color to your marketing materials isn’t going to cut it. These photos that claim to highlight diversity usually include stereotypical depictions and cultural appropriation…and consumers know it.
      Stereotyping is lazy, and it demonstrates that you do not truly understand your audience. It often comes across as disingenuous, and your brand can risk alienating the very consumers you were hoping to bring into the fold. Real diversity and inclusion will take work. You must facilitate an ongoing dialogue with all customers—and that will require empathy, continuing attempts to understand the social context, and true reflection on the meaning and value of diversity and inclusion. Everything from language to images to social media posts should be crafted with the user experience in mind. When you do this, you can create authentic messages that hit the mark with an audience of consumers who genuinely care about diversity and inclusion.
    • Not partnering with diversity-driven media outlets and/or inclusive marketing partners who are connected to diverse audiences. In your diversity and inclusion marketing efforts, it also takes work to ensure that your partners can successfully deliver your message to the right people. If you are not selecting the right partners, you are not reaching the right audience—and no matter how great and well-thought-out your message might be, it won’t work if the right people never see it or hear it.
      You can overcome this obstacle by selecting the right partners—such as diversity-driven organizations—since they will appeal to the customer segments you are trying to reach. Analyze your current partners. Are you promoting your brand in Black-owned media outlets and/or women’s publications? If not, this is a significant lost opportunity for your brand.
      The right partnerships are also important because the modern consumer is data-savvy. They select brands they like and brands that care about the same environmental and social issues that are important to them. Modern consumers do their homework on companies and learn about supply chains and production practices. In addition, they will pay more for the same products and services from companies that demonstrate that they are promoting resonant values. If you fail to partner with other diverse and inclusive companies, your customer base will notice—and once again, all other efforts will appear disingenuous.
    • Not keeping up with current trends in diversity. Did you know that food inclusion is a trending topic in diversity? Retailers like Kroger and Whole Foods have leveraged this trend to offer more products from everywhere in the world—including India and West Africa—in order to serve diverse audiences. Purchasing from minority-owned companies is another significant emerging trend that is impacting many industries.

    Consider the following case study of leveraging marketplace trends:

    The myWHY Agency team are experts in understanding how to use the trend of diversity marketing to grow brands. As such, the agency developed a comprehensive marketing plan leveraging diverse marketing solutions for one of its clients AYO Foods. AYO offers nutrient-dense West African frozen food products in the U.S.

    myWHY implemented strategic PR, marketing, brand messaging/positioning tactics, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and social media marketing—and within the first year, gained immense visibility for AYO Foods, which allowed the brand to quickly go from having a few local/regional market retail partners to expanding nationwide within its first year.

    To be successful at creating effective diversity and inclusion marketing, you have to have a diversity mindset—one that prioritizes empathy and understanding. When you do this, you can curate messages that resonate across your entire customer base.

    A diversity and inclusion mindset can be used to shape all marketing materials and activities, thereby preventing any hollow or disingenuous efforts. A commitment to this new mindset will result in messages that help you grow your brand by drawing in exactly the customers you want.