How to reaffirm the online branding message

GS1 Australia offers a range of services to brands, some aimed at helping them navigate the intricacies of online retailing.

As businesses start to move away from traditional retail brick and mortar outlets towards online business models, there needs to be a smart marketing strategy to help both brands and consumers navigate through to outcomes that will meet both of their needs.

GS1 realises that it is important to support companies moving into this arena and that digital images and content are important tools in selling their products. Mark Blitenthall is GS1’s manager of service engagement and is leading the charge in terms of getting a new offering into the marketplace.

GS1 Australia, is the not-for-profit organisation responsible for administering barcodes in Australia, and has been a long-term supporter of industry with services like barcode verification, which involves brand owners submitting product barcodes for testing to ensure that their products will scan at point of sale.

“More recently we’ve been offering additional services, including imaging capabilities via GS1 photography,” said Blitenthall.

“The service also offers other things such as content creation, where we curate the information that is on a product’s packaging. We provide the brand’s information to the retailers in an electronic format so they’ve not only got the product image, but all the information that goes with that image on the product.

“Consumers can look up the product based on its description, and be presented with a range of other information about the product such as the allergens it might contain. As people become more conscious of the food they consume, they are looking for particular ingredients, so it’s important for food brands to provide this information. Consumer expectations are evolving too, so people keep expecting more information on ingredients.”

GS1 starts with the foundation of making a product traceable and sharing supply chain information using the barcode. This new service has evolved to having an image associated with the product, and supplementing the supply chain data with information that is of interest to the product’s end consumers.

“Many companies that GS1 Australia works with initially come to them to get a barcode.
“Then they’ll realise there are other things they need to do, like developing a working relationship with their trading partners,” said Blitenthall. “The retailer will recommend providing information about the product in order to facilitate its movement through the supply chain. It’s at this point that GS1 can assist brand owners to provide all of the additional information that retailers require in order to support the process of getting their product to market.

“We also proactively reach out to our members to discuss their business needs with a view to providing as much support as we can. One of the solutions we provide to them is the photography and content creation service,” said Blitenthall.

It costs about $95 per product for content creation. As a not-for-profit organisation GS1 is doing its best to make it as cost effective as possible.

“When you think about what organisations spend to launch a new product and all the R&D that goes into that product’s development, $95 per item is a small fee to ensure that the product’s on-line marketing has the same focus as the rest of the R&D effort,” said Blitenthall.

COVID-19 has also led to a push for more retailers wanting to get product online. A couple of months ago, there wasn’t as much urgency to have an online presence, according to Blitenthall. However, with COVID-19, there has been a push from the retailers to not only have a bigger presence online but to make sure that the content on their websites is 100 per cent accurate and also that they are showcasing the products the best way they can.

“The retailers are encouraging brands to enhance their online presence, but I think that brand owners are also realising that there is a benefit to be had from making sure they have got accurate content,” he said. “Everyone’s on a journey and we’re all at different stages on that journey. Many are still at the stage of trying to get the product information and images right. COVID-19 has given it a bit more momentum and we’re starting to see retailers encourage, and brand owners buying into the concept of, supplying content.”

The process of using the service is straightforward, according to Blitenthall, and GS1 will do a lot of the leg work for the brand.

“All brand owners need to do is send us their products. We image them, transcribe all the on-pack information into an electronic format, and then contact the brand owner to let them know the information is ready for review,” he said. “They just need to review the image and product information. Once it has been approved and published, it automatically gets delivered to their trading partners by GS1’s Smart Media, digital asset management platform. Smart Media allows brand owners to store, manage and share all their images and product data and has direct integration into the different retailers.”

The brand has got the ability to choose which retailer to publish their images and content to, or they can choose to make the information public, providing access to all recipients
Blitenthall thinks that COVID-19 is a game changer and that the retail landscape will probably never fully return to the way it was before the pandemic hit.

“I think it took a while for some brands to catch up to that. We’re really seeing a lot of traction now and people who may not have been used to shopping online have gotten used to it,” said Blitenthall.

ˆ“People have been talking about the shift to on-line for a long time, but I think even when COVID-19 subsides it is going to continue the momentum that the past couple of months have given it.”

Disruption still felt in supermarkets due to Covid-19

To navigate the world beyond COVID-19, innovation that improves life for all rather than playing by the rules to manage risk is imperative to growth in the food and beverage industry. Speaking at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology Convention, Kantar Australia’s head of sensory, Dr. Denise Hamblin says that “brand loyalty has been disrupted and there has never been a more important time to ensure our products are as good as they can be.”

In April, 93 per cent of Australians were unable to find their usual grocery brand or product in store. “This happened across an average of 13 grocery categories, and when it did, 9 out of 10 people chose a different brand. Where a home brand alternative was chosen, 78 per cent were ‘as satisfied’ or ‘more satisfied’.”

As product availability returns to pre-crisis levels, 3 in 10 Aussies continue to buy alternatives.

Thirty per cent of Australians surveyed as part of  Kantar’s Covid-19 barometer between May 22-26 plan to continue to buy the new brands they purchased during product shortages, with 27 per cent also continuing to shop at new stores they’ve discovered in the height of the pandemic. Over half are paying more attention to products on sale and on price.

“Ultimately, building value around the products and experiences we curate are vital in this climate.​ As concern around getting sick has reduced, the worry has increasingly turned towards the future, especially around an economic recession – and this brings more aversion to risk,” said Hamblin.

“For older Australians and those in a ‘conformity’ mindset, this may mean demand for the same brands and products for a lower price; but younger generations and those in a ‘rebellion’ mindset are more likely to try new and different things that provide better value for money.”

The coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity for brands to gain new consumers

“As we navigate our way towards a ‘new normal’ this is anticipated to continue, particularly in households with children,” says Hamblin. “In April, over half of Australians reduced their frequency in supermarket visits from an average of 2.5 to 1.7 times a week. At the same time, the propensity to shop online has increased for a third of us, with the purchase of food and beverages increasing the most of all categories.”

“This is a huge mass trial of a service,” said Hamblin. “Clearly unexpected in its widespread nature too as only just over a third of Aussies felt that grocery shopping online yielded an excellent user experience.”

Kantar’s qualitative studies also reveal the biggest pain points for online grocery shopping during the pandemic is the absence of sensorial stimulation as a motivator and for enjoyment. While an added cost at a time when price sensitivities prevail, doubt around product freshness and the inconvenience of imprecise delivery slots take strong reign. Price and provenance are also key to what brands should be thinking about to put the consumer at the heart of what they do.”

“With 57 per cent of Aussies paying more attention to homegrown products, if your product is owned, made or grown in Australia, then it’s a great time to ensure consumers know about it.”​

Forty-two per cent of Australians say they will maintain most lockdown behaviours – especially food and wellbeing

As lockdown measures began, Aussies began to cook more frequently and more often from scratch. Fresh ingredients, healthy meals and new recipes were key.​ As lockdown progressed – and has now eased – Aussies are still increasingly trying to gain consistency with eating habits.

“While the crisis has forced many to do more to look after physical and mental wellbeing, it has also beckoned us to snack more and seek out treats,” said Hamblin. “This creates new opportunities for the food and beverage industry, just in a different environment.”

Return-to-work trends also provide opportunities for the food industry to innovate

Only 57 per cent of Aussies have a return-to-work timeframe in mind given concerns about hygiene and social distancing, as well as the commute and public transport. For the food industry, this may mean less reliance on office-provided snacks and ‘on-the-go’ solutions but opens the opportunity for supporting workers to prepare their own lunches.​

“Safety is paramount, and this extends into buying products to protect ourselves – especially important to households with children. We’re seeing an increased propensity towards vitamins and supplements. This also indicates a real opportunity for food and beverage innovators to develop functional and fortified products,” said Hamblin.

“Considering the consumer’s need for more considered, purposeful activities and connections as we emerge out of isolation; along with a renewed focus on health, a desire for local, an eye for value and new confidence, shopping online will stand any brand in good stead. Brands should also pay heed to what Aussies increasingly want from them at this time – to guide the change, use their knowledge and inform. The new normal presents opportunity for brands innovating to leadership.”

Branding and supply chain: why they matter

Danny Celoni is the Australasian CEO of one of the most recognisable names on the planet – PepsiCo. Having more than 22 years’ experience in sales, strategising and marketing throughout the Pacific and Asian regions, he is in a good place to see where Australian brands fit. Not only in terms of names themselves, but perceptions, too.

“[I think] Brand Australia has a lot of equity with a lot of our brands,” he said at the recent Global Food Forum held in Sydney. “PepsiCo has a huge snack portfolio including the likes of Red Rock Deli chips and Twisties and we are seeing Brand Australia becoming more prominent. We are well placed from a value-add perspective. It’s all about quality, food security, consistency – they’re core elements that make Brand Australia prevalent.”

Appearing on stage with Celoni was Sir Rod Eddington, who, among other things, is the non-executive chairman of brewery giant Lion. A Rhodes Scholar who attended Oxford, Eddington is a strong believer in having big ties to Asia. His Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun awarded to him by the Japanese government in 2015 for his contribution to strengthening economic relations between Australia and Japan is proof of that. And although he is a champion of local produce, he is slightly less optimistic about Australia’s brand presence. He believes Australian food producers have a way to go in the branding stakes. He cites Australia’s neighbours across the Tasman, and a home-grown example, as a prime illustrations of how Australia should be positioning itself.

READ MORE: 7 risks in the food supply chain that compromise customer safety

“We have a long way to go on Brand Australia to be frank,” he said. “The Kiwis have done a brilliant job. The 100 per cent Pure New Zealand brand is a very good one.

“The part of Australia that is probably closest to being in the right space is Tasmania. Tasmania has built a reputation for itself, over a long period of time, not only as a producer of world-class wool, but of world-class seafood and vegetables. I think there is some real examples to be taken from Tasmania. As good as Australian food is, it still doesn’t have an overarching brand with the quality that the Kiwis have delivered.”

Eddington also made it very clear that the supply chain has to be up to scratch. If it’s not, then it doesn’t matter how high-quality your food or beverage is, you will make no inroads into some of the more fickle, but lucrative, markets.

“If you are exporting fresh and chilled products including cold foods, then supply chain is critical,” said Eddington. “An hour on the tarmac in the sun can destroy the product. As a company, we are really focussed on what supply chains are best and there are plenty of places in Asia where they are good. Japan is good. Hong Kong is very good as is Singapore. There are parts of China – especially where you have to trans-ship goods – where you may have a problem.

“There are other places in Southeast Asia where there are opportunities, but, as yet, their supply chains are not strong enough. And if their supply chains are not strong enough, you can’t risk your product because it will affect your brand. We are very much focussed on working with shippers and transport companies that can deliver certainty around cold store supply chain. It’s not only just for us. If you are selling sea food, fruit, vegetables, chilled meat into Asia – and that is where there is a substantial opportunity – then you need to have the certainty of supply chain.”

One up and coming country is Vietnam. While not at the standard it needs to be for Australian exporters, the country is making an effort to get the infrastructure in place so that it soon will be a gateway for Australian cold store exporters to land their goods.
“The Vietnamese are in the process of upgrading their supply chain,” said Eddington. “It is not as reliable [compared to some other Asian destinations], but it is a real opportunity for our businesses.”

He was also quick to point out that it wasn’t that long ago that all the bigger airports in Australia had the problem of not very good cold store supply chain facilities. He is confident that many countries around the world, including those in Asia, will see the benefits of a reliable cold store chain supply.

What about regional Australia, though? The majority of the country’s food is grown in regions, so why not set up cold store facilities at the local airports and export directly to overseas markets? Fair point, said Eddington. While there are some places that are starting to do that, there are roadblocks that need to be overcome.

“The thing about cold store supply chains is that they cost a lot of money,” he said. “You need the throughput and volume to make them work.

“There was a time when our major airports didn’t necessarily have high-quality cold supply chains and they do now. For instance, Cathay Pacific offers a freight service once a week, hoping to go twice week, to Toowoomba.

“There is an opportunity to exports vegetables and fruit out of that area to North Asia. There are opportunities in the regions, but you do need to pick your mark carefully.
“If you want to deliver high-quality goods to North Asia – freshness and reliability is key. That really means the big airports have to have the facilities.

“The other thing big airports need to have – and is a big advantage of Melbourne’s over Sydney – is no curfew.”

It not only Asia that is opening up to Australian produce. One United States success story of a value added product doing well overseas is the Australian developed – and now owned by PepsiCo – Red Rock Deli chip brand. Celoni said that the added value aspect of Red Rock helped PepsiCo get into the commodities space. Red Rock has opened a few doors in terms of categories that PepsiCo is trying to enter.

“[We] need to make ourselves indispensable, by growing categories,” said Celoni. “We need to front up to retailers and see how we can drive more penetration, more frequency – high average-weight-of-purchasing dollars.

“[PepsiCo] needed a product in the premium segment and our US colleagues talked about [Red Rock] and what it was doing from a category perspective. It was all about the increase in dollars per kilo, the brand, and the pack architecture that we were able to mobilise to create value and different price points. They saw an interest in it, so we sent some over and did some consumer tests. It resonated with some of the retailers and created value and off it went.”

And it’s not only what Celoni calls PepsiCo’s indulgent portfolio of products that it is looking to expand, but it has recently delved into the healthy snack market. Again, branding is the key, especially when trying to get into Asia.

Celoni makes no apologies that the sugar-rich fare PepsiCo is known for will still be the mainstay of its business, but they realise that category expansion is key to any successful business going forward.

“We do see opportunities in the health and nutrition space, in what we call adjacencies,” he said. “It’s growing in double digit and it’s a segment that is reaching the billion-dollar mark, certainly in the snacking space.”

PepsiCo has recently acquired Bare Foods, which produces baked fruits; Health Warrior, which makes nutritious snacks and bars; and Muscle Milk, a protein shake brand manufacturer.

He said the company has gotten rid of some of its arrogance by realising it can’t do everything itself. Thus the foray into the health food sector.

“We’ve looked for what I would call, ‘best-in-class manufacturers’ that can make quality products,” he said.

“And we thought about how we think about from a category expansion perspective in terms of capabilities.

“So, we entered into health nutrition [sector] with Sun Bites, and we are doing more work with Off the Eaten Path, which is a brand being launched by the retailers in the health and nutrition space. It’s all anchored in making sure we give our consumers the right choice. We will continue to do more of that because obviously that is what we are asking for at the moment.”

Both men agree that Australia is heading in the right direction with its food exports, but that maybe the sector as a whole can do a little bit more to make sure it is making the most of the opportunities available. Being organised is the key, said Celoni.

“It’s about getting the right pipeline and getting in on consumer needs…and making sure our supply chain footprint and all the work we do with our farmers [is sound],” he said. “Ninety-five per cent of our production for our locally made products are sourced in Australia.

“That will continue into the future. With the 500-odd farmers we work with either directly or indirectly, we see a real source of growth, but we have to get a lot more meticulous in the way we plan.”

CCA launches new Sprite campaign

Coca-Cola South Pacific has launched the next phase of Sprite's 'Cut Through The Heat' brand campaign, dedicated to inspiring and empowering Aussies to deal with life's awkward moments. 

The campaign kicks will include the return of the brand's distinguished ambassador, Sprite Saver, who will amplify Sprite's 'cut through' message through a number of 'refreshing' environments.

There will be a heavy focus on social media, designed to build an active and engaged community of Sprite lovers and encourage younger consumers to build a connection and affinity with the brand. 

The company said that content will be geared towards sparking dialogue around cutting through heated moments, positioning Sprite as a tool to cut through them and demonstrating how it can give consumers the confidence to keep their cool.

Donna Mulholland, Group Marketing Manager, Coca-Cola South Pacific said: "We're looking to build brand equity and increase engagement amongst consumers by capturing their interest through a series of fun and engaging executions that will be rolled out in market in the coming months. Our refreshment message also remains at the heart of the campaign as we continue to educate consumers about the product benefits."

Saltmine redesigns Tip Top packaging

Sydney brand design agency, Saltmine Design Group has redesigned the Tip Top product packaging to promote what it calls its "leadership in the bread category.“

George Weston Foods commissioned Saltmine to reinvigorate the Tip Top brand, which has been in the market for over 50 years, with the objective to realign the brand and product range.

As the largest brand in the category, Tip Top saw the opportunity to create a powerful new masterbrand visual identity.

Sara Salter, Managing Director at Saltmine says, “We are very excited to be working on such an iconic Australian brand. Key to this projects success was staying true to the brands heritage whilst also creating a fresh new look that would allow Tip Top to strengthen it’s leadership in the bread category.“

Saltmine introduced a red swoosh device to the brand’s visual identity, which is almost as important as the brandmark itself.  The ‘swoosh’ is used on-pack to frame the window which highlights the product, and in communications, as a border to highlight products and increase the brand colour.

The Tip Top brand is known for its nutritious and tasty bakery goods and Saltmine wanted to convey this on-pack by bringing to life the food and health credentials that the brand was previously lacking.  Falling wheat, grains and fruit were used to re-inject food cues and add appetite appeal to the previously static pack design, the brand design agency said.

Speaking about the new Tip Top visual identity, George Weston Foods, Group Marketing Manager, Justine Cotter, said “The new visual identity developed by Saltmine for the Tip Top masterbrand provides a strong, unified look for the brand and positions TIP TOP as a market leader.”