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Connecting with Customers During COVID-19: Part 1

Jun 30 2020

The Food Connector was not named by accident. Many years ago, before digital was digital, we saw that making connections with food between buyers and sellers, between retailers and consumers and between chefs and diners was a strong urge that has followed humans since cave days. We believed then, and even more strongly now, that connecting is the glue that binds brands to people.

In this COVID reality — how can you connect? First, what is connection? Dictionary.com defines connecting as “joining or linking things together, especially so as to provide access and communication.” Access and communication — having your product available for purchase and telling the story of WHY it should be purchased.

Second, it is important to think through time frame. In the midst of COVID, the focus on the here and now, the urge to survive, is strong.

It needs to be. Fanciful plans and insightful strategy do not matter if your company is forced to close this year. Survival is crucial and many specialty cheese producers are on the edge. We know from recent data that commodity cheeses are selling well based on familiarity, availability and price point.

Cheese is a high-quality protein generally at a lower price than beef, pork and chicken. Definitely less than plant-based foods. With many consumers not working, or because of uncertainty, commodity cheese is a popular choice.

But it is more than just price!

Comfort and familiarity are what people are really buying. Now is the time to position your brand as cozy and reassuring. Messages that join and link your attributes to that comfort are how you remain relevant now. Con- necting with buyers means meeting them where they are. Understand their concerns, provide access and com- munication, like the definition says. What do distributors, retail consumers, grocery buyers, people eating out and restaurant operators want?

Food Safety

Now is the time to clearly communicate WHAT your company does to ensure the safety of raw materials, employees and supply chain. Here are some suggestions:

  • Clear, concise messages on your website.
  • Repeated messages on social media.
  • Case inserts for retail products. Yes, a printed piece of paper that lays out in some detail the steps you take everyday in your plant. These printed inserts reinforce to your employees that you are serious. In a retail environment, you are training dairy case stockers and cheese mongers. When customers ask for recommendations, your company will be top-of-mind regarding food safety. In the short term, food safety stands alongside other attributes, like organic or grass-fed.
  • Ditto printed inserts for foodservice. Chefs and others will see that you are serious about safety, which will reinforce your brand. These messages may well carry over to counter staff, online ordering teams and servers who can influence promoting your products to consumers.

Check back next week for more tips and information on how to best connect with YOUR customers and thrive thru COVID-19.