Working in the food industry in 2023 is challenging. Rising inflation and shortages in the supply chain are putting unprecedented pressure on food brands.  

It makes it more important than ever to stand out from the crowd – be pioneering, creative and to ‘think outside the box’ to maximise budgets.  

Repeating the same campaign messages and relying on your core range, while integral, is not enough to get noticed. To get people excited and build brand love in a cost-of-living crisis, brands need to be single-minded in their approach, be nimble and react quickly to trending topics with a truly integrated approach. 

With a fast-moving news agenda, it pays dividends to stay on top of news influencing the food and drink industry, alongside wider social media trends, to understand your audience’s mood and sentiment, shape your brand strategies and adapt your own channels.  This is the era of cultural listening. 

Here is our low down of the top trends influencing the industry: 

Waste not want not 

Inventive techniques to save time or money right now is a popular topic and well received by cash-strapped shoppers. Air fryer hacks, unusual slow cooker recipes and microwave dinner winners are not only helping to cut down cooking or prep time, but they also help to save on electricity, which, in a cost-of-living crisis is music to people’s ears. 

Saving money and saving the planet can go hand-in-hand. Hellman’s made food waste a core part of their strategy by launching an innovative glass jar that can detect when a fridge rises above five degrees – allowing people to change the temperature before their food goes bad. These clever hacks are incredibly popular, not just on news channels but across social media too.    

Hijacking stories for bigger impact 

One of the most effective tactical strategies for food and drink brands is to take a trending news story and turn it into a launch platform for a new campaign or product. A good example of this, is a clever social activation from premium soft drinks brand, Cawston Press. When Lilt sadly bit the dust after 48 years, people were saddened by the demise of another nostalgic brand. Cawston Press cleverly used this to its advantage. A poll was launched on the brand’s social channels to gauge interest in a ‘Caribbean Crush’ flavour, made with pineapple and grapefruit in tribute to Lilt’s tropical flavour. The teaser-style post worked because it was timely, relevant and engaged with Lilt’s core audience.    

Tapping into TikTok trends 

TikTok is stealing the march when it comes to time spent scrolling in the UK. The average dwell time is 27.3 hours per month, a YoY growth of +37% – which is significantly more than any other platform. Tiktok’s highly shareable, snackable video content is feeding the UK’s hunger for fast and easy entertainment. It’s a smorgasbord of viral recipes and is paving the way for future food trends. From the 100 layers trend to painted bread and the baked salad trend – there is plenty of inspiration to get your creative juices flowing.  Leverage the flash trends to stay fresh!  

Memorable brand partnerships with a difference 

Exciting and well-aligned brand partnerships are a great way to not only borrow equity and reach new audiences on social, but also help to secure media coverage. The most effective partnerships either tap into indulgence and have the ‘yum’ factor, like the Lotus Biscoff KitKat partnership, or create debate and have the shock factor, making it highly shareable. The infamous Heinz baked beans on Weetabix Twitter post that went viral in 2021 is still talked about today. Why did it go viral? It had brandter, humour and sparked debate that drew mainstream media and retailers into the conversation, as well as the public. 

Don’t shy away from hybrid product innovations 

Speaking of creative and shareable, those wacky new products you didn’t even know you needed in your life are filling up social feeds and capturing mainstream media attention. From the super indulgent to the weird and wonderful, 2023 is a good time to experiment with limited editions. A recent feature in The Grocer weighed up the pros and cons of launching NPD in a turbulent year, and pointed out that retailers are crying out for new products this year to keep aisles fresh and exciting for shoppers. Time to unleash your inner Willy Wonka!  

2023 is undoubtedly an uncertain time and while the temptation might be to keep a low profile, the key to retain and grow audiences is to have a creative and flexible approach that keeps people on their toes. Fortune favours the bold!