The Importance of Public Relations for Food & Beverage Brands

Hiring a public relations agency at the right time is crucial to the success of your brand, especially in this “Amazon Era”. A dedicated PR agency not only helps create brand awareness before and after a product launch, but also offers a plethora of services important to your overall ROI, including securing A-list press coverage, brand exposure, consumer activations, creative campaign ideation, social media management, influencer marketing, brand partnerships, and crisis communications, among other services.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool, however strategic media relations outreach and a measurable public relations program — whether you are a startup or an established brand launching a new product — will help determine the right messaging and strategic approach to ensure you reach your target consumer.

When to hire a PR Agency?

There is a common misconception that brands should engage a PR agency after they launch their product or service or once they are available for distribution, ie, at Amazon or other e-commerce platforms. Hiring a PR firm is like bringing on an experienced partner to help you throughout the “on boarding” process, from start to finish, whether it’s a rebranding, important company development or a product launch. Additionally, it often takes months to get a good PR hit (yes you get PR before 3 months),—but consider the time it takes to select the right media targets, the time it takes to send them samples, the time it takes to follow up, and the timing of their editorial calendar. Additionally long lead magazines like Everyday with Rachel Ray, Vogue, etc. work on “long lead” times which can be 3-6 months.  Most long lead publications, as of the day of this writing, are already working on their November and December holiday issues.

Your PR agency will not only promote the launch of your brand or product, but will work with you from the beginning to develop creative strategies and ideas that will attract the media, retailers and distributors and your target consumer audience. They work in partnership with you to create key messages, support with website copy and content development, and conduct focus groups to learn what your consumers are looking for and how they will respond to your product launch.  They often help in creating ideas that generate attention from distributors and retailers and make your brand stand out.  No one wants to be considered “just another brand” by buyers.

Involving a PR company during your start up stages strengthens your brand’s credibility, builds momentum, and stimulates consumer demand. Consumer trust can also be destroyed when a company promises one thing but delivers another.  Look at many poor Amazon reviews and you will see a lot of companies unintentionally over promise and under deliver. Therefore, messaging should be managed carefully. When it comes to a product launch, the consumer will already have perceptions of the brand’s product based on word-of-mouth, social media messaging, media articles, product reviews, and marketing efforts.  By having all of these key tactics in place, you have a better opportunity to launch your produce or service successfully.

How does PR support Amazon reach & sales?

What role does PR play in Amazon sales and distribution? Product availability and Amazon distribution are promoted through public relation efforts via press releases, social media messaging and secured media coverage. When media outlets include a brand or product in a round up or feature article as a result of the PR agency’s outreach, they include the Amazon link where readers can purchase the products, resulting in sales and website traffic.

Influencer Marketing

Another way PR can support Amazon sales is through influencer marketing. Influencer marketing has become one of the most sought -after channels to reach consumers organically. Whether we like it or not, content creators and influencers are here to stay and their power and influence in consumers’ behavior and choices will continue to grow.

Like many businesses, Amazon engages with influencers to promote its products through affiliated links. Through the Amazon Influencer Program, influencers receive a portion of the sales of a specific product they promote in their social media or blog when people click through the affiliated link. Although there are no additional fees for brands and Amazon covers the commission for each unit the influencer sells through their shop, there is no guarantee influencers will promote your product unless you are working directly with the influencers.

Here is where your PR agency comes in to support through an influencer partnership and campaign. Your PR agency partner can manage the influencer campaign on behalf of your brand by carefully vetting influencers, providing recommendations, drafting the messaging, providing key branding assets and overseeing deliverables and results.

For a brand trying to increase their sales on Amazon, leveraging influencers is a great way to raise brand awareness, grow exposure on the platform, and generate sales as influencers have the credibility and an audience who is looking for their recommendations.

Want to learn more?

CIIC–CAROLYN IZZO INTEGRATED COMMUNICATIONS

Cascadia has partnered with CIIC (www.ciicnews.com) to provide consulting or project-based PR services to brands looking to successfully compete in the food & beverage industry.  Contact Paola Cuevas at pcuevas@ciicnews.com to learn more about their food & beverage experience and how they can help you get your product in the news and “off the shelves” in no time.

Cascadia Managing Brands offers its clients outsourced sales, brand management, Amazon setup and sales, traditional retail sales, marketing, new product development, operations, production and logistics.

Cascadia Managing Brands helps brands reach critical mass faster, cheaper, better, and smarter. From business plan development to the actual execution of the plan, from strict consulting advice to managing your sales or sales team, marketing and operational plan; Cascadia Managing Brands is the outsourced resource for large and small beverage companies alike. 

Cascadia Managing Brands has over 75 plus years of food and beverage experience including Evian, Zico, Hint, C2O Coconut Water, Nantucket Nectars, Fresh Samantha (Odwalla), Naked Juice and many more.

For more information about Cascadia Managing Brands please visit us at http://www.cascadiamanagingbrands.com. Please visit our Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/Cascadiamanagingbrands or our Twitter page at http://twitter.com/cascadiabrands.

For additional information about Cascadia Managing Brands go to www.cascadiafoodbev.com

So you Want To Launch A Brand? Why You Should Start Now

I started writing an article showing the steps and timeline for creating a new food and beverage brand. I wrote more than I expected so I decided to post the article in bite size pieces here on a bi-weekly basis.

The pandemic, amongst other things, has caused many entrepreneurs to pause and re-think their strategy. Many entrepreneurs who have great new food and beverage ideas are waiting to see what happens.  I can say, that is a very bad strategy for entrepreneurs because while they wait, others will be moving forward and will be the first to gain shelf space when the country goes back to our new normal.

Let’s look at a typical timeline for a new food or beverage item.  For arguments sake, let say you already have an idea in your head.  What do you do next?

Research and Development

Let’s start with research and development.  You might be able to create your product in your kitchen today but it will be much difficult once you move to the production phase.  For a very basic example, let’s say you are using Heinz ketchup as an ingredient.  If you were to order Heinz ketchup in a 50-gallon drum, the minimum size you can usually order for a production run, it would be very expensive.  Depending on how much you use, Heinz Ketchup may make your product too expensive to sell or too expensive to make a profit.  Heinz ketchup has a certain taste profile.  When you move into production you will most probably need to buy a less expensive but high-quality ketchup.  Where do you go for that?  How do you sample the different types of ketchup being sold in bulk? Will the manufactures send you free samples if you are a startup? 

This all leads up to you probably should hire a person or company, like Parkside Beverage, Beyond Brands, or Metabrand amongst other reputable firms. Get your recipe or formula done right the first time. In the grand scheme of things their fees are not a lot of money and you need to get it right the first time.  Re-formulating takes time and money.

I have been on the floor of production facilities with clients who created their own recipes and were trying to adjust the formula on a fly.  It was a disaster.  I remember one time being on the production line when someone’s formula would not work because the ingredients were too thick and they were clogging the filters. That costs a lot of money.  The client had to pay for the entire day of production even though he/she was never actually able to produce their product.  My advice, stick with the professionals and they will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Now let’s look at the timing and timeline.  Formulation companies aren’t waiting for new entrepreneurs to contact them.  Even during these Covid 19 times, reputable formulation companies are still busy. They point is you can’t just pick up the phone and expect them to get started immediately.  It might take two weeks until they can accept your business. It might take them time to order special ingredients.

Once they create the first batch of samples for you, and I am sure this will not be the last batch of samples, and you consider the time it takes for them to mail you the samples, and the time it takes for you to review the samples and send comments back to the formulator, and they eventually finalize the formula, consider 4 more weeks go by.

Now you have your formula.  Great start.  Do you want it to be GMO free?  Organic?  Kosher?  These processes take time and someone has to fill out all the paperwork and get all the information for the certifier.  My last go around with a GMO-Free certifier took 6 months because they are backed up. However, let’s say it takes 3 months. However, assume you can work on other parts of your product during that time period.

Shelf Testing

Let’s consider the next step being Shelf Testing. Before you produce your product, you want to know what happens to your product after being exposed to different levels of heat, cold, light, etc.  Are any bacteria growing?  What about yeast, pH, mold, salmonella, E. Coli, listeria, staph, aureus etc.? How long will your product be on the shelf before the color or taste or aroma begin to change? And this isn’t just a “nice to have”.  Retailers and Distributors may request to see the shelf life test results.

According to RL Food Testing Lab, Product Safety Testing will take different times depending on the type of item you are testing. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Beef Jerky 9 months – 1 year
  • BBQ Sauces 4 months – 6 months
  • Pasteurized Dairy Products: 3 weeks
  • Raw Juices 5 days
  • Cakes, Cookies & Other Bakery Goods WITH preservatives 30 days
  • Salsa 3 months – 4 months

But now, you need to test for shelf life.  How long will your product last before going bad or before losing taste, aroma or even color?

The rule of thumb regarding shelf life testing, depending on the product, is that a product needs 1 week of testing for every month of shelf life you are looking for.  But, that timeline may be a little bit over cautious. For the sake of this article, let’s say it takes you 90-120 days until you get your test results.

Cascadia Managing Brands is a strategy, brand management and sales execution firm that helps startups succeed. In this bi-weekly series Bill Sipper, Managing partner, shares his insights on:

Product Formulation

Certifications & Testing

Future articles will discuss:

Brand Positioning and Logo and Label Development

Intellectual Property and FDA Compliance

Point of Sale Material and Presentation

Liability Insurance

Distribution Strategy

Sales Execution

Overall Timeline