Despite that they’re not consumer-facing, ingredient suppliers can’t ignore the power of effective branding and marketing to demonstrate the value of ingredients in a finished product, says ingredient marketing consultant Anderson Partners.
“It’s really about selling ingredients in a way that provides benefits and value to the manufacturers who are putting them into finished goods,” Mark Hughes, president of Omaha, NE-based Anderson Partners told FoodNavigator-USA. “It’s how the ingredient can help a product meet consumer demand, how it can help a product be on trend and how it can add value or benefit to a finished good in way that other ingredients don’t.”
That “benefit” can be improving an end product’s nutritional profile, enabling it to make certain claims about fiber content, vitamins or minerals, or non-GMO or organic claims, for example. But more and more, it also involves doing more heavy lifting in product development and R&D.
“Whatever the goals of a finished goods product are, manufacturers are becoming more demanding that ingredient suppliers help in that process,” Hughes said. “It’s not just: ‘send us the ingredient, we’ll let you know what we think’. It’s: ‘help us develop applications and formulations that can add value to our products and give us that higher nutritional profile, or that can help us create a cleaner label, remove sugar or remove fat’.”
Sampling: the first chance to tell a story
Indeed, as suppliers’ roles expand, effective communication and branding become increasingly important. Sampling, for one, plays a major role in the ingredient business, though many suppliers miss out on this first chance to make a good impression through effective branding, Hughes said.
“When samples go out, what you’re talking about in ingredients is a lot of white powders or colorless liquids in baggies or plastic vials,” he said. “But once the customer has that sample in his hand, it’s a great opportunity to deliver your brand message.”