What is the food industry?
The food industry describes businesses that manufacture, produce, supply and distribute foods.
The development journey of food products can be long and complex, requiring different marketing techniques for each stage of the process.
Typically the food industry can be broken into:
Farmers: grow the raw ingredients used to create food products. Farmers can sell on their produce to wholesalers, supermarkets, businesses and farmers markets.
Manufacturers: turn the raw ingredients into food products to be sold directly to the public or through third parties like supermarkets and wholesalers.
Wholesalers: act as a distribution channel for manufacturers and farmers to sell their stock to other businesses.
Retailers: such a supermarkets and shops act as a distribution channel for the general public to buy food goods.
Restaurants: turn food products and raw produce into meals to sell to the
What kind of marketing is required in the food industry?
Marketing for the food industry is made up of the whole range of marketing specialisms. Here’s a little insight into the types of marketing carried out amongst food businesses currently:
Advertising is prominent in the food industry. Big brands are increasingly throwing money into online adverting as well as more traditional campaigns on tv, radio and in print. Smaller businesses are also getting in on the action by advertising online and through local publications and direct marketing (think about all those takeaway leaflets you get through your letterbox!)
Development of point-of-sale displays is an important part of the promotional process to get products noticed in stores. Eye catching displays, tasters and free samples are used to hook people in.
Events such as trade show events are just one of the ways food manufacturers, restaurants and wholesalers can promote their products and services to other businesses and consumers. Restaurants often hold new-menu launch events where food reviewers and bloggers are invited along to sample the menu for free in exchange for exposure on their websites.
Social media gives customers the opportunity to share feedback about foods they have purchased with their followers and directly with the business, which makes it a useful tool for both market research, branding, advertising and promotions. The risk is that feedback can be positive and negative, so reputation management is key to managing social media effectively.
Many people choose to share their reviews of their experience at restaurants on websites such as Feefo or TripAdvisor, the more positive reviews a restaurant receives the better the reputation and the higher they rank, if bad reviews are left there should be a strategy to follow them up in order to minimise reputation damage.
Food brands, restaurants and supermarkets often communicate directly with consumers using email as a platform to keep customers informed of all the latest promotions and offers they have on. Using vouchers and coupons as a way to further entice people to spend their money is common place across the food industry and loyalty schemes like the Starbucks stamp card below is a technique used to reward customers after making several purchases by gifting them a free beverage.
Brand management is the image, reputation and unique traits that enable customers to identity with specific businesses and their products. Think about the purple colour you identify with Cadburys wrappers and the specific taste of their chocolate, this is what is unique to their brand and the reason some people choose to buy their products. Brand management isn’t just limited to the taste and appearance of a product, in restaurants and supermarkets, customers attribute the service they receive to the overall brand so it is important for all of this to be covered in the brand strategy.
Public Relations (PR) within the food industry is intrinsic to both the reputation management, and as a part of the overall brand strategy. An example piece of PR would be an article in a local newspaper reviewing the recent experience of a new
What skills and knowledge is useful for marketing in the food industry?
Whether you are passionate about food brands or niche restaurants, it’s a big industry. You need to take the time to do some research and figure out which area of the food industry it is that really fascinates you so you can start to plan your route in. Once you have identified a brand or business you like the look of then you can start to have a look at some job descriptions being advertised, use some of the links suggested below, you may not have the right experience or credentials to get the role you want now but understanding what employers are looking for in job descriptions for similar roles is a great way to identify what experience you need to develop.
Knowledge across a range of online and offline marketing techniques applicable to a role in the food industry you are interested in and some evidence of this knowledge through qualifications, volunteering or intern experience is a great way to boost your CV ready for a marketing role.
The food industry is governed by specific regulations set by the Food Standards Agency which can affect the way foods are marketed to children and other groups. Good knowledge of this code of practise is useful. Click here to visit the ASA food and soft drink advertising page.
Food trends are a result of population trends; if people have less time to eat then the demand for convenience food increases, If the weight of the population increases there is a demand for products with reduced fat and sugar, and so on. Understanding population trends and how they affect the food industry is key to developing the right marketing. Showing employers you understand the trends that affect their sales and marketing is your secret weapon in the interview room. Always do your research and make it applicable to the role you want.
Are there any qualifications available in Food Marketing? (this is just a few we came across, but please ensure you do your own research!)
National Skills Academy – Marketing concepts for the food industry
National Skills Academy – BSc Hons in Food Marketing Management
Sheffield Hallam – BSc Hons in Food Marketing Management
Newcastle University – Food Marketing and Nutrition BSc
University of Reading – BSc Food Marketing and Business
I’m interested what now?
Depending on your level of experience you could transfer your existing skills into a marketing role in the food industry. However, if you don’t have enough experience then visit our guide to building experience through volunteering and interning.
Here are a few website that may be useful to find out more information about careers in food:
Tasty Careers in food & drink – Marketing roles overview
Taste Success – Careers in food and drink
National Skills Academy – Food and drink
Your Food Jobs – check our the marketing jobs section to get a feel for the skills and experience required in different roles
More reading – Business Case Studies – The marketing mix in the food industry
Foodmanjobs – recruitment website dedicated to food manufactuing