If you're anything like Joe Warady, you're sick of hearing about foods that are “gluten-free.” However, unlike you, Warady is the CMO of Enjoy Life Foods, the No. 1 brand in the “free-from” category.
Warady, who spoke during an Executive Jam Session at the 2016 Summer AMA Academic Conference in Atlanta, says despite being sick of reading about those who choose a gluten-free diet, they're a huge market, especially for his company. In fact, Warady says there are 25 million people who eat a gluten-free diet, a mere 3 million of which are affected by celiac disease. That means 22 million are choosing gluten-free for “some other reason,” he says.
What's less clear is why these consumers choose a free-from diet. Approximately 100 million consumers are interested in products free from all kinds of allergens, such as soy, gluten and peanut. The company manufacturers cookies, snack bars and other products for this market.
Much like consumers make unique dietary choices, they also make unique choices in the brands they interact with. Users are empowered, as almost all have smartphones. For this reason, Warady says Enjoy Life Foods started using social media less as a megaphone talking to consumers and more as a social platform where consumers and the company can share stories with one another.
This is where Enjoy Life Foods, which was purchased by Mondelez in February 2015, has been spending in marketing, he says. Traditional advertising can easily and instantly be ruined by poor word of mouth in 2016. Now, the power is in the hands of the consumer. Warady says he doesn't care which retail or online shop they buy from, he only cares if consumers are engaging with and buying products from the brand.
“There are a lot of good products out there,” he says. “Good products are not enough.”
Consumer packaged goods brands must start thinking like publishing companies, he says. Becoming a storytelling company is imperative, as the war is no longer for shelf space but for consumer interest. For example, he says the recipe section of the Enjoy Life Foods' website is the most visited section, even though they don't sell ingredients.
The goal, he says, is to aggressively get the products into the hands of consumers. Many assume free-from products don't taste good, so he says they have digital and analog methods of getting free samples to prospective consumers.
Warady says the chance of a consumer purchasing the product improves 137% after they get a free sample.
Moving into the future, Warady believes consumer-powered interaction and shopping will grow even more. The buying power of Amazon Prime shoppers now equals the buying power of Germany, he says, so brands will need to get used to consumers controlling when, where and how they will interact with brands.
“We think this is where shopping is heading,” he says, pointing at a picture of Amazon Echo. “But it will be built into the walls.”