It could be a banana, a cup of coffee, a burger, or a chicken burrito, but whatever is on your menu, that very item, right down to the ingredients, has a story to tell, and your customers are interested in hearing it.
Just as the quick-serve industry was getting a handle on healthier menu options, consumers have sparked yet another paradigm shift by questioning the origin of the food they eat in quick-serves in an effort to make even more mindful purchases.
Whether it’s concern over the environment, recalls of pathogen-laced produce, news reports on inhumane treatment of animals, or tales of poor working conditions, consumer demands for answers are at the very heart of an emerging marketing phenomenon called “product life stories.”
According to Trendwatching.com, an “independent and opinionated” research firm based in Amsterdam, “Now that carbon foot printing has become a household term in mature consumer societies, expect consumers’ desires to find out about the origins of a product to become a given.
“Questions no one ever asked a few years ago will become an integral part of the purchasing process. As consumers become more educated and aware, and demand more background information on the products they are shopping for, manufacturers will need to provide more transparency.”
While many suppliers have stepped up to provide farm- and plant-to-fork transparency on a host of ingredients, quick-serves are continuing to disclose information on fat and beginning to tell their own product life stories. The move, they say, attracts customers and gains allegiance.
“It’s an effective loyalty marketing technique,” says Rick Ferguson, editorial director for Colloquy, a global loyalty marketing consulting firm in Milford, Ohio. “It’s a good way for a company to build good will and it’s a no-brainer if you’re trying to distinguish yourself from a competitor who has a similar product.”
Bona Fide Bananas, Above-Board Brew
Perhaps the most basic concept of the product life story phenomenon is embodied in a three-digit farm code that Westlake Village, California-based Dole Food Co. emblazons on fruit stickers. These codes allow customers to log on to www.doleorganic.com to find the origins of organic bananas, mangoes, and pineapples. Background information as well as photos of crops and workers are available on more than 30 farms in a host of Latin and South American countries.
Code 223, for instance, is Bonanza Farm, an organic, biodynamic banana farm located in Sullana, Peru, and owned by the Don Lander Aleman family. All of Bonanza’s fruit is sold to Dole Peru’s Copdeban Organic Project.
Some of the codes provide information on shipping and packaging, like Farm 001, the Huangala Palletizing Unit located about 30 minutes away from Sullana.
“The fruit arrives from the packing plants located at Montenegro, Huayquiquirá, Pueblo Nuevo, San Vicente, Santa Rosa, Chalacala, and Huangala,” according to the site. “Approximately 52 percent of the Dole Peru organic fruit is palletized in this facility.”