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Vegan? No Added Sugar? Sustainable? Make sure your brand’s claims don’t miss the mark

Catherine Elms Senior Director in Research, Insight and Consulting 24/09/2020

Product benefit claims are a crucial way of drawing in consumers, but brands need to be clear on their relevance to their target audiences

Gen Z want to be the greenest food shoppers of all and are much more likely to say that they are always considering the environment when shopping for food and groceries...

According to our recent environmental report, in terms of easily accessible sustainability, the younger generations believe the most realistic way to help make a change is through shopping for food and groceries.

Gen Z want to be the greenest food shoppers of all and are much more likely to say that they are always considering the environment when shopping for food and groceries, with Millennials the most likely to be willing to spend more on average to be environmentally friendly.

Crucially, if a brand or provider offered proof of their environmentally friendly credentials, food is the area in which consumers would most likely let this affect their purchasing decisions (compared to home appliances, travel, car choice etc.)

This means it’s fundamental to ensure your claims intuitively resonate with your target consumers, by tying into their personal beliefs and providing a good fit between the product and benefit. Unmeaningful claims or unnatural combinations (claims vs product) stand a low chance of success in market (or at least, are not a good use of your pack design).

Specifically, to ensure you make the most of pack communication:

  1. Be relevant
  2. Be credible
  3. Be differentiated

Be relevant: Consider whether you should be claiming a feature or benefit

In some cases, communicating the feature is key, such as vegan, low sugar, high protein, organic, 1 of your 5 a day, etc; consumers know what this means and need clear direction on such positioning’s.

Taking this further, considering the context is also key. Evaluating the feature 2kg CO2e per kg is likely rather meaningless to many consumers, so putting this in context, such as “a third of the carbon footprint as that of a chicken”, means you’ve now got the consumer understanding and interest.

In other cases, communication of the higher-level benefit is more appropriate and should be pursued, in order to maximise consumer engagement and understanding. Particularly for health-related products, communicating the benefits, such as provides protection, pain-relief, and soothes, are key phrases to motivate consumer appeal. Ensuring consumers are clear on the “so what?” is fundamental.

With all of the above, it is important to ensure you test your claims with consumers, to determine which have strongest call to action and are worthy of your key on-pack messaging.  Organic may be relevant, but is it sufficiently important to qualify as a top three communication?

Be credible: consider your product and brand fit

To give an example, responsible sourcing is a key pillar for a brand like Ben & Jerry’s and using claims regarding sustainability and ethics would be natural and credible communication for the brand.

Understanding the particular angle that is most credible for your product and brand positioning, and ensuring that it is clearly understood by consumers is vital. This will ensure messaging enhances consumer understanding of what your brand stands for, rather than confusing it, or potentially harming it via ‘green washing’ claims.

Considering typical health and ingredients claims; is “no added sugar” a good use of your front-of-pack for a savoury snack (is that really the consumers’ key concern?). Is “responsibly sourced” for your cereal grains suitably fitting for prominent front-of-pack placement?

Finally, beware of over-doing the health claims at the risk of taste. Taste is the key driver among consumers, and too many low fat, low sugar, high fibre health claims may have a detrimental impact on the overall credibility of product taste cues.

Be differentiated: your claims need to persuade consumers

What’s your USP? Why is your product better than your competitor(s)? As well as brand perceptions, packaging design and product delivery, your claims also act as a vehicle for encouraging consumers to choose your product specifically over another brand. Though watch out for overt claims of being better than a rival, which tend not to be as positively received as direct consumer benefits.

Are you able to promote recyclable or recycled packaging? Does your product sourcing provide a clearly communicable sustainability advantage? Do you add ‘high in’, or ‘no-added ingredients’ that would make your product more appealing than alternatives?

The key to all claim’s communication is knowing your target audience and what really matters to them. Understand their drivers and purchase motivators, ensuring that your product is able to clearly and credibly communicate these, and you’ll be on your way to greater in-market success.

When it comes to product claims optimisation research, we have worked with a great mix of marketers, category managers and R&D teams from FMCG and retail brands across food and drink, beers, wine and spirits, household and health and  beauty sectors.

For more information on how we can help FMCG brands successfully navigate these times, please get in touch.