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As a category, functional foods is among the biggest trends in the food industry, as consumers seek products with added nutrition and food companies attempt to differentiate their offerings. For marketers, these products pose a challenge: talking about benefits which are often couched in confusing (or outright offputting) scientific jargon. Although many nutritional terms have broad awareness among consumers and others are becoming increasingly desirable, the benefits of many functional foods involve highly technical terms like “plant sterols” and abstract concepts like gut health.

Although most food companies know better than to focus on these concepts in their marketing messages, these terms and concepts often exercise an unseen influence on such marketing cornerstones as product architecture, naming, and other brand elements. That influence can result in a brand that’s inaccessible or incoherent to the target audience, whether consumers or business-to-business customers.

Functional foods can be the products of advanced science in nutrition and formulation, and it’s tempting to want to showcase that. But how you make the product is ultimately less important to your customers than what it can do for them. That’s why—even if you’re B2B—your branding needs to be based on thinking like the consumer, not the producer.

What that means for functional foods is that your branding should focus not on the intrinsic qualities of the product itself or the details of its creation but on how it benefits the end user. It matters less whether two ingredients are produced at a similar stage in the manufacturing process than whether they share functional qualities, such as a sought-after nutrient.

For example, you conceive of two packaged items at the same time but their key benefits for the consumer differ, so they should be placed in different product families. The key is to design the brand to meet the needs of the market, not to reflect your formulation process or organizational structure. In other words, communicate the fruit of your labor, not the labor itself.

These principles of brand architecture are just one of the keys to marketing functional foods effectively, a task that will be increasingly challenging as competition in the sector increases, bringing a corresponding increase in consumer and regulatory scrutiny. At MarketPlace, we’re constantly translating complex nutritional information into branding that’s oriented toward the consumer. If you need help marketing your functional food product, get in touch.

Matt Miller staff photo
Matt Miller writes, teaches, and practices biodynamic gardening near Reeds Spring, Missouri. A MarketPlace alum with a background in academic research, he’s fascinated with how culture, media, and business interact—and equally with the best methods of cultivating healthy fruit trees.