Food Science needs the human touch

By Amanda Allvin & Peter Wennström

“Science” & “technology” in food is today seen by many consumers as the health enemy, whereas “natural” food is considered as wholesome & healthy, leading to an almost demonization of science. This is unfortunate since food science will be needed in order to address the very serious global challenges that we are facing (see the UN Sustainable Development Goals) and to help us develop both more natural and healthier foods. So how can we turn this around?

Consumers don’t always understand the impact that positive science can have in making food deliver active and targeted health benefits. Thus there is a need for powerful, credible and aspirational science propositions in foods and supplements that doesn’t alienate or scare consumers who want their food as natural as possible. But to do this you must dare to shift perspective from technology and product to consumer. And this is where the problem starts with science based companies – they don’t always understand the consumer.

The human touch is the most important factor and the brand is the emotional link to the purpose and the benefits of the science. Regardless of all technology and science that today can be applied, the most important tool for brand owners is to understand the emotions and motivations of people, i.e. their consumers.

Since the nature of science is that it is complex and often hard to understand, it is of greatest important to invest in your consumers to educate, engage and empower them.

Here follows two examples where Healthy Marketing Team with Rukmini Gupte in the forefront, have had the privilege to help turn science propositions into appealing progressive brands by starting with the purpose behind the product rather than the product itself.

Veg of Lund: Science as an enabler for natural goodness

HMT was in 2016 approached by the small startup company Veg of Lund, which had a patented technology for an emulsion of rapeseed oil and potatoes. Veg of Lund was planning to launch smoothies based on this emulsion. The aim was to target vegans and vegetarians who have a need of Omega 3 from their diet. But how to avoid creating a niche in a niche? And how to stand out in the already crowded space of drinkable fruit products? And would consumers accept potatoes and rapeseed oil in a fruit smoothie?

What we discovered from our consumer studies was that the growing consumer dilemma today was the problem of finding vegetarian and allergen free products. We concluded that the uniqueness of Veg of Lund’s product was in it’s ingredient list. Thanks to the patented emulsion, Veg of Lund’s products were full of natural goodness from potatoes and rapeseed and at the same time free from all the “baddies” such as additives and all common allergens. By making this extremely clear in both design and communication the product appealed to all sorts of consumers. Not just the vegans. And by positioning this tasty and filling new “drinkified snack” away from the smoothie category the concept became a success with consumers.

MyFoodie by Veg of Lund (a foodier smoothie) was launched in 2018 and has already gained huge interest and publicity for its innovative solutions. In March 2018 the product was awarded “Best Convenience Food” in FoodBev’s Food Innovation Awards.

In this video HMT’s Rukmini Gupte is receiving the prize on behalf of Veg of Lund and explains the success factors: Veg of Lund on winning an Innovation Award

Oatly: Leverage the purpose to build a science based brand

HMT had the pleasure of working with the owners and board of Oatly back in 2012. Oatly was then already a well-established Swedish brand in the dairy free niche category. But when the market started to grow, it was struggling to carve out a distinct position for itself. “We had world class science, but we didn’t know how to tell our story to create the value we saw in the company.”, as Björn Öste, co-founder  put it.

HMT helped Oatly to understand that the main strength of Oatly was not in the science but in the purpose behind the science. This helped to make it clear that Oatly was in the business of change, which very much differentiated them from their competitors, and today this strategy has resulted in thousands and thousands of Oatly disciples being part of the “Post Milk Generation”.

Read our Case Study about Oatly, or even better Rukmini Gupte’s own analysis of the brand’s makeover back in 2014: What we like about Oatly’s Brand Makeover

This blog post is written in loving memory of Rukmini Gupte, deceased May 2018