Artisanal Food Products are Reflective of a Consumers Backlash

Drives such as mass produced, Chinese exports and packaging rage!

Dominos Artisan Pizzas Spinach & Feta, Italian Sausage & Pepper Trio, Tuscan Salami,Roasted Veggie
There are “no gimmicks” in its artisan pizza launch -– just thin and crispy square crusts. With less dough involved, the pizzas have fewer calories than their cheaper predecessors. Dominos

What is local food? Well most of us think artisan food products. Artisan food conjures up images of individuals, passionate about their specialty food products, working with their hands, creating unique products unlike those that are available in specialty grocery stores. You think of buying specialty food from artisan producers at local farmers markets, street fairs and small specialty grocery stores where you buy from the person who is the creator of the fabulous artisan products you love.

Artisan food also means local producers, limited availability and unfortunately high prices. We tend to view artisan foods products for consumption at a special occasion. I might buy artisan made pastas for a weekend special dinner with friends but will use Barilla Pasta or Whole Foods 365 brand for a quick weekday meal. The artisan traditional homemade ricotta at $8/lb is perfect for a homemade lasagna for a special family dinner but I will use Pollio or Sorrento in a plastic tub for most other meals.

National Brands Creating Gourmet Foods Labeled as Artisan

Many big food brands have taken to using the word "artisan" when they really mean "gourmet" or "exotic." 

The national brands creating niche food & beverage products labeled as "artisan" include Tostitos Artisan Recipe chips, Pepperidge Farm Stone Baked Artisan Rolls, Dominos Artisan Pizza and Starbucks Artisan Breakfast Sandwiches.

For the most part, these products have higher quality ingredients than the usual food but are not necessarily made in an artisanal way, by hand and with variation from one item to the next.

For example, a sandwich from a food truck or chips made in small batches by a grandma follow less of a formula than food from a nationwide chain.

Food Fairs, Farmers Markets and Urban Food Trends are driving more new product launches that center around artisan foods and local producers. Julie Hall of Schneider Associates, who publishes the Most Memorable New Product Launches annual survey and contributes to the New Product Launch reports on what the "new product launch guru's" are seeing in the burgeoning Artisan food trend especially insight on the national brands creating product positioning in the artisan food niche.

Julie, why has "artisan" been embraced by the likes of these National Brands ?

"We work with major grocery retailers and food and beverage CPG brands and also have been wondering about the Artisanal trend. We think Artisanal food products are reflective of consumers backlash of mass produced products… being inundated with products from China. We also see the trend in packaging rage… you know, those clam shell packaged products that need a surgeon to open." 

More frequently consumers desire hand crafted products made with real ingredients (and a nutrition facts label and ingredient statement that does not take a PhD to understand). CPG marketers are on to consumer's desire more for authenticity in all aspects of life… just look at the growth of social media. Isn't this more authentic than some media talking head?. Julie says that "We are at a pivotal point in moving from mass products to authentic quality. Authentic "anything" represents a passing down vs. our current disposable economy."

So Julie, do you think the national brands can generate "brand credibility" in what has been to date, a niche market segment for small food entrepreneurs? Read more…



Edited by Susie Wyshak,  October 2015

"Only if the national brands can deliver on it. Consumers are becoming more savvy and demanding in terms of ingredients. I see a growing consumer attitude of ' if you can't pronounce it don't buy it'." Natural rather than artificial ingredients for coloring and flavoring are a huge trend too.

With consumers being empowered by social media, brands must be transparent otherwise consumers will see through it and will take matters into their own 'social media hands'… just look at the success of consumers forcing the banks to withdraw their plans to make consumers pay debit card fees.

This will be a really tough road for CPG food brands to establish credibility in artisan and you can be sure the vocal artisan community will balk at what they see as less than authentic artisan.

An unfortunate food trend is a real affordability issue with struggling consumers seeking smaller SKUs … Value to the struggling consumer is a price point. It doesn't matter what the cost per ounce is. Watch out however as the economy improves… these consumers will be even more demanding. Are the national CPG food & beverage brands ready for the challenge?

Where are the opportunities in the respective markets ?

Julie says "The national brands are trying to explore new taste profiles. One interesting trend, albeit early on the curve is the 'Hispanification' of food… brands see early signs of the American palette being more… well…hispanified!" Another opportunity is to decentralize the mass produced look and feel of national brands and work toward a holistic halo effect of better for you products.

What is unique about each of these New Product Launches?

Most are focusing on products that appeal to a growing food trend of perpetual snacking… recognizing that we are quickly moving away from 3 meals a day to anywhere from 7 to 10 smaller meal occasions daily. Brands like Dominos are developing brand positioning of artisanal flavor profiles without the artisanal price… addressing the whole affordability issue.

Is this a food trend that has life, such as Gluten Free or can it morph into what we experienced with Lo-Carb Fad ?

Julie feels that "this is a real trend because there is a cultural phenomenon around artisanal, the growth in farmers markets and the entire local food movement. Secondarily we see some backlash to the growth in products from China and how they displace smaller American brands."

What can food entrepreneurs learn from artisan product launches from the major brands? Can we articulate some takeaways that food entrepreneurs can easily incorporate into their new product launches?

Julie recommends that food entrepreneurs and those launching new products positioned as artisanal consider the following:

  • Be mindful of transparency. Can you clearly state what your brand stands for and what does it deliver?
  • Do you clearly have a point of difference? Have you determined if there is a real customer need for a new Artisanal product in the category you seek to compete within?
  • Does your product look, feel and have ingredients that scream Artisanal"

Julie also recommends to make sure your category makes sense for artisanal and you create winning packaging that looks artisanal. Remember you have at best 1/10th of a second to grab the consumer's attention to get off the shelf and on to the consumers plate.

Will the consumer taste the difference and pay the artisanal premium price? Just because you as the food artisan can taste the difference… so what! The consumer is the one voting with their dollars. Finally exploit your heritage and insure that your new product launch strategy includes brand positioning that shows the consumers there are real people behind your brand. She suggest looking at brands like Carlos Pasta and Momma Rosies for some inspiration.

Explore the new product launch details of these national brands seeking to leverage the artisanal food & beverage trends: