3 Marketing Trends for Food Startups


Whether you’re running a food truck, opening a pop-up restaurant, or selling a consumer package goods (CPG) product, smart marketers are up-to-date on today’s marketing trends and put digital and social media front and center in their marketing plans.

We’re well beyond the days where marketing consisted in placing local ads in the paper and making sure you’ve got great Yelp reviews. Gone, too, are the days where it was sufficient to have a website and online store and simply publish a monthly newsletter. While these marketing tactics may still be useful to certain businesses, there are more advanced and culturally relevant marketing tools that food-based businesses can and should utilize.

We’ve pulled together a list of 3 marketing trends that food startups should utilize to grow their businesses. These 3 marketing trends serve not only reach today’s broad digital audience, but they also help businesses establish an online brand with staying power.

Instagram Stories

Instagram should be top of the list for any modern, business-to-consumer (B2C) product startup. Why? This social medium allows you to put the visual elements of your business front and center while reaching a vibrant, young, and highly-interactive user base that holds significant purchasing power.

Instagram Stories, in particular, is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to businesses today. Instagram launched the Stories function in 2016 as a way to compete with Snapchat. It has since grown into one of the cornerstones of the app, with 500 million daily active users watching Stories every day.

How Instagram Stories Work

Instagram Stories let you “share all of the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile.” Users share these daily highlights – and followers watch to catch things like friends opening up birthday presents, an artist’s new song drop, or to get a glimpse a fitness influencer’s new morning routine. These user generated Stories appear together in a slideshow format, or as a series of short videos and photos aggregated as a film reel across the accounts that a user follows.

Instagram Stories work particularly well with food, where floating a product or video of an amazing looking meal or snack — sometimes with an offer —  can whet the appetite and get viewers hungry for more.

Swipe Up to Drive Direct Traffic

Instagram Stories are an incredibly simple and useful channel with which to direct traffic straight to your site or social pages. The swipe up function has turned Instagram, a platform known for rejecting links, into one regularly used as a direct sales funnel. Being able to so easily drive traffic directly to your site and into your shopping cart is a game-changer for socially savvy startups that might lack the capital to invest heavily in a Google Ads campaign or win at the long game of search engine optimization (SEO).

Sharing Offers on Instagram Stories

Everything from free delivery to restaurant bookings to promotional codes can be offered through the Swipe Up feature on Instagram Stories. Swiping up gives users instant access to a startup’s website and allows businesses to reach a wider audience. (Your content can be original or paid —  paid Instagram Story ads are becoming more popular and are currently given more leeway than traditional ads by Instagram users.)

Developing a Brand Personality

On top of acting as a brilliant sales channel, Stories also give your brand a little more personality. Want to bring people to the food truck that day for a special event? Document the moment and tell people where you’ll be through Instagram Stories. Got a special limited-time discount? Stories are a great place to promote that discount and get it spread among an active user base. Just want to build up your social following? Stories offer an opportunity to jump on social trends or popular hashtags and interact with other brand pages, building your following by association.

Working with Micro-Influencers

Similar to Instagram Stories, micro-influencers represent a brilliant way to connect with younger audiences over social media. This is the second tactic on our list of 3 marketing trends for food startups that we’ll cover in this post.

Influencer marketing is a type of word-of-mouth marketing that utilizes key leaders to spread your brand message to a larger audience through social channels.

Most influencers are well-known celebrities — or Instagram or YouTube personalities — with huge followings. These large followings give influencers the ability to spread the word about your business or product through their social channels.

Unlike leading influencers, micro-influencers have naturally built up smaller but more dedicated and targeted audiences. When they partner with brands, it’s typically because their products are well-aligned with their personal values. With values coming first, the products they share on their feeds tend to feel more authentic than the posts you see from influencers with huge followings that regularly post products as ads or promoted content. This gives you an opportunity to sell interacting with your business as an experience — with a friendly, powerful face and voice leading people towards you.

New and Interesting Content

Collaborating with micro-influencers gives food startups the opportunity and leeway to create new content. This co-created content will likely be more interesting than that generated by corporate-minded, megastar influencers. It’s also generally a lot cheaper. And — it’s content that you don’t have to produce yourself.

More Likely To Buy

At the same time that working with micro-influencers helps you to generate more, and more interesting content, working with one is also likely to generate sales for your business. 58% of people have purchased a product due to a recommendation by an influencer within the last 6 months.

Good Alignment for Food Startups

Micro-influencers work particularly well for food startups as many of them run blogs or social pages offering health and lifestyle advice. You could have an influencer review a selection of your latest products as part of a new recipe. Or your product could be featured in that fitness influencer’s breakfast bowl as part of their new morning routine.

Micro-influencers offer your food startup everything from endorsement from trusted voices to access to niche, highly engaged audiences. Working with micro-influencers is a more sustainable and cost-effective method of engaging influencers as part of your marketing strategy.

User Generated Content

Have you noticed a theme running through all of our points so far? Here’s a hint — partnering with other people, brands, and businesses is a crucial part of modern marketing.

Influencers are effective because they tell consumers that someone just like them enjoys and recommends a product. In other words, they’re likely to enjoy it as well. Take a page out of influencer marketing and enable everyday users to help you tell your brand story, too.

What is User Generated Content?

User generated content is a simple concept, and is number three on our list of marketing trends for food startups. Your customers, or users, create and share content featuring your product, which serves to expose your brand to their audience. They will often generate this content naturally and on their own; other times you can incentivize and encourage them to do so.

As a brand, you can then share this content they’ve created with your own audience and through your own channels. This takes the content creation work off your plate — and also helps to boost your credibility in the process.

Did you know that consumers are 2.4 times more likely to consider user generated content authentic than content created by brands? If you truly want to connect, build trust, and grow your social following organically, user generated content is especially important.

The Food Industry Lends itself to User-Generated Content

There is perhaps no industry where user-generated content is as strong as within the food industry. (Ever been to a dinner where a friend or family member needed to photograph their food before eating it? Or perhaps you do the same thing!) The visual nature of food is an invitation to develop shareable content.

Imagine you’re running a hot sauce business. Say a customer shot a video of themselves making burgers and topping them off with your latest sauce. Perhaps you found that video on Instagram – and now, with their permission, you shared it with your audience on your blog, YouTube, and your social media channels. Sharing this type of content not only gives your brand a more authentic and welcoming feeling, but it also gives you the all-important ‘regular customer’ seal of approval.

How to Encourage User-Generated Content

Looking to kick-start a stream of user-generated content? Try offering a prize in exchange for posted content — or empower your employees to serve as brand advocates on social media. These are two easy ways of getting people outside of your usual reach interested in your brand and willing to interact, whether they want to win a prize or simply discovered your brand through a friend’s personal feed. Later on, introduce a hashtag – like Whole Foods has done so successfully with #WholeFoodsHaul. And perhaps most importantly, make a product that people love so much they naturally want to share it anyway.

Best Practices for User-Generated Content

It’s best practice to always ask for permission before you share a user’s content – and then, you’ll want to make sure to credit them with the photo and original content. Doing so is not only the right thing to do, but it also encourages users to re-share your post with their audience.

Wrapping Up These 3 Marketing Trends

These three marketing trends for food startups are an easy, cheap, and effective way for food-based businesses to reach new audiences, build trust and credibility, and drive sales back to the business. What’s working for you? Where are you stuck? How can we help? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

This week’s guest post is brought to us by Kayleigh Alexandra, a writer for MicroStartups. MicroStartups is a business community that celebrates inspiring startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a solopreneur or a hustling startup, MicroStartups has you covered. Find us on Twitter for the latest micro biz news and inspiring entrepreneurial stories @getmicrostarted.

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