How they see it: Customer’s Perceptions of Artisanal Food and Beverage Brands

By Amanda DeVries

A recent survey of artisanal food and beverage makers in Ontario, with fewer than 25 employees, revealed useful insights in customers’ perception of a particular brand.

Most respondents reported that their consumers:

a) care about the fact that their product and its ingredients are local;

b) show significant concern for the environment.

In addition, most artisanal brands seem to attract upwardly mobile professionals, including those from the Greater Toronto Area. These consumers tend to seek out local businesses and demand quality products.

When it comes to gaining visibility for their products, survey respondents seem to equate impressive marketing with expensive campaigns. Consequently, they invest a lot of time to cultivate relationships with customers one at a time, whether it be by food demos or free samples.

Some respondents created complementary products or services to speed up their branding and increase revenue. Adding an agri-tourism element like tours or lodging seems to be a common practice. Others chose to collaborate with complementary brands. For instance, a locally crafted beer may pair with a local cheese maker and host an event. These partnerships may create a bigger buzz around both brands versus one in isolation. Furthermore, many companies appeared unaware of other potentially helpful strategic alliances.

Ontario artisan food makers report that there is a keen sense of concern for both animal welfare and climate change by their customers. They recognize that their target market wants to see local companies demonstrate the same concerns. Small brands that exhibited corporate social responsibility, whether it was helping with local fundraising initiatives or sponsoring charity events, garnered customer admiration — not only from a small passionate group in the area, but also from a wider audience.

In conclusion, the responses to this survey were well thought out and offered keen insights into artisanal food and beverage makers’ approach to branding. Most of them:

● are proud of the passion they put into their products

● are committed to staying authentic to their mission and loyal customer base;

● understand that their commitment to the environment and local ingredients will help their growth;

● want to do a more effective job of branding and believe their followers and profits will increase over time.

Amanda DeVries, RGD is the owner of Eye Candy Design; a boutique creative agency that creates fresh and iconic brands and designs for artisanal food and beverage makers.

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