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  • Focus on the North American market

    11 October 2019Par Ghislaine Plus
    Latest news & trends in food & drink

    What are the ingredients of success for launching a food and beverage brand in North America? What are the latest consumer and marketing trends?

    Olivier Moreaux gives us a few tips to decode the North American market. He also tells us about two recent campaigns created by Sopexa for Japanese Craft Beer in the USA and Avocados from Mexico in Canada.


    Olivier Moreaux

    With 25 years of experience in strategic marketing in the Food & Drink sphere, Olivier Moreaux manages the entire NAFTA zone. It involves running the US, Canada, Mexico and Brazil agencies and developing international clients in Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Peru and other countries).


    What are the ingredients of success for launching a brand in the North American market?


    To succeed in America, a brand needs an innovative product, a strong distribution and communications strategy and last but not least, deep pockets. Because of the great potential it offers in terms of both volume and value, the North American market is extremely competitive. Consequently, brands need to stand out in their respective categories as well as bring something new and innovative to the table. 


    Beyond understanding food safety and labeling regulations, food and beverage brands need to do their due diligence and invest in market research before launching stateside. The United States cannot be approached as one single entity; one should take into consideration it’s multicultural environment with specificities that need to be addressed accordingly. Evaluating the market and identifying the right distribution channels are therefore key to making an impact.  


    Brands might want to start small and play big rather than looking to conquer America (and failing at doing so). This is particularly true in the food and beverage sector, where the multi-player, B2B-heavy supply chain is complex. While distribution plays a big role in making or breaking a brand, it is obviously not the only challenge. 


    Food and beverage brands looking to penetrate the US market also need exposure. Simply executing a communications strategy from abroad won’t cut it here. Messaging is key and needs to be aligned with the North American culture. That is why I believe storytelling is so important, as American consumers are looking to emotionally connect with brands and products that are being sold to them. Brands that do succeed tell a story of truth, positivism, authenticity and respect of cultural differences, which lends itself perfectly to the warm, people-first food and beverage industry. 


    Finally, I would advise to keep in mind that the US market is expensive to tackle. This is why the level of investment needs to be up to par if they want rewarding results in the long run. 


    What are the latest trends in you market?


    The locavore food movement – where consumers choose to eat foods that are grown or farmed close to where they are sold – continues to make strides, but not for the same reasons than a decade ago when it started as a protectionist response to the 2008 financial crisis. Today, this local food movement is part of a larger conversation around health and the environment driven by the Millennial generation. 


    We’re also seeing an ever-growing interest in organic produce and plant-based proteins. In addition to health and environmental considerations, animal welfare is also today a prime concern for American consumers. This has resulted in a growing number of Americans reducing their meat consumption and embracing the flexitarian and vegan movements


    Healthy fats such as olive oil, almonds and even almond butter are also top of mind. No wonder the avocado craze continues to heat up the North American market, representing close to 90% of the total Mexican exports in the region.  


    Moving on to the beverage industry, where the trend for craft products is still booming. The US beer sector has been particularly active in that field for a decade, with the number of microbreweries going from 2,000 to 8,000 in the last five years alone.  


    The craft movement has also reached the spirits sector with the explosion of over 1,500 craft distillers growing at an annually pace of 25% in the past three years. Business revenue in that category is expected to grow to more than $20 billion by 2023. Craft spirits have also inspired new generation of creative and young entrepreneurs who rely on word-of-mouth to market their small-batch products, which can easily turn to overnight premium brands with the right push.  


    What is the latest innovation that impressed you?


    Plant-based substitutes such as early category entrants Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are gaining exposure and generating buzz from investors.  


    In Canada, A&W was one of the first hamburger chains to test alternative meat products a year ago… and was sold out within weeks. Elsewhere in America, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Quebec’s own Vegeat Foods are competing to sign exclusive distribution agreements with some of the largest restaurant and supermarket chains such as Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Safeway and IGA. 


    Proteinbased substitutes to meat are an exciting new sector to follow in the coming months as demand is so high that production shortages are to be expected.  


    What is the latest communications campaign you are proud of? 




    Two recent campaigns come to mind when I think of the incredible work the Sopexa teams are producing in North America. In the US, the collaboration we developed between both a West Coast-based and Japanese microbrewery on behalf of Japanese Craft Beer was one of last year’s most successful projects. The concept was to brew a collaborative beer that would highlight Japan’s growing beer craftsmanship while benefiting from the expertise of American master brewers. 


    COEDO Brewery and Three Waivers therefore teamed up to brew a Tropical tart IPA, bottled in a unique can especially designed for the occasion and launched during a media and influencer event in Los Angeles. The newly and limited-edition beer was named Komorebi, meaning “the feeling you get when you see light filtering through the leaves” in Japanese. 


    In Canada, our work with Avocados from Mexico over the last five years is also something I’m extremely proud of. Our marketing campaigns have targeted key moments of the year: fall when the high avocado season kicks in, the period surrounding the Super Bowl, the nutrition month of March*and the celebrations of Cinco de Mayo. All with the goal to increase the consumption frequency of this fresh, healthy and versatile superfruit and educate consumers on how to integrate avocados from Mexico in their daily eating habits.


    Strong digital and social media communication as well as PR events and shopper activations in the main supermarkets have conveyed the client’s messages across Canada. The campaign has resulted in an increase of avocado exports to Canada, the Mexican fruit’s second export market after the US. We’re planning in the next few weeks to launch the first TV and outdoor campaign in Ontario. 



    Which is the last campaign that made the buzz (or badbuzz) in your country?


    The egg received over 50 million likes on Instagram, a world record! When you look at it closely, it’s really a beautiful statement, a symbol of simplicity and purity. It’s a simple egg shot posted on a social media platform. It’s funny how it could create such a quick, virtual buzz. And even greater since it ended up supporting a great cause: Mental Health America.  



    *The Nutrition month is organized by the dietitians of Canada