Is Your Brand Listening? 5 Lessons From the Food Industry

Now more than ever, it’s important to listen to your customers. Just visit any online review site or social media platform to see that customers will quickly take to the Internet to openly share their opinions - good or bad. What’s great is that you also have the opportunity to communicate back which helps improve customer satisfaction (as well as learn about their ever-changing wants and needs).

So, what are people saying?

Changing Needs

It’s almost impossible to count how many decision we make each day, but if you are like me, a lot of them revolve around food! With the advancement of technology, it’s easier than ever to find out customer preferences and brands should pay attention.

Rise of Veganism

Let’s examine a recent event from the food industry. Choosing to live a vegan lifestyle isn’t always easy, but increasingly, more Americans are choosing to eat meat-free. Since 2014, consumers who identify as vegan now make up six percent of the American population, up from only one percent.

This means that veganism has grown 500% in just three years!

When asked where and what they preferred to eat, U.S. Millennials (ages 20’s to 30’s) comprised the largest demographic compared to other generations such that 27 percent said having access to vegan food choices was an important factor.


A June 2017 report found that “consumers perceive an ethical and sustainable lifestyle to be an important part of their wellbeing and wellness.” But what’s the driving motivation behind choosing a vegan lifestyle? 59% responded they had a growing concern for the environment.

With explosive growth like this, brands can’t ignore how preferences are shifting.

Brands are Listening

Large brands are acting on the realizations that their customers want foods that align with their ethics and values.

TGI Fridays, a national restaurant chain, recently announced that their menu would soon feature Beyond Meat, a popular meat substitute. After receiving much positive feedback from the vegan burger’s trial, the company is expanding the menu item to their over 465 locations starting in 2018.


But it’s not just Americans that are demanding meat alternative options. In October, 2017, McDonald’s decided to test a new concept - the McVegan. After successfully testing the “burger” in select locations in Finland, McDonald's is making the vegan option a permanent menu item in both Sweden and Finland starting December 28.

  Photo credit:  AndNowUKnow

Photo credit: AndNowUKnow

What Does This Mean for Your Company?

Both TGI Fridays and McDonald’s listened to their customers about sustainability. Taking a cue from the food industry, here are 5 really good reasons to listen to your customers.

  1. Customers have the buying power. Simply put, they hold the purse strings. By voting with their dollars, you’ll quickly find out if what you have to offer is what they had in mind.

  2. Grow your business. In order to be successful, you need to grow. The growth of your business depends on listening to customers. There are various ways to gather valuable data: hold focus group sessions, ask for feedback with online surveys, ask them while you’re speaking to them.

  3. Everyone has an opinion and by taking the time to ask for theirs, your customers will feel appreciated.

    BONUS: By being transparent, they will feel more likely to give honest feedback which is valuable market research.

  4. Brand loyalty. You work very hard to keep the customers you have and if you aren’t willing to listen to them, they will go elsewhere. I personally love it when I reach out to a brand and they respond, making me feel like I matter. Having a two-way conversation increases the likelihood that your customers will keep coming back for more!

  5. RELATED READ: 4 Things Branding Can Do To Keep Loyal Customers

  6. Always be customer-focused. Most businesses start to solve a problem or improve upon an existing product. How do you know if your solution is worthwhile if you don’t stop and ask? Don’t ignore what people are trying to tell you. Afterall, if you don’t have any customers, you don’t have a business.

  7. Let your customers know they are valued. No matter who you are, everyone wants to feel valued. By listening to what your customers have to say, you acknowledge that their opinion is worthy. Take to social media, online surveys, or when you speak to them in person to have a conversation about your product or service.

Relan Wrap-up

Customers are the keys to your success so don’t shy from what is really being said about your brand. More brands are realizing that sustainability is not only the right thing to do, but it’s profitable.

Start the conversation with me and make 2018 the year you to grow through sustainable marketing products!

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Kari Brizius is president of Relan and is a West Point Graduate, certified personal trainer, a US Army Veteran, and a wholehearted entrepreneur. Kari’s passion for the environment, the planet, and healthy living fuels her entrepreneurial spirit. Her mission is to provide thought leadership on sustainability initiatives surrounding healthy living, the environment, and sustainability messaging. Learn more about Kari here.

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