Foodservice as a Tool for Direct-to-Consumer Branding and Innovation

February 2020

Foodservice has become one of the most important areas of branding, marketing and direct consumer connection for a growing array of food and drink products. This report explores how brands are successfully using foodservice and other away-from-home channels to build whole new categories, as well as how foodservice players, retailers, delivery aggregators and others are becoming powerful new product developers themselves.

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Key Findings

Prepared food and drinks gain ground across all occasions

Consumers are cooking less and ordering more prepared meals and snacks, from physical restaurants as well as retailers, delivery players, and others.. This is placing pressure on packaged food and drink players as traditional marketing strategies potentially become less effective.

Growth of fresh, prepared products favours foodservice players

The expansion of prepared food into new eating occasions and times of day broadly favours foodservice players, yet the biggest beneficiaries will likely be foodservice players yet to be formed, combining apps, a limited number of effective physical outlets, and a well-considered delivery strategy.

Physical outlets still matter

Long term, there will likely be fewer customer-facing physical retail and foodservice outlets, but they will serve as far more than pick-up points. Instead, they will function as branding tools, as service nodes, and as points of discovery, vital to DTC brands, mostly-virtual restaurant brands, and (increasingly) food and drink manufacturers.

Foodservice outlets, third party delivery means more reach than ever

The on-trade to off-trade innovation pipeline is becoming more important than ever, yet there are real signs that third party delivery, by bringing more freshly-prepared food and drink products from on-trade to the home, is rendering this less relevant to upstart foodservice players.

Packaged food and drink players need new partners

As packaged food and drink players face growing private label competition from both foodservice brands and retailers, new strategies become necessary. Ghost kitchens and third party delivery potentially allow for targeted foodservice “experiments” with less capital and thus less risk, for both small restaurants and vast packaged food and drinks players alike.

Organic content, communities the next frontier for branding

For many brands, the key to a truly successful direct-to-consumer strategy is a real community around a brand, with consumers creating content, exchanging ideas, and above all providing data. While highly effective in categories such as beauty - is it possible to build an ongoing community around food, beverage and dining in a way that can drive new products and business models?


Key findings
Importance of prepared food occasions means more service, everywhere
Fewer consumption occasions are taking place in stores or restaurants
The squeeze for packaged food and drink brands
Direct-to-consumer is booming, yet costs are growing fast
Visualising a new relationship with food, drink and brands
Stores as media, foodservice as content
The foodservice lab: restaurants as innovation engines
Beverage companies lead the way in away-from-home investments
AB InBev turns retail into on-trade with “ Tabernitas ” programme
Restaurants (and stores) as data collection nodes

Foodservice as a Tool for Direct-to-Consumer Branding and Innovationn

Foodservice a growing concern for packaged food players
Colombia’s Rappi brings a host of packaged brands to third party delivery
Ghost kitchens, third party kitchens offer new options for packaged brands
Coca-Cola’s Wabi programme digitises traditional retail partners
Singapore’s Kimly offers a glimpse of vertically-integrated future
Chinese tea chains create an entirely away-from-home phenomenon
Four predictions


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