Mid-Year Intake. Late applications for mid-year intake close 15 August 2022. Apply now.

From the table to the market: Strategies used by food entrepreneurs to get noticed

Worth a whopping $82 million in 2019, South Africa’s food and beverage industry is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2019-2023) of 10.5%, claims Statista. While these figures may seem unattainable to our local, independent enterprises, becoming a household brand is proving less formidable thanks to digital marketing, writes Lucinda Jordaan.

The kitchen, they say, is the heart of the home. The designated space for preparing and sharing meals is also where the most innovative and inspiring creations are concocted – like Edward Molatela Kgarose’s sweet potato yoghurt. This innovative treat was dreamed up in the 29-year-old’s mother’s kitchen as she was cooking the nutritious root vegetable – and he was enjoying his favourite yoghurt.

“I asked myself: what if it is possible for me to produce a yoghurt with this sweet potato?” Kgarose recalls.

He set about experimenting with tastes and textures until he came up with a winning flavour. Following advice, he consulted with the Limpopo Agro-Food Testing Station at the University of Limpopo to ascertain whether the product was safe for human consumption. “I took my product and it failed four times at the laboratory,” notes the tenacious Kgarose, whose innovative offering – which he first sold at taxi ranks –  is now approved, available at two retail stores in Polokwane, and gaining traction in the market.

Food regulations aside, rigorous experimentation is the backbone of any successful commercial food journey. Former investment fund manager Ken Kinsey-Quick can attest to this: it took years – and about 60 attempts – before he could find the chilli oil that matched his palate.

“I’m a chilli wuss – I don’t like it too strong – but I’ve loved chilli oil since I first tried it in Paris in the 90s, where it was always served with pizza, something you didn’t get anywhere else in the world,” he says. The oil itself proved as elusive. “You could only find it in specialist shops and even then, it was just chillies in a bottle” – which, he adds, renders the flavour unstable and can cause the oil to go rancid.

About two years ago, Kinsey-Quick finally found a chilli oil he liked, in a pizza restaurant up in the Alps. “It came in sachets and I stole a whole lot and brought them back.” His brother-in-law, Adi Meintjies, a dedicated foodie, noticed him agonising about his pilfered stock running out – and offered to make it for him.

“He started experimenting in the kitchen and 60 variations later, came up with the right formula,” Kinsey-Quick relates.

This September, the financier will be retiring from his day job to focus solely on a business that has grown exponentially: Banhoek Chilli Oil now has a national footprint, is available in over 200 stores in South Africa, and is delivered anywhere in the United Kingdom via Amazon. The company is also looking to extend its product range by launching a tonic water later this year.

Reducing barriers to entry

The adage goes that – regardless of the state of the economy – if you’re in the food and beverage industry and not making a profit, you’re doing something wrong.

While the country’s scale and reach – and comparably limited marketing and advertising budgets – mean South African food brands are unlikely to dominate the global market, that does not mean they don’t have the cojones to compete with them on the local stage. The journey from home kitchen to formal market may follow a tried and tested recipe, that does not guarantee instant success, but social media has significantly reduced the barriers to entry.

“It’s much easier today – you can just take a photograph with your smartphone and post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – then you are in the market,” notes Anat Apter, Founder of Anat Foods, a household name in pitas, breads and Middle Eastern fare that famously started out with a falafel stall at Joburg’s Bruma Lake market in the early 1990s.

“When I started, I didn’t have a vision – I had an emergency; I needed the money and had to pull up my sleeves and do something. I never wanted to be in the food business. I started with falafel because that is what I knew best, and I had only two weeks to prepare and present the product, and make it excellent,” she maintains.

“If you start a business, you have to be serious, honest, dedicated and committed – especially with food, as it’s very emotional: when you eat, you want to know your food is good, healthy and fresh. I’m a strong believer in clean cooking.”

Hands on in growing her family’s brand – “I opened 22 stores myself” – Apter has always had a tight marketing budget and focuses on in-store promotions to attract customers. “As a niche market, I cannot compete with the bigger companies. I don’t do radio or TV, and my marketing budget is so small, I have to be creative. I have to innovate all the time; I listen to my customers and innovate all the time; I listen to my customers – my franchisees are my ambassadors to the public and I take a lot of ideas from them,” she explains.

Innovation, reckons Kgarose, is what sets entrepreneurs apart from their competitors in building a brand. “Social media makes marketing easy for us small producers, but innovation is one of the keys to being recognised in the industry,” he stresses.

How social media boosts awareness

An official launch one year after starting out, and a minimal investment in social media, proved the boost Banhoek needed to grow awareness of their product, says Kinsey-Quick. “We’ve just started using social media, and we’re still learning as we go along. It’s not rocket science, just getting brand awareness out there. We spent about R5 000 boosting posts on social media – split evenly between Instagram and Facebook – by putting out a post every week and engaging with respondents.”

It led to calls for stock from as far afield as Clocalan in the Free State – and the company to explore e-commerce. Banhoek Chilli Oil is now available online and delivered countrywide.

They also gained a new niche supplier: butcheries. “Oddly, they are very keen on the product and sell it very well – we didn’t think about it at the beginning. Now, 90% of our clients are butcheries and delis.” Poetry stores came next, giving Banhoek a national footprint – and the rest is history.

Social media may have boosted brand awareness, but the journey to the formal market is still a complicated process that requires footwork.

“Local brands struggle for space in the formal market because most retail stores won’t allow small producers to supply them due to low production capacity. It’s very difficult because you are introducing a new product that is not known,” says Kgarose, who does in-store promotions to grow the brand.

“Obviously, the first thing was to get the right product, and packaging was the next thing. But you can have best product – if you don’t get the marketing and advertising right, it won’t sell,” avers Kinsey-Quick. So, what would he do with an unlimited advertising budget? “I wouldn’t do things differently – though I would definitely increase our social media boosts to reach more people – and possibly consider putting some ads in print. I’d love to do a cookbook though: hire five top chefs to come up with five recipes – and use that on social media – but to do that properly would be quite expensive.”

What is an influencer and how you can spot a fake one

Social media is constantly evolving and has become so integrated into our personal lives that many people start their day by scrolling through their social media feeds to read the latest updates. From a business perspective, a social media presence creates brand awareness and a connection between the customer and the business.

However, there is a different side to social media, where an individual can reach an almost celebrity status by establishing credibility within a specific community. Social media influencers have followers in a particular niche with whom they interact on a daily basis. An influencer is able to influence purchasing decisions of his/her followers because they believe he/she is an expert on a particular matter or because the follower desires to emulate the influencer.

The majority of influencers fit into one of the following categories:

  • Celebrities – Individuals who have achieved fame in a particular sphere usually (but not always) outside of the internet. These include actors, musicians and sports personalities but could be anyone who has achieved fame in their field
  • Bloggers and content creators – Technically a blogger is anyone who creates a blog but in the context of an influencer it would be someone who is considered to have expertise in a particular field, has a large following and actively promotes their blog/online content.
  • Industry experts and thought leaders – Individuals or groups who are perceived to be leaders in their field and be able to provide credible insights to their followers
  • Micro influencers – Micro influencers could fit into any of the above categories but on a smaller scale and they usually have a very narrow field of expertise. Because they often are not professional full-time influencers but have rather gained a following due to their passion and perceived expertise, they are considered to be the most credible form of influencer.

Real vs fake influencers

Influencers have been proven useful to brands and businesses but it’s important to note that they are not simply marketing tools, but rather social relationship assets that can help brands achieve their marketing objectives. Influencers can create trends and encourage their followers to buy the products they promote. As great as it may sound, influencer marketing has its drawbacks with influencer fraud being one of them. Unfortunately, brands that fall victim to influencer fraud often suffer both reputational and financial damage.

A fake influencer can be defined as a social media user who artificially increases their following and engagements to imitate influence. They are considered scammers looking to make easy money by “buying” followers. These followers are usually bots designed to increase a profile’s follower count making it seem as though the profile in question has a large online following.

Naturally, brands don’t want to be associated with fake influencers but identifying them can be quite difficult. Here’s how to spot them.

Their follower growth: Growing a large online following takes time and effort – it doesn’t just happen overnight. Tracking an influencer’s follower growth can reveal whether or not they purchased their followers. A relatively new account with 200 000 followers is likely to be fake.

Their follower vs engagement ratio: Look at how many likes and comments they receive per post in comparison to their number of followers. Generally, fake influencers only receive a small number of engagements per post. This can be calculated manually or by using an online tool designed for this purpose. 

Their follower to following Ratio: On Instagram, when looking at an influencers profile, compare the number of accounts he or she follows with the follower amount. If you see the number of followers is far exceeding the number of followings, be careful. This is probably the most common way to spot a fake account.

Their activity on other platforms: While most influencers have a preferred social media platform, they don’t limit themselves to only one. A real influencer will have a similar number of followers on all their platforms while a fake influencer won’t.

Google them: This may sound obvious but a good way to weed out the fake influencers is to simply Google them. Influencers are often well known online so their names or social media handles will be present in search results.

See also:  2019’s Top 10 Social Media Influencers

How influencers can benefit a brand

As a brand, it’s important to do your research before choosing an influencer. If you are a lifestyle brand, work with a lifestyle influencer. That way, your target audience is already following the influencer, so you don’t have to search. Influencer marketing is a direct, sure shot strategy for reaching your target audience.

Moreover, influencer marketing can establish brand trust. A product endorsement from an influencer can boost your reputation as his or her infusion of credibility by association is extremely valuable for moulding a leadership position within your industry.

Would you like to learn more about how influencers can fit into a well-balanced and complete marketing strategy? Why not upskill with one of IMM’s short courses in Strategic Brand Management or Social Media Marketing. For more information on these and other short courses offered by IMM, call 0861 466 476 or visit www.immsc.co.za

Big things often have small beginnings

The role of social media in content marketing

By Wendy Monkley

CEO Digital Content Lab

Attention with a Capital ‘A’ is what every marketer wants for their brand, especially online. But what makes people follow or unfollow a brand? Much research has been done in this area. Time and time again we are told what we probably already knew – that people follow brands that are interesting and entertaining. The term interesting not only refers to the products and services that are on offer or their relevant promotions and discounts, but also the content associated with that brand. This should make sense, since people (in general) do know what they want, right?

When I first began my transition from ‘traditional marketer’ to ‘digital marketer’ some 6 years ago, I wondered what the point of this endless and seemingly useless supply of content was that brands seemed to produce faster than consumers could read. How does an inspirational quote like “Big things often have small beginnings” contribute at all to the marketing strategy and objectives? Quite honestly it all seemed like a massive waste of time and resource. It took me years of learning and on-the-job practice to fully grasp the power of content. Now, when asked the questions “What is the point of all this content?” and “What does social media actually do?” by brand managers, marketers and CEO’s alike, I answer with this simplified three stage explanation:

First, as with any promotional strategy, the objective for your social pages should be to build awareness of your brand and your product or service offering. In social media speak, your efforts of raising awareness builds a community of like-minded people. Unlike traditional marketing, this effort is extremely measurable by the number of likes/loves and followers you collect along the way. The content that you create for this purpose needs to appeal to your ‘perfect customer’ so that when the time comes for them to consider purchasing, your brand is already top of mind. If fact, eighty percent of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their primary goal on social (Sprout Social Index, 2019). And for many, this is where it stops.

But, building a community is just the beginning. You now get to speak to your followers – your captive audience. Again, unlike traditional channels of marketing social media provides you with the incredible opportunity to engage with your future customers and have them speak back to you. At this stage of the game, it’s got to be all about them. You need to be listening, observing, learning what they like and love so that you can give them more of the types of content that appeals to them. Now is not the time for hard-selling offers – that will come later. You rather want to be educating your followers about your brand, what you stand for, your company culture and you want to introduce them to and educate them about your products and services. Essentially, you are building trust. If you do this part well, the magic starts to happen – increased traffic from your social pages to your website. After all, isn’t this really where you want your customer to be? If you need further convincing, know that when asked what content type they want from brands on social, the majority (thirty percent) of consumers surveyed said they wanted links to more information (Sprout Social Index, 2019).

And now the unveiling! Because your future customer visited your website, you have the privilege of getting to know them better. Through Google Analytics you can delve deep into several visitor insights; Who are they? What are they interested in? What technology do they use? Where do they live? How old are they? What media to they read? Where do they spend their time when online? And more. It’s here where the true power of content marketing is unleashed. It’s time for those great offers and hard-working ads. Here’s the thing, with all this information about your prospect, you have the power to create an offer that truly resonates with them – and with remarketing technology you can show them your offer in the online spaces that they frequent (outside of your social pages and website). And since they already know you and trust your brand, it’s an easy step for them to click back to your website and make a purchase. None of which would have happened if not for the small beginnings of an inspirational quote.

The three stages above do not necessarily happen in sequence. That would be far too easy. This means that at any time social marketers should be creating three types of content; content that builds communities, content that engages and educates and content that sells. All of which should be aligned to the needs of the customer you want to visit your website and buy your products or services.

The above three stage approach to social content is a sure way to drive real, measurable returns, but it takes time and persistence.

A global activation with employees at grassroots level

A global activation with employees at grassroots level

 For the second time, spirits company Bacardi created a magnificent, global marketing campaign that required extensive planning and thorough internal communications, writes Michael Bratt.

Turning every employee into a brand ambassador was the central component of Bacardi’s Back to the Bar brand awareness campaign.

Coinciding with the 157th anniversary of the brand’s founding, more than 7 000 Bacardi employees across 130 global cities visited over 1 000 bars during a 16-hour period. With the main aim of brand awareness, the self-named primos and primas handed out cocktails to and interacted with patrons. Their presence was advertised beforehand through posters hung at the outlets, but the main communication with the consumers was the activation itself.

“For us, firstly it’s to thank all our customers who have supported our brand this year, and it’s important internally for us to have all our employees think like sales people and be closer to the consumers,” explains Francois Portier, area director for South and East Africa at Bacardi.

The scale of the campaign doubled in size from last year, meaning that coordinating the activities was a much bigger challenge in 2019. Internal communications had to be spot on. Rather than have the global office co-ordinate the goings-on, each individual market was tasked with their own rollout. However, there were common threads globally.

The micro influencer trend

“The look and feel of the campaign was made by the global office and then the brand ambassador in each market, who was briefed by the global team, communicated it locally. And the rollout happened on the same day everywhere,” explains Portier.

The success of the campaign was firstly measured on the number of interactions Bacardi employees had on the ground. Aside from being an activation in nature, Bacardi also used its social media platforms (and those of all its employees) to spread the message further. With the belief that “all employees can influence the business at a grassroots level”, Bacardi was looking to utilise home-grown Insta-influencers from all levels of the business.

“As part of this brand’s culture, the founders are very important to us and family is very important to us. This is why we used our employees, who are our family. It was very important to have internal involvement,” says Portier.

This approach plays on the new micro-influencer trend that has been creeping up in marketing, ever so quietly. Rather than recruit big name celebrities (who usually come with hefty price tags anyway) and their huge followings to be part of a campaign, brands are recognising the value of using ‘ordinary people’ with smaller followings. Even though they don’t reach mass, they are more engaged with and closer to their followers, which reinforces the belief of genuine connections. However, with this campaign, Bacardi had the best of both worlds as they used micro-influencers, while still reaching mass, due to the 7 000 staff the brand utilised.

With the incorporation of this digital aspect, traditional social media metrics were also used to gauge the success of the campaign. Several hashtags were used, including #BacktotheBar, while trends in the alcohol space were also touched on in posts, including “drink less but better”, “instagrammable handcrafted cocktails” and “no/low is the new go-to”.

Brands built in bars, not boardrooms

“‘Back to the Bar’ is based on our belief that our brands are built in bars, not boardrooms. As Bacardi celebrates our 157th anniversary, it’s important to reconnect with our roots, think like founders and put our own feet on the street to see first-hand how our business, bars and consumers are changing,” says Mahesh Madhavan, CEO of Bacardi Limited. “For Bacardi people, visiting bars is often more work than play as we do on-the-ground research and put ourselves in the role of salespeople and social media influencers.”

Customised cocktails

A standout feature of the campaign was the choice of cocktails served per market. These were dependent on the dominant Bacardi brand that patrons in the market prefer.

“In Kenya we did more on whiskey, Mozambique would be Martini and in South Africa it’s mainly based on Bombay Sapphire,” comments Portier.

“The cocktail revolution continues as more people from more places drink more varieties of spirits than ever before, and bars and bartenders are on the frontlines,” says Jacob Briars, Bacardi’s global advocacy director.  “In addition to spending time with consumers, Back to the Bar is a chance for us to thank the bars and restaurants who support us and the world’s best bartenders, who are truly on the cutting edge of what’s new and next in our business,” he added.

This campaign will be rolled out again next year, as well as in the foreseeable future, as it has been incorporated into Bacardi’s long-term strategy. In the shorter term, the company is busy with projects in South Africa for its newly acquired Patrón Tequila, as well as several other of its brands, with the country being a priority market in Sub-Saharan Africa for Bacardi.

As Portier concludes, “We test some activations and activities in South Africa that we then rollout to other African markets like Nigeria and Kenya.”