Finding a Cure for Emerging Brands in the COVID Era

How brands are adapting to survive and thrive in the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown forced many emerging brands to adjust their plans. Those who already had strong e-commerce and/or were already on-shelf faced minor changes. However, the many brands relying on foodservice or those who planned to get on shelf in the spring, now have to get creative to keep the lights on. Some retailers similarly froze onboarding new brands, but have been paying attention to what emerging brands have been doing. We had a chance to talk with Sheri Evans, Local Development Manager at Sobeys about how emerging brands have pivoted to survive.

”leverage social media to engage with consumers and develop a local base”

With plans on hold to get into retailers, emerging brands have focused on their local communities. But not all retailers have shut the door, Sobeys Inc. and their family of banners (Safeway, Foodland, Co-Op, Sobeys, and others) are working with many local suppliers to keep supporting and bringing new products onto their shelves. “We’ve been encouraging brands to leverage social media to engage with consumers and develop a local base”, Sheri tells us, “Part of this is getting creative with content.” 

Brands have been leveraging video to create content; from behind-the-scenes of their operations and messages from their teams. D2C sampling helps drive awareness in lieu of in-store options and some brands have taken this a step further to offer organized tastings and pairings through live broadcasts. There has also been a team effort from multiple brands and distributors to donate food/time to foodbanks and frontline workers. Not only is this a feel good move, it shows local support and gives a way to “sample” at a different level to reach audiences that are otherwise challenging to reach.

“I’ve been blown away by the campaigns brands have developed. These initiatives help alert consumers about local brands and lets them feel good about buying the products,” says Sheri. “It’s important to not forget the basics, such as sharing that your products are available or a picture or video of your product on shelf in-store.”

This is important as research from Caddle shows that brand loyalty remains low in-store and impulse opportunities are increasing – both of which require consumers to know your product is available and where to find it. Influencer marketing is gaining power again, especially with local micro-influencers who can authentically engage with their community.

“what is really setting brands apart is when they offer something different and standout from the crowd.”

Brands who have embraced the above strategies are generating sales and growing their consumers, as well as being noticed by retailers. 

“Along with our commitment to pay our smaller suppliers within 14 days, I’m thrilled to share we’re onboarding over 35 emerging brands for the summer. We’ve seen a lift in local [brands] and expect this to continue, even accelerate, in the months ahead. And, in addition to being local, what is really setting brands apart is when they offer something different and standout from the crowd.”

As restrictions lift, it’s vital that brands truly understand what differentiates them from the others and use it to engage consumers, drive marketing and get on shelf.