Retailers are missing out on food photo ops

Nov 09, 2017

Chelsea Ware

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.

Two young women enter a quirky brunch spot in Portland, OR called “Milk Glass.” They are handed menus with a fusion of traditional French cuisine, popular Russian ingredients, Japanese noodles and dishes common to the American South. One takes out her phone and snaps a photo of the menu, spending a few minutes to make sure that the angle and lighting are impeccable.

After a few more moments, she takes a photo of the plant on their table as well. When the orders arrive, both pull out their phones and take pictures of the entrées before their first bite. As they exit, their voices trail back exclaiming how they can’t wait to return sometime with other friends.

Millennials don’t view eating as a utilitarian function. Akin to how a person’s car or clothing says a lot about them, the Millennial generation sees the food they eat as an extension of their self-image. Each bite they take and each filtered Instagram photo they post is a demonstration to the world of what labels they choose to embrace.

This is a big reason why the average Millennial has high personal standards when it comes to the pictures they take of food. More important, they expect that brands also share this drive for graphic perfection. Dull stock photos and a lack of online polish quickly translate to lost sales opportunities with Millennials. For both food companies and retailers, websites and social media accounts have to be easy to navigate, aesthetically modern and photographically inspiring.

Recipes on websites can be the path to inspiration. For example, Earthbound Farm has a recipe page that presents meal options that are photographically vibrant, crisp and easy to sort through.

With more consumers eating fruits and vegetables, grocer websites that give these ingredients more emphasis in their food photos will not only seem more authentic but likely enhance sales. But while cauliflower may be a popular ingredient right now, jazz it up with some bright and snappy vegetable colors.

We stare at our phones all day, and are looking for exciting new ideas in your products!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why aren’t grocers taking better advantage of the phenomenon of food being photographed by smartphones and displayed across social media? Is the obsession a call for improved photography for retailers and food brands or do you see an opportunity for more photo-sharing moments?

"Let your customer be your best marketing and sales partner."
"You only have to search hashtags at Instagram to see that grocers are missing a very easy fix to this problem: adding an Instagram feed..."
"Maybe hire a Millennial to experiment with your brand or be open to their ideas about your brand."

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Retailers are missing out on food photo ops"

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Jon Polin

The reason grocers aren’t mobilizing around improved food photography is the same reason grocers are under-leveraging much of the promising technology that could improve their businesses; it requires doing things differently than they have always been done. Change is hard in any industry, and grocery is an industry that is especially averse to change.

Kim Garretson
5 months 16 days ago

You only have to search hashtags at Instagram to see that grocers are missing a very easy fix to this problem: adding an Instagram feed to their mobile sites, websites and apps. For instance, the regional grocer Hy-Vee has 40,000 posts with its hashtag, and more generic hashtags like “#groceryshopping” have nearly 400,000 posts.

Neil Saunders

There is certainly a case for the aesthetics of grocery stores to be improved — perhaps along the lines of Price Chopper’s Market 32 concept, which is inviting and engaging. The same applies to food product packaging design — some of which looks like it was last updated in the 1970s.

However I am not sure that this will encourage photo taking, at least not on a major scale. Unlike dining out, most grocery store shoppers are harried and don’t have the time or desire to take pictures.

Even if pictures were taken and shared, would they drive trade? It’s doubtful: Whole Foods’ produce displays have to be the most shared grocery pictures on social media — yet this did not save them from a continuous string of weak results.

Adrian Weidmann

Photos and images as a communication vehicle continue to be vastly underutilized by brands and retailers. We all are media producers and publishers by way of the devices in the palm of our hands. Brands and retailers need to be platforms that facilitate their shoppers and customers to ingest, curate, share and publish content across any, and all, relevant touchpoints. Let your customer be your best marketing and sales partner.

Celeste C. Giampetro

I totally agree, Adrian. There’s so much opportunity for grocers to seize on. I’d advise them to have a clear value exchange between brand and consumer. Maybe incentivize Millennials to share their creations and in return they’ll receive access to [fill in the blank]. Maybe hire a Millennial to experiment with your brand or be open to their ideas about your brand. As Adrian mentioned, your customers are your best channel to spread the word.

Lee Kent

I have to admit that even I have started noticing food photos lately. Done right, (right light, right angles) and I pass them along to my husband who does the cooking in our house. Even better are some of the short clips on Facebook of preparing dishes. Are grocers missing out on opportunities? I say yes. Don’t just show me a can of beans. Inspire me with what I can do with that can. It’s time to rethink your in-store’s potential. For my 2 cents.

Ralph Jacobson

The CPG industry is doing a much better job at this than retail food stores. I agree that grocers, in general with very few exceptions, could take much more advantage of the latest “foodie” culture sweeping our land. This is actually a bit related to another RetailWire article posted today centering around content management. I think an intentional strategy to highlight food ingredients by grocers and creating a drumbeat of this focus to their audience could generate some compelling potential loyalty.

Craig Sundstrom

I see a definite generational divide here: most of us “oldsters” (were we in the restaurant) either staring at them in bewilderment or shaking our heads and hoping the door is barred before more enter.

No seriously — or maybe more seriously — my understanding is that social media is supposed to be spontaneous, as in personal and unplanned. So I’m not sure how this would be “taken advantage of”… even if one wanted to.

Tony Orlando

Social media has helped us quite a bit as we post videos on YouTube, and our Facebook page, which contain some pretty good products to showcase our Deli/ Bakery, and our special cuts of meat. We also just posted a huge discount wine section on our website with each bottle listed, at savings of at least 40% and more. Videos of our catering prep, and on-site wedding or special events are listed as well. It is not difficult to do, but yes it takes time, and it separates us from the chain stores for sure. We certainly can do better, and I’m working on more videos for the holidays.

Ricardo Belmar

Grocers have been very resistant to change as an industry where I believe independents have moved more quickly to embrace social media in general and food photos in particular. While I don’t expect food photos of the produce section of the store to attract traffic, clever grocers are focusing on photos of prepared fresh foods to attract customers to the store. One larger chain I’ve seen doing this successfully through multiple channel is Wegmans, who often showcases complete meals in photos, and then through links takes you to full recipes with shopping lists for customers to enjoy. Other grocers are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to leverage a trend restaurants have been benefiting from for quite some time!

"Let your customer be your best marketing and sales partner."
"You only have to search hashtags at Instagram to see that grocers are missing a very easy fix to this problem: adding an Instagram feed..."
"Maybe hire a Millennial to experiment with your brand or be open to their ideas about your brand."

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