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Big Food Companies Using Consumer Data as Creatively as Ever

Big foodmakers are taking advantage of a pandemic-driven rise in online shopping to track consumer analytics.

“For a food brand it’s really no longer about who has the biggest factory, or who has the biggest media budget,” said Taylor Smith, a partner at Boston Consulting Group, in a Bloomberg report. “It’s about what data you have and how you use it.”

Here’s a closer look at how food companies are using this information to their benefit:


Companies like Conagra are gaining unprecedented insight into shopping trends by monitoring social media, delivery orders, and even Peloton subscriptions to gauge whether shoppers would be more inclined to buy products like health food.

Conagra also gathers data on recipe searches online and appliance sales to tailor its marketing and even what products it produces. For example, the company saw that sheet-pan meals were popular on Pinterest, and it launched sheet-pan-ready Birds Eye Oven Roasters in six months.

Conagra has reportedly sold $27 million of the oven roasters in the past year.

At Kraft Heinz Co., a “social listening team” picked up on buzz in the summer of 2019 and, months later, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Big Bowls hit the shelves as a result. Tracking social media is relatively new for Kraft and the company is now increasingly thinking about how it can gather and use such information to speed up product development.

Without this kind of social media monitoring, “this could be a multi-year process …,” said Kraft U.S. Chief Growth Officer Sanjiv Gajiwala.


U.S. retailers are also relying on their own proprietary research to determine how and where to put certain products, reported The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 19).

Retailers such as Kroger and Walmart are using software, which can incorporate video-surveillance and other data, to decide where to place items and which products to shelve next to one another. Grocers are even incorporating algorithms such metrics as “walk rates,” which measure how much time a customer is willing to spend looking for certain products before giving up.

Kroger’s CEO Rodney McMullen claims that no one has the data and insights that the company has, reported RetailWire (April 2). “Many retailers have transactional data, but no one has the customer data and the insights that Kroger has,” he said recently.

The company claims to have delivered half a trillion personalized recommendations to customers in 2020. The grocer also said that customers appreciate the preciseness of its offers as its email open rate is nearly 18% higher than the industry average.