brown bagging

Brandweek’s cover story this week, Brown Bagging It Becomes Fashionable, reports on food consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands like Kraft, Campbell, ConAgra, etc.  These brands have recognized the brown bagging trend by focusing their recent marketing efforts around ingredients that go inside the bag.

The reporter behind the story contacted me for some insights about why we’re seeing the trend.  Although my comments ended up on the cutting room floor, I thought I might share them here.

It seems these CPG brands are making a smart move by supporting a shift in consumer behavior but they should be careful not to put all of their proverbial eggs in one basket (or one brown bag, as the case may be!)

I believe consumers’ increase in brown-bagging reflects a confluence of 3 trends:

1.  less discretionary spending funds due to economic pressures

2.  continued need for convenience foods that keep pace with more active/hectic lifestyles

3.  growing desire to eat “good” food vs. junk food, fast food, etc.

Brown-bagging gives consumers more control and brands that help them brown-bag are thought of as smart “partners.”

However the offerings need to address all of these trends — e.g., if brands price their convenience-products at too high of a premium vs. regularly-packaged products, consumers are going to figure out they’re not worth it and they’ll either reject brown-bagging or improvise their own solution; or if products for brown-bagging are loaded with sodium and chemicals (as many may need to be for preservative function), consumers will realize they’re not really smarter eating choices.

Plus there “green” concerns about wasteful packaging — and just yesterday a new study was released about the damaging health effects of BPA found in plastic bottles and other food packaging.  So brown-bagging products will come under these scrutinies soon.

My final word of caution is that too many brands doing/saying the same thing may become a problem.  Many of these CPG brands already suffer from lack of differentiation and they end up competing primarily on price.   I would encourage marketers to figure out how their brown-bagging products might be integrated into an overall differentiating brand platform.

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