As we’re all tightening our belts, considering whether the things we’re putting into our shopping baskets are necessities or ‘little luxuries’ we can leave on the shelf, we’re getting ‘advice’ from out-of-touch politicians on managing our household budgets and actually helpful tips from Martin Lewis to help our money go that little bit further in the supermarket.

Even the supermarkets are shifting in their approach.  Conversations around margins, deep promotions and costs of retail real estate are nothing new, nor is the squeeze from super-premium products and own-label goods. However, while the relationship between retailer and brand owner has traditionally been symbiotic, with a joined-up promise of great value, quality and choice, new battle lines are being drawn between previously united parties.

Morrison’s punchy soup aisle comparisons, apparently at the expense of Heinz’s investment in-store, caused a stir among the food and drink and marketing communities with several threads popping up on various chat platforms. It led to discussion around the production of own-label products (contrary to popular belief, they’re not always made by the major brand owners), ingredient integrity, nutritional values, and brand love. Not to mention the questions of whether Heinz was aware and complicit in the in-aisle challenge.

But not all retailers are driving their own label products at the expense of branded items when it comes to telling (and showing) shoppers they’re on their side when it comes to keeping the family fed. Iceland and ASDA’s move to offer discounts to certain groups is an interesting and welcome step; although, with more younger families than ever turning to the nation’s +2,000 foodbanks and a reported additional 500,000 children experiencing food insecurity, you have to ask if and when this kind of offer will be extended to other groups beyond the over-60s or those in certain jobs (a move that has prompted questions on its own among those close to the issue).

Working with a number of major food and drinks clients, we are seeing more support from the industry to help fight food insecurity in many ways. Donations to food redistribution charities, food banks and other organisations are plentiful and are firmly more than an ESG box-ticking or marketing exercise. Brands and the organisations behind them are realising their real power and how they can put their money where their reported values are and drive real change – whether it’s through education, action or pushing for policies to help families maintain access to nutritious food.

So when shoppers commonly dismiss the price premium of many branded goods as ‘paying for the fancy packaging and swish marketing campaigns’ (lol… we wish), now is the time for brands to demonstrate that alongside offering superior products they can also play a positive role in society as well as in your kitchen.

What’s a brand to do?

There’s nothing particularly new (or necessarily helpful these days) about sharing tips on using up leftovers and making things last longer or stretch further. Consumers need to see and believe you’re on their side – but they will also see through any attempt at ‘social greenwashing’.

As we’ve seen with a number of well-intentioned comms plans, from environmental sustainability through to DE&I initiatives, without the operational muscle to back it up and really, genuinely make a difference (such as compromising on those margins, rethinking supply chains or dropping prices for shoppers), then the best option is to be honest in your limitations and do what you can as humbly and as well as possible.