In Food, Thought Leadership

Hi, I’m Steve Gaither. I’m the CEO and founder of JB Chicago, an integrated marketing agency, and a partner at Windy City Food Brands, a company dedicated to helping food + bev brands grow.

Now is a really interesting time to be in the business, seeing trends in the food space and learning more about what today’s consumers want and need. But one thing reigns supreme: Today’s consumer is a conscientious consumer. She cares about what she puts in her body, how animals treated and her carbon footprint, and when she shops for food for herself and her family, it’s with some key considerations in mind – including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Non-GMO
  • Good source of protein
  • Low carb
  • Low sugar
  • Organic
  • Free-from
  • Convenience/grab and go
  • Compostable

I think a great candidate for the World Dairy Innovation Awards will hit on as many of these criteria as possible, in order to cater to the needs of today’s consumers.

At the same time there is a convergence between natural and conventional channels, meaning it’s not uncommon for the Jewel’s and Targets of the world to have a natural/organic section in their stores, and many niche stores now carry some mass products. Basically, the dividing line between grocery stores and natural food stores is growing fuzzy, and it would be in entrants’ best interest to make a thoughtful product that keeps that in mind.

Another trend over the years is that milk consumption is on the decline. In an attempt to combat that, billions of dollars have been spend on education. But education won’t change behavior — innovative product will. And I believe this is the big opportunity for you, the nominees.

I like to think of it in terms of the blue ocean strategy. It’s always best to create your own “blue ocean” of uncontested space, making your competition irrelevant rather than duking it out. Cirque du Soleil is my favorite example, because they challenged convention in the circus space. By removing the animals and the kids and basically everything we thought a circus was, Cirque du Soleil created a new form of entertainment that appeals to an audience willing to spend their money on it.

Some of my favorite recent examples of companies challenging convention include:

  • Method: They revolutionized the cleaning world by simplifying the ingredients and beautifying the packaging, making their product part of an overall experience;
  • Bonfire Wine: These winemakers recognized the only growth in their category has been via boxed wine, because millennials are looking for something fast and portable. Bonfire realized a handle makes transporting wine much easier than lugging around a box, so they created smart, portable packaging for on-the-go millennials.
  • Happy Baby Applesauce:  These moms introduced innovation to the baby food category in the form of convenient, child-friendly aseptic pouches.

Finally, call me vain, but I’m looking for something pretty. I got my start in design and love to see thoughtful, impactful packaging that helps tell the story of the brand – so wow me.

Good luck. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!