Top Creative Trends in Recent Food & Beverage Advertising

Current trends in food and beverage advertising are becoming increasingly dictated by millennials and their desires for transparency and accountability from the brands they patronize.

The second quarter of 2019 saw several campaigns that speak directly to these concerns, including competing ads from Clif and KIND snack bars over the use of organic ingredients; a reaction to the meatless trend from Arby’s; and ads addressing the much-discussed current issue of plastics in food. Meanwhile, continuing the trend of creative new ways of marketing food via social and digital platforms, we take a look at Cannes Lions-winning Twitter and In-Game campaigns from Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Wendy’s.

Clif vs. Kind – The Battle of the Bars

Much like the beer wars currently being fought between Miller Lite and Bud Light over the use of corn syrup, KIND and Clif Bar are now engaged in a scrap over health benefits and corporate responsibility.  Clif Bar fired the first volley by running a New York Times ad earlier this year urging KIND to transition its company to organic ingredients, a la Clif Bar products. “Do a truly kind thing and make an investment in the future of the planet and our children’s children by going organic,” beseeched the ad. In reply, KIND put Clif on blast with a spot demonstrating the amount of brown rice syrup in Clif Bar products, which it claims is “just another name for sugar.” Now, Clif Bar is firing back with a campaign touting its brand’s values of being a sustainable food company. Cheeky TV spots feature a Clif Bar spokesperson who is the personification of its “Climbing Man” logo and sports the tagline “Make it Good.” Looks like attack ads aren’t just for political advertising, or beer brands anymore.

Arby’s “Megetables”

One of the biggest food trends right now is plant-based meat alternatives, as evidenced by the overwhelming popularity, and resulting shortage of, Impossible Burgers at fast food and family restaurants. Now Arby’s, which has built its brand on the theme line of “We have the meats,” is out to flip the paradigm by bucking the trend of plant-based meat substitutes. The chain has introduced the world’s first “megetable” – a vegetable made from meat. The “Marrot” is composed of turkey and a special carrot marinade, all shaped and colored like a large carrot. It’s a pretty humorous conceit, and does a good job of positing the point that even though we need to eat more vegetables, what we really crave is meat.

World Wildlife Foundation “Your Plastic Diet”

Did you know you’re eating a credit card’s worth of plastic every week? Research indicates that people ingest about five grams of microplastic per week, largely through water products, beer, salt and shellfish. Stepping onto the food and beverage advertising stage, new ads from the World Wildlife Foundation hope to prompt people, companies and governments into action. Encouraging them to stand against the millions of tons of plastic leaking into nature every year with this uncomfortable and somewhat shocking messaging. As a result, it may not be long before the label “Plastic Free” on food becomes the new “Non GMO.”

East West Shamebags Food Marketing EvansHardy+Young

East West Market – “Shameful Bags”

One food seller that is battling the plethora of plastic in our diets is grocery store East West Market. One of the largest sources of plastic pollution is single-use plastics like disposable grocery bags. So East West Market is encouraging shoppers to bring reusable bags by shaming them for not doing so. If you forget, they’ll still provide you with plastic sacks, but with a catch. The bags are labeled with the names of (fake) establishments that most of us would be embarrassed to be known to frequent. So, if you don’t want to be seen carrying a bag from “Into the Weird Adult Emporium,” or “Wart Ointment Wholesale”, you’d best bring your own. It’s a clever idea, and perhaps a higher price for one to pay than the nickel or dime some stores now charge for plastic.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese – “Sad Bagel”

Everyone knows that a bagel just isn’t a bagel without a schmear of cream cheese. So when Apple introduced their new cream cheese-less bagel emoji, Philadelphia Cream Cheese knew a serious wrong was in need of righting. They quickly began a real-time social campaign to rally the world behind remedying the dry bagel travesty. First, Philly redesigned Apple’s emoji to include cream cheese spread on it and created a Twitter poll to see which version people liked better. Then, they started a petition on to gather signatures of support. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of the schmear, and within 10 days Apple released Philly’s version of the emoji. Philadelphia Cream Cheese not only gained global publicity beyond its typical brand spheres into the realm of tech and business, but also won a Gold Lion at Cannes to boot.

Wendy’s – “Keeping Fortnite Fresh”

Going Philadelphia Cream Cheese one better at Cannes, Wendy’s won the first-ever Social and Influencer Grand Prix for its “Keeping Fortnite Fresh” campaign. Fortnite is one of the most popular on-line games in the world, and in a recent version, players were prompted to fight for either Team Pizza or Team Burgers. Wendy’s noticed that Fortnite’s in-game burger restaurant contained a walk-in freezer, which Wendy’s stores decidedly do not have. So, Wendy’s entered the game and developed a female avatar to simulate their logo character, complete with red hair and pigtails. And instead of battling players from Team Pizza, Wendy attacked frozen beef by destroying the freezers. Thousands of other players took note of the bizarre behavior and began a dialogue about it within the games on Twitch. It was a totally original and organic use of a unique new form of social media, and quite possibly the beginning of a whole new creative food marketing trend.

Every quarter we publish a sampling of noteworthy food and beverage advertising campaigns, with the purpose of informing and inspiring those with similar interests. Here’s a look at some of our past highlights.

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Kirk Evans VP/Associate Creative Director EvansHardy+Young
Kirk Evans, VP/Assoc Creative Director

Kirk held senior creative positions at McCann-Erickson and Ogilvy in Los Angeles before joining EvansHardy+Young over 20 years ago. He has produced award winning work for multiple EHY Clients including Idaho Potatoes, California Walnuts and several restaurant chains. Previous clients included American Express, Coca-Cola, Columbia Pictures and Post Cereals. Despite being born and bred in New Jersey, Kirk is an enthusiastic surfer.