12 Branding Lessons from Four Leading Food and Beverage Companies

Food and beverage is a big industry.

The category includes manufacturers, brick and mortar retailers, e-Commerce companies, restaurants, cafes, food trucks, ghost kitchens, food bloggers, service providers, beverage companies, consultants, and many others.

There’s always ample demand for food and beverage.

But, that doesn’t mean the food and beverage industry is easy.

In fact, competition is fierce.

The top five food and beverage businesses in the world remained unchanged from the prior year. Those brands (Nestlé, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev, JBS,  and Tyson Foods) produce quality products that the buying public knows and loves.

The brands have learned to cultivate messaging and products that resonate with their audiences. And they have big budgets for brand building.

Whether you’re working on your business plan for a new food and beverage business or starting your second business in the industry, branding should be top of mind.

You may not be ready to contend for the top five, but if you don’t approach your branding with the same mind-set as the top five brands, your business won’t survive.

So, let’s take a look at how the top food and beverage brands approach building a strong brand identity and brand – and what actionable lessons you can apply to your own business.

Lay’s: Create cohesion with a masterbrand logo

Image courtesy of Design Group Italia

Lay’s is a global snack food brand – and the most lucrative of PepsiCo’s food brands.

As one of the largest snack food brands globally, maintaining a consistent brand is vital.

But, it’s also challenging to maintain brand consistency.

With many products, unique markets, and languages, it can be tricky to develop one visual brand identity that resonates worldwide.

Brand identity is the special sauce that makes your business unique and different from every other business. Brand identity includes visible elements, such as color palette, design, and a brand’s logo. Put simply: brand identity is what you, customers, and prospective customers can see.

In 2015 Lay’s developed a new “masterbrand,” including multiple versatile visual assets that created consistency for their brand worldwide.

Their rebrand included the following elements:

  • refreshed global masterbrand logos,
  • new proprietary typography,
  • a master hero photo (product shot),
  • new background treatment,
  • and a global style guide to keep every sub-brand visually aligned.

Uniting each global sub-brand with the same masterbrand logo and similar visual styling creates consistency. This ensures that Lay’s is easily recognizable and memorable wherever you find them.

Your lessons:

  • Approach your products as part of a cohesive line, tied together by core brand traits and values. Your business name will tie everything together, but you need to think holistically about the entire product line, not in isolation about each product.
  • Rebrand to develop a consistent “master” brand identity that embodies those traits and values for use across all products and geographical regions.
  • Create a style guide outlining rules for use to ensure a consistent visual presentation across all products and locations.

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Nescafé: Invest in a visual branding system

Image courtesy of CBA B&G

Nescafé is one of the flagship brands in the Nestlé empire.

This instant coffee pioneer first debuted in 1938. And, they’ve had to update their brand a few times to remain relevant.

In fact, according to NestlĂ©’s brief history of NescafĂ©, the instant coffee megabrand:

…learned the need for continuous improvement and renewal.

So, it makes perfect sense that Nescafé not only regularly updates their brand but that they value the versatility that a visual branding system provides.

NescafĂ©’s visual branding system is derived from their iconic logo, which features the accent in their brand name. The system includes the graphic accent, a reimagining of the classic NescafĂ© coffee cup, and an icon inspired by a top-down view of the cup.

These three graphic elements are directly related to their core product and brand – making them easy to recognize, associate with the brand, and remember.

These graphics also allow for visual flexibility in their marketing and branding collateral, offering the brand a broader visual language to help their audience identify the Nescafé brand.

Your lessons:

  • Consider expanding your brand identity beyond a simple logo – develop additional graphics grounded tightly in your core brand identity.
  • Consistently use these branded graphics to create a familiar visual language for your audience.
  • Utilize your new visual branding system across all customer touchpoints (website, product packaging, email, ads, etc.) to increase recognition.

Tyson: Share your authentic story

Image courtesy of Tyson

Tyson Foods is the world’s largest processor of chicken, beef, and pork.

And, the jewel in Tyson Foods’ crown is the Tyson brand itself.

The Tyson family ran the Tyson company for many years. And that relatable heritage tugs at American heartstrings and makes the company approachable.

The Tyson empire began humbly during the Great Depression when John W. Tyson “loaded up his old truck and began delivering quality chicken to other hard-working people.”

We know this – and many other details about the family-based company – because Tyson made their origin story a core aspect of their brand.

Visiting the Tyson website, you’ll find that the navigation options offered on their homepage are limited to “Our Products,” “Recipes,” “How To,” and “Our Story.” The brand has smartly directed their visitors only to pages that tell about the brand and how it will fit into their lives.

Tyson knows that people love stories. Stories are a core part of emotional marketing and a key principle of marketing psychology. Using the phrase “Our Story” instead of the more generic “About Us,” Tyson successfully piques peoples’ curiosity.

Your lessons:

  • Share your authentic story with your audience. Today’s shoppers value authentic brands more now than at any other time in history.
  • Feature your brand story prominently on your business website and in your marketing.
  • Tell your story with an authentic, conversational brand voice. The most genuine story can be undermined by inauthentic story-telling.

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Corona: Remain true to your unique brand identity

Image courtesy of Corona USA

The popular Mexican beer brand Corona is owned by beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev.

But despite the protection of their powerful parent company, Corona faced a potential disaster in 2020.

By now, everyone on the globe is familiar with the Coronavirus. Many predicted that the shared name would lead to a drop in sales for the well-known beer brand.

But that didn’t happen.

Aside from a small dip in sales (due to temporarily closing their factory in response to Covid-19), the brand continued its projected growth.

So, how did Corona beer survive and even thrive in the age of Coronavirus?

Consistent branding saved the day.

While people couldn’t miss the unfortunate naming connection (thousands teased the beer brand on their Instagram account), Corona’s solid foundation of brand-building paid off.

The buying public knows Corona well. Years of consistent visual branding, brand messaging, and even the lime-in-the-neck-of-the-bottle ritual have cemented Corona’s identity in consumers’ minds.

People were comfortable ribbing Corona for their naming overlap. They were familiar enough with the brand to know that any connection was purely incidental and posed no real threat.

Your lessons:

  • Brand-building is never a wasted effort.
  • Develop an authentic brand supported by a strong visual brand identity that can grow with your business for years.
  • Expect your visual brand to take time (years) to make a strong impression on your audience. And; give it that time.

Your brand, your future

Branding is not a luxury.

And a unique brand identity is not just for big businesses.

Every business – particularly businesses in crowded markets like food and beverage – must have a distinct identity grounded in authentic traits and values and expressed by clear visual assets.

Take the time to uncover the traits and values that define your brand. Then invest in the visual design assets needed to communicate your unique brand identity to your unique audience.

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