According to GlobalData’s 2016 Q3 global consumer survey, 52% of customers associate well-established brands with better quality and 36% say authenticity would encourage them to pay a premium for high-end products. With a broadening consumer base looking to invest in products they consider of a higher quality, and brand perception playing a large part in this consideration of quality, it is vital for brands of all sizes to work to establish themselves as manufacturers of quality.

In order to achieve this, and align with the authenticity and heritage trend’s representation of greater attention to detail through premium formulations and artisanal production methods, brands will need to not only increase or better advertise the quality of their products but also build a compelling brand backstory.

In the May report from GlobalData, TrendSights Analysis: Authenticity & Heritage, associate analyst Matthew Perry explores the key drivers behind the authenticity and heritage trend. With premiumisation of products gaining value and public image of brands becoming more deeply tied to the perception of their products, there is a widening opportunity for manufacturers to provide more traditional and authentic offerings. Drawing from research detailed in the report, we take a look at the authenticity and heritage trend.

Trust, premiumisation and provenance: building from the mega-trends of indulgence and comfort

The key drivers in the consideration of authenticity and heritage are trust, premiumisation and provenance; consumers are looking for brands they feel they can rely upon to provide products that they believe are of a higher quality. More broadly however, both these consumer desires are seen to fit into the sensory & indulgence (the interest in higher quality, premium ingredients, and artisanal production methods) and comfort & uncertainty (the favouring of established brands that offer ‘trustworthy’ products) mega-trends.

Overarching the trend is the notion of a brand being able to tell a genuine story, both for the larger brand image and for the product itself. As consumers increasingly seek experiences and interactions with brands that they consider genuine, authenticity and heritage will continue to grow in importance as a trend; such experiences help to extend the story of a brand and place an onus on producers to enforce a genuineness that will build consumer trust and loyalty. A significant opportunity is available, though it will be reliant on producers understanding that it is contingent on maximising transparency and communicating the authenticity credentials they possess and hope to build upon across packaging and marketing.

However, there is a note of caution to be struck. While greater internet connectivity and the prominence of social media offer consumers the chance to more readily access information about products and meaningfully engage with brands, there is a risk that trying to leverage this opportunity could lead brands to dilute the meaning behind the trend. Brands must bear in mind that if creating an authentic product is approached without sincerity, they risk destroying the very trust they seek to build.

Keeping it clean: natural formulations and traditional production

GlobalData’s 2017 Q1 global consumer survey found that 46% of consumers would choose one brand over another if it contained natural ingredients and 40% said that the term ‘clean label’ meant that the product was free from artificial ingredients. Recent years have seen rising concerns over the presence of artificial ingredients in food which, in combination with a strengthening organic sector and a broader industry push for healthier products, leaves brands in a position of both opportunity and risk. While the shift to more natural products may incur certain costs, consumers are expressing a clear interest in premium products that adhere to a more authentic perception of food.

Producers should be ensuring that they emphasise the sourcing of ingredients in their products, making use of ‘clean labels’ that provide simple, short, all natural ingredients lists. With consumers looking for their food to prove itself authentic, brands need to ensure that they can differentiate from the competition with offerings that may come at a higher price point but promise higher quality and superior taste as a result of its premium sourcing and heritage. Reformulating to use more natural ingredients and production methods, and advertising as such, will not only lend greater credence of authenticity to the specific product but can help create a larger image of the brand as one that is invested in the health conscious/natural movement.

Provenance will play a large part in this transition, not only has the source of ingredients been found to be one of the central pillars of the authenticity and heritage trend but there are multiple benefits that consumers associate with products that are ‘local’ or ‘locally sourced’. According to the GlobalData 201 Q4 global consumer survey, 70% of consumers associate ‘local’ or ‘locally sourced’ products with being fresher and 62% believe such products benefit the local economy. Producers must be prepared to adopt what could be considered ‘craft’ principles and embrace a conscious and sustainable approach if they are to meet consumer demand for more premium and authentic food products.

Universal appeal: heritage is linked to quality across age, gender and income

As aforementioned, the GlobalData 2016 Q3 consumer survey found that 52% of consumers completely or somewhat agree that the older the brand, the better the quality. While just under half of consumers in Europe and North America fall into this group, the belief is much stronger in other regions; 54% of consumers in Asia Pacific, 63% in Central & South America, and 66% in Middle East & Africa believe that the older the brand, the better the quality of their products. And while the number of consumers who say longstanding heritage would make them more likely to choose one brand over another is low across regions, it is highest in Central & South America (16%), Asia Pacific (12%), and Middle East & Africa (10%).

Notably, the belief in a correlation between brand age and product quality hovers around the 50% mark across income groups (the belief is least among the lower-middle income group at 48% and most prevalent among the second-highest income group at 57%) and genders (50% for women, 55% for men). And while only 44% of those in the 55+ age bracket completely or somewhat agree that the older the brand, the better the quality, 57% of 18-24 year-olds and 58% of 25-34 year-olds agree. While the reasoning for this agreement likely differs across groups (older consumers likely value the nostalgia while younger consumers feel they can trust an older brand), it is important for brands to recognise that across the board, consumers are looking for brands they can buy into as much as individual products.

Although brands cannot produce history where there was none, they can learn from the broader lessons of consumer’s interest in such brands. Consumers of all ages, genders, and income are looking for products that they feel have a history and a quality to them; investing in traditional, craft production can lend some heritage even to newer brands. Similarly, taking simple measures towards greater transparency and making use of more natural ingredients can assist brands with appearing authentic, even if they aren’t looking to go full ‘craft’. The most important thing to remember however, is that, particularly with the world ever-increasingly connected, consumers will quickly suss out cynical attempts at authenticity; sincerity will be vital to building a foundation of consumer trust.