Amid a challenging retail environment, food brands continue to struggle with shifts in consumer tastes and preferences. Unbranded search is growing twice as fast as branded across all categories, and vegan, low-sugar, and low-carb searches lead the charge with double-digit growth. While food companies scramble to innovate their product offerings, category disruptors catering to ingredient-driven trends rival established brands across digital marketing and e-commerce channels.
The top brands in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Food mitigate the threat of longtail competitors by adapting to these new challenges with deft content optimization, well-balanced desktop and mobile experiences, and early leads on emerging platforms like Instacart.
1. Quaker Digital IQ: 145
Quakers comes in hot with the number one spot in this year’s ranking. It dominates the online grocery digital shelf with strong fundamentals on Amazon Fresh product pages, including significant review volume and A+ content. Additionally, the brand garners significant engagement on Facebook through branded video content optimized for the platform’s muted autoplay format. Quaker tops off its digital performance with a wealth of recipe content on its mobile site.
2. Nestle Coffee-Mate Digital IQ: 136
Coffee-Mate consistently outperforms coffee creamer competitors in unbranded search visibility and rank across e-commerce platforms. It also boasts above-average engagement on Facebook, where the brand leverages the platform to introduce new products through Facebook-optimized video content. Lastly, it puts on a strong performance in organic search on Google, consistently appearing on first-page search results for terms like “hazelnut creamer” and “caramel macchiato creamer”.
3. Starbucks Digital IQ: 135
Starbucks thrives thanks to a best-in-class digital marketing performance driven by consistent investments in driving top-of-funnel awareness through SEO, SEM, and display advertising. It continues to exploit its brand equity through social media content investments, leading to a top performance across nearly all social platforms.
4. Barilla Digital IQ: 133
Barilla boasts a robust search and navigation experience that creates intuitive paths for consumers to find recipe content. It cooked up the Masters of Pasta campaign, which it then supported with significant paid media on YouTube, contributing to over 32 million views on the platform.
4. McCormick Digital IQ: 133
McCormick leverages customer data to power one of the strongest email programs out of all tracked brands. Additionally, it spices up the e-commerce handoff process by linking to recipe pages, allowing customers to curate shopping lists and purchase ingredients on third-party online grocery platforms.
6. Hershey’s Digital IQ: 132
Hershey’s savvy coordination of spend between Facebook and TV during the Olympics for the Hershey’s Gold campaign led to increased awareness online for the brand. The company also ensures a smooth site experience with a consistent template that includes frequently asked questions directly on product pages and provides basic product and nutrition information.
7. Ben & Jerry’s Digital IQ: 125
Known for its zany flavors, Ben & Jerry’s product pages are well-positioned for consumers seeking ingredient information. The ice cream company also exhibits exceptional cross-channel social engagement, promoting creative content with a core message of social activism.
7. Campbell’s Digital IQ: 125
Campbell’s outpaces competitor Progresso in both desktop and mobile SEO and SEM, achieving visibility against high-volume recipe and product terms. The soup company’s onsite recipe platform, Campbell’s Kitchen, features a wide range of category filters on the homepage that provide intuitive paths to recipe content.
7. Nature Valley Digital IQ: 125
Nature Valley raises the bar with above-average organic visibility on Amazon Prime. The brand achieves outstanding 95% visibility against unbranded snack bar product terms on Amazon Prime Now, positioning the brand to share in the platform’s growth. Similarly, Nature Valley invests heavily in featured products and coupons across the Whole Foods and Albertsons Instacart storefronts.
10. Knorr’s Digital IQ: 124
Knorr makes the cut with outsize visibility against bouillon terms, crucial for its category. Additionally, it touts optimized product pages on Amazon plus best-in-class content.