These 5 food & bev brands are riding the merch marketing trend and making fashion for their fans…
During COVID, food has brought solace to many quarantined young consumers. The proof is on social media as many young people stay up to date with the latest food and bev trends in quarantine. YPulse’s Comfort in the Kitchen trend report found that 76% of 13-39-year-olds say food has given them comfort during COVID, while our exclusive COVID data found that 27% of 13-39-year-olds are ordering food delivery more during the pandemic. But these days, food and bev brands aren’t just in young peoples’ kitchens—they’re also in their closets.
Launching merch has been trending for food and bev brands for some time. YPulse’s Brandoms report explored the return of logomania and the unique role that fast food brands were playing in the resurgence: These are the kinds of fun, kitchy brands that young consumers are interested in sporting—sometimes because of genuine passion for the products, and sometimes ironically. The marketing tactic has stayed strong: Last December, McDonald’s launched “Golden Arches Unlimited,” their first-ever, permanent online shop with themed-merchandise specifically designed for the chain’s customers and fans. In January, Popeye’s launched an online clothing line inspired by Beyoncé’s Adidas x Ivy Park collection which instantly sold out, while Oreo debuted a clothing collection in collaboration with influencers from around the world. In February, Sprite dropped a streetwear line developed by young creators and designer Jeff Staples as a way to promote their “Sprite Ginger” flavors.
Whether they’re teaming up with apparel brands or launching their own merch, here are five more of the food and bev brands who have launched their own clothing and accessories merch to reach fashionable fans:
Ahead of the holidays, Stouffer’s is dropping their very first-ever, very own food-themed clothing. The Nestlé-owned brand’s collection will include fun merch from t-shirts and mugs with phrases like “Don’t Talk To Me Until I’ve Had My Mac & Cheese” and “Mac & Cheese Is Self-Care,” a blanket that says “Let’s Canoodle,” and a lasagna-inspired sweatshirt that says “Layer Up” as well as a t-shirt donning the phrase “Live. Laugh. Love. Lasagna.” But perhaps their most-talked about item is their insulated “one-of-a-kind fanny pack,” which is sized to fit lasagna so wearers can keep their meals warm. According to a OnePoll poll, there has been an uptick in childhood favorites during the pandemic—with mac & cheese seeing a 38% increase among consumers in the U.S. Our Comfort in the Kitchen trend research found that 45% of 13-39-year-olds have eaten more comfort foods since COVID.
In August, Chipotle launched a “responsibly sourced” clothing line dyed with “recycled avocados.” With “Chipotle Goods,” the fast casual chain became more serious about their sustainable apparel game by making clothes and accessories from organic cotton and dyed with “upcycled avocado pits” from its restaurants. All profits from the collection go organizations that are focused on making fashion or farming more sustainable. They also launched a pop up shop on resale site Depop, hosted by influencers Avani Gregg, Natalie Mariduena, SpencerX, and DevonOnDeck. Members of Chipotle’s Rewards program will be the first to access the collection. Ahead of this year’s election, they also released “QR-enabled shirts” to encourage young people to vote. The “Chi-Vote Le” t-shirts featured a “pepper-shaped QR code” on the sleeve that customers can scan with their phones to prompt a voter registration site. The shirts were released on their Chipotle Goods site for $11.03 (a reference to Election Day)—and sold out almost instantly. Prior to launching their Chipotle Goods collection, Chipotle had merch on their mind for a while: In May, they collaborated with E.l.f Cosmetics for a launch that included a makeup bag that replicated their silver wrapped burritos.
Jolly Rancher x New Balance
Brand collaborations have been a beneficial way to further reach customers from both brand audiences. Previously, White Castle “unexpectedly” teamed up with Supreme and Vans to release branded shoes, while Forever 21 worked with Taco Bell for a teen fashion line that was “hotter than Diablo sauce.” But to reach young sports fans and candy enthusiasts alike, The Hershey Company-owned Jolly Rancher was tapped by New Balance to team up with NBA player Kawhi Leonard (who says it is his “favorite childhood candy brand”) for a limited-edition new sneaker and apparel collection. Focusing on the basketball player’s signature KAWHI sneaker, the line is offering everything from 327s to 480s to sport slides—all inspired by “a colorful bag of Jolly Rancher sweets.” The collaboration highlights two of the candy brand’s colorways: Original Flavor, which will be on the KAWHI and 480, and Blue Raspberry, which will be donned on the 327 and slides. The Kawhi Jolly Rancher collection also features t-shirts with the candy brand’s logo reimagined as “KAWHI Leonard” along with their recognizable, signature fruit designs.
Throughout the pandemic, alcohol and bev brands have reinvited marketing to better reach young drinkers. And for some, that means reaching them through apparel. Over the summer, Bud Light released a capsule collection of designer merch. (Yes, that’s right: Bud Light designer merch.) The beer brand collaborated with Darryl Brown, the designer of Midwest Kids, who used to be a stylist for Kanye West, to create a limited-edition streetwear line that includes t-shirts inspired by “summer, Midwestern childhoods and American culture.” Both teams used the hashtag #MIDWESTBREWED to promote the collection, which has completely sold out on the Midwest Kids site.
Sure, alcohol sales are up during the pandemic, but so is CBD. With anxieties high during the pandemic, young people are turning to CBD products and drinks. According to a survey from Brightfield Group, four in 10 CBD consumers plan to use it even more frequently during COVID, with 15% planning a higher dosage. YPulse’s Cannabis Infusion report found that 57% of 18-36-year-olds are interested in trying a product with CBD in it, while 59% say CBD should be more mainstream—and that’s exactly what Recess is trying to do. The CBD beverage brand has seen ecommerce sales increase 4x since the start of the pandemic, and now they’re taking an extra step to stand out and reach lounge wearing consumers by releasing “Realitywear”—a clothing and accessories line based on three of their flavors. The line is part of their larger plan to be a “new type of consumer wellness and lifestyle brand” especially as mental wellness continues to be a major entertainment trend during the pandemic.