Fresh is really important in so many food and drink categories and I spend much of my time talking about it with many of my clients. But what is freshness? What defines freshness to our consumers and how can we communicate it in our product, our packaging and our communications?

The more you think about it and the more you look into it the more you realise that the consumers’ evaluation of Freshness is not rational. Consumers want “fresh” milk but they do not want it straight from the cow, how do we define “freshness” in processed products such as sausages and burgers? and does “frozen while fresh” really mean that the peas are fresh when we buy them?

Freshness is an emotional response in the consumer triggered by a selection of cues in our communication, in our packaging, appearance and aroma and confirmed in the consumption experience. We can try to measure the cues – the images in our advertising, the colours in our packaging… – but many of the cues are very subtle and often product specific and it is the synergy of how they work together and how this is confirmed in the consumption experience that really conveys freshness to the consumer.

The only way to really understand all of this it to understand the consumers’ emotional journey with our product. To understand all the individual cues, how and why they convey freshness to the consumer and how they all come together. Also to understand how this expectation of freshness is confirmed – or sometimes not conformed – in the consumption experience.

It is not easy and it certainly cannot be done online or over the telephone, but once you really understand the unconscious triggers of freshness in your category and for your product you suddenly have a very real edge over your competitors.