Over the last year, the FMCG industry has been a tale of two halves. Retail (particularly online) has been booming, as we are forced to stay home, and had little more to do than cook and eat. Hospitality and foodservice, however, has all but stopped, with the exception of delivery and takeaway.

The impact seen on trade press, as a result, has potentially changed the landscape forever. With most foodservice titles pausing activity during the initial lockdown, some started to resume publishing in the summer. However, sadly some were not so lucky, and we waved goodbye to two highly regarded and long-standing titles, Restaurant and Imbibe.

Multi-channel publisher, William Reed, took the decision to remove its print operations on Convenience Store and The Morning Advertiser, moving all editorial and promotional opportunities solely online. And, once they returned from a short break, the team at H20 Publishing, saw the opportunity to consolidate its portfolio – Casual Dining became Dine Out, capitalising on the loss of Restaurant, and B&I Catering, EDUcatering and Sport, Leisure Catering (SLC) combined into one new title – Contract Catering.

These changes added to the pressure by publishers to sell advertising space. With restaurants and pubs closed, as well as work-place and education catering outlets limited, suppliers to these channels have seen sales slide, having a direct impact on marketing budgets. As a result, H20 changed its editorial policy, now only covering suppliers that have committed to commercial spend with its portfolio. A bold move? A limitation to its independent editorial? Or purely a wake-up call to suppliers of the significant commercial impact of the pandemic and a prompt to act differently.

On the flip side, we see sales through retail flying – which is great news for branded suppliers in this sector, but it has made space in the grocery and convenience press more competitive than ever. The Grocer has always been seen as the holy-grail in terms of landing FMCG editorial coverage, but with many suppliers postponing product launches in 2020, more brands than ever are vying for that space. This means we are having to assess our approach.

The publisher recently shared some directives on how to land coverage on the product news pages, with the emphasis on NEW, interesting and genuinely innovative, relevance to the audience and exclusivity to the title. To manage our clients’ expectations, we must be ticking these boxes. However, with space limited in the physical weekly magazine, we are seeing more benefit from other opportunities.

With many retailers and food professionals consuming media on their devices, The Grocer’s fast-moving and regularly updated online platform, provides a highly-viewed position for brand stories, often generating additional coverage on the daily newsletter. The title has also been taking to social media with an Instagram page highlighting hero NPD launches, a great spot for brand news.

We now have a roadmap out of lockdown and we hope by the summer our beloved industries will be buzzing once again, but the impact the last year has had on the media, may be irreversible. That doesn’t mean that there is not hope for brands in the trade press… The pure reduction of titles suggests that there are now less opportunities to generate earned coverage, especially in the traditional sense. But by thinking differently, working collaboratively with the media and looking at new platforms and formats for coverage, trade press now has the potential to be more dynamic than ever before.