Marketing Tips for the 2021 Back-to-School Season

The 2021 back-to-school (BTS) season will be a critical one for retailers this fall and estimates dating back to pre-pandemic levels are in the forecast. In this post, we’ve rounded up information and statistics that we think are helpful for fresh produce marketers to know when planning for the critical BTS season ahead.

Marketing Tips for the 2021 Back-to-School Season

General Information & Resources

These are links to general information available for consumers and marketers alike that you may find helpful when preparing your marketing line up for the BTS season ahead:

Preparing for Sales

Following are sales predictions for the BTS season in 2021:

  • Bloomberg reports retail sales are expected to reach $32.5 billion during this year’s back to school season, which is 16% up from 2020 and 17% from 2019.
  • From mid-July to early September, sales are expected to rise 5.5% year over year and 6.7% compared with 2019, according to a forecast by Mastercard SpendingPulse.
  • The same forecast reports eCommerce sales are expected to decrease by 7% in 2021 compared to 2020 but will be 53% higher than BTS season in 2019.
  • Retailers are concerned about food sales decreasing during the 2021 BTS season compared to the unusually high volumes sold in 2020 with the pandemic.
  • Apparel sales in particular will likely surge as adults and kids seek a fresh start and return to the office and classroom.
  • Deloitte’s research found that the most popular place for parents to shop for back-to-school were mass merchant stores like Target and Walmart (88%), which will receive nearly twice as many shoppers as online-only sites (45%).

Approaching Content for Kids

How kids are eating these days has a major impact on the foods that schools and parents will provide this fall during the BTS season and every year, foodservice operators try to predict what will be popular for the year ahead.  Here are some trends as reported by Chartwells K12 that we thought may help frame what’s hot and what’s not for the season ahead:

  • Berry and banana smoothies and cinnamon French toast with apple compote aren’t just for morning eaters anymore.  According to the report, kids are looking for a wider variety of breakfast type dishes for lunch like scrambled egg pizza or huevos rancheros tacos.  The great news for fresh fruit and veggie growers is that breakfast and fresh produce go hand in hand.  Keep this in mind when building your B2S Pinterest boards or creating your brand’s inspiration page for back to school recipes on your companies website.
  • Just when you thought kids were spicy enough as it is, think again!  One of the hot food trends for kids this fall will be foods with flavor added by spices like turmeric, cinnamon and chili peppers.  Kids are becoming more adventurous eaters and as a result, recipes created by food marketers should adhere to this trend.
  • Chartwells K12 recommends food operators weave more plant-based foods into their menus and we say “Amen” to that! Fresh food marketers need not look further for a target audience of consumers than moms of school-aged children to promote plan-based foods that are approachable to kiddos like veggie wraps with hummus or berry and granola snack packs that get you through the school day with a clear mind and satisfied tummy.
  • The pandemic invited more time in the kitchen for families and this will likely continue into the new school year as families will seek to spend quality time at the end of the long day.  This offers marketers the opportunity to provide ideas for making dishes together that can involve every family member.  Consider eBooks or printable worksheets to keep families working together in the kitchen!
  • Exploring new places with food will also be a trend during back to school season that marketers can utilize to position their products in creative ways.  Offering recipe inspiration for regional specialties like California Cobb Salads or Cajun Po’ Boys can offer a child a healthy and satisfying lunch option while at school.
  • Bowls are a hot trend with no end in sight and provide an enormous opportunity for fresh produce brands to use when planning recipe content for video, website or social media!  Whether you grow fruit or veggies, there are endless ways that bowls can provide flavor, nutrition and fun for kids when packed for lunch.

Quick Tips for Fresh Produce Marketers

  • Create a Pinterest board featuring your most kid-friendly recipes and ideas to reach moms.
  • Don’t forget to share recipes and lunch inspiration on Facebook, the largest social media network online today!
  • Use high quality images on Instagram to promote recipe content.  Use Instagram stories to share your shoppers’ stories that include images of your products in lunchboxes, backpacks or in classrooms this fall.
  • Round up your best recipes for kids to eat at school and create a pillar page on your website titled, “Back-to-School Recipes for 2021” and use your social media networks and email marketing to drive traffic.
  • Send emails weekly starting mid-August to mid-September to your database of shoppers that have school aged children in their homes.
  • Boost your BTS Facebook posts to reach moms with school-aged children as well!
  • Use LinkedIn to promote fundraising efforts you’re doing on behalf of schools or getting fresh produce into the hands of kids.
  • Consider partnerships with influencers that target mother’s with their POV and content.

No matter what you’re marketing plans are for the 2021 back-to-school season, the most important thing to remember is that you stay present and share content that your audience cares most about during this time.  If you need help with content generation, whether writing, imagery or video is your challenge, we are here to serve you.  Take a look at our marketing services menu or request a 30-minute free marketing consultation to get some creative momentum around your brand and your marketing!