Writing Food: How to Write Great Copy for Food in the Age of E-Commerce

Are you struggling to entice your target with juicy food copy?  If so, don’t worry – it’s normal.

When it comes to writing for food, there’s a big challenge – the customer can’t touch, smell, or taste it. So it’s up to you as a writer to put together the words to help them better experience the product. To help replicate the experience of being in the store and holding the product in your hand.  

The key is realizing that experiencing and imaging the product doesn’t always have to be visual. If you can capture your audience’s other senses, you’ll have a better chance at building a connection and converting the sale.  

So, is it possible to make people hungry using just words? I believe it is. 

Let me take you through some tips on how, so you can improve your food copywriting for Amazon. 

1. Start With Your Target Customer

With any type of copywriting, research comes first. This means understanding who your target customer is and what makes them thirsty for your product.  

Food brands that already have an idea of their ideal customer would have started with them in mind and created the products from this model. When writing food copy, you should recognize that you’re not targeting everyone. The target customer for a roast turkey frozen meal is different from the target customer for gourmet Spanish olives. They’re different types of people looking for a different type of experience.

Before you begin the writing, think about your product. Is it: 

  • Family-friendly? 
  • Quick and easy? 
  • Fine dining? 
  • Gourmet style? 
  • Specific to a certain type of cuisine? Exotic? 
  • Affordable? 

It’s important to keep these answers in mind so you have an “ideal customer persona”. When you write, especially for a certain type of person (or intent), you make it easier for your target customer to choose you. If you’re interested in exploring this further, we’ve written an article specifically on writing for intent on Amazon

Once you know who your target is, it’s important to speak to them in their language too. Again, this signals to them that your product fits with their need. Amazon has a great feature that’s part of every product where you can see what people are saying about it. The reviews.

Check out your competitors’ reviews and get into the mindset of your target customer.  Learn what they love, learn what they hate and build your product positioning around that.

Once you have an idea of what words to use (language, tone), they should be placed throughout your listing – from the title to the bullets to your A+ Content. Keep everything consistent. 

2. Stylistic Devices Are Your Friend

Dust off your English textbook, we’re going old school. 

You may or may not remember the term stylistic (or literary) devices from your 5th grade English class. To keep it simple, they’re the methods or techniques used with words to do some of the following things: 

  • Add emphasis 
  • Create a clearer image of something 
  • Consider a new point of view 
  • Make connections that might not be evident 

They’ll help your copy sound better and convey the image you want your audience to imagine. Without any of these, your copy can fall flat. Never forget the biggest obstacle when writing for food: the customer can’t taste, feel, smell or see anything you’re describing. You have to count on your words to do this. 

Some of the best stylistic devices for food projects are: alliteration, onomatopoeia, foreshadowing, metaphor and simile, and imagery. Let’s have a look at what they can do for your copy. 

Imagery 

Imagery is a technique that uses description to draw out the five senses: taste, touch, sight, smell and sound. And what could be more important than trying to capture the five senses when you’re describing food to someone that’s not there to experience it.  

Of all the techniques here, imagery is one of the biggest and most relevant because it calls on your reader to use their imagination when it comes to your product. There are many ways to try and create imagery and using some of the other devices can help. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean. 

Alliteration 

Keep copy consistent. See what I did there? Alliteration is a stylistic device that uses the same letter or sound in a set of a few closely connected words. It lends a poetic quality to copy and generally sounds nice.  

The alliterations you come up with don’t necessarily have to describe the food you’re writing for, They’re just nice to include in bullet points or in a title. This way when your customer is reading it in their head, they might stop for a split second and think “Oh, that sounded nice”. Reading the copy becomes a pleasant experience for them and so they’re likely to continue, meaning they will take in more information about your product and what makes it great.

Some examples of Alliteration include: 

  • Perfect pepperoni pizza 
  • Delightful donuts 
  • Chewy Gooey Goodness 

Of course, there’s a time and a place for each device and the more you play around with any of these, the easier it will get to find the perfect opportunity. You can start out easily by finding synonyms or adjectives that start with the same letter or sound and creating a cluster of 2-3 words. 

Have you noticed any alliterations in food copywriting lately? 

Onomatopoeia 

This is one of my favorites and even the word is fun to say – aw-no-ma-toe-pee-ah. 

What is onomatopoeia? Essentially, it’s a word that suggests or resembles the sound it describes. A good food copywriter wants to keep in mind the sounds that go along with food. This stylistic device adds auditory imagery.  

These could be sounds that the food makes in your mouth, when it’s sliced or chopped, or how it reacts when cooked: 

  • Sparkling beverages fizz 
  • Chips crunch with every bite 
  • Fresh clementines spray their juices 

Look at this example. Which one sounds better? 

  • Extra thick-cut bacon strips (snore) 
  • Extra-thick bacon strips that sizzle loudly on the pan and crunch delightfully in your mouth (fun and yum!) 

Using onomatopoeia helps your customer get closer to imagining how they’ll react to your product because you’re painting a picture that relates to the sound and feeling of the food. Again – that’s imagery there. See, I told you it was important. 

Metaphor and Simile 

Similes and metaphors are both comparisons between two things. A simile uses like or as, while a metaphor does not. You can use these comparisons to give your customer a better idea of what their lives will be like with your product.  

They also contribute to imagery. They don’t have to be only visual images. Think of smell, touch, sound too. 

  • Our piña colada sparkling water is like a sip straight from the sunny shores of Puerto Rico 
  • Enjoy a cup and be transported to a blooming tropical paradise 
  • Ready-to-use cookie mix makes your home smell like grandma’s freshly baked cookies on a Sunday afternoon 

By making comparisons with metaphors and similes, you have the chance to create new connections in your customer’s mind and make them see your product in a new way.  

When writing for food, go heavy on the imagery because it’s the only way to give your customer a (mental) taste.

3. Foreshadowing or Future Pacing

Foreshadowing is when a writer hints at events yet to come. You could also connect it with the technique of future pacing that’s often used in advertising and psychology where someone is asked to imagine themselves in a desirable situation. 

This is the perfect opportunity when copywriting for food products. Why? 

You paint a picture of your customer using your product.  

Think of how movies use product placement. They have a perfect scene set up – one you can see, smell, hear. There’s a feeling involved. And then the main character takes a sip of Pepsi or Heineken or pops a Skittle into her mouth. It completes the whole picture. 

A great example is the Corona beer ads. Although they don’t use much copy, they use imagery to carry their customers to gorgeous destinations where all you need is your imagination and a lime in a bottle of beer to “find your beach”.  

Find your beach corona beer example of future pacing
Corona beer does a good job with future pacing

You want to try and do that when you’re writing for food too. Set up a scene where your customer is the hero and your product is the solution. 

If you want to sell your cream of broccoli soup, take the time to set up the scene. Think about the five senses and how to create an image for all of them: 

  • A cold winter’s day in front of a frosty window (visual) 
  • The hot spoonful of soup that warms you from the inside out (feeling) 
  • A smooth and delicious creamy that tastes like your great aunt used to make (taste) 
  • The light sound of instrumental jazz playing in the background (sound) 
  • Crunchy croutons straight from the oven with that freshly baked smell (smell and sound) 

Can you imagine the scene? I hope so! If the customer can make a mental picture in their mind that involves your product, that’s future pacing. 

4. What’s the Story? 

There is a supersaturation of products on the market. Especially on Amazon.  

Type in “jasmine green tea” in the search box and surprise! Over 1,000 results. How are you supposed to get through all that? How can you write about a food or beverage product to make it stand out? 

Tell your story.  

There are few products today that are new or fresh. Chances are your product is similar or exactly the same as the others. You have to tell your customer what’s different. Usually, a good brand or company sees a gap in the market or thinks of a crucial element that others have missed (which is why they created the product in the first place).  

Tell your why. Because when you tell the story behind your product – the reason for creating it – this signals to your customer that there’s something more to it than just the product.  

There’s a real story with real people that they can connect with.

Have you ever noticed how some wine houses have an “about us” on their wine bottles? Why would they do that? They want to tell their story and create an emotional connection with their customer. Every chardonnay should have a smooth, buttery finish, but what makes this chardonnay special is the story behind it. The generations that keep the wine alive, the special grape and how it’s harvested, whatever it does to make the flavor distinct.

A creation story behind your product makes it that much more interesting and attractive to your customer. Perhaps they see something of themselves in it. Maybe they’re inspired. The point is, we want to make people feel a product. Not just buy it. 

5. Benefits Over Features 

We probably mention this more than is necessary. Features are what the product does or has – the tech specs you could say. Benefits are what these specs do for us. It’s why we care. 

Let’s look at coffee as an example. Most coffee brands go with the same pattern as all the other coffee brands:  

  • Arabica  
  • Medium blend 
  • Guaranteed fresh 
  • From the rainforest of Costa Rica 
  • Small batch 

If you’re not a coffee connoisseur, this stuff doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it probably just confuses you even more because if you start browsing through other coffee listings and you keep seeing the same thing, you won’t be able to tell the difference between any of them. You’ll end up just choosing blindly. Big fail. 

To get a customer on board the best thing to do is explain to them the WHY of the what. Sell them on the benefits of dark roast coffee beans from the foothills of Peru. 

Raven’s Brew gets into the details and I think they do a good job at helping non-coffee snobs decide that their product is right for them. Take this bullet for example: 

Packaged for Freshness: At Raven's Brew, we take freshness seriously. Our coffee is packaged shortly after roasting, in air-tight bags, with one-way valves that seal in the incredible aromas and flavors. Our packaging protects your coffee from the light and air, which are both major contributors to stale coffee. 

They mention the one-way valve in the packaging as well as why it’s a good thing and how it’ll keep your coffee fresh. I especially love how they mention stale coffee too – this could convince you even more because it presents something you don’t want and could even speak to a bad experience you had in the past. 

Key Takeaways  

Writing for food brands is tough because your audience isn’t there to physically interact with the product. Because food’s greatest appeal is tucked away from the senses behind a screen, here are some ways to expose it: 

  • Get to know your target. Find out what they need, what their day-to-day looks like, what language they use. 
  • Use imagery and stylish devices to paint a picture in your target’s mind. Create a clear vision of their life with your product. Make sure to fire up all 5 senses! 
  • People don’t want to connect the dots so do it for them. Focus firstly on how your product benefits your customer, don’t bore them with features they don’t understand. 

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