KANSAS CITY — One of the more significant challenges the marketers of food and beverage products face in the rapidly changing digital marketplace is getting noticed. The consumer’s attention span is quickly fragmenting between mobile, tablet, streaming Internet and the old standbys — television and print.

Tony Vernon, the chief executive officer of the Kraft Foods Group, hit on this during his presentation before a roomful of potential investors at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference held in Boca Raton, Fla., Feb. 18 – 21.

“What this means for our business is that the notion of digital and data-ready mediums being small is simply untrue,” Mr. Vernon said. “Also, at current growth rates, the scale and penetration of digital and mobile alone provides marketers the opportunity to have conversations with consumers at an individual level versus the mass marketing that we have all grown up with.”

Achieving a balance between a successful mass marketing approach and a successful individual marketing approach will be daunting, because a wide swath of the consumer packaged goods industry combined with the hospitality, services and other industries also will be attempting to have individual conversations with consumers. Getting the consumer’s attention will require more than attention-grabbing packaging and the promise of a zesty flavor, wholesome goodness or all natural quality.

“It doesn’t mean we stop running ads on TV, radio or print or we stop in-store events or supporting shopper rewards programs,” Mr. Vernon said. “It does mean that we can leverage technology to reach today's consumers on a more customized basis with a message that is relevant to him or her and at the right time. It also means that consumers can go beyond showing their loyalty to our brands with their wallets. They can become advocates and brand ambassadors on our behalf.”

Companies are going to need key points of differentiation that allow them to capture the consumer’s attention and deliver their marketing message. Mr. Vernon said Kraft sees such a key point of differentiation in its recipes.

“You may not know this but Kraft has been a publisher of great food and recipe content for decades,” Mr. Vernon said. “It started with our Food and Family Magazine and has expanded to our digital assets that now attract 250 million visits a year. Consumers view our recipes on Kraftrecipes.com or our Hispanic web site, ComidaKraft.com, one billion times a year. This is where scale and breadth of portfolio can give Kraft a significant competitive advantage as a destination for meal solutions.”

Kraft uses the data from the consumer traffic to drive its marketing decisions, Mr. Vernon said.

“In fact, our digital marketing group generated about $80 million of savings in 2013 because they were able to achieve the same if not more quality impressions at a lower cost,” he said. “In other words, they helped us become more effective in a more efficient manner in today’s digital world.”

The other thing Kraft has gained from its interaction with consumers through its digital assets is insights that inform its innovation and brand renovation efforts.

During his presentation, Mr. Vernon shared a quote from Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg who said “The speed of change will never be slower than today.”

Such a notion is going to challenge all marketers as they grapple to gain the attention of a consumer who not only is distracted by all of the messages being sent, but also has the control to cut off those deemed ineffective or, even worse, annoying.