Foodies find more power in food marketing chain

A shift in power is taking place in the food industry led by a group of increasingly influential consumers who want to impact how food is grown, packaged and sold.

Public relations agency Ketchum has released results from its latest global Food 2020 survey, which sheds light on a newly identified vocal subset of food influencers called “Food e-Vangelists” and their impact on marketing strategies.

Across the globe, Food e-Vangelists generate up to 1.7 billion online conversations about food every week. In Greater China, this represents about one quarter of the total population – a whopping 324 million people. One of the reasons for these significant numbers is the high level of smart phone penetration. At 87% and 71% in Hong Kong and China respectively, compared to 53% in the United States and 38% in Germany, these figures are the highest across countries surveyed, suggesting that the Greater China group has more access to information and more opportunity to push information via the digital space.

In Greater China, Food e-Vangelists are typically young females under 35 years old who are active online, financially secure and are parents – a group that is commonly targeted in food marketing. However, what is unique is that this group is not defined by its demographic profile but instead by its like-mindedness. In short, typical marketing practices are simply not effective when it comes to Food e-Vangelists.

Jane Morgan, director, consumer brand practice at Ketchum Greater China, said the Food e-Vangelists are the single most important group in the food industry today, but they don’t fit typical marketing demographics.

"Yet, food companies are allocating budgets on marketing programs that don’t reach them. This group will eventually change the food industry forever, but at the moment they represent a hugely missed opportunity,” Morgan said.

Key findings include

  • 24% of total population and 324 million in Greater China are food e-Vangelists.
  • 33% of Greater China e-Vangelists regularly critique food brands and push their message out to friends, family and followers.
  • 87% of Greater China e-Vangelists are buying more fresh foods than the previous year.
  • 29% of Greater China consumers claim they need greater transparency from companies about ingredients in order to purchase more of their food.
  • 63% of Greater China consumers say they consider where the food came from when making purchases and 66% consider how the food was grown or raised.
  • 55% in Greater China say making healthy food more available should be the top priority for food companies.

The report highlighted several key characteristics of a Food e-Vangelist have distinct, saying they were highly active about food education and are changing their purchasing behavior toward fresh food.

Implications for food companies

Food e-Vangelists are shaping the conversation about food and brands, the report stated.

More than one-third of Food e-Vangelists regularly take the time to recommend and critique food brands and products and share their opinions with others – both online and offline.

In addition to using blogs and social media to share their opinions about food issues, Food e-Vangelists expect companies to engage with consumers via social media as a tool for direct and open communication.

More details about the survey can be found here.