HORSHAM, Pa. (PRNewswire) — "Food Elitist or Food Realist? Consumers are picking sides in the food culture war."
That's how Bill Melnick, Director of Strategic Planning for leading shopper communications agency SAI Marketing, Inc. describes how food has become a class marker of the highly-educated, upper-middle class consumer. As the pursuit of hard luxury goods began to wane after the Great Recession, the $100K+ consumer household found a new object of desire in their food choices as a means of aspiring to a peer group. To the aspirational foodie, it's the connoisseur class. This group brings its own unique context driven by economic, educational and cultural factors and identifies with the concept of food as a luxury. This is a core part of their value set and is fundamental to their sense of self.
As the fragmentation of the mass market continues unabated, food has become the latest front as Americans continue to find ways to define themselves as separate and unique from their fellow citizens. The various dimensions of social class and culture have had a profound influence on food usage and consumption preferences in society. For food marketers across all categories, understanding and navigating the fluid dynamics of these "food wars" is imperative as the political and cultural forces that underlie this trend can have a strong bottom line impact. With its latest report, SAI delves into the attributes that define where a brand sits in an ever changing American food culture.
In explaining the urgency of speaking to shoppers through the lens of their food context, Melnick—who led iconic branding efforts at CNBC, Vanity Fair and Merrill Lynch, points to a food culture divided into two Americas. High-status classes tend to value and eat more exotic foods created by highly skilled artisans in small quantities from around the world. The more mainstream consumer tends to gravitate toward traditional hearty meals, heavy in starch and fat, and generous in portion size. These eating behaviors define the divide that exists in the consumer marketplace, and have a big impact on marketers as they seek to position brands to the right consumer with the right message.
In A Country Divided by Palate and Passion: How America Eats, which is scheduled for publication this week, SAI examines and defines the characteristics that play a role in placing consumers on either side of the divide. To that end, SAI has defined the segments as thus:
-The Food Elite:
College educated high earners representing about 16% of all households. To this group, food has become their primary luxury purchase living a largely post-acquisitive lifestyle. Their food style is driven by natural/organic ingredients, authenticity as defined by knowing a food's place of origin, simplicity, heritage, endless consumption of food media and shopping at retailers that understand the foodie lifestyle.
-The Food Realist:
This group comprises the remaining 84% of households. The concept of food as a luxury item is totally alien to this group. For this group, their food choices are more pragmatic in nature and are more rooted around family and tradition. They are more likely to eat traditional and conventional foods often based on long held communal rituals.
Specific recommendations for incorporating these insights as to how each of these segments approaches product purchase decisions into food marketing strategies, as well as a more in-depth exploration of food culture and its ramifications, can be found in the full How America Eats report, now available for downloading at no cost at www.saimarketing.com by clicking on the Insights tab.
SAI Marketing Inc., located in the Philadelphia area, is a full service shopper communications agency with over 40 years experience in providing national CPG brands with proprietary insights, marketing strategies and marketing communications campaigns that move the consumer along the path to purchase. Clients include Blue Diamond Almonds, ACH Foods, the American Egg Board, Bob Evans and Rubbermaid.