NEW YORK (PRNewswire) — A shift in power is taking place in the food industry led by a group of increasingly influential consumers who want to impact the way food is raised, grown, packaged and sold. Leading global public relations agency Ketchum today released results from its third global Food 2020 survey, which sheds light on this vocal subset of food influencers — dubbed Food e-Vangelists — who are making an impact on the hottest food issues today.
"In our third year of fielding this survey, we are seeing consistent and important trends about consumers' interest in the food system and what they have come to expect and demand from food marketers, buyers and sellers," said Linda Eatherton, partner and director of Ketchum's Global Food & Nutrition Practice. "What's distinct about this year's study is that we have identified a group of Food e-Vangelists as a small but mighty segment of agents of change who are prepared and motivated to take action and convert others to adopt their opinions about foods, brands and companies in the food and agricultural sector."
Food e-Vangelists are typically young females who are active online, financially secure and have families – a group that also is commonly targeted in food marketing. However, what is unique is that this group is not defined by its demographic profile but by its like-mindedness, and typical marketing practices aren't effective with Food e-Vangelists.
"The Food e-Vangelists are the single most important group in the food industry today, but they don't fit typical marketing demographics," Eatherton said. "They are hiding in plain sight – yet food companies are allocating budgets on marketing programs that don't reach them. This group will change the food industry forever, but at the moment they represent a hugely missed opportunity."
Eatherton continued, "In our research we looked at consumers whom we identified as Food Involved – a psychographic profile of consumers that care deeply about food, where it comes from and the processes used in production and manufacturing. However, we uncovered a consumer segment inside this group that was somewhat different, a uniquely powerful subset with very different drivers and expectations from the Food Involved."
Food e-Vangelists listen to everyone, trust no one, and take action
Food e-Vangelists are action-oriented; they take it upon themselves to learn about the issues and to influence others by sharing their findings. In fact, more than two-thirds of Food e-Vangelists say they would conduct online research to better inform their opinions if they saw a news story about a banned food item.
"Food companies have an opportunity to be open and transparent and provide easily accessible information that can help Food e-Vangelists educate themselves and others about important food issues," said Eatherton. "Ketchum has created a suite of services to help companies understand how commodities and food brands can best identify, engage and activate this consumer."
Food e-Vangelists are shaping the conversation about food and brands
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.
Engage in Behavior At Least Four Times Per Week
Recommend or critique a food brand
Take time to share opinions about food purchasing habits with friends and family
Take time to share opinions about eating habits with friends and family
Recommend or critique a food product
"While the Food Involved group is active at seeking and gathering information about food, Food e-Vangelists believe it is their right and their responsibility to influence the beliefs of others and change behaviors," said Eatherton. "We have seen anecdotally and in qualitative research that Food e-Vangelists actually track their success in this area and feel rewarded or incentivized by the number of people they have reached."
For this influential segment of the population, fresh reigns supreme
Two-thirds of Food e-Vangelists say they have increased fresh food purchases compared to the previous year. And nearly as many (59%) are also consciously purchasing less packaged and prepared foods.
"There are many implications in this data set for packaged food companies, and we are working with many to mine for the insights that impact companies' reputation and brand share," Eatherton said.
Earning the trust of a Food e-Vangelist: Health + Transparency + Cause
Health, transparency and cause (making food more accessible to families in need) are among the top qualities that make Food e-Vangelists more likely to advocate for a food company or brand, purchase more from a food company or brand, or pay more for a food company's products:
- Health – More than half of Food e-Vangelists (54%) would like to see food companies prioritize making healthy foods more available in the future.
- Transparency – More than half of Food e-Vangelists (54%) want ingredient information about a product (including source, processing, production techniques, farm or supplier name, etc.) on product labels.
- Cause – Two-in-five Food e-Vangelists (40%) say that to recommend a food company to friends and family, the company would have to ensure quality food is accessible to families in need.
Food e-Vangelists are social online
In addition to utilizing 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.
How Food e-Vangelists Expect Global Food Companies to Utilize Social Media
To work interactively with consumers on product improvements and new products on an ongoing basis
To communicate transparently about sourcing and the manufacturing process
To interact with consumers (e.g. answer questions, provide customer service outlets, etc.)
To solicit feedback from consumers on product improvements and new products
Food e-Vangelists are not a fringe group
Across the globe, Food e-Vangelists generate up to 1.7 billion conversations about food every week. And in some regions of the world, the Food e-Vangelist represents a significant segment of the population. In Italy, for example, Food e-Vangelists represent more than one third of the population. In Argentina and China, they represent about one quarter.
Percentage of Population Identified as Food e-Vangelists
37% (23 million people)
29% (12 million people)
24% (324 million people)
20% (13 million people)
11% (35 million people)
9% (7 million people)
Food companies have a unique opportunity to mobilize this active segment of consumers. Food e-Vangelists play an important role in advocating on behalf of those companies that are ready to listen and respond to them, and may advocate against companies that don't engage them. To learn more about the Food 2020 survey and implications, visit: www.ketchum.com/food-2020.