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Who is setting food trends? Inside the minds of influencers

Wednesday, September 27, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lauren Brey, director of marketing and research
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Today, customers are  interested in food and learning how it was produced. These people are creating an impact in the grocery store that ultimately affects farmers. So, who are these customers who are setting the trends and shaping opinions about food?

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) conducted consumer trust research to identify who is impacting the decisions of others as they make choices at the grocery store or form opinions about today’s food system.

The research identified five consumer types and drilled down to their values, motivation, beliefs, concerns, emotional triggers and behaviors. Research like this leads to better understanding of trends and sources used to shape opinions and  and beliefs about food.

The five consumer types identified by CFI that reflect U.S. population beliefs and attitudes toward food are peak performers, comfort seekers, providers, food fatalists and wellness seekers.

Each type defines “living well” differently along a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are wellness seekers, who define living well as treating their bodies like a temple and focusing on the future. On the other end of the spectrum are comfort seekers, who define living well as enjoying life’s pleasures and living in the moment.

The influence of a particular segment is not necessarily determined by the size of that group, but rather its share of voice in the public discussion about food and its influence on other segments. For example, although peak performers only account for 17 percent of the population, they are involved in 25 percent of the conversation about food, making them an influencer of others.

Two of these consumer types are setting trends and driving the conversation around food with the conversation happening online more than it has in the past. Although the conversations sometimes undermine trust in agriculture, the values of the food system are actually more closely aligned with consumer values than first meets the eye.

To connect with our customers we must first connect with shared values. Shared values are the foundation for earning trust.

We are in the middle of a marketplace shift, where the conversation around conventional food is changing. Peak performers are the group driving change, helping set trends and significantly influencing the providers group (one-third of the U.S. population). Providers are characterized by never feeling quite good enough and not wanting to be seen as a neglectful parent. To ease the anxiety about not having information or trusted sources to decide what is right or wrong regarding food, they look to peak performers and other consumer types for guidance.

Peak performers mostly use the internet and social media to gather and share information. Food is part of their identity, and food issues are of great concern.  More Americans are drawn to the “evolved” attributes of food because of the influence of peak performers. This is seen in the demand for less processed food with simple labels and “free from” labels (i.e. gluten free, non-GMO, no added preservatives).

This research shows there is an opportunity for the food system to be more engaged in the conversation about food and to earn trust. We can particularly focus on the providers segment who want balanced information and validation that they are making the responsible choice for their families. We also need to keep focus on the peak performers as they have powerful influence over other consumer types.

On a positive note, 55 percent of consumers feel the food system is headed in the right direction compared to 40 percent in 2015. This shows progress is being made.

Another significant and meaningful shift is 40 percent of consumers surveyed believe they have access to all the information they need about where food comes from, how it’s produced and its safety. This is up from only 17 percent in 2008. Consumers are now more empowered, particularly online, and feel they have tools to have more control about where they’re going and how they access information.

Seventeen percent of respondents ranked websites as their No. 1 source for food system information, increased to 27 percent factoring in Google.

“Friends not online” was also at 17 percent, pointing to the influence peers have. TV has decreased dramatically to 11 percent (down from 26 percent in 2008).

The takeaway is that more consumers are accessing information from many sources, then synthesizing it with their values and beliefs to form opinions. This reiterates the importance of a strong and focused online strategy to engage with consumers.

Source: Center for Food Integrity

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