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, according to the third global Food 2020 survey from Ketchum, which sheds light on this vocal subset of food influencers—dubbed Food e-Vangelists.
According to Linda Eatherton, partner and director of Ketchum’s Global Food & Nutrition Practice. “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, 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.”
According to the research, 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 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,” says Eatherton.
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: 40 percent take time to share opinions about eating and food purchasing habits with friends and family, and 38 percent frequently recommend or critique a food brand.
Two-thirds of Food e-Vangelists say they have increased fresh food purchases compared to the previous year. And nearly as many (59 percent) are also consciously purchasing less packaged and prepared foods.
• More than half of Food e-Vangelists (54 percent) would like to see food companies prioritize making healthy foods more available in the future.
• More than half of Food e-Vangelists (54 percent) want ingredient information about a product (including source, processing, production techniques, farm or supplier name, etc.) on product labels.
• Two-in-five Food e-Vangelists (40 percent) 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.
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.