For most of human history, food was primarily a source of sustaining life vs. enjoying it. As technology and the economy progressed in the 20th century, it became possible for an increasing number of people to treat food as a lifestyle accessory or status symbol. Now in recent years, cell phones and social media platforms have democratized everyone’s ability to share recipes and eating experiences to the point that America’s fascination with food is as mainstream as its interest in sporting events, movies and other cultural pursuits.
It’s very common these days to see people snapping photos of their food and using apps to find restaurants or order online. But what is surprising is that nearly 40% of Americans classify themselves as food-focused AND have an outsized willingness and financial ability to spend more on food, eat at restaurants, and talk about their favorites than the average population, according to Kantar research.
Kantar defines Foodies as people who say that 1) “food/cooking is a big part of who I am,” and 2) they follow the latest food trends. These consumers deserve special notice from the food industry not only because they earn nearly 23% more income than average Americans, but they also prioritize buying high quality food over other spending, and value brands that keep them “in the know.”
An additional opportunity (that seems surprising at first) is that while Foodies consider food and cooking a big part of what defines them, nearly half of them admit they “get stressed out preparing and cooking meals.” Paired with the fact that Foodies are more likely than average Americans to seek out convenience-oriented products and services, this spells opportunity for companies offering solutions that reduce the stress and save time they are willing to spend extra for.
But what makes Foodies even more important than just a buyer of high-margin products is their influence over peers and family members: 83% of them say that “family and friends often ask me for…my opinion on new brands and products.” And nearly half of them say they are “heavily involved in social networking apps”: twice the engagement level of the general population. Another important fact is that Food-fluencers are three times as likely to say they “like to connect with retailers and brands on social media.” Their preferred platforms are, not surprisingly, ones that favor visuals over words, including Snap, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
That’s why the Marlin Network is rebranding the underappreciated – but sizeable – Foodie population as “Food-fluencers” that every food producer, restaurant and recreational venue would be wise to target, given their proclivity for spreading the word and influencing others about edibles and experiences they prefer.
Christopher Wolf leads strategic insights & planning for the Marlin Network. These excerpts are taken from his Food-Fluencer presentation that was recently featured at the Research Chefs Association conference. For more information, he can be reached at [email protected].