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How Americans learn to cook, select recipes, plan their meals, purchase their food and share their culinary secrets with others has dramatically changed, according to a study released by The Hartman Group.
Called “Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture,” the study finds social/digital media is replacing mom as the go-to culinary source of knowledge for many people.
The study, jointly developed and conducted by consumer research firm The Hartman Group and Publicis Consultants USA, a food and nutrition marketing agency, revealed that almost half of consumers learn about food via social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, and 40 percent learn about food via websites, apps or blogs.
“Consumers used to rely on mom and family traditions for meal planning, but now search online for what to cook, without ever tasting or smelling,” said Laurie Demeritt, president and COO at The Hartman Group. “Digital food selection is less of a sensory experience and more of a visual and rational process: What’s on the label? What’s in the recipe? Show me the picture!”
Unlike in the past, where consumers listened to the opinions of a few trusted resources -- mom and other family members – in deciding what to buy, cook or eat, modern consumers “crowdsource” the opinions of many before deciding what to buy, said The Hartman Group.
What’s more, the infiltration of social media into the food experience goes far beyond purchasing and preparing food; it now includes the meal experience as well. While eating or drinking at home, nearly one-third of Americans use social networking sites. Among Millennials (18-32 years old), this figure jumps to 47 percent. “The ‘table for one’ rarely exists anymore, even among single people eating alone at home,” added Demeritt. “If you are eating alone, chances are you are also texting friends who live miles away or posting food photos to a review site.”
The study also found that it’s not enough for food and grocery brands simply to be present in the virtual space or build up legions of followers. The payoff is a long-term and personal relationship that creates brand advocates and an emotional connection that drives influence. To achieve such an enriching relationship, communication must be relevant and have a distinct and authentic personality.
“The best social and digital campaigns reflect the audience’s values, interests, concerns and aspirations,” explained Steve Bryant, president of Publicis Consultants USA, part of MSLGROUP Americas.
According to the study, in the food and grocery category, consumers’ social media behavior falls along a continuum of engagement, and brands should tailor communication strategies to be relevant to each type of user:
- "Spectators” use social media as an extension of their network of friends, family and peers. They use social media for product reviews, recipes and good deals.
- “Dreamers” curate and push food related content through social networks. They aspire to have larger followings and more influence than they currently do.
- “Doers” are the most engaged. They are the core of food and social media, creating content that inspires followers.
“There are many brand opportunities for each specific consumer,” states Bryant. “For example, a brand may entice Dreamers by incorporating their recipes on its site, or appeal to a Spectator by offering incentives in exchange for a video review.”
In addition to providing insights into social media use, the report provides strategic recommendations on how companies can leverage social media to build meaningful and profitable relationships with consumers.
The full report is available at The Hartman Group website.