Increased communication via social media has changed the way Americans relate to food, including what they buy and cook, and how they plan their meals, according to a report from market research firm The Hartman Group.
Produced in conjunction with food and nutrition marketing agency Publicis Consultants USA, the report, Clicks and Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture , says that almost half of consumers learn about food via social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, while about 40% learn about food elsewhere online.
The market researcher points out that online food conversations eliminate the use of two of the senses that are traditionally used to evaluate foods’ appeal – taste and smell – but relevant, authentic communication can still create an emotional connection with consumers.
"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!"
The researcher’s findings are in line with those of many other food industry experts, who have also highlighted the potential of social media for the food industry as a tool to track foodborne illness outbreaks , or for building consumer trust in food and beverage brands .
For food marketers, the Hartman Group says that there are significant opportunities for connecting with consumers online, although it is not enough simply to have an online presence, or even to build up an online following on social networks.
President of Publicis Consultants USA Steve Bryant said: "The best social and digital campaigns reflect the audience's values, interests, concerns and aspirations.”
The Hartman Group added: “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.”