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Foodies lead the way in shaping the industry

By Sarah Hills , 17-Dec-2008

A growing group of consumers dubbed foodies are shaping the American palate and offering food manufacturers a willing audience for product launches, a new report suggests.

Foodies are defined as “having an avid interest in the latest food fads”, according to the report from the market research publisher Packaged Facts, called "Foodies in the US: Five Cohorts: Foreign/Spicy, Restaurant, Cooks, Gourmet and Organic/Natural".

It said that 31m US adults (14 percent of the population) fall into this category and they are shaping the future of many areas of the food industry.

Of the five foodie cohorts mentioned in the report title, foreign/spicy foodies comprise the largest group, representing 10 percent of all US adults, or 22.3m.

And this cohort is helping to introduce the next wave of international cuisine to the US palate.

The research showed that foodies want to be at the forefront of developments in the culinary world and seem to be “rather impulsive shoppers inclined to equate higher prices with quality”.

The report said: “The fact that foodies are open-minded, curious and eager to experiment with the new is a clear signal to marketers that this is a willing audience for product launches.

“On the downside, this trait can also equate to restlessness, such that companies may have a harder time creating enduring brand loyalty among foodies always on the lookout for the next new thing.”

As a group, they stand out in their preference for less mainstream items, often trending toward more intense, ethnic flavors and products with gourmet or specialty flair.

They are also influenced by media attention to health and diet trends and they are well versed in nutrition-related terms such as ‘complex carbohydrate’ and ‘trans fat’.

Ethical concern

As well as enjoying new types of food, foodies are also concerned about preserving the culture surrounding food.

As a group the research showed that foodies are more likely than US adults on average to be aware of the concepts of food miles, organic farming, sustainable seafood and vegetarianism.

It added that those who strongly consider the ethical ramifications of the foods they consume will adjust their packaged food choices accordingly.

Economic prospects

The group is also 16 percent more likely than US adults on average to spend $150 or more per week on groceries.

And as they consider eating more of a hobby than a necessity, Packaged Facts believes that during tough economic times they may place even more of a premium on the foods and culinary experiences.

Packaged Facts used data from Simmons Market Research Bureau to segment the overall foodie demographic into the five foodie cohorts.

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