Food 2020: The Consumer as CEO

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Do Food e-Vangelists indeed exist, and if so, who are they and what role might they play in the food industry of the future?

Ketchum conducted research in China, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Italy and Argentina to get an indication of what consumers would do or want if they were named CEO of the world's food supply. The survey was conducted among 1,800 respondents (300 per market) between February 14, 2013 and March 5, 2013.

This most recent Food 2020 gives food executives a window into a power shift taking place in food and what it means for the world's food makers and marketers. Food e-Vangelists are typically young females who are active online, financially secure and have families. What is unique is that 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.

Here are six facts that Food 2020 uncovers about Food e-Vangelists:

1. Food e-Vangelists listen to everyone, trust no one, and take action. Food e-Vangelists are action-oriented; they take it upon themselves to learn about the issues and to influence others by sharing their findings.

2. Food e-Vangelists are shaping the conversation about food and brands. 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.

3. For this influential segment of the population, fresh reigns supreme. Two-thirds of Food e-Vangelists say they have increased fresh food purchases compared to the previous year. And nearly as many (59%) are also consciously purchasing less packaged and prepared foods.

4. Earning the trust of a Food e-Vangelist: Health + Transparency + Cause. Health, transparency and cause (making food more accessible to families in need) are among the top qualities that make Food e-Vangelists more likely to advocate for a food company of brand, purchase more from a good company or brand, or pay more for a food company's products.

5. They are social online. In addition to utilizing blog 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.

6. Food e-Vangelists are not a fringe group. They generate up to 1.7 billion conversations about food every week. And in some regions of the world, the Food e-Vangelist represents a significant segment of the population. In Italy, for example, Food e-Vangelists represent more than one third of the population. In Argentina and China, they represent one quarter.

Food companies have a unique opportunity to mobilize this active segment of consumers. Food e-Vangelists play an important role in advocating on behalf of those companies that are ready to listen and respond to them, and may advocate against companies that don't engage them. 

If you would like a to learn more about the research behind the Food 2020 survey, contact Linda Eatherton, Partner and Director of Ketchum's Global Food & Beverage Practice.