Influencers are driving customer purchases and decision-making like never before. Food Influencers inspire their followers to engage in food consumption, pursue their gourmet explorations and purchase a specific product from a specific brand. According to research, influencers are 25% effective at promoting food products and 16% alcoholic drinks. Influencers have the ability to shape consumer preferences and food trends, impacting our daily food choices: what we eat, where, why and how. They also expose consumers to new types of food, such as fruit and vegetables, home cooked meals, prepared meals across social media platforms, influencing our food choices both at home and dining out.
Influencer Behaviour and Trends
Within the food industry, influencers could be divided into 3 categories: chefs, food enthusiasts or recipe creators, food bloggers and food tasters. Chefs and food enthusiasts create recipes on their social media platforms. What started on Youtube has now moved on to Instagram and TikTok where they post short cooking recipes and how to videos. Food tasters would rather test and review a food product, meal, service or restaurant. Food Bloggers are often in between both categories.
Nevertheless, food influencers not only have an engaged following on social media and high influencing power, but they share authentic content and genuine opinions of a meal or a brand. The content varies from creating recipes for a brand such as how to use them to create different recipes, product trial, reviews and recommendations, as well as sponsored content and livestream cooking events. Food brands as well as services have been collaborating with Nano, Micro, Macro and Star Influencers. For instance, In Europe, HelloFresh collaborated with Jamie Oliver, but also Babbel Influencer in Spain for a cooking class event, as well as a number of nano and micro influencers.
Influencer Collaborations boost brand awareness, engagement, reach and sales. At the same time, they deliver authentic and genuine content. As they are not afraid to speak their mind and be honest, influencers share both positive and negative reviews. And while a negative review can drive away users from purchasing the brand, it is an excellent way for the brand to gather insights and constructive criticism in order to improve the product. They could even partner with the respective influencer to improve the product while sharing it on their platforms, which will indeed boost customer trust, engagement and sales, delivering a great ROI.
Consumer Behavior & Trends
The uncertainty caused by the pandemic and world events has made consumers more cautious, yet adventurous health conscious individuals. This behaviour has been driven further by influencers and opinion leaders across social media plaftorms, with consumers paying higher attention to their food choices like never before. Three main types of consumers were devised:
1.Environmentally and Ethically Conscious Consumers or the Sustainable Consumers who care about the wellbeing of the environment, planet, animals and workers. Fully aware, they demand and expect sustainable and ethical practices from brands, full transparency on the manufacturing process and ingredients as well as safe and fair working conditions. This trend is specifically seen with the younger generations like Millennials, Gen-Z and the new Gen Alpha.
2.Health-Conscious Consumers prioritize their health and wellbeing, looking for healthier options and clean ingredients. These consumers are shifting to conscious eating, opting for nutritious food and drinks who offer health benefits, increased immunity and a higher level of nutrition. Due to their high-concern for their health and what they put into their bodies, they not only prefer clean and nutritious ingredients, but just like the sustainable consumers, they demand full transparency. They want to know how, why, when and where their food is made to ensure the highest quality of the ingredients. Just like influencers, they are not afraid to scrutinize a brand or product and will not purchase unless the product meets their standards.
3.Experience Conscious Consumers are seeking to break out of their routine, explore and gain new experiences. They are looking for playful, fun and enjoyable adventures. During the pandemic consumers have acquired cooking, baking and drink making skills at their home in an entertaining way. Now, some of them are seeking to venture outside of their world, explore new food and be entertained whether it is at home or at a food service or restaurant.
Food Industry Trends
The following emerging trends are expected to pave the way for the food industry in 2022 and the years to come.
1.Plant-based food and alternatives. While Vegan and Vegetarian lifestyles are still leading the way, the Flexitarian movement is emerging as a top trend for 2022. Curious about plant-based eating, flexitarian consumers want to incorporate more plants, vegetarian and vegan meals into their life for health benefits while enjoying meat occasionally. As the plant-based industry is growing with sales for vegetarian and vegan products increasing, the market for plant-based dairy and meat alternatives is also booming, recording 12% increase in demand for plant based and 11% for meat alternatives like vegan cheese, plant meat and milk. In addition, trending top ingredients are cauliflower and mushrooms, with food influencers, content creators, chefs, blogger and enthusiasts delivering creative recipes such as cauliflower pizza crust, mushroom steak, and mashed cauliflower.
2.High-Quality animal derived products. There is high demand for high quality meat, dairy and eggs from flexitarians and conscious consumers. Health and sustainability focused, they prefer quality over quantity and perform thorough research before purchasing from a brand. Responsible sourcing, organic and grass fed, good farming conditions for animals and workers are some of the consumers decision-making criteria.
3.Medicinal & Functional Food and Drinks. With a shift towards health-conscious food & drinks, consumers are seeking nourishing and clean produce that provide additional benefits such as immunity support, improved sleep quality and reduced stress levels. Given the change in consumers’ lifestyle and influencers power of influence during the pandemic, many people believe that certain plants, herbs and spices like ginger and turmeric have medicinal benefits. There is not only high demand for fresh fruit and vegetables, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, but also probiotics and gut-friendly drinks, including Kefir, Kombucha and Kimchi.
4.Homemade Convenience. Despite the return to work, consumers are still seeking to venture into cooking and prefer convenient at home cooking. The rise of home delivery meal services kits like HelloFresh and HomeChef enable consumers to make fine dishes with no hassle from the comfort of their home from simple meals to gourmet, and pescatarian to vegetarian diets. These services allow consumers to choose their preferred meal from a menu and frequency, deliver the ingredients needed for the recipes to avoid waste and include a step-by-step cooking guide with text, images and video.
5.Global Flavors & Diversity. Driven by social media and the pandemic restrictions, consumers want to be exposed to different cultures and experience diverse food and flavors. Part of their exploration mission, they want to travel the world without leaving home and enjoy the culinary variety other cultures have to offer, from recipes and treats to fresh produce and spices.
Food Brand & Services Recommendations
From the Customer Experience Perspective, brands should provide enjoyment and experiences for consumers who want to venture outside of their home and eat outside. This could be a working space or a relaxation space. For consumers still at home, brands can offer playful opportunities to enjoy food, such as meal kits, digital cooking classes, gamified recipes to make meals and cooking more fun and less tedious.
From the Product Perspective, brands should focus on clean, plant-based ingredients, healthier alternatives and less additives in pre-packed and manufactured foods and meals. Coconut, olive, rapeseed oil, nuts, almonds and cashews fortified with vitamins could be used as healthy alternatives. Culturally diverse meals with flavors from across the world, a variety of cold-pressed juices, healthy shots such as ginger shots and personalization could be used by brands for new product development.
From the Sustainability & Transparency Perspective, brands could invest in sustainable packaging, clean labels with product information and certifications such as eco-friendly, fair trade, sustainable farming certification for meat and reef safe certification for seafood.
Nonetheless, it is recommended to collaborate with influencers to launch a new product, customer experience or sustainability initiative as they have the power to influence their followers, thus driving brand reach, exposure and conversions.
At Territory Influence we put a particular importance in finding the best influencers and powerful voices to amplify and promote your brand values.