The term "foodie" is a buzzword and target audience for the food and beverage industries. However, what a foodie looks like, their behaviors, and purchasing habits are not always clear for marketers to develop effective strategies to attract them.
How companies can better target foodies
What makes foodies complex as a category is scattered preferences.
To get a grasp on what attracts foodies in terms of products and messages, marketers can try to "understand the kind of person they can reach and then what demographic characteristics they can utilize to reach those people and the kind of behavioral things that those individuals are engaged in that would signify that they would be someone that particular marketer is interested in," said Kitty Kolding, CEO of Infocore, which recently performed an analysis of direct marketing to U.S. foodies.
According to the 2015 Foodie Study from Sopexa, foodies are social beings that often turn to social media to show off their creativity, particularly on visually-heavy channels like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. About 66% of foodies share food preferences on social media, and the younger the foodie, the more common that is. Plus, more than one-third of foodies surveyed said they cooked to impress others, and social media enables them to show off their dishes and cooking skills.
"In the U.S., compared to other countries, cooking well isn’t as much of a standard, where everybody expects you to cook pretty decently," said Pauline Oudin, U.S. managing director at Sopexa. "Here it’s definitely a point of pride, not everybody does it, and not everybody does it well."
About 84% of foodies said they cook to express their creativity. Companies that can appeal to foodies’ desire for creativity and social engagement may have a leg up when it comes to targeting this market. This could mean creating content hubs for recipes and cooking ideas that enable foodies to enhance their cooking skills and learn new dishes to make at home.
Campbell has partnered with Amazon Echo voice-controlled technology to offer recipes from Campbell's Kitchen, the company's content hub for homecooks, on verbal command. In March, pre-merger Kraft introduced its new content hub Twist That Dish, which features consumers' tech savviness and love for sharing recipes and hacks, or "twists," that have helped them stretch their budget.
All the better, companies can reinforce their marketing strategies by using appropriate product placement to show how their products can be a part of foodies’ creative endeavors in the kitchen. If marketers can engage foodies on social media by encouraging them to share their recipes and photos of dishes that used that company’s products, companies might inspire consumer-driven marketing for their products.
Knowing a product’s backstory
Part of that engagement strategy can also be sharing the story or production process behind foods and beverages, as that type of information is important to many foodies, Oudin said. This method might not work for all brands, but especially when ingredients are local or have a similarly interesting background, this can be another way to entice foodies to learn more about a product.
"Whether it’s on the packaging itself, on their website, or in PR campaigns, that can be really helpful to get the message out on why your product is unique in the way it’s produced—essentially the pride that goes into it," said Oudin. "Putting forth provenance and artistry that goes into making the product is going to be very important."
Online research and e-commerce
Part of spreading that message to foodies involves online communication and engagement, as foodies often research products online before they buy, including company and product information and reviews.
Also, e-commerce is a trend among foodies, with about one in five foodies shopping online. General Mills and Mondelez have outlined plans to expand e-commerce, and last month, PepsiCo named a new leader in its own journey to becoming a more online shopping-friendly company. Bud Light has taken a step into e-commerce with its new WiFi-connected Bud-E Fridge, a smart refrigerator that enables consumers to order beer through an app when the fridge's supply is running low.
Aversion to games, contests
Sopexa also found that foodies generally don't respond much to games, discounts, and contests, which are common engagement strategies for marketers.
"You can’t really push a product on them," said Oudin. "You’ve got to use the power of creativity so they can own that message and drive the conversation."
What exactly is a foodie?
"There are a million ways to define a foodie," said Kolding. "That’s really what we are trying to focus on is to give marketers the broadest range possible of various ways to define and reach foodies that have all kinds of different habits, whatever those habits might be, whether it’s around the kind of food they like, the way they prepare it, the places they like to consume it, [or] people that are focused on the combination of food and wine. … Our goal is to show how many facets of reaching foodies are readily available."
Oudin takes a more general approach to describing foodies: "A foodie is someone who first of all defines food as one of their main passions, someone who spends a significant amount of their leisure time cooking and talking about food."
Foodies cover a wide range of demographics, but Sopexa’s research found that in the U.S., the average foodie were usually over the age of 35 and 93% of foodies cooked at home daily, with most foodies going out to eat only two to three times per month.
This is good news for food and beverage companies looking to target homecooks, as sales for processed foods continue to dwindle. Despite making several changes to make its products more health-trend friendly, Campbell reported a 2% decline in sales for fiscal 2015. Diamond Foods manufactures snacks, currently a popular food category, but even it reported a nearly 8% drop in sales for the past quarter and flat sales for the fiscal year.
Most foodies use cooking to express their creativity, with 84% of surveyed consumers listing creative expression as one of their top reasons for being a cooking foodie. A little over one-third said that they cook at home to impress others.
Sopexa also found that foodies are more likely to want to buy foods from local producers, which has contributed to the rise of the farmers markets and the success of smaller, more localized companies over larger legacy brands.
Krave Pure Foods, a specialty jerky producer, saw 4,632% revenue growth in 2014, and Hershey announced it would be acquiring the company earlier this year. Bai Brands reported revenue growth of 2,522% for 2014, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group snagged a minority stake in the company in April. Acquisitions of smaller, fast-growing brands by larger companies are becoming more common in the food and beverage industries.
Where have all the foodies come from?
Self-proclaimed foodies have been around for centuries, but the modern day foodie in the U.S. was born out of a change in perception of American cuisine and the art of cooking.
People who were interested in food in the U.S. tended to mostly follow recipes based on dishes from other countries with little sense of what "American" food or "creative cooking" meant, according to Oudin. In the 1990s, that began to change as restaurants began proving that there was in fact American cuisine that could be explored and finessed.
"From there average Americans started to realize that they could be creative," Oudin said. "And that creativity led a lot of people to really make it their own."
"These are people that have a declared passion," said Oudin. "Anytime you can leverage a passion, it’s only going to be to the advantage of the company that’s trying to sell their products."