You might have noticed my “growing” interest in food related issues. Partly a result of having some clients in agriculture, partly having some fairly strong opinions about the scare tactics activists and the media are using around food safety for their benefit–and to the potential harm of others. Partly probably because two years ago I moved onto a small farm and am greatly enjoying my own foods from great beef to fresh eggs to a garden loaded with more than we can eat.
The food industry is in crisis. The crisis occasionally erupts into full-blown, high profile battles like pink slime and the GMO name calling attack on Cheerios. I’m bothered by these kinds of events because the profit-motivated fear mongering behind them is causing so many to irrationally fear the food they eat. But attitudes toward food are seriously shifting and that is the essence of the crisis. Whether this is caused by the fear-mongering, or the fear-mongering is profitable because of the shifting attitudes, who can say? It’s a chicken and egg question. (Farm analogies come easy to me these days.)
Fleishmann-Hillard and themotherhood.com have published a study called Cart to Kitchen 2013. The study focuses on mothers’ attitude toward food choices and what influences them. This study is very helpful for those interested in the food crisis and points to some important ways to deal with it if you are in agriculture, food processing or manufacturing and retailing.
Some key points from the study:
What changes will mom’s make in food choices in 2013?
– 78% said save more money
– 68% said buy healthier food
– 49% said buy less processed food
There’s more but these are the critical ones. There is a potential contradiction here in buying cheaper and healthier foods, but the trend toward healthier choices is undeniable. 56% of moms say they occasionally buy organic now and nearly 30% say they will buy organic more often in 2013.
What are moms concerned about in their food?
– sugar substitutes 56%
– calories 45%
– additives and preservatives 40%
– fats 39%
Having just read the Economist’s special section on obesity, it seems food consumers are very right to be concerned particularly about calories. My concern here is that fears over sugar substitutes keep people from buying lower calorie foods–particularly drinks. Those activists and media seriously concerned about health issues may want to treat any new stories about the dangers from sugar substitutes with extra caution.
I think one of the most interesting things about this study is who most influences mom’s decisions about food safety, nutrition, health, etc. 78% said food program on TV but after that, almost everything is online. 77% said food media website, 72% said food brand email, 65% said facebook for food brands and food companies, 53% said mobile app, 52% said a food brand twitter account, 50% said food magazine, 46% said food brand blog, 43% said celebrity or expert blog, and so on.
This is interesting compared to some other data which says that on issues of major safety and health concerns, such as GMOs, artificial flavors and colors, pesticides and food sources, moms most trust food and mom blogs. On the subject of GMOs, they trust blogs 39% compared to just 15% for physicians and 18% for nutritionists.
This has great significance for those in the food business from farmers to retailers to engage with bloggers. Mommy bloggers and food bloggers look to be the primary influencers on issues of food safety, health benefits, etc.
Education is critical in this industry, as is transparency. But it essential that those in this business feeding the world with healthy, safe food get the word out to mommy and food bloggers right away.