‘Foodies’ Defined and Desirable

Jan 06, 2009

By Tom Ryan

According to a study
from Packaged Facts (PF), "foodies" represent 14.4 percent of
the U.S. population and are early adopters/influencers of not only food
but other cultural trends such as shopping, fashion, nutriment and cars.

"Some foodies don’t
think of themselves as trendy, but overall they are open-minded, curious,
and eager to experiment with the new," said Tatjana Meerman, publisher
of PF, in a statement. "Research shows that they are significantly
more likely than average adults to be the first among their friends to
shop at new stores or try new styles."

But food, according to
PF, "defines who they are in a greater society. Their food passion
provides a framework through which they can build relationships, fabricate
new friendships, lay bare the earth, and even look into which behaviors
are ethical."

Versus gourmands, foodies
are more into discovering new and preferably
"authentic" foods and their associated cultures.

"Foodies enjoy high-end
gourmet food, to be sure, but they also seek out hole-in-the-wall BBQ shacks,
taco trucks and Chinatown markets. Foodies enjoy the thrill of the hunt
and being the first to catch on to new food trends, and food outlets considered "authentic" carry
the most prestige in the foodie world," PF said.

In Foodies in the
U.S.: Five Cohorts
, PF defines foodies as adults who "agree
a lot" with the statement:
"I like to try new food products," and also express an interest
in either foreign, spicy, fresh, gourmet and or organic/natural foods. Within this foodie universe,
PF identified five somewhat overlapping main subgroups (listed in order of
size): Foreign/Spicy Foodies (71 percent), Restaurant Foodies (65 percent),
Foodie Cooks, Foodie Gourmets, and Organic/Natural Foodies.

Other findings from the

  • Foodie culture is "an
    essentially American phenomenon" that has emerged in reaction to
    this country’s "uniquely malleable and marketer-driven" food
    culture. While other nations/regions have distinct cultures surrounding
    food, the U.S. generally lacks such a culture.
  • Foodies are 16 percent more
    likely than U.S. adults on average to spend at the highest grocery level
    ($150 or more per week). Most consider dining out above the fast-food
    level a hobby – yet many frequent fast-food restaurants.
  • In marketing, foodies can be
    elusive because they don’t like being labeled. Their focus on authenticity
    also "frequently equates to a degree of separation from big food
    conglomerates and corporate marketing campaigns."
  • While early adopters/influencers,
    foodies are far more likely than adults on average to seek "expert
    guidance and reassurance from outside sources or peers in a number of
    areas." They are also avid media consumers, unusually aware of food
    advertisements, and immersed in exchanging information over the internet.

Discussion Question:
How much influence do foodies have in driving innovation and trial across
food categories? What do you think of the value of defining foodies?
What are the particular challenges in marketing to them?

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5 Comments on "‘Foodies’ Defined and Desirable"

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Anne Howe
14 years 2 months ago

Foodies can be a marketer’s dream because they are vocal, and largely about participating in an ongoing group dialogue with others who are foodies as well. The constant gathering, discovering and sharing creates information and buzz that advertising and even shopper marketing activities can’t mimic.

Case in point – last night I stopped in my favorite foodie market to pick up their prepared beet and onion salad, which I only eat when I’m alone (the rest of the family hates beets). A sampler in the produce section gave me a taste of a tangelo, I then bought four of them, called two friends and suggested they stop in the market and try some because they were amazingly good! What a great fresh fruit option for us freezing Michiganders who are all dieting as we prepare for our winter trips to anywhere warm!

Robin McNamara
Robin McNamara
14 years 2 months ago

Even as the economy may squeeze a foodies budget, they will still be open to new food ideas, spend the money on their favorite specialty olives, salads, meats, as well as high-end cheese and wine. I believe that even a cash strapped foodie during economic times will continue to purchase all of their favorite foods as well as continue to explore new avenues.

For stores that may be cutting back on sampling and judging their shoppers (no cash to spend) & assuming they won’t purchase something that may cost more money, it’s too bad. Opportunities remain in the market place. A foodie is not going to downgrade their eating habits–maybe they will just eat a bit less until the economy improves.

Doron Levy
Doron Levy
14 years 2 months ago

I like selling to foodies because I can sell I wider array of less expensive products as opposed to gourmands who seek out specific brands and levels of quality. Foodies are more apt to try new things. Retailers who know their customer well can really capitalize on the foodie craze by merchandising products and associative products together.

Foodies have no problem investing in the whole meal if that’s how its marketed. You can also push private label to foodies and they will buy. Unique lines such as Loblaw’s Presidents Choice and Safeway’s O line speak to foodies by offering interesting products with private label value. I like to call foodies the high-volume gourmands.

Cathy Hotka
14 years 2 months ago

Foodies–and the television shows they love–are expanding the definition of American cuisine to include ingredients not seen here five years ago. As the American palate becomes more accustomed to variety, the desire for new tastes will become more important to food retailers. It’s no accident that Harris Teeter carries a huge variety of olives.

The economic crisis will cause all of us to hunker down and enjoy the small things, like a trip to the grocery store.

Anne Bieler
Anne Bieler
14 years 2 months ago

Marketing to foodies will continue to be rewarding and challenging. They are the dream shoppers for retailers who provide new and innovative foods–in the right setting. They can become the core consumers at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods locations, for Premium brands or local specialty stores. Product information must be engaging, accessible and accurate. Foodies are leading-edge and eclectic in taste, quickly moving on to the next new thing as it is discovered.


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