With the intersection of food culture and digital culture, there is what The Hartman Group likes to call “digital food life,” said Davey McHenry, the group’s director of client engagement in a recent webinar.
Today’s consumers are more food literate now than ever before, and they are becoming increasingly informed about their food and about the companies that produce it.
The Hartman Group divided consumers into three World of Food segments based on: price sensitivity, aspiration to “eat better,” and passion and intellectual pursuits of all things food.
- 13 percent make up the core: food is my life
- 60 percent make up the mid-level: weekend foodie
- 27 percent make up the periphery: eat to live
Eighty-one percent of smartphone users believe that in the past 10 years technology has genuinely improved how well they eat.
“Smartphones offer a bottomless well of information at our fingertips,” said McHenry. “Smartphone technology is raising consumer expectations for digital technology in general.”
For most of the 20th century, people shopped like utilitarians, she said, but toward the late 20th century a consumer culture evolved. This consumer culture involves much more participation, moving away from the traditional business model of simply offering goods and services.
“Buying is no longer the primary way customers participate in our food system,” McHenry said. “Technology has given consumers a sense of empowerment and ownership of the contents of our digital lives.”
In the recent past, for example, we have seen the emergence of niche brands and expanded digital feedback, which provides customers with the opportunity to interact with a company and offer suggestions.
People are moving from “consumers” to “players” in the World of Food, she said, and 70 percent of smartphone users have recently used a recipe website or app.
- 14 percent of smartphone users have recently used an online service to sample snacks
- 13 percent of smartphone users have recently used a meal-kit or fresh-meal service
“The consumer experience of the digital food landscape maps along a spectrum of cooking to eating, thus integrating retailer, foodservice and e-commerce,” McHenry said.
The produce industry can take advantage of the digital movement in part by understanding how consumers are using some of the plated meal services, since they use produce as part of the overall package.
“Understanding how consumers are accessing that, and partnering with different sites and making sure consumers are picking your products is really going to be key so you can be sure to hold on to those consumers,” McHenry said.