There’s never been a more exciting time to work in the food world. Once relegated to recipes featured in the Wednesday newspaper food pages and women’s magazines, the discussion about food has deepened and broadened exponentially in the last decade. What hit me smack between the eyes this month is the feeling that the pace of this change is now in hyper-drive. Two recent events stand out: Ketchum’s January 12th publication of its newest Food 2020 consumer research and a visit to the San Francisco Fancy Food Show six days later.
Ketchum’s fourth global Food 2020 study found that an influential group of what we call Food eVangelists may be emerging as the new core food consumer. Food eVangelists are a small but globally powerful group who want to impact the way food is raised, packaged and sold. This cohort engages in conversation and share their opinions about food online or in person multiple times each week. First identified by Ketchum Food 2020 in 2013, this group has grown 10 percent in just two years and now accounts for 24 percent of the general population. That’s a tremendous rate of change and because of their influence, Food eVangelists are now in charge and food producers are rapidly responding.
This massive change in priorities of consumers is resulting in an explosion of small- to mid-sized businesses who have engulfed the specialty food industry with organic, local, non-GMO and sustainable foods. Big food is also heeding the call and opting in to the movement by cleaning labels of favorite foods and purchasing purpose-driven brands when they are ready for mass distribution. I’m thrilled by all of these developments because they show that consumers really can affect change. It feels darn right democratic!
If you don’t believe me, you should have walked the halls of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center last week for the 41st Winter Fancy Food Show. You would have been flooded by a mixture of USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified B Corporation, 1% for the Planet labels on everything from oatmeal and granola to nut butters, tuna fish and rice. Even Jelly Belly jellybeans are in on the game. The word ‘sustainable’ was ubiquitous and ‘heirloom’ is coming on strong. Cricket flour created far more buzz than cupcake sprinkles in this venue. Gone are the days when the Fancy Food Show specialized mostly in gorgeous chocolates and phenomenal cheeses, although thankfully you’ll still find plenty of these to enjoy!
If you’re reading this @ppetite post, it’s highly like that you are a Food eVangelist yourself or that you know one, or that you have attended either the Winter Fancy Food Show in SF or the Summer version in New York City. I’m so glad you are here and look forward to hearing your thoughts. Do you see this acceleration of change? If so, how and where?