The Foodie Movement: Implications for Marketers
By: Dr Marwa Gad Mohsen
IORMA Advisory Board and IORMA Research Associate
For increasing numbers of consumers food has become much more than a mere means of hunger-satiation. Food is also about self-expression and even emotional therapy. Food is part of our tourism experiences and a hobby we resort to in order to relax or enjoy time with others. Yes, the Foodie has well and truly arrived.
A Foodie can be defined roughly as someone who has a refined interest in the latest food fads or a highly sensuous enjoyment of food. A number of interesting questions emerge about Foodies and the Foodie movement:
- Who is ‘the Foodie’ and what does the term capture?
- Is it a phenomenon that differs across cultures?
- Is it about a sophisticated culinary experience?
- Is it related to a deeper sense of self-expression and perceived identity, or…
- Is it about a collective food inspiration?
Bridging associations between food as a physiological need and its more intricate perception as an emotional encounter, Foodies emerge possibly as a heterogeneous consumer group that is intriguing to explore and understand. The marketing strategy and operational implications can feed into more effective segmentation, efficient targeting and tailored positioning by food manufacturers and retailers.
Sociological studies on eating, culture and society create a foundation in placing food on a pleasure scale and exploring the idea of food having an identity; nevertheless, delving deeper into the pleasure sensed by the individuals and any influence on their identity lacks systematic research to-date. Euromonitor notes a rise in food blogging as it provides a medium to engage in a Foodie culture online. Along these lines, lifestyle emerges as a prominent factor at play, with the increasing global interest in food TV shows and their mounting viewership; celebrity chefs are becoming lifestyle experts and even actors in the gourmet foodscape!
A study was recently conducted by Dr Marwa Gad Mohsen at the University of Worcester to explore the Foodie phenomenon in the UK. The study qualitatively explored how the notion has been coined based on a sample of self-professed Foodies. Attempting to obtain an in-depth understanding of what it means at the individual and group levels, the study probed attitudes, motivations and self-awareness among the participants to unpack the Foodie experience.
The results highlight that a ‘Foodie’ may not be a given label, but rather one that is self-perceived and self-defined. Interviews and focus groups with consumers of varied demographics with an avid food involvement indicate that the term cannot be used as an implicit definition of someone ‘simply interested in food’; the capacity of the Foodie was found to be dependent on how involved the individual is along the five emerging themes and the importance placed on each.
These key themes are: Learning and discovery; Pleasure and enjoyment; Inspirational influences; Quality; and Experiencing food as an individual and in connection with others. The study findings imply that there might be different levels of Foodies, and offer an important start to developing a Foodie Typology.
Some of the findings of this study are extremely relevant to marketers wishing to effectively target this segment. Foodies do not see food as a commodity, but as a passion beyond just taste or simple value. Through a clearer appreciation of the notion, marketers can be guided in building richer profiles of Clusters of Foodies, portraying different attitudes, perceptions and aspirations. With lucrative implications for proper targeting with effective bespoke marketing programmes, the Foodie phenomenon is worthy of attention as an escalating global movement by intriguing, food-passionate consumers.
‘Foodie’ marketing research can be comparatively extended to countries where food plays a key highlight of the culture(s) and its complex intricacies.