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  • 24% of total population & 324 million in Greater China are food e-Vangelists
  • 33% of Greater China e-Vangelists regularly critique food brands and push their message out to friends, family and followers
  • 87% of Greater China e-Vangelists are buying more fresh foods than the previous year
  • 29% of Greater China consumers claim they need greater transparency from companies about ingredients in order to purchase more of their food
  • 63% of Greater China consumers say they consider where the food came from when making purchases and 66% consider how the food was grown or raised
  • 55% in Greater China say making healthy food more available should be the top priority for food companies

HONG KONG, April 28 2014 – A shift in power is taking place in the food industry led by a group of increasingly influential consumers who want to impact the way food is raised, grown, packaged and sold – the Food e-Vangelist. Leading global public relations agency Ketchumhas released results from its latest global Food 2020 survey, which sheds light on this newly identified vocal subset of food influencers and their impact on Greater China marketing strategies in the future.

The Greater China Food e-Vangelist

Linda Eatherton, partner and director of Ketchum’s Global Food & Nutrition Practice said, “In our research, we looked at consumers whom we identified as Food Involved – a psychographic profile of consumers who care deeply about food, where it comes from and the processes used in production and manufacturing. We then further uncovered a consumer segment within this group that was somewhat different, a uniquely powerful subset with very different drivers and expectations from the Food Involved – this is the Food e-Vangelist.”

Across the globe, Food e-Vangelists generate up to 1.7 billion online conversations about food every week. In GreaterChina, this represents about one quarter of the total population – a whopping 324 million people. One of the reasons for these significant numbers is the high level of smart phone penetration. At 87% and 71% in Hong Kong and China respectively, compared to 53% in the United States and 38% in Germany, these figures are the highest across countries surveyed, suggesting that the Greater China group has more access to information and more opportunity to push information via the digital space.

 In Greater China, Food e-Vangelists are typically young females under 35 years old who are active online, financially secure and are parents – a group that is commonly targeted in food marketing.However, what is unique is that this group is not defined by its demographic profile but instead by its like-mindedness. In short, typical marketing practices are simply not effective when it comes to Food e-Vangelists.

Jane Morgan, Director, Consumer Brand Practice, Greater China Ketchum said, “The Food e-Vangelists are the single most important group in the food industry today, but they don’t fit typical marketing demographics. Yet, food companies are allocating budgets on marketing programs that don’t reach them. This group will eventually change the food industry forever, but at the moment they represent a hugely missed opportunity.”

Distinguishing characteristics of the Food e-Vangelist:

They listen to everyone, trust no one, and they take action

Food e-Vangelists are action-oriented; they take it upon themselves to learn about the issues and to influence others by sharing their findings. In fact, significantly more than two-thirds of Food e-Vangelists in Greater Chinasay they would conduct online research to better inform their opinions if they saw a news story about a banned food item.

For them, fresh reigns supreme

As a group, Food e-Vangelists are changing their purchasing behavior toward more fresh food. 81% of Food e-Vangelists say they have increased fresh food purchases compared to the previous year. And nearly as many (59%) are also consciously purchasing less packaged and prepared foods.

Implications for food companies

Food e-Vangelists are shaping the conversation about food and brands

More than one-third of Food e-Vangelists regularly take the time to recommend and critique food brands and products and share their opinions with others – both online and offline.In addition to utilizing blogs and social media to share their opinions about food issues, Food e-Vangelists expect companies to engage with consumers via social media as a tool for direct and open communication.

Engage in Behavior At Least Four Times Per Week Percentage of
Food e-Vangelists in Greater China
Recommend or critique a food brand 33%
Take time to share opinions about food purchasing habits with friends and family 41%
Take time to share opinions about eating habits with friends and family 47%
Recommend or critique a food product 43%

“While the Food Involved group is active at seeking and gathering information about food, Food e-Vangelists believe it is their right and their responsibility to influence the beliefs of others and change behaviors,” said Morgan. “We have seen anecdotally and in qualitative research that Food e-Vangelists actually track their success in this area and feel rewarded or incentivized by the number of people they have reached. Given the increasing level of food issues and concerns in this region, it’s important to note that this group sits squarely in a reputational gap between what a company or brand does versus what it says. They can and will spread messages about reputational and regulatory issues if they feel a company hasn’t been honest with them.”

Earning the trust of a Food e-Vangelist: Health + Transparency + Cause

Health, transparency and cause (making food more accessible to families in need) are among the top qualities that make Food e-Vangelists more likely to advocate for a food company or brand, purchase more from a food company or brand, or pay more for a food company’s products:

  • Health – More than half of Food e-Vangelists (54%) would like to see food companies prioritize making healthy foods more available in the future.
  • Transparency – More than half of Food e-Vangelists (54%) want ingredient information about a product (including source, processing, production techniques, farm or supplier name, etc.) on product labels.
  • Cause – Two-in-five Food e-Vangelists (40%) say that for them to recommend a food company to friends and family, the company would have to ensure quality food is accessible to families in need.

In conclusion, food companies have a unique opportunity to mobilize this active segment of consumers. Food e-Vangelists play an important role in advocating on behalf of those companies that are ready to listen and respond to them, and may advocate against companies that don’t engage them. To learn more about the Food 2020 survey and implications, visit: www.ketchum.com/food-2020.

About Food 2020

Ketchum’s Global Food and Nutrition Practice conducted its third “Food 2020” survey (also conducted in 2008 and 2011), in six markets worldwide – The United States, United Kingdom, China, Italy, Germany and Argentina. The online survey was conducted among 1,800 respondents (300 per market) between Feb. 14, 2013 and March 5, 2013. This most recent Food 2020 study gives food executives a window into a power shift taking place in the food industry and what it means for the world’s food makers and marketers.

About Ketchum

Ketchum is a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. The winner of 11 Cannes Lions and an unprecedented four consecutive PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards, Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a part of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc., visit www.ketchum.com.

About Diversified Agency Services

Diversified Agency Services (DAS), a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC) (www.omnicomgroup.com), manages Omnicom's holdings in a variety of marketing communications disciplines. DAS includes over 200 companies, which operate through a combination of networks and regional organizations, serving international and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.

About Omnicom Group Inc.

Omnicom Group Inc. (www.omnicomgroup.com) is a leading global marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom's branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, digital and interactive marketing, direct and promotional marketing, public relations, and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.