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The Changing Ways People Eat Provide Opportunity For Marketers

Valerie SmithJune 27, 2019

Since moving to Florida, our home has become the destination hotspot for our family and friends.  Each visit requires some preparation on our part, including gathering our guests’ food and drink preferences.  Recently we had a mammoth challenge when my brother, his wife and their three children visited, all with varying dietary needs.

In this one family we had to navigate severe nut and seed allergies, gluten-free, dairy-free, and type 1 diabetes.  I began to panic, worried about what I could buy, which store would carry these items and suddenly, I’m having to think about where the closest hospital is!  So, off I go into the gastronomic world of gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, nut- and seed-free grocery items. To my relief, foods that conformed to all the dietary needs I was shopping for were easily found, and I appreciated every manufacturer who made these items and the retailers who stocked their shelves.   To our delight, we also found several accommodating restaurants, although that was a bit more challenging.

Researchers estimate 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children younger than 18.  That’s one in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom. More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions, including milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and shellfish, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education organization.  And furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.

I saw first-hand how these changing dietary requirements are redefining the food and beverage marketplace.   Products now abound that contain less sugar, no carbs, foods that are nut-free, high-protein or gluten-free. There are soy and almond milk options, and the list goes on.  Consumers are choosing more products based on health, wellness and medical food allergies than ever before.  

As my eyes were recently opened to this phenomenon, I am encouraged that savvy marketers are responding to this demand with better product labeling, introducing new and tastier snacks and beverages, and that restaurants are adding more health-conscious items to their menus.

Naturally though, I began thinking about how marketers may not realize audience data is available for practically every one of these niche dietary consumer segments and how marketing directly to these niche audiences could potentially build and strengthen a very loyal customer base. Consumers are seeking those very products, and using probabilistic data to reach those likely to eat gluten-free or lactose-free, etc., is a great way to increase brand identity and loyalty.  For example, marketers can offer targeted coupons and recipe cards that include the brand’s products to consumers most likely to respond. 

My family appreciated my quest to provide food that met their dietary needs.  We had some fun tasting many of the products I discovered. I was also extremely grateful to the manufacturers who applied the dietary icons for easy identification.  And after a week of eating relatively gluten-free, lactose-free, nut-free and sugar-free, I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t all bad! I have become a believer and now know, it most certainly does matter to pay attention to the changing ways consumers are eating.

To learn how to better market directly to these finicky foodies, email dataguru@acxiom.com.