Influencer marketing and the rise of healthy eating habits

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Last updated: July 2020

The food industry has undergone somewhat of a revolution in recent years. When once sugary drinks and snacks were the most popular (and profitable) items, now consumers want healthy products, and buzzwords like ‘all-natural’, ‘free-from’, and ‘no added’ are prominently displayed on the packaging.

The healthy food movement has become an unstoppable trend, due in large part to a greater cultural awareness of nutrition. The move towards healthier foods has been driven by consumer demand, and in general, the industry has been quick to respond, with many brands reformulating or remarketing their goods. Consumer health concerns are now top of the list of priorities when creating and marketing new food products.

Social media is arguably the source of this new healthy food trend, and one of the most efficient ways to market healthy foods, particularly via influencer marketing. Let’s take a look at how it works.

What are the current food industry trends?

The rise in the popularity of healthy foods has been rapid, and we can assume that changing consumer value drivers play a significant role in this fundamental shift. This year, the global market for healthy foods is expected to increase by 6%, and its swift growth shows no signs of slowing down. Those in the food industry are trying to stay ahead of the curve, and a huge 32% of market growth originating in Europe. 

While some food industry giants struggle to catch up, consumers are opting for healthier options where they can find them – and they’re willing to pay a premium. The industry is set to see a market size growth of $1299.84 billion during 2020 and 2024.

Among the most recent trends has been the push for organic produce and organic ingredients in packaged foods. Organic food sales in America made up 5.8% of all purchases in 2019 So-called ‘clean eating’ and the ‘Paleo’ diet are two other popular health trends that are ever-increasing in popularity and look set to expand. These diets vary, but rely heavily on ‘free-from’ products, whether that’s dairy-free, sugar-free or gluten-free. In the USA the total sales of gluten-free and free-from products are on course to earn $23.9 billion during 2020

How does social media fit in?

It’s been said that social media has changed the way we eat. The phenomena of ‘eat and tweet’, where users post photos of their meals on Twitter, is now commonplace, with many of us pausing to snap a photo before taking our first mouthful. The hashtags #food and #foodporn totaling 395.5 million and 232 million posts on Instagram – evidence of our new photo-sharing habit.

One area in which social media has had a definitive effect is the boom in healthy eating. Not only does it allow chefs, health experts, and nutritionists to post photos and recipes to a wide audience, but it has facilitated an online foodie community where the average Joe can also post and boast about his kitchen successes. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture funded a study that found that social media may help young adults make healthier food choices.

By connecting people across the world, social media has created support and advice networks around eating well, making it easier for people to follow a healthier or more natural diet. Bloggers and social media users who recount their experiences of eating healthily have gained huge followings, like UK clean-eating blogger @deliciouslyella who has 1.7m Instagram followers, or Paleo food blogger @thedomesticman with 42.2k followers. Underneath their social posts followers often ask questions, give and receive advice, and generally support and encourage one another to keep up their healthy eating habits. This level of engagement is the cornerstone of influencer marketing.

 

What can an influencer do?

When a community grows around a particular user they establish credibility and the trust of their audience. Marketers who are promoting healthy foods can utilize this platform by approaching influencers to post about or review their products. With a simple sponsored social media post from the right person, brands and retailers can expand their reach and tap into a hungry market.  It’s targeted, precise, and doesn’t disrupt the viewing experience like a traditional advert. Moreover, through social media, healthy eating has become correlated with an overall healthy and aspirational lifestyle, thus making the product even more desirable.

Influencer marketing works because we trust those in our social networks, and opinions and endorsements are often disseminated through social media posts. Foodie magazine Bon Appétit sums it up: “social media coverage can sometimes feel more honest than a traditional media story”, and similarly, we are more likely to trust native advertising than traditional advertising.

Influencer marketing can offer numerous benefits to companies in the health foods industry, including:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Promoting a product launch or reformulation/repackaging
  • Developing a brand’s social community & increasing engagement

These objectives are clearly measurable using social media tools, and it’s possible to obtain valuable, specific real-time information on what your consumers respond to.

It’s clear that social media has been instrumental in the healthy eating craze, and has helped create a virtuous circle of awareness, engagement and healthy eating. For brands and retailers, sponsored content and influencer marketing is the perfect way to promote their products online. Many consumers are turned off by traditional adverts; influencer marketing is the perfect way to attract qualified leads, increase brand visibility, and improve customer engagement.

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