Influencer marketing and the rise of healthy eating habits

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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 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 thus is one of the most efficient ways to market health foods, particularly via influencer marketing. Let’s take a look at how it works.

What are the current food industry trends?

The rise in popularity of healthy foods has been rapid, and we have changing consumer value drivers to thank for this fundamental shift. This year, the global market for healthy foods is expected to reach $1 trillion, and its swift growth shows no signs of slowing down. Those in the food industry are trying to stay ahead of the curve, with 30% of all food companies now invested in healthy foods.

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. In a 2015 online Global Health & Wellness Survey by Nielsen, 88% of respondents stated they were willing to pay more for healthier foods, with Millennials most likely to be happy to fork out for a healthier meal.

Among the most recent trends has been the push for organic produce and organic ingredients in packaged foods. According to Food Navigator, 81% of American families purchase organic foods at least some of the time, and it’s estimated that the segment will have grown 14% between 2013 and 2018. So-called ‘clean eating’ and the ‘Paleo’ diet are two other popular health trends that have recently emerged 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 products will reach $2.34 billion in 2019, that’s up 140% from 2014.

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 have close to 230 million and 130 million posts on Instagram – evidence of our new photo-sharing habit.

One area on 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 which 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 1.3m Instagram followers, or Paleo food blogger @thedomesticman with nearly 47 000 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 primed market – a demographic which is already known to be interested in healthy foods. 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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