Food for Thought, Literally
If you were ever in doubt of the changes that our digital access, behaviors and devices have made in our daily lives, look no further than how you nourish your body. The introduction and integration of online food tools and content have made the planning, shopping, and cooking of all things food and beverage-related a dramatically different experience than the experience of prior generations. How will that influence our relationship with food and each other in this most social and familial of activities?
Planning for food purchases or consumption now allows the purchaser to do online comparisons for price, availability, nutrition stats and get meal planning guidance. You can order groceries delivered to your house and peruse endless recipe content that has been rated and reviewed. Strange or new ingredients? No problem, order them online. They’ll probably be delivered tomorrow. Following a special diet? Find advice and support in blogs and communities or track your caloric and other macro intake via an app that may reside on your phone or your wrist.
Prepared foods also are readily available through digital channels. You can order a meal, or a month of meals, from packaged food delivery services to fit dietary guidelines or food preferences. Make online restaurant reservations after you have checked online reviews of these services or establishments.
Want the best of restaurant cuisine but in your home? Download one of many food delivery apps and wait for the door and dinner bell. They are now one and the same.
Like other consumer-focused businesses, food-oriented businesses are subject to the crowd scrutiny of review sites, star ratings and recommendations. These businesses, of necessity, have undergone their own dramatic shifts along with their consumers. Food purveyors are rewarded if they use specialists who can style, light and photograph their wares to best advantage and find the influencers who can reach foodie audiences that can make or break their business. These are new costs of business and new skills to many as the competitive set for the neighborhood eatery is now vastly expanded and the pressure is mounting.
Every food delivery, grocery store, online seller, restaurant or even recipe site is a potential competitor for the consumer’s food attention and dollar. Winners maintain consistent delivery standards along with exceptional taste and value. The variety of food options now widely available and the proliferation of so much food content online fuels food trends in cuisine type, preparation style, presentation and ingredients. Foods can be in vogue — kale or quinoa anyone? When food is fashionable there are elements of seasonality, branding and trend that keep things evolving and fresh — and at the same time impose new requirements of those in the food business.
You can argue that this bounty of food access and content has improved the lives of the consuming public. Hopefully the additional options have mitigated some of the food deserts that plague our cities, but I haven’t seen any studies on this. Certainly, many of the food options discussed above are services and options tailored for the privileged with disposable income to spend on meal adventures. The wealth of food and nutrition information has allowed almost all of us to make better decisions regarding our intake and has given us the tools to plan ahead. Our world has shrunk considerably and the breadth of cuisine choices both in-home and out have broadened our horizons and expanded our palates in huge contrast to prior, pre-digital generations.
The only thing my mother could order in was pizza and her recipe inspiration was her neighbors or grandma’s old recipes tenderly hand-scribed on cards that were stained with love and meal splatters. She shopped at her neighborhood grocer (only), which might have had a few organics or half a fancy food aisle, but it had nothing out of season or out of the ordinary.
Our digital world has generally raised the bar for food preparation and enjoyment. Prior generations used food primarily for wholesome nourishment and family togetherness. Today’s digital food world extends to food as entertainment, food as a social activity, food as a fitness tool, food as adventure, or food to represent our personal brand. For good or ill, the end result is that as food subsumes more space in our cameras and social media accounts, it also takes over more of our head space.
With over 20 years of online experience Robin Neifield serves as the CEO of Netplus, a top interactive agency, and as the trusted digital guide for CMOs. She has been widely published and quoted on digital strategy and has been a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events like Search Engine Strategies, OMMA, Ad:Tech and others where her insights are sought on varied marketing topics such as digital strategy, behavioral targeting, social media marketing, search engine and conversion optimization, localization strategies and proximity marketing, mobile gaming and email marketing. You can find her on LinkedIn, or reach her by email or phone, (610) 304-9990.