Market Focus - Foodies: Money Rumblings
Sure, we all like food. We all enjoy a Sunday pancake breakfast or a glass of red wine with a bit of chocolate. But foodies are a whole class unto themselves. They can tell you what grade of syrup is on those pancakes (preferably grade B), and they know what region the wine came from.
"The foodie is someone who is desperate about the food and wine industry without actually being in it," says Nycci Nellis, publisher and CEO of The List, which operates TheListAreYouOnIt.com, an e-zine that covers every food and wine event in the Washington, D.C. metro area. "If they have money, they will spend it on food and wine, and if they don't have it, they'll save it to spend on food and wine."
It would be a mistake to group all foodies in one basket. According to Karen Page, co-author of "What to Drink with What You Eat," the 2007 International Association of Culinary Professionals "Cookbook of the Year," there are three types: Cooks, including recipe junkies and gadget lovers who buy all the latest cooking equipment; restaurant goers, including hipsters who are interested in only the trendiest spots and chowhounds who prize value for their dollars; and wine lovers, including adventurers who seek out grape varietals they've never heard of before and food-and-wine synergists who value the best food-and-wine pairings above all. "While there is often some overlap between and among categories, members of each category largely hang out on different Web sites and chat rooms and read different magazines," says Page. "It's important to understand and market to each individual niche."
There are some commonalities among foodies of different types, however. According to Ann Bullock, account manager at the list management and brokerage firm Millard Group-which manages food and cooking titles and catalogs like Bon Appetit, Dean & DeLuca and Food & Wine-they tend to be an older and more affluent group, who live in all regions of the U.S. and are split between male and female. Not all foodies are affluent, though they are willing to spend their money on great food and products. "They are intellectual, curious but not necessarily wealthy people, like university professors or artists or academics who are really interested in food," says Field Reichardt, president of The Organic Olive Oil Co.
Of course, foodies buy food: wine, gourmet chocolates, unique sauces, grass-fed beef, flavored vinegars. And then there are the gadgets. "Gadgets are something people are willing to spend money on, and sometimes the gadgets are things they don't even need," says Jen Beltz, owner of Front Burner PR, a boutique PR firm in Portland, Maine, that specializes in food, restaurant and hospitality clients.
Foodies buy more than food and gadgets, which makes them an attractive market for all kinds of products. "We see a lot of usage [of our lists] from travel mailers because these people are very into the good life," says Bullock. "Because they tend to be fairly affluent, nonprofits like food banks and health-related fundraisers also use the lists." Other targeters of this group include publishers of magazines-especially regional magazines, travel publications and home-related magazines.
Getting at the Gourmet Group
This adventurous market is amenable to different means of marketing, from e-mail to direct mail to print ads. "It depends on the product and the personality," says Beltz. "For example, if it's a restaurant, we set up a simple e-newsletter to go out to their distribution list, and we grow the distribution list with cards attached to each bill ... and don't send the newsletter out too often-say every four to six weeks. It keeps you on people's radar."
As for messaging, appeal to this group's need to be in the know. "In getting to them, you have to let them know what they already know," says Nellis. "‘I know you already know this, but did you know this part of it?' They already know a lot ... you're just supplying them with the next step."
At the same time, foodies are desperate for the minute details about the products and services you're selling. For example, Reichardt has defined his olive oil products as having three taste characteristics: delicate, full-flavored and robust. Each characteristic is color-coded, and the company has created cards that sit on supermarket shelves that describe which olive oil flavors go with which foods. "Our retailers go crazy over this system," says Reichardt.
Products and services have a better chance of selling to the foodie group if they also have a professional panache. "The information needs to be relayed in a way that shows that chefs and people in the industry are using it ... that someone higher than them [in the food industry] is using it," says Nellis. "If you go in kitchens today, you see restaurant-style stoves. Everything has a professional edge to it. Half the chefs in the country don't have kitchens as nice as their customers'."
If you have a special product that foodies might go for, the best advice is to be real in your marketing: Show off your uniqueness; tell the target market what you're made of, and you're sure to have an in with this hungry market.
Linda Formichelli is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire. She wrote about marketing to public librarians in Target Marketing's March issue.