Digesting Food News: The Top Food Stories of 2012 and Why they Matter

December 17, 2012 // By: // 1 Comment

Food & Beverage      Research & Insights

In a year dominated by news of political elections, the economy, and the Olympic Games, food-related stories still rank among the most significant of 2012 according to our recently released, tenth annual Hunter Public Relations Food News Study, conducted in partnership with Direct Research, Inc. (DRI). An overwhelming 81 percent of Americans felt coverage of food products and the companies that make them were of equal or greater importance than other news stories this year.

For the past decade, Hunter PR has polled Americans about the top food news of each year. For our 2012 study, however, our Insights & Strategy Group went beyond the headlines and “what made news,” digging deeper into how that news affected behavior at the shelf and at America’s dinner table.

According to the study, consumers responded to news coverage in a variety of ways that added up to meaningful changes in shopping habits including comparison shopping, label grazing and protein swapping.  For example, among the 41 percent of consumers who changed their shopping habits as a result of the No. 1 ranked story — the Midwest drought and its impact on food prices — a full third purchased more canned foods. In response to the No. 2 most important story — “Pink Slime” in beef — of the 43 percent who changed the way they shopped, more than half (53 percent) purchased more chicken. More than three quarters of those who changed their habits as a result of the No. 3 most important story — genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — reported checking labels, and more than half (54%) researched more information about GMOs.

Of particular note for communications professionals: in each of the past six years, the study’s highest-ranked story in terms of importance to consumers dealt with either food safety or economic issues, rather than widely covered trends, fads, or sensational news. This year’s results were no different: high-awareness stories such as the Chick-Fil-A gay marriage controversy (70 percent awareness) and Bloomberg soda ban (55 percent awareness), while widely covered in the media, fell toward the bottom of the list in terms of overall importance and impact.

For brands planning their communications strategy around the what, when, why and how America digests food news, a number of other findings from Hunter Public Relation’s 2012 Food News Study prove valuable:

- No matter which story or controversy is currently dominating the headlines, an overwhelming number of respondents believe that people need to take responsibility for what they eat (80 percent — the greatest consensus on any single question)

- 35 percent believe America has a serious food safety issue

- More than 30 percent believe there is too much conflicting information about food and nutrition to make healthy choices

- Among overall priorities, food ranked solidly in the middle, beating out both sleep and work but falling well below the importance of family and love

Check out www.hunterpr.com/foodstudy for the complete list of the 10 most significant food stories of 2012 ranked by importance and impact on consumer behavior, and contact me at smormar@hunterpr.com if you are interested in receiving the full, detailed report of Hunter Public Relations’ 2012 Food News Study findings.


About the Author

Samara Farber Mormar

As Senior Vice President of Insights & Strategy, Samara oversee’s Hunter PR’s proprietary approach to research and strategic planning.