‘Food eVangelists’ are typically young females, active online, financially secure and have families. They utilise social media to generate up to 1.7-billion conversations about food every week and cover the demographic profile spectrum.
‘In the South African baked goods industry, for example, manufacturers and marketers have responded to changing consumer needs and the level of engagement is growing,’ Gareth comments.
BMi Research recently launched its Annual Quantification Report on Baked Products in South Africa which found that movement in the baked products market came primarily from the baked confectionery industry, with a strong surge in consumption of sweet treats.
BMi researchers also found that consumers are increasingly seeking out luxury baked goods – with market growth fuelled by improved retailing processes, more effective marketing and value-orientated pricing.
Gareth says this shift in demand for luxury items has forced greater levels of product and packaging innovation from independent bakeries as well as in-store bakeries in supermarkets and convenience stores. ‘Consumers are discerning. They want portability, ease-of-preparation and quality plus they want fresh products and fresh ideas. Bakeries are having to respond imaginatively to meet changing demands.
‘South African consumers clearly have a sweet tooth, but are becoming increasingly perceptive about the quality, content and packaging of their baked goods purchases and, in line with international trends, are demanding greater involvement in the final preparation of the products. In response, we’ll see changes in the packaging of baked goods with products such as cakes, cookies, muffins and pies reconfigured to include a DIY element for consumers, for example separate icing and toppings.’
South African consumers weren’t specifically covered by Ketchum’s research, but Gareth insists that ‘Food eVangelists’ represent a global voice. ‘Online communication doesn’t have boundaries and if what Ketchum says about this group is true, they’re the single most important group in the food industry today and will change the food industry forever,’ he maintains.
As Linda Eatherton of Ketchum wrote on the company’s website last month, ‘The true leaders in the food industry are working to take the opportunity to totally re-imagine their relationship with consumers and reorganise and deploy resources to embrace and engage consumers as stakeholders.’ She also said there was a sea change in the relationship between food companies and the consuming public.
‘And it’s happening in South Africa too,’ Gareth warns. ‘Certainly in the baked goods industry, we’ve seen producers respond to pressure with labelling changes, the release of many new products, vastly improved packaging and innovative merchandising strategies such as displaying baked goods near the check-out counters – an area traditionally reserved for chocolates and confectionery.
‘Many supermarket and forecourt bakeries have evolved dramatically and now compete with specialist bakery shops, offering a greatly expanded product range that caters to widely differing consumer needs. The sluggish economy may have dented South African consumers’ spending but it hasn’t affected their taste for the sweet life. They’re enticed by value offers such as “coffee and cake” combo deals and still like to treat themselves – despite tough times.’
So where to for the South African baked goods industry? BMi Research doesn’t see radical change in the near future but it does see continuing evolution in terms of packaging, labelling and product innovation. In Gareth’s view, South African consumers are affected by global food issues and the baked goods producers are listening to them, learning and responding.