With cooking shows on the air 24/7, an amazing number of new cookbooks, and ratatouille part of a child s vocabulary thanks to the Disney movie of the same name, food has become part of pop culture.
Various types of consumers provide niche markets, says Ron Rentel, founder of Consumer Eyes, a New York-based marketing firm. He is co-author of Karma Queens, Geek Gods & Innerpreneurs with Joe Zellnick (McGraw Hill, $24.95).
Nine consumer types are shaping today s marketplace; some have unique food choices.
For E-Litists, greenness is important but so is style, comfort, and quality. Organic, sustainability, local foods, and farmers markets are important. When shopping, these consumers gravitate toward brands like Amy s Organic, Newman s Own Organics, Stonyfield Farm, acai, Niman Ranch, and Whole Foods.
The founder of Stonyfield Farm, Gary Hirschberg, is listed as an Innerpreneur.
These folks are known for a vision, such as a new product, new store, new service.
Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement in Italy in 1986, and Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., also are agents of change in how we eat and cook.
A third type is the Parentocrat who pushes and protects out of love and concern for children. Health and wellness is important to them, including consciousness of food allergies, food safety, organic baby foods. Mr. Rentel noted the Kellogg s Keeps Em Focused campaign for school-age kids.
The Middlemen are post-college-age single males in their 20s and 30s who are a product of the 1970s and 1980s. Many still live in their parents homes, said Mr. Rentel. They impact what we think is funny. They are into global foods. At home, they have gaming systems such as Playstation and Wii. Guys 18 to 34 were 70 percent of McDonald s sales, according to Mr. Rentel. This may explain the sales of energy drinks, wings, nachos, pizza, fries, and jerky.
The Karma Queens are socially conscious, luxury-oriented, ecologically minded but not averse to pampering. They are financially well-off. They are open to alternative medicine and yoga. As for food and drink, Newman s Own, Fair Trade products, the organic movement, and tea are tops with them.
The Culture Crossers are in their late teens and mid-20s. They cross racial and class boundaries. Mr. Rentel calls them global citizens. They influence fashion and design with T-shirts and sneakers. They expand our palate with Moroccan, Greek, Cuban, and Thai foods. They like sake, lambics, yerba mate, and green tea.
The Denim Dads can be found in all the places traditionally inhabited by moms, from the PTA meeting to the soccer field after school. Some are stay-at-home dads who tend to blog, have a sense of humor, and want equipment and gadgets that help make the household run smoothly. I suspect that they re interested in state-of-the art grills.
Ms. Independents are strong, unmarried women in their mid-20s to late 30s who are willing to spend more for premium goods and services. Perhaps that includes more mail-order foods.
Finally, Geek Gods are the guys who live for the latest gadget, systems upgrade, or other technological advance. They are 20 to 35 and are loyal to brands. Pizza, anyone?
We re living in a splintered world of marketing that offers many opportunities, says Mr. Rental. Think of small niches to be relevant. His book lists food psyches such as foodies, locavores (consuming only food that comes from within a 100-mile radius), fire-men with asbestos tongues who seek the spiciest foods, calorie restrictors, PC-tarians (free range, grass-fed), paleodieters (fruits, vegetables, and meat from lean, wild animals), and functional eaters (who focus on food as fuel, such as antioxidants).
No doubt as you ve been reading this you may wonder where you fit in these consumer types and psyches. As for me, it makes me wonder just who I m cooking for.