A new research study released by Fogelson & Co., Brooklyn, N.Y., reveals a new and increasingly influential category of Americans—the food-connected consumer (FCC). This segment of more food-aware, food-involved consumers now represents 62% of Americans across all demographics and geographies, and accounts for an estimated $835 billion in U.S. food expenditures.

“Our research underscores an emerging passionate majority of mainstream Americans – FCCs – who care about the food they eat, value transparency and are loyal to brands that speak to them,” says Susie Fogelson, founder and CEO and former head of branding and strategy at Food Network, New York. “The findings suggest ways for food, beverage, hospitality and dining brands to rethink their storytelling strategy.”

The study reveals a number of data points, including:

FCCs are proactive about cooking, preparing meals from scratch three or more times per week and often doctoring recipes.

“These confident cooks may be swapping certain ingredients based on health concerns, flavor preferences or even product availability. Brands can improve their chances of being the consumer choice through education and demonstrating the product’s range of use,” says Fogelson. “

While the vast majority (91%) of FCCs look online for recipes and inspiration, they still shop at supermarkets, club and specialty shops and farmers’ markets. And, they regularly watch food shows (56%), read food magazines (30%) and follow bloggers or food experts online (20%).

According to Fogelson, digital platforms are critical for food brands, but crafting stories that play across channels is the best way to capture their attention, and that includes engaging them at retail.

“Digital is a clear priority, it’s where they’re finding inspiration and information, but developing the right mix across channels—and playing to each channel’s strength—is ideal,” she adds.

The majority of FCCs (72%) support causes they believe in and 50% say they try to buy brands that align with their values. They are also 26% more likely than the general population to look for foods with simple, recognizable ingredients.


The power of Gen Z

In a follow-up study, Generation Z’s passion for food is also evident, though in different ways.

“Gen Z is really having a lot of fun with food. It’s a relief and a release from the perceived instability and uncertainty of their world,” adds Fogelson.

Over a third (37%) say that snacking is their favorite meal and nearly half (47%) say they often eat breakfast foods at non-breakfast times. They also say they like to cook together with their family (40%) and over half (54%) say they influence food purchases at home.  

Experimenting in these spaces could yield an excellent payoff for brands.

“Quick-service restaurants that are serving breakfast all day are certainly on target,” Fogelson adds. “And, considering Gen Z’s influence on food purchases, brands must find ways to appeal to them to capitalize on their indirect purchase power.”


It’s still all about storytelling

FCCs, from Gen Z to Boomers, all care about where their food is from and its impact on individual health and the world, just in varying degrees.

“Tell your food’s story,” says Fogelson. “What is its origin? How was it made? Why is it the better choice—not just for consumers, but the world we live in? If the story seems elusive, embrace the truth of your product and tell that. Every brand – even many non-food brands – can have a food story that resonates with this powerful audience.”

The Fogelson & Co. partnered with Jump Rope Innovation, New York, to evaluate attitudes and behaviors around cooking, shopping, eating, media consumption, social issues and more. It was conducted online in August among 1,123 consumers age 18-54. A follow-up study was conducted Oct. 23 among 283 consumers age 15-22.