NEW YORK, Dec. 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- For the first time in the history of the HUNTER Annual Food News Study, a social media-led story broke through as the most memorable story of the year, with news of the Fast Food Chicken Sandwich Throwdown On Twitter ranking as 2019's No. 1 food news story. What's not new is the presence of fast food in the number one spot. From 2010 to 2019, nearly half of the top food news stories were related to fast food. Throughout the past decade, food safety, social policy and menu evolutions consistently made for memorable headlines, underscoring the impact fast food establishments have in food and contemporary culture.
"Americans are hungry for food news. Nearly half believe that food and nutrition stories are more important than other types of news stories," said Heddy DeMaria, Chief Insights Officer of HUNTER. "Our annual study not only helps to identify which stories are capturing the most attention but also measures their impact and influence on consumers' awareness, attitudes, behaviors and advocacy."
Since 2003, HUNTER, one of the country's leading food and beverage public relations and marketing communications agencies, has commissioned the only annual longitudinal study of its kind to identify the top food news stories according to the opinions of Americans. The study, now in its 17th year, examines not only what food news is important to consumers today, but how that is changing over time. HUNTER, in partnership with Libran Research & Consulting, surveyed 1,003 American adults and asked respondents to select the most recalled news stories of the past 12 months. The data is reviewed overall and by key demographics, including the age cohorts of Millennials/Gen Zs, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers/Matures.
In August 2019, Popeyes announced the launch of its first-ever fried chicken sandwich, sparking a social media frenzy among fast food enthusiasts. Across the country, people scrambled to get their hands on the newest drive-thru sensation and then took to Twitter to share their experience. Fellow fast food chains joined the conversation, prompting an all-out virtual food fight that culminated in a chicken sandwich shortage at Popeyes. The Louisiana-based chicken chain took advantage of the national attention by announcing a forthcoming restock, keeping the brand top of mind with consumers and media alike.
A Video of a Woman Licking Blue Bell Ice Cream Goes Viral occupies 2019's No. 2 spot. The video has been viewed more than 13 million times since its posting in June 2019 and ranked among the highest (26 percent) in terms of shareability. The viral video garnered national news attention, sparking conversations about food safety and consumer product tampering laws.
Food Safety (40 percent) and Food Nutrition/Health (24 percent) continue to be ranked as the most important and second most important food news topics to Americans of all ages. The Keto Diet Gains in Popularity came in as the No. 3 food news story of the year, with nearly one third of respondents selecting that topic as most memorable, followed closely by the No. 4 food news story of the year, Thousands of Pounds of Chicken Recalled due to possible contamination and labeling concerns.
Despite only 10 percent of respondents selecting sustainability as the most important food news topic, three of this year's top 10 most memorable stories were related to the topic. On the heels of Plastic Straw Bans being the lead story in 2018, straw news continued to drive conversation this year with The Downside of Ditching Plastic Straws ranking No. 5. Coming in at No. 8 is Ban to End Sales of Plastic Water Bottles Gains Momentum. As plastic bag and straw bans continue to take hold throughout the U.S., in August 2019, San Francisco International Airport boldly rolled out a ban to end the sale of plastic water bottles at its convenience stores, restaurants and vending machines. In May 2019, Maine became the first state to ban food containers made of polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, prohibiting businesses from selling or distributing disposable food containers made of the synthetic material. The Styrofoam Food Container Ban is this year's No. 9 story.
Also included in the top 10 food news stories of 2019:
The Impact of Tariffs on Food Items captured the No. 6 spot on this year's list. In 2019, escalated trade war disputes drove the Trump administration to impose retaliatory tariffs on a range of goods imported from both China and the European Union, including popular food and beverage staples. Economists predict that stores will be unable or unwilling to absorb the full margin of imposed taxes, leaving American consumers no choice but to pay more for these goods.
Prolonged wet weather and historic flooding left fields across parts of Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska submerged. Lingering high water delayed planting for growers across America's Heartland, which resulted in Farmers Facing Big Losses and Poor Crops After Devastating Flooding, the No. 7 food news story on the list. These crop losses – which may lead to feed and forage shortages for livestock – are expected to have a broad impact nationally and even globally.
Move over beer, as non-alcoholic seltzer has risen in sales year after year, hard seltzer has now skyrocketed in tandem. The Rise of Hard Seltzer, the No. 10 story is proving to be no passing fad and has been referred to as 'biggest disruption' in the beverage category this year. It has experienced market growth of 200% so far this year, according to Nielsen data, and analysts predict hard seltzer could be a $2.5 billion industry by 2021. In July alone, White Claw – one of two leading spiked seltzer brands – claims it outsold Budweiser.
To summarize, the top food news stories of 2019 according to the HUNTER 17th Annual Food News Study are as follows:
1. Fast Food Chicken Sandwich Throwdown on Twitter
6. The Impact of Tariffs on Food Items
2. Video of Woman Licking Blue Bell Ice Cream Goes Viral
7. Farmers Face Big Losses and Poor Crops After Devastating Flooding
3. The Keto Diet Gains in Popularity
8. Ban to End Sales of Plastic Water Bottles Gains Momentum
4. Thousands of Pounds of Chicken Recalled
9. Styrofoam Food Container Ban
5. The Downside of Ditching Plastic Straws
10. The Rise of Hard Seltzer
A Decade In Review The top food news stories of the past decade according to the HUNTER Food News Study are as follows:
2010 Impact of BP Oil Spill on Seafood Industry
2015 Evolving Fast Food Breakfast Landscape
2011 Twenty-Nine Deaths Caused by Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak
2016 Chipotle Recovery After E. Coli Outbreak
2012 Chick Fil-A v. Gay
2017 Amazon Buys Whole Foods Market
2013 Fighting Obesity in Children
2018 Plastic Straw Ban
2014 The Great Western U.S. Drought
2019 Fast Food Chicken Sandwich Throwdown on Twitter
Impact of Food News on Behavior With Americans claiming Food Safety and Food Nutrition/Health as the most important food news topics covered, it's no surprise that stories related to these topics drove the most engagement among consumers in 2019. This is particularly true for Millennials/GenZs (61 percent) and Gen Xers (53 percent) as compared to Boomers/Matures (34 percent). Millennials/GenZs and Gen Xers are more likely to educate themselves on food, try new foods/flavors and share information about food with others. As a result, they are changing the foods they are buying.
Digital Consumption, Analog Sharing: Despite growing popularity of digital connectivity, there is no replacing face to face communication While the most popular source for general food news remains television (46 percent), Americans are increasingly turning to websites (44 percent) and social media (40 percent) as their go-to for information. Interestingly, households with kids are more likely to use social media, blogs and podcasts than those without kids. Despite the growing predilection for digital news consumption, news sharing remains largely an analog behavior. In fact, face-to-face interaction still leads as the most popular way to share the news of the day, with water cooler talk outpacing social sharing by 2 to 1.
ABOUT HUNTER Founded in 1989, HUNTER is an award-winning consumer marketing communications firm with primary offices in New York and London and a footprint across North America. Beginning with research-driven consumer insights, HUNTER executes strategic, integrated programs that build brand equity, increase engagement and drive measurable business results for consumer products and services. The 120-person firm employs a powerful blend of marketing solutions including strategic planning, social and digital media, talent and influencer engagement, media relations, experiential, multicultural, and content creation and distribution for all platforms and channels to earn consumer attention on behalf of some of the world's best known and most beloved brands. The agency is a member of MDC Partners Inc. (NASDAQ: MDCA; TSX: MDZ.A).
ABOUT THE STUDY The 17th annual Food News Study commissioned by HUNTER examined the top food news stories of 2019 in terms of awareness, consideration, intent and advocacy. The study also explored the top media sources for food information – broken out by recipes, general food news and nutrition.
HUNTER partnered with Libran Research & Consulting for this study. Libran Research addresses business issues with critical decision-making and impartial judgment – helping to drive action in their clients' marketing strategies and tactics. Libran Research surveyed 1,003 Americans ages 18 years and older via an email invitation and online survey. The respondent sample was balanced to the U.S. population on key demographics. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.1 percentage points.
The survey was implemented Oct. 24 to Oct. 28, 2019, covering the 12-month period from November 2018 through October 2019.