Concerns Regarding Inflation and Shortages Dominate the Headlines

New York City / NY. (hup) With 81 percent of Americans agreeing that food news is more important than ever, Hunter – a leading food and beverage marketing communications consultancy – today reveals the significance and impact of food news in the US. Examining the top food news from the year, the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Hunter: Food News Study questioned respondents about their awareness of these stories and how this news changed their behavior, among other related topics.

The results are a direct reflection of the tension and pressures consumers faced in 2022 with supply chain and labor shortages, political conflict and inflation dominating the top five most recalled stories. This year, supply chain shortages led the way, weighing heavily on the minds of consumers. These shortages, compounded by a national recall due to contamination concerns, sent new parents into a frenzied search for much-needed baby formula, making ‘Baby Formula Shortage’ the year’s No. 1 news story in the U.S.

A national ‘Grocery Supply Chain Shortage’ coming in at No. 2 was caused by an increase in consumer demand, compounded by labor shortages along with trucking and shipping restraints keeping shelves empty and consumers frustrated.

Food and politics were at a crossroads in 2022 as numerous ‘Fast Food Brands Exit Russia’ in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, the No. 3 story. Iconic brands including McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coke, PepsiCo, Danone and Unilever issued immediate statements in support of the people of Ukraine and ceased operations and distribution in Russia.

While lighter subjects such as food trends and brand marketing efforts broke into the top ten stories of 2022, they were pushed farther down the list compared to prior years.

Rounding out the top ten stories of the year in the U.S.:

  • 04: Labor shortages stemming from Covid-19 continued to hurt the restaurant industry in 2022
  • 05: Inflation’s impact on food prices tugged at the purse strings, with retailers, restauranteurs, and consumers feeling the pinch as food prices surged in the U.S.
  • 06: The FDA recall of a popular peanut butter brand due to potential salmonella risk
  • 07: M+M introduced a new purple character grabbing the attention of consumers across the country
  • 08: Climate change’s impact on food security has experts and consumers concerned
  • 09: For the first time ever, Amazon offered free GrubHub memberships for Prime members
  • 10: The viral TikTok pink sauce had chicken lovers clamoring for the unique condiment

Since 2003, Hunter has commissioned the only annual longitudinal study of its kind to identify the top food news stories according to the opinions of Americans. In partnership with Libran Research, the 2022 Hunter Food News Study also looks back at the last 20 years and takes a first look at food news in the United Kingdom, providing a glance at the important role this news plays in both countries and comparing the stories effect and sourcing, as well as the countries’ general food landscape, showing more similarities than differences.

«American’s relationship with food has always been deeply embedded within our nation’s culture and food news plays a significant role in reflecting the most salient societal issues of the moment,» said Heddy DeMaria, Chief Insights and Strategy Officer at Hunter. «As we have looked back over the past 20 years of top stories breaking through in our Food News Study, it is fascinating to see how cyclical these issues and events can be. As supply issues and inflationary conditions once again to bear down on America, this year we see these stories rise to the top of America’s consciousness.»

The Rising Influence of Food News

The influence of food news continues to be seen across all consumers. The effects of increased food prices have taken hold on how American’s fundamentally classify their relationship with food. This year, a greater portion of Americans are focused on value (+3 pts. to 25 percent), shifting away from living a more «foodie» lifestyle (-3 pts. to 22 percent). Most consumers are also changing their behaviors based on Food News (62 percent), the highest number in almost a decade, with 48 percent changing what foods they buy and 44 percent changing how they shop or get food. This shift in mindset is also reflected in New Year’s resolutions, as most Americans (75 percent) continue to have food-based resolutions, but now their aspiration has turned to saving money on groceries versus a decade ago, when weight loss or healthier, cleaner eating was more the goal.

Twenty Years of Findings

As the only longitudinal study of its kind, Hunter celebrates the study’s 20th anniversary by taking a «look back» to see how food news has shifted and remained the same. Over the past 20 years, food industry news, food safety, and health/nutrition have dominated top food news, consistent with the concerns of the day. Recurring themes include childhood obesity (2003, 2013); the evolution of the Food Pyramid (2005, 2011), and outbreaks of food illness/recalls (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2016).

In 2018 – 2019, with the economy booming and the pandemic not even on the radar, findings show a shift to a broader variety of subjects, as sustainability breaks through in 2018 with the ‘Ban on Straws’ and more light-hearted pop culture marketing with the ‘Fast-Food Chicken Throwdown on Twitter.’

Since then, society has seen more challenging times, with the pandemic and its impact to the nation’s supply chain, with 2021 finding the lift on ‘Mask Mandates in Restaurants’ as the top story and this year’s «Baby Formula Shortages.»

While the topics have remained consistent year to year, the most meaningful change is how and where consumers are finding and consuming their news. Stories now originate and are being recalled in channels that did not exist 20 years ago, with roughly one-third of Americans first becoming aware of marquee news stories via social media (~21 percent) and digital media/websites (~14 percent).

Top Ten recalled U.S. Food News stories from 2022

  1. Baby Formula Shortage – 59 percent
  2. Grocery Supply Chain Shortage – 55 percent
  3. Fast Food Exits Russia – 48 percent
  4. Restaurant Labor Shortages – 47 percent
  5. Inflation Impacting Food Prices – 39 percent
  6. FDA Recalls Peanut Butter – 31 percent
  7. M+M Introduces New Purple Character – 29 percent
  8. Climate Change Impacting Food Security – 24 percent
  9. Amazon Offers Free GrubHub for Prime Members – 22 percent
  10. TikTok Pink Sauce – 19 percent

A Look at the UK

2022 marks the first year the Hunter Food News Study was conducted in the United Kingdom, allowing for a first-ever comparison between the two countries on the role food news plays and its impact on their respective societies. Top Food News stories reflect respective societal concerns, shaping both countries’ opinions and behaviors.

While behavioral shifts are similar, Americans appear more prone to action at (62 percent vs. 55 percent). Almost all consumers in both countries seek information on recipes, nutrition, and general food news, but the primary source of story recall shows Americans are more reliant on social media (32 percent US vs. 24 percent UK), with the UK disproportionately favoring newspapers (5 percent US vs 16 percent UK). The study also found that Brits cook dinner from scratch more often at home (70 percent more often), while Americans’ purchase decisions are more influenced by trends (+70 percent) and influencer recommendations on social media (+75 percent).

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