'The Food Conversation'

Hartman Group white paper discusses "how the Internet changes food culture"

Wawa soup tweet

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Like restaurants and food companies, convenience store chains are becoming more frequent and adept users of social media to tout their food, snack and beverage offerings to a growing online community of customers whom they hope to lure into their retail outlets.

In a new white paper excerpted here, "Food & the New Community," Harvey Hartman, founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based The Hartman Group, discusses "how the Internet changes food culture."

"Just as food and beverages are a foundation of physical community, so they are online as well--an interesting phenomenon for a medium where people do not see, smell or touch actual food. They use their imaginations instead, learning about a friend's crepe technique or a blogger's chai experience in Mumbai without leaving home--although the result is often an exploratory trip to the grocery store.

"The impact of the digital community on trends and food culture is enormous and growing. Research shows people consume social media content far more than they create it, which means many are mainly exploring. As a result, one person's online suggestion to try a Korean hamburger or a peppermint mocha latte--or more powerful, one person posting an appetizing-looking photo of the same--can reach thousands of people in a day.

"As the number of people using social media grows (beyond the one-seventh of all humans already on Facebook), the most popular sites will become ever more powerful in establishing and spreading trends.

"The online community is a major avenue for food companies to reach consumers, although it must be done in the spirit of community--not just making a buck--and with a long view toward building lifetime relationships with customers online. The food conversation is already happening--consumers eat and shop differently now because of the Internet. To influence food culture online, companies can add their expertise and their stories about food, just as they do in the physical realm."

Click here to download the Hartman Group white paper.