In today's highly health-conscious world, people are more passionate than ever about trying to eat right and identifying sources of good information on food and proper eating habits.
For PR agencies and their food and beverage clients, this brings the growing community of food bloggers into play as a target for product launches, as well as an information source for what's going on in the industry.
Janet Helm, EVP and director of the food and nutrition practice at Weber Shandwick, says that both keeping a constant eye on what food bloggers are saying and establishing a relationship with them allow the agency and its clients to know what the hot-button issues are.
"[Bloggers] are a great way of keeping our finger on the pulse of what's going on in the food world," Helm says. The agency monitors more than 20 food bloggers and has a staffer dedicated solely to monitoring them.
Couple the growing influence these bloggers are having on the food choices people make with the fact that women's and health magazines are no longer the sole source of information on dieting and recipes for consumers, and food bloggers become all the more important, Helm explains. "They are an influential source, and we can't leave them out of the [marketing] mix," she says.
John Bell, MD of the global 360-degree digital influence program at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, says the agency works with food bloggers because they can provide access to a very specific group of people.
"They are building up their own audiences, which tend to be very targeted," Bell says. "And they all have audiences that may be important to all of our clients, not just one or two."
In many cases, food bloggers will be customers of the companies they write about and not just critics. Bill Whitman, senior director of communications and public affairs at McDonald's, says this makes paying attention to them a necessity.
"You ignore your customers at your own peril," he says. "And that applies whether you're in the food business or not."
Food bloggers are now appealing to a more diverse group of consumers than just tech-savvy alpha moms
Food bloggers provide an information source for what consumers are thinking and buying
Some are so popular that they've become resources to the traditional media