NEW YORK: BuzzMetrics, a company that tracks word-of-mouth "buzz," has pinpointed 400 individuals that shape discussions about nutrition.
By monitoring these so-called "influencers," BuzzMetrics and its clients hope to predict nutrition trends at least six months before they make headlines.
Current clients include four of the US' largest food companies, which each bring in about $10 billion in sales, said BuzzMetrics CEO Jonathan Carson. But he notes that casual-dining and fast-food restaurants would also benefit from the service.
Influencers might include triathletes, moderators for online health forums, or even a mother who incites significant feedback on internet discussion boards.
Carson noted that BuzzMetrics realized the power of influencers while tracking the trans-fat crisis.
"Consumers are taking a lot of control" in nutrition, Carson said. "You can't target each individual, so you have to target" people who influence others.
The next controversy in nutrition is likely to focus on high-fructose corn syrup, Carson said. Indeed, the Corn Refiners Association retained a Washington firm earlier this year to battle accusations that its products cause obesity (PRWeek, June 28).
"It's so ubiquitous; it would be a major strategic challenge for [food companies] to try to replace corn syrup," he said.
BuzzMetrics is not the first company to launch an influencer program. Ketchum and Rowland Communications each unveiled similar offerings.
"The battle for this space is just heating up," Carson said.