The top three food stories that changed habits in 2014, according to Hunter PR

The biggest food stories aren't those that change consumers' habits, according to Hunter Public Relations' Food News Study.

NEW YORK: The drought ravaging the Western US and the diminishing bee population are the most popular food-related stories of 2014, but they have had less impact on behavior than stories that can result in immediate change, according to Hunter Public Relations.

Articles about issues such as the "war on sugar" that offer people an opportunity to take action result in higher levels of behavioral change than bigger-picture pieces, according to Hunter’s 12th annual Food News Study.

The three top food story categories that have driven behavioral change in 2014 are the war on sugar, new food-labeling standards, and GMOs, according to the online survey, which queried 1,004 US residents ages 18 and up.

Behavior-change stories drive results because they provide actions people can take, such as looking at nutritional labels or eating products lower in sugar. They also give food brands the opportunity to offer people options, said Grace Leong, partner and CEO of Hunter.

Another key finding was that fewer Americans -- 28% in 2014 versus 32% in 2013 -- think food and nutrition stories are "very important," though they say they have the same level of interest in them as last year.

Brands also have to be sure they’re picking the right platforms to reach target audiences. Millennials (ages 18 to 36), Gen-Xers (37 to 49), Boomers (50 to 68), and Matures (69 and older) all get their news from different sources, explained Leong.

For example, Facebook was the top spot (30%) where Millennial respondents get general food news, compared with the TV evening news for Gen X (25%), and newspapers for Boomers (32%) and Matures (38%).

"If you have a food news story that has to get to a certain audience, the medium does become the message," added Leong.

The top stories for Millennials who rely on social media for their food information were the Share a Coke campaign, GMOs, and pumpkin spice mania, according to the survey.

Marketers should also engage Millennials on Instagram because "young people love the whole food porn thing where they’re taking pictures of their food and showing it as a badge of honor," Leong said.

She added that mobile should also be important to marketers because Americans across age demographics are increasingly using devices on-the-go for food-related activities, with a 10% jump in recipe searches, a 7% increase in storing shopping lists, and a 7% boost in watching video recipe demos.

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