Originally published on Target Marketing

If you were ever in doubt of the changes that our digital access, behaviors and devices have made in our daily lives, look no further than how you nourish your body. The introduction and integration of online food tools and content have made the planning, shopping, and cooking of all things food and beverage-related a dramatically different experience than the experience of prior generations. How will that influence our relationship with food and each other in this most social and familial of activities?

Planning for food purchases or consumption now allows the purchaser to do online comparisons for price, availability, nutrition stats and get meal planning guidance. You can order groceries delivered to your house and peruse endless recipe content that has been rated and reviewed. Strange or new ingredients? No problem, order them online. They’ll probably be delivered tomorrow. Following a special diet? Find advice and support in blogs and communities or track your caloric and other macro intake via an app that may reside on your phone or your wrist.

Prepared foods also are readily available through digital channels. You can order a meal, or a month of meals, from packaged food delivery services to fit dietary guidelines or food preferences. Make online restaurant reservations after you have checked online reviews of these services or establishments.

Want the best of restaurant cuisine but in your home? Download one of many food delivery apps and wait for the door and dinner bell. They are now one and the same.

Like other consumer-focused businesses, food-oriented businesses are subject to the crowd scrutiny of review sites, star ratings and recommendations. These businesses, of necessity, have undergone their own dramatic shifts along with their consumers. Food purveyors are rewarded if they use specialists who can style, light and photograph their wares to best advantage and find the influencers who can reach foodie audiences that can make or break their business. These are new costs of business and new skills to many as the competitive set for the neighborhood eatery is now vastly expanded and the pressure is mounting.

Every food delivery, grocery store, online seller, restaurant or even recipe site is a potential competitor for the consumer’s food attention and dollar. Winners maintain consistent delivery standards along with exceptional taste and value. The variety of food options now widely available and the proliferation of so much food content online fuels food trends in cuisine type, preparation style, presentation and ingredients. Foods can be in vogue — kale or quinoa anyone? When food is fashionable there are elements of seasonality, branding and trend that keep things evolving and fresh — and at the same time impose new requirements of those in the food business.

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