Understanding Today’s Consumer

We are all consumers and our needs and wants are constantly changing.
Every year reports are produced on how consumers are changing and how
business owners need to change to reflect those needs and wants.
The Trend Report is a good indicator of the relevant consumer trends,
and the 2014 report can be summarized as follows:

• Status seekers. Over the last 5 years it has not been acceptable to flaunt
success in downturned economies, even though some of those economies may now be stronger. Frugality has changed and status seeking
has changed to reflect those new values. This may not result in a consumer purchasing a new Porsche or expensive luxury items, but it will
be reflected in consumers being prepared to pay more for premium
culinary food offers.
• It is all about you. Of the consumers interviewed for the Trend Report,
47% mentioned that they were willing to share their location via a mobile
device and to receive information via that device. This goes against the
same research that indicated that 82% believe companies have too much
information on us. It highlights that when there is a perceived benefit,
consumers are willing to participate. It indicates that culinary tourist
destinations can invite consumers to engage with them via their mobile
devices.
• Local love. Businesses that champion local issues and promote local
products will increase in their perceived importance in consumers’ eyes.
Of the consumers interviewed, 61% felt local companies should take a
bigger role in local communities.
• Guilt-free consumption. Consumers, and especially culinary tourists,
expect more ethical and sustainable consumerism. Of those surveyed, 93% want more of the products and services they purchase to
support social or environmental causes. As a result we have seen
McDonald’s announce that it is joining forces with the Alliance for
Healthier Generation and changing their food offer to include salads
and fruit. Locals, an espresso coffee bar in Auckland, New Zealand,
is a ‘pop up’ bar at weekends where consumers are asked to bring canned
food for donation to the community and in return they get a free cup
of coffee.
The challenge for many farmers, growers and tourism operators is to
understand how these global trends can be translated to the new culinary
tourist at a local level and to identify their needs and wants.
The term ‘food tourism’ is confusing in its own right and many people
confuse this with ‘gourmet tourism’.
According to the World Food Travel Association, gourmet tourism only
makes up 8.1% of food tourism.
Gourmet tourists are looking for the true authentic experience and are
often prepared to pay more for that experience. Food tourists are interested
in food experiences; they lack the same amount of knowledge as gourmet
tourists and are keen to learn more about food. Food tourists are prepared
to learn.
The lesson for tourism operators is to make sure they know their target
consumer. Talking down or up to the tourist will be offensive; the operator
may be perceived as a food snob in the eyes of the food tourist and they may
never come back to that business or region again.
According to the ICTA and ICTD ‘State of the Culinary Tourism Industry
Report’2
there are 13 different types of culinary travellers. These tourists can
be segmented as follows.

1. Adventure travellers; those travelling far and wide looking for food
adventures.
2. Ambiance travellers; those looking for the experience rather than a specific
food item.
3. Authentic travellers; they want the real thing.
4. Budget; money is a key issue.
5. Eclectic; those looking for a broad range of offers outside of the pure food
offer.
6. Gourmet foodies; the top-end travellers.
7. Innovative travellers; those looking for new food ideas.
8. Localists; they want locally produced and prepared foods.
9. Novices; those new to food adventures.
10. Organic food consumers.
11. Social food travellers.
12. Trendy foodies.
13. Vegetarians.

The top five tourist types in ranking are localists, novices, eclectic, organic
and authentic.
Tourists also include backpackers who may also work on the farm and
Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOFers) who will mostly be overseas young travellers who are working their way around a country. These
‘tourists’ may require accommodation and food, but are still part of the
culinary tourist mix. They are in a particular location because they want
to learn about organic food production and they can share ideas as well as
time in developing a farm. They are often available at harvest time to help
with a crop.