Finally, an Updated Approach to Consumer Segmentation in the Food Industry


A new consumer segmentation model reveals hidden opportunities for food brands

The decisions consumers make about food are influenced by more factors than ever before, which means people can no longer be grouped by a single variable such as age, need or gender. This creates a big problem for food brands, many of which innovate based on an outdated consumer segmentation model. To create an updated model that accounts for today's fluid behaviours, attitudes and desires, Kerry studied thousands of consumption occasions across more than 100 product categories. The resulting consumer segmentation model makes it possible for food brands to better identify and target areas of opportunity, refine innovation and focus marketing campaigns to appeal to broader consumer segments.

The End of a One-size-fits-all Approach
Not long ago, consumer groups were assigned to a primary driver such as “health” or “pleasure” and were perceived as remaining static, regardless of time and place. But busy, on-the-go and always-on lifestyles make people harder to pin down. Today, food industry consumer insights show people eat five to eight times day, essentially doubling the number of food-based decisions they make, and many food choices are made on the fly, based more on impulse than planning. To update our understanding of consumer segmentation—and identify new opportunities for innovation—we uncovered fresh insights by interviewing and gathering feedback from 8,500 individuals in five European markets across 18,000 consumption occasions.

At first, our results looked like a series of contradictions. But as we dug deeper, clusters began to form, shaping a fresh new understanding of consumer motivation. Consumer behaviours tend to be not only just defined by needs but also powerful forces such as mindset, location, consumption occasion and company. Most importantly, across the board, decisions tend follow a “purity curve”, with intentions moving from health to experiential along a typical daily food journey.

Understanding the Purity Curve
Regardless of how health-conscious an individual is or isn’t, our new research shows that most people begin with righteous thoughts and disciplined decisions on Monday morning, then move away from these as the day and week progress. Essentially, what starts as rational and conscious behaviour morphs into a more emotional, primal and pleasurable series of choices.


Here are the primary drivers of food decisions throughout the day:
Morning: Mornings are typically driven by the need for more healthy, functional choices.
Afternoon: As the day progresses, consumers need a tasty refuel to keep them going.
Evening: Once evening kicks in, consumers look for more pleasurable and relaxing solutions to help them unwind.

Snacking motivations change through the day: from purity to pleasure


These characteristics are general guidelines, not hard and fast rules. For example, when dining out, whatever the time of day, people tend to choose products that appeal to the senses such as ones with unusual colour or texture.

Identifying Product Gaps Along the Purity Curve
For every occasion, there’s a consumer need food manufacturers can help meet. And for every product, there are variations in formulation and marketing that can affect purchasing decisions.

Take, for instance, the way consumers order throughout the day at a popular coffee chain. Our research found that in the morning, people typically come in looking for refreshment and fuel. They want a basic beverage to give them energy without an abundance of sugar, calories or fat. But later in day, consumers desire a richer and more sensorial experience—such as more flavour or the visual appeal of an Instagram post—starting at around 3PM.

Yoghurt is another category we examined using this new focus. Yoghurt consumption peaks early in the day, when people are focused on health and functional nutrition. Our research indicates that in general, people seek savoury and indulgent snacks during the second half of the day, when their motivations are rooted in pleasurable and taste. To appeal to consumers in the afternoon and evening, yoghurt brands might want to consider offering products with savoury notes and flavours, more toppings or other aspects that could appeal to an experiential audience.

As products evolve to appeal to a wider group of consumers, marketing plans may need to evolve too. For example, a brand launching a new savoury yoghurt may want position the product as an indulgent experience and time ads to run later in the day to match the consumer mindset.

Kerry’s new consumer segmentation model, ConsumerFirst, provides an opportunity for laser-focused product innovation that matches the consumer mindset at a particular time of day. This is a win for consumers who will see a brand that understands and provides for their needs and a win for brands as they build trust, grow relevancy and gain loyalty, ultimately growing their market share. To learn about our proprietary ConsumerFirst study, including the six new consumer segments we identified and this this time-based cycle of need, contact Kerry.

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