Find the Right Food Tribes to Ramp Up Consumer Outreach

March 01, 2016

CFI research IDs the best online audiences.

Engaging online can be intimidating. For some, the internet is a mysterious place where it seems impossible to know who to reach or how to reach them. It boils down to a guessing game, a bit like throwing darts blindfolded.

But if you’re not reaching the right audiences – particularly as more consumers rely on online sources for information about food – your efforts may be falling flat, according to J.J. Jones with The Center for Food Integrity (CFI). 

“The internet has obliterated the traditional model of mass communication, where only a few push information to us,” he said. “Now, masses of communicators generate masses of information and ordinary people can have extraordinary influence online.”  

With no clear direction, communicators in food and agriculture often attempt to reach as many consumers as they can, he said. 

“But more isn’t necessarily better especially when resources like time, staffing and budgets are limited, and in a digital environment where getting your information into the hands of the right people can have a big impact,” said Jones.  

Make your hard work pay off by reaching the right people – the influencers who not only are content-finders, but content generators and sharers. That’s how you amplify your message and move the needle, he said.  

Finding the Right Food Tribes 

CFI, through extensive research on consumer food system attitudes, has identified eight food tribes – providing a framework for engaging influential groups of consumers in a manner that’s most meaningful to them. 

The research was conducted as part of the 2015 study on building trust through transparency – research that utilized focus groups, online qualitative surveys and a robust quantitative study of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers.          

“We not only identified the tribes that are important to the food system but also the tribe leaders – the early adopters who drive the conversations, lead trends and influence the direction consumers want to see the food system head,” said Jones. “There’s no need to reach the entire tribe when you can find just a handful of influencers.”    

Understanding each tribe, from Delightful Indulgers™ and Cynical Skeptics™ to Cost Consumed™ and Socially Sensitive™, helps provide the information they’re looking for when it comes to the food system and food in general.  

The research shows that three of the tribes deserve special attention when it comes to building trust:  


  • Most common sources of information: websites, Google, friends not online (rank order)
  • Level of concern with all issues is significantly higher than other segments
  • More than two-thirds are early adopters who are likely to actively seek information, generate unique content, share it and drive conversations 


  • Most common sources of information: websites, Google, family not online (rank order)    
  • Level of concern with all issues is significantly higher than most other segments 
  • More than half identify as early adopters who are less likely to generate content but will read and share it 


  • Most common sources of information: friends not online, websites, family not online (rank order)
  • Level of concern with all issues is significantly higher than most other segments
  • More than half classify as early adopters who are likely to read content, but not as likely to share far and wide unless it’s with immediate family and friends not online  

These three tribes represent a significant portion of the population and, most importantly, CFI research confirms that increasing transparency builds their trust. 

The Proof is in the Payoff 

Following a recent food topic blogger tour coordinated by CFI, 13 bloggers who were carefully selected based on their “tribal” online influence wrote about their tour experience. 

“They were given no parameters as to what to write – if anything,” he said. “But they wrote very positive stories that were shared with a combined 940,000 followers.”

That resulted in 1.3 million immediate impressions and it’s likely that many of those reached were content-sharers as well, amplifying the reach exponentially.  

“So, in a relative blink of an eye, reaching 13 translated to reaching a million or more,” said Jones. “That’s the power of finding the right tribe leaders.” 

To learn more about reaching the right food tribes, contact CFI at or (816) 880-5360. The food tribes are also featured in the 2015 research, “A Clear View of Transparency and How it Builds Consumer Trust,” which is available for download at