Food, Politics and the Consequences 

October 16, 2017

The top reason consumers will boycott a brand is because of their politics.

We’ve seen politics arise in the food industry before. When John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, went public with his feelings about Obamacare, or when Chick-fil-A took a hard line on gay marriage, and most recently Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon, openly criticized the president for his position on white supremacists in the aftermath of the Charlottesville tragedy. 

Recent analysis by of findings (2,000 interviewed) from YouGov found that the top reason consumers (51%) will boycott a brand is due to their support for a politician/party movement that they do not support. And while there are other important reasons brands should take note of in this study, let’s explore this one a little further. 

A recent Pew Research Center study says that Americans are more divided than ever along party lines. In fact, in 1994, the average gap between self-identified Democrats and Republicans, when asked about a range of political values, was 15 points. That gap has now grown to 36 points. 

We are all well aware that social media plays a major role nowadays in political debate and expression of values, and also acts as an influencer. There’s more opportunity now than ever for consumers to hear, read about and share information on the activity of brands and retailers when it comes to political and social issues. 

We recently polled our consumer panel to find out what sort of impact a retailer or brand's politics can have on where they put their money. We asked them one question, “Is your decision to support a food company or retailer affected by their public stance (endorsement or opposition) on President Trump’s recent comments on the Charlottesville events?”

Sixty-three percent of our panel answered “yes” to this question showing that a majority are paying attention to how their retailers and food makers publicly respond to political issues. But still thirty-four percent answered “no” while three percent remain undecided. 

Brands and retailers should be ready to face criticism when their politics fall into the spotlight. And in addition, take a look at some of the other top reasons consumers will boycott a brand in the chart below provided by Consumer expectations are high when it comes to ethical behavior.