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2019 top food news: A heated game of chicken

2019 top food news: A heated game of chicken

Photo: iStock

Social media's potential for creating tsunami-like ripple effects across media was a front-and-center theme of the top food news stories of 2019. In fact, for the first time in the Hunter Annual Food News Study's 17-year history,  a story that first emerged into the public's eye on Twitter took the top spot for most memorable food news story of the year. 

We speak, of course, of the months-long game of chicken that several fast food brands played on Twitter around the prominence of their chicken sandwiches, particularly those involving Popeyes' August launch of its wildly successful fried chicken sandwich, which had consumers nationally scrambling to get their hands on one and share their tasting experiences via Twitter.  

Fellow fast food chains joined the conversation which stirred up a virtual food fight, culminating with a chicken sandwich shortage at Popeyes, which the brand used to build momentum for restocking the sandwich and subsequent sales. 

But Popeyes and other QSRs and their poultry offerings were the only winners. Hunter also said in a news release about their study that quick-service brands in general reigned supreme across all of food news not just for the pat year, but the entire past decade, proving the prominent role QSRs play in Americans' hearts. Prominent themes across this quick-service front included brands' food safety issues, social policies and menu evolutions, Hunter said.

"Americans are hungry for food news," Hunter Chief Insights Officer Heddy DeMaria said in a statement about the annual study. "Nearly half believe that food and nutrition stories are more important than other types of news stories."

Hunter said the annual list of top stories is indicative not only of the food-related subjects that are most prominent in consumers' minds, but also their impact and influence on consumers' awareness, attitudes, behaviors and advocacy.

To accomplish the study and its resultant list, Hunter partnered with Libran Research & Consulting to survey 1,003 American adults about their most recalled news stories of the past 12 months. The data is also reviewed by key demographics and age cohorts. 

And the rest of the list includes ...

The No. 2 slot on Hunter's stories list is the video released on social media of woman licking a Blue Bell ice cream, which has been watched more than 13 million times since it was posted in June and ranked among the highest social media posts for shareability at 26%. 

The most important food related topics for the past year all revolved around either the most important topic of food safety (40%) or nutrition and health as the second most important topic (24%). 

The No. 3 top story for the year was about the growing popularity of the so-called keto diet, with nearly one third of respondents selecting that topic as most memorable, followed closely by the No. 4 food news story of the year when thousands of pounds of chicken were recalled due to possible contamination and labeling issues. 

Top 10 food news stories of 2019

1. Fast food chicken sandwich Twitter throwdown.
2. Woman licking Blue Bell ice cream viral video.
3. Keto diet gains popularity.
4. Chicken recall.
5. Downside of ditching plastic straws.
6. Tariffs impact on food items.
7. Farmers flooding-induced crop losses. 
8. Growing momentum of ban to end plastic water bottle sales. 
9. Styrofoam food container ban.
10. Hard Seltzer's growing popularity. 

TV, face-to-face sharing still win out

While the most popular source for general food news remains television (46%), Americans are increasingly turning to websites (44%) and social media (40%) as their food news sources. In fact, Hunter found that households with kids are more likely to use social media, blogs and podcasts than those without kids. 

Despite the growing predilection for digital news consumption, news sharing remains largely an analog behavior. In fact, face-to-face interaction still leads as the most popular way to share news, outpacing social sharing by two to one. And among the most salient subjects discussed in those moments of sharing are issues of health and well-being related to food. In fact, that held true for both the last year and most of the last decade, which also is evident in Hunter's list of its top food news stories since 2010. 

Top food news stories of decade

2010   Impact of BP oil spill on seafood industry.
2011   Twenty-nine deaths from cantaloupe listeria outbreak.
2012   Chick fil-A vs. gays.
2013   Fighting obesity in children.
2014   Great Western U.S. drought.
2015   Evolving fast food breakfast landscape.
2016   Chipotle recovery after e. coli outbreak.
2017   Amazon buys Whole Foods Market.
2018   Plastic straw ban.
2019   Fast food chicken sandwich throwdown on Twitter.


Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Menu Trends

Companies: Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, Chipotle


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