The Recipe for Creativity:
A Hunger for New Culinary Lifestyles
Guest post by Pauline Oudin
Pauline Oudin, U.S. Managing Director for Sopexa, a global agency for food and beverage marketing, on the importance of bringing more international talent to the American food economy.
The Pepsis and Unilevers of this world have been clear: surrounding yourself by people who think the same way will inevitably lead to the same old ideas. And while the food and beverage industry captains seem to be poaching more foreign talent as a way to remain competitive in a global context, too few seem to realize this is the only way of staying relevant in the US market itself. Now, this is not a plea for diversity (although, trust me, I’m all for a more multicultural workforce) but the showing of a growing consumer reality. As Americans crave for new cultural experiences, the demand for foreign products is booming. According to Sopexa’s latest foodie study, exotic foods are on the rise, in fact, with 94% of Americans angling towards world cuisines. And while, of course, the U.S. is a place where cultures have historically converged, Americans’ hunger for new culinary lifestyles has been triggered by two specific factors: obesity and technology.
After decades of increases in obesity, Americans started to care more about the nutritional qualities and provenance of what they eat and drink. Conscious eating led people to look for fresh, low-fat and non-processed foods. Quickly the Mediterranean diet became a thing. And so did local products from the region. Today, experts say African cuisine – with the rise of healthy spices, like harissa, or cooking methods, like tagine – will be pushing Mexican aside as the ethnic flavor of the moment. All of that means eating better is now more than a lifestyle; it’s a discovery – an adventure. Clearly, winning over modern foodies means we need to think outside the box, starting with hiring people who have traveled, lived outside of their comfort zone, and can adjust their creative mindset to bridge cultures. After all, who else is better suited than an expat to explore, identify and spread new culinary ideas?
That is why our food system needs more international input from people who understand how behaviors evolve locally, while importing with them innovative, tasteful hacks that will delight the increasingly food-savvy Americans. These care about calorie intake, keeping their mind sharp and heart healthy, without sacrificing the discovery and enjoyment of creative flavors. This discovery extends beyond the flavors themselves: Recent studies have shown that millennials – today’s largest and most diverse U.S. demographic – care more and more about the story of a product or a brand. Stories of provenance, culture, nutrition and sustainability are now at the heart of the business equation. And the way to tell them is online, with 86% of American foodies saying the Internet is their No. 1 source of food information. And with 66% of foodies bragging about their preferences on social media, companies have everything to win by sharing their stories with them online.
So with the digitalization of foodies and increasing worldliness of millennials, food and beverage brands need to arm themselves with talent with transient experience, who can reinvent their universe by injecting some fresh, nonconformist perspective into their storylines. But this means we as an industry need to go the extra mile in order to bring in people who get cross-cultural nuances, who think both global and local, and can foresee and shape the food and beverage trends that will build long lasting relationships with American consumers.
[Top image © LifesizeImages under license from iStock]
Pauline Oudin is the U.S. Managing Director of Sopexa (www.sopexa.com), the global agency for food, beverage and lifestyle marketing. Pauline is responsible for driving the agency’s operations, growth and creativity across the American network, as well as orchestrating integrated marketing programs for multinational food and beverage clients. Prior to joining Sopexa, Pauline led the digital teams of RDA and Nitro U.S., managing campaigns for several marquee brands, including Kraft, W Hotels, Nivea, Mars and Footlocker. A French native who has lived in the United States for over 20 and in the U.K. for over 12, Pauline brings a truly global perspective to her clients and teams. Pauline has a BA from Duke University and an MBA from Leonard Stern School of Business at New York University.