The work that I do is esoteric and I dread answering the question, “what do you do for a living?” I try to explain that I analyze the changing food and beverage consumption patterns of Americans to inform marketers on the trends that need their attention. By that point, I usually get a glazed look from the listener followed by the response, “do you like it?” That’s when I know I’ve lost them.

Some have gone as far to call me a food critic, which is somewhat logical as they write about the hottest new restaurant or food concepts. They also influence consumers’ choices when it comes to foods and beverages. While I don’t influence consumers, we’re finding there are many consumers who do.

You don’t have to be a social media celebrity to influence the food and beverage behaviors of other consumers. We’re monitoring “grassroots” influencers who have the potential to change others’ behaviors in a large way. At more than 30 million influencers, this is a sizeable group of U.S. consumers who are prioritizing health in their food and beverage choices and claiming to convince others to join them, according to our new Health Aspirations & Behavioral Tracking Service. Consider how far reaching their influence can be if each of them influenced just two other consumers to make changes. That would be more than 70 million U.S. consumers who changed a behavior that stemmed from a grassroot influencer.

These influencers are much more likely to be on a nutrition plan and do it for the long term. Their main goals are to improve their lives through foods and beverages and to live longer. Many of the current popular eating strategies such as Keto, clean eating, and intermittent fasting are employed by these influencers just as we see them increasing among all adults.

Social media certainly helped to pave the way for influencers to push their reach. This viral media also allows consumers to find fitness programs that help them lose weight, maintain health, or learn about nutrition that is in tune with their unique personality or values.

Food and beverage marketers, now more than ever, need to identify these influencers and use them as a starting point for messaging. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool for influencing consumer trends. And to be clear, I’m not one of those 30 million influencers!