SINGAPORE: Consumers in Asia-Pacific, with the notable exception of China, are largely indifferent to the blandishments of celebrities endorsing food brands or restaurants, research has shown.

PR agency Weber Shandwick polled 3,096 consumers across four countries (Australia, China, Korea and Singapore) and interviewed more than 25 leading food industry experts for its report, Asia Pacific Food Forward Trends Report II.

Among the findings was that almost three quarters (73%) of respondents in China were more likely to buy a food product or visit a restaurant promoted by a celebrity. But that was the case for only 21% in Korea and Singapore and for just 16% in Australia.

In fact, word of mouth was by far the most influential factor when choosing a new food product or service.

In Australia (64%), Singapore (56%), China (47%) and Korea (45%) respondents considered word of mouth to be, on average, three times more influential than any other source of information cited in the survey – such as an industry expert or online research – and seven times more influential than celebrity endorsement.

A related finding was a connection between social media and food. Six in ten consumers in China (62%) posted on social media about their food experiences once a month or more, with 17% doing so once a day.

Four in ten consumers in Singapore (40%) and Korea (42%) posted on a monthly basis, as did three in ten (29%) in Australia.

The report also noted a shift in food shopping habits as many people across the four countries increased their online grocery shopping.

This was most marked in China, where 76% said they were buying more this way than a year ago. More than half of respondents in Singapore (58%) and Korea (52%) said the same, as did just under half those in Australia (46%).

"Access to information and shared experiences through the continued growth and sheer number of digital and social platforms in the region continues to shift people's relationship with food and the way in which they engage with food brands," said Ian Rumsby, Weber Shandwick chief strategy officer/Asia Pacific.

He advised these "to focus on a targeted marketing communications strategy that watches, listens and engages with its key consumers across all relevant channels – particularly digital".

Data sourced from Weber Shandwick, PR Week; additional content by Warc staff