July 21/Chicago/Vending Times-- America's love affair with food trucks shows no signs of abating, according to new consumer research.

Technomic, a Chicago-based market research firm, conducted a survey in which 91% of respondents familiar with food trucks regarded the trend as having staying power and not being a passing fad.

Only 7% of food truck customers said they plan to decrease their frequency of visits over the next year.

Kevin Higar, a Technomic director, said the booming food truck movement could be far from reaching its peak. "The key for long-term success is getting the nonuser to come on board," he said. "One in five individuals is not aware of or has not seen a food truck, and one-third of individuals who are aware of them still haven't purchased from one."

Once consumers gain exposure, they tend to report very positive impressions of the experience, Higar observed. However, according to Technomic's research, 70% of nonusers are still hesitant to purchase food from mobile vehicles, which Higar identified as the biggest challenge to continuing the rapid growth streak.

Location is key for food trucks, Technomic's research suggests, with 61% of consumers saying they discover mobile eateries by "just happening upon them."

Social media are also an important way to market such businesses, since 84% of consumers who follow their favorite mobile restaurants on Facebook and Twitter report that they visit them once a week. Mobile Meteor is one application used by food truck operators to reach their customers through their smartphones.

Technomic identified quick-service restaurants as the biggest losers to food trucks in the foodservice segment. Some 54% of respondents said if they had not bought from a food truck, a fast-food restaurant would have been their most likely destination. (Also, fast-food restaurants and food truck operators are in legal and political tussles in many major U.S. cities.)

On the plus side, the research suggests there is more than enough business to go around among truck operators. Three-quarters of consumers reported that they are likely to purchase food and beverage items from multiple operators when several trucks are clustered in one location.

From the July 21, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.