Social media marketing strategies are an undeniable force in today's world, and retail food industry must make social platforms a part of their marketing strategy. But rather than being a mere presence, they must actively engage followers, according to Retail Food Marketing Trends in the U.S.: Technology, Mobile, and Social Media, a report by market research publisher Packaged Facts.

"Through engaging customers socially, brands can build and nurture relationships with their communities in ways never before available," says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. "Target, Publix, and Walmart are particularly adept at leveraging social media. These companies connect with consumers through blogs, and incorporate multiple social websites ranging from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Pinterest to YouTube and Vine into their strategies."

The incidence of using the internet for either food shopping or research is fairly widespread. Most prevalently, grocery store shoppers use social media to get recipes (59%), compare prices between food brands (54%), or access a supermarket website to check prices/find products/sales flyer. And some three out of 10 grocery shoppers go online to search for online grocery flyers, promotions/sales, look for coupons, conduct product research or look for recipes.

Almost inherently, social media is far more likely to influence Millennials' grocery purchase decisions. The generation has grown up on social media and continues to be ahead of the curve in using this media and adopting new social media platforms. A closer look at the Millennial age group shows that social media is particularly influential among men, $50K+ household income adults, and those who are married with kids.

Packaged Facts research reveals that Millennial men emerge as 165% more likely than average to say social media advertising from supermarkets influenced their decision to buy a food/grocery product in last 12 months, followed closely by social media posts from friends/family, and social media post from supermarkets. Similarly, middle-aged men skew higher in allowing social media to influence their buying habits. While women are often thought of as the social media mavens, it's clear that men are prime targets for social media advertising.

Millennial dads in particular are exhibiting behaviors that are a significant departure from previous generations. While younger men are certainly shopping more than their older counterparts, being a parent is a key driver in their likelihood to grocery shop. Millennials dads are significantly more likely than the average to shop for groceries 4+ times a week. And frequent social media posts are effective in influencing Millennials who are married with kids to purchase food/grocery products. When considering these facts in tandem, it is clear that supermarkets can leverage social media to influence the Millennial dad.