The enduring appeal of food on social media.
How we eat, what we eat, where we eat it... urban and rural... ancient and modern... the art and science of it all... has become a global and ‘shareable’ conversation because, much like the world of digital technology and social media, food and its experiences bring people together and connect us in new and unique ways. When we combine our hunger for online living with our craving for all things foodie... the appetite can be voracious!
What makes food such an appealing subject for social media? Why is social media soooo hungry? Food is visual... and most of the social media platforms today revolve around images and photographs! Food is a language unto itself... a feast for all your senses... whether on a plate, a page or a screen! So the impact of the image of a lusciously-creamy bowl of soup, a salad so green you can almost hear the crispy crunch of the leaves or when you can taste the diet-defying new flavour of ice-cream, is greater than words, especially given that we are working within a finite space. That is, we are consuming our information through a screen... often a phone... with limited space within the platform to add much more than an image and the odd word punctuated by hashtags and emoticons!
Sharing our lives is also more visual than textual in today’s world... pictures of where we are, who we are with, what we eat and do, are ways that connect us in our online lives! This is often what helps trends and fads... ‘travel’! This means that awareness of particular foods and food-related thoughts, ideologies and experiences can transcend borders and be translated or shared as it is!
Fads versus trends
Fads are much more of-the-moment obsessions that will eventually fade out. Think: possibly unicorn food... lattes, milkshakes and cupcakes! What about the likes of the cronut? And is goji-berry juice still a thing? Trends last over time and could even find their way into our way of living and consuming food; for example, organic produce is one such trend that could do just that. As we become more and more aware of the stress put upon the planet and its resources and the adverse effects our way of eating may have on it, we are seeking out methods of growing and cultivating produce without leaving a negative environmental impact.
So which foodie trends have we been seeing across the glossily-tempting Instagram images? And what has us following pins, tweets and posts? Some may be indulgent... some may be healthy... some may be ways of eating/growing... some may simply be ingredients... some new trends... and some simply made new and hip through the online world...
Traditions gone hip
Cooking with or eating the whole animal, so as not to waste any part of it, out of both respect and necessity. This is something that a lot of cultures have been doing for generations, especially in rural areas where animals are often reared for familial consumption, or in certain cultures where the pricier, prime parts of the animal are consumed by those of means whilst the lesser, often cheaper cuts, are used in more modest homes. This practice became hip once eco-conscious, often Michelin-starred chefs, and hip restaurants embraced the desire to be less wasteful... making chicken-liver and bone-marrow trendy and elevating it beyond its previously, often un-loved status! The trend travelled via social media and the greater digital world, with Insta-worthy images inspiring us to try bone-marrow laced risottos and chicken-liver parfaits! #whatwouldgrandmasay?
Ancient remedies are lent an exotic lens when they begin to be featured by trending food blogs, hip health gurus and holistic restaurants... popping up on menus across the globe in the form of teas, iced-drinks and yes... even lattes! Click and share... #tumericteahelpsfightoffcolds!
Yuck to yum
Kale smoothies and beetroot juice are today’s superfoods... nutritiously rich and packed with minerals and vitamins. However, these humble ingredients weren’t always as loved as they seem to be today! It wasn’t long ago when we would cringe at the thought of green, grassy liquids and smushed-red pulp... but once they earned their rep on social media, backed by tempting images and a cool, hip health-conscious makeover, they found new fame and are now on the menus of trendy juice bars and veggie diets everywhere! #glamourdrink #livehealthy #beetrootjuice #kalesmoothies!
Gross to trendy
Insects as protein... yes it’s actually a thing! Whilst some of us may not agree, it is cropping up as a viable high-protein option on some of the hottest menus! Driven by the fact that the way we are currently eating may just change the future of what we eat, foodies, nutritionists and chefs are advocating this as a legitimate source of protein! Though this should not be seen as entirely ‘new’ since poorer and often famine-hit nations have and do eat the likes of locusts and crickets! #comingtoasupermarketnearyou #hottestrestaurantservescricketappetizer!
Hippie to future saving
Organic and locally-sourced produce were either indigenous to local cultures or relegated to ‘hippie’ status. Turn the clock forward a couple of decades and it has become a global movement backed by the world’s food gurus and hot young chefs, and talked about on a myriad of social media platforms! Because now, the way we grow and harvest our food can impact the sustainability of our planet! Whether chefs feel that a carrot less-travelled makes for a yummier salad or the latest research states that organic produce eliminates certain health risks, this seems to be one trend that has evolved, for a greater part, into a lifestyle change! #howfardidmybeetroottravel?
Bringing butter back
The debate between good and bad fats, oil versus butter and low-fat versus richly indulgent creaminess has been around social media, and indeed traditional platforms, for a while. The good news: avocados, nuts and seeds... and yes, butter are now all considered ‘good’ fats! #butterisnotevil Whether it’s quinoa or couscous; kimchi or kale; tacos or burgers; cupcakes or cronuts... our appetite for the newest food trend will always be driven by our need to push the boundaries, experience and experiment beyond borders and to share what we find with those around us! #beetgreensandcarrottopsarethenewkale!
Amber Rauf is Director Strategic Planning & Corporate Communication, MullenLowe & Rauf. firstname.lastname@example.org