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Food Fetishes and Social Media

Khalid Naseem on the impact of social media on the food choices of Gen Z and Millennials.
Updated 30 Sep, 2023 01:15pm

Given how essential social media is in our lives, it is not surprising that it significantly impacts what we eat, especially when it comes to Millennials and Gen Z. There are, however, some important differences in the way social media influences their food choices. Gen Z are more likely to be influenced by visual content, such as photos and videos, while Millennials are more likely to be impacted by text-based information, and although Gen Z’s choices are driven by sustainability, Millennials are more influenced by their sense of personal taste. Here are some of the ways social media impacts their approach towards food.

1. Reviews and Recommendations: Both generations rely on online reviews and recommendations shared on social media and they take into account the experience and opinions of others when deciding where to eat and what food products to try. Blogs such as Food Fusion by Mahnoor Malik, Flour & Spice by Sarah Tariq and Come.Con.Ella by Mehrunnisa Yusuf, share recipes for local and international dishes and provide tips and opinions on different foods. Popular food influencers such as Foodies of Pakistan and MangoBaaz have garnered massive followings by showcasing unique food spots and highlighting local delicacies.

2. Pakistani Food Culture: Social media has transformed how people connect with Pakistani cuisine and has provided Gen Z and Millennials with a platform to express their culinary interests, discover new recipes and showcase their food adventures. Both generations are actively engaged in a digital food culture that has significantly influenced their eating behaviour.

3. Local vs International: Although both generations are exposed to international food trends, Millennials show a stronger inclination toward local and traditional cuisine. They take pride in exploring and promoting Pakistan’s rich flavours and culinary heritage, whereas Gen Z has a higher propensity to go for fusion foods that combine local and international flavours that create unique and Instagram-worthy dishes. They actively seek out unique and exotic food experiences.

4. Health and Wellness: Gen Z and Millennials have benefited from social media’s promotion of health and well-being. Influencers, bloggers and fitness enthusiasts share information about nutrition, healthy eating habits and alternative dietary choices. Millennials prioritise nutritious and organic food options and seek out content related to healthy eating. Gen Z is not significantly focused on health trends and indulges in fast food or snacks without much concern for nutritional value.

5. Documentation and Sharing: Given the popularity of apps, there is growing emphasis on aesthetically pleasing food displays and Gen Z and Millennials often document their meals and share them on social media. This allows them to express their personalised style and creativity and contributes to the growing food culture and aesthetic preferences.

6. Online Food Delivery Services: Social media has contributed to the growth of online food delivery services such as Foodpanda and Careem. Gen Z and Millennials rely on these platforms to order food at their convenience, explore new eateries and share recommendations. This has led to a shift in dining habits, with an increasing preference towards ordering in rather than cooking or dining out. Gen Z exhibits a higher dependency and inclination towards ordering food online regularly. Millennials, although they do order in, prefer to cook at home or dine out.

7. Food Aesthetics and Presentation: Due to social media’s impact on visual appeal, both generations value the way food is presented. Gen Z is more inclined to value presentations that are Instagram-worthy and aesthetically pleasing and to frequent eateries and cafés that serve visually appealing food. Millennials place more emphasis on flavour and authenticity.

8. Home Cooking and Recipe Sharing: Social media has facilitated the sharing of recipes and cooking tips. Gen Z, in particular, are more likely to experiment with home cooking and share their culinary creations online. They like to participate in cooking competitions, follow culinary influencers online and interact in recipe and food-related online groups. Although Millennials like cooking at home, they tend to draw their culinary inspiration from offline sources and family traditions.

9. Food Culture and Community Building: Social media has fostered the emergence of a thriving culinary culture and sense of community among Gen Z and Millennials. They participate in online forums focused on food, engage in talks about food, and exchange experiences, and they do so in order to develop a feeling of community and mutual interests.

10. Cooking and DIY Food Culture: Due to Gen Z’s exposure to social media, DIY food culture is on the rise. They engage in cooking challenges, recipe videos and home cooking experiments showcased on platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Millennials are more inclined to rely on traditional cooking methods and family recipes. Trends are more quickly embraced and followed by Gen Z as a result of viral social media posts. They are more willing to explore new trends such as unusual food pairings. Food fads are approached by Millennials with increasing scepticism.

11. Sustainable and Ethical Food Choices: When choosing food, Gen Z are often more ethically and environmentally conscious. They are likely to prefer sustainable and socially responsible food options, such as organic, locally sourced, or ethically manufactured foods. Although Millennials are aware of these challenges, Gen Z places a higher emphasis on this.

12. Organic Food: Both generations are more likely to prefer locally sourced or organic foods and other ecologically and socially conscious dietary choices. They are more aware of the advantages of eating organic food thanks to the social media platforms devoted to this topic. As organic food becomes increasingly popular, Gen Z and Millennials are more inclined towards eating wholesome and environmentally friendly meals.

Khalid Naseem is a freelance brand and marketing strategy consultant and writer.