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Social Media Impact on Food

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The Food Culture Trend

One of the many trends that international influencers began was of clicking pictures of one’s food and uploading it on social media. Sure enough, just one would have to start, the rest of them would follow the mob. This ensured that the trend evolved into a full blown social media activity from just clicking pictures of really good looking food to influencers ‘blogging’ about these foods and giving out information to their followers. The hashtags commonly used – #Food and #FoodPorn – are now extremely popular and have more than 360 million and 200 million posts respectively on Instagram!

If one thought the trend included just pictures, they should think again. Written blogs, video blogs or vlogs, food recipe videos, food hacks and much more visual plus written information is also a part of this. This has reached such heights that today the most liked picture on the internet is that of an egg!

Social media makes sure one has all the information they need even miles away from a restaurant. And it’s changing the way people eat.

Today, almost everyone steps out to eat at a restaurant after checking pictures, reviews and videos online. While taste is an important aspect, dishes also need to look extremely appealing. And not just the dishes, the ambience of the place has to be visually good, too. No one wants to settle for mediocre looking food dishes. Food has to appeal to all the 5 senses – sight, taste, smell, touch and even sound. Wouldn’t one want to hear the crackling of a sizzler or watch the smoke coming out of a nitrogen cooled ice cream? It’s interesting to note, what started as just beautiful visual representation of food, irrespective of taste, has turned into a full blown competition to see who gets to try foods that have almost everything on offer – awesome looks, mind-blowing taste and quirky ingredients.

But it’s not just about the external senses, it’s about internal ones too. More and more, awareness about eating healthy is being spread through social media. It has undoubtedly made ‘super’ foods popular. Almost everyone active on social media knows what an avocado toast or acai bowl is and notwithstanding how good or bad it tastes, all of the herd wants a taste of it.

There’s a widespread movement, arising out of this increasing awareness of healthy food, and introduction of ingredients that one never even knew existed, such as avocado, chia, kale, quinoa, broccoli and matcha.

Acai Bowls Avocado on Toast

Alongside healthy foods, social media has introduced other new, albeit not so healthy foods like freakshakes, rainbow bagels or doughnuts and multicoloured smoothie bowls that look so good, one just can’t say no. Banking on the ability of the ‘millennial’ generation to turn anything into a trend, creators or propagators of these foods just need to post one single picture and wait for just a few days, sometimes mere hours to become viral.

Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino became so famous, it has more than 100,000 posts on Instagram itself, and has inspired a whole new culture – from creating similar themed dishes to wearing a unicorn frappuccino outfit for Halloween!

Cloud Eggs Unicorn Frappuccino

Other than opening up the world of healthy and unhealthy foods, social media has also brought world cuisines, home. Pizza, sushi and steak are the most Instagrammed today. (Forbes: January 2019)

While the consumer part of it has been looked into, let’s see how restaurants are affected by social media. Over time, this information sharing has come to make or break a restaurant’s business. If one’s restaurant isn’t online or active on social media and blogged about, it is invisible or may even be considered non-existent. Today, one can get all the information they need about a restaurant or an eatery not just from food apps but also from social media. What’s more, they also get to look at visually aesthetic pictures, food videos and maybe even get to interact with the chef cooking their food.

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Take the case of a London based cafe called Grind (Lee, Sarah: 2017). Sensing a change in the way people eat because of the rise of social media, they hired a creative director and spent 5 whole years making their cafe ‘instagrammable’. Now, beautiful food and beverages are out front and center and even the menus and interiors have been redesigned to be social media worthy.

Grind Cafe, London, UK

Just like Grind, restaurant businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the impact social media is having on their performance, given its information sharing ability with a large number of people at a time. Dining out isn’t just an eating experience anymore, restaurants are going all out to also make it a creative experience, one that will keep their customers coming back for more.

The USA is perhaps the hub of up and coming restaurants that have social media worthiness at their core. Appealing, not just visually but also with their outrageous dishes.

One could even say that this trend has inspired innovation in cooking techniques and the introduction of several new dishes.

The Indian Scene

Internet was a highly priced service in India until very recently. In the last 2 years, with the introduction of competitive pricing by India’s network carriers and internet data packs offering up to as high as 2 GB of data each day, India’s urban population is almost always online. In fact, a recent report by Statista states that India has nearly 230 million active mobile social media users in 2018. It has given Indians a solid opportunity of catching up with the rest of the world quickly, leading to international trends getting introduced in India within hours of being launched. One of these many trends adopted, is of course the one this report talks about – blogging and following trends on food.

Indians have happily followed the herd mentality and climbed onto the bandwagon of the #FoodPorn trend. There are a number of food bloggers who not only blog about places to eat at but also about food they prepare themselves. This is of course, extremely social media worthy food. Eatopian Chronicles, The Great Indian Foodie and Mumbai Foodie are just some of the lot. Not only individuals, there are publishers posting articles and creating videos about the top places to eat at and recipes that one can try out. And a dish only makes it to the top, if it is a unique (and good-looking) offering. Buzzfeed’s Tasty and Gobble are just some of the many players in this space.

This is the social media side to it, but what do consumer insights say? Let’s look at some statistics that will both help arrive at the target group and maybe throw some light on the way the target group eats out.

According to a 2017 report by the International Food Information Service (IFIS), India has one of the youngest populations in the world with more than 50% of it, being less than 30 years of age, inclusive of 440 million millennials and 390 million GenZ members. And according to Bloomberg Quint, it was estimated that roughly 46% of the urban population having internet access were in the age range of 18-34 years in 2018. From these statistics, it can be observed that the young urban population of 18 to 30 years of age is more active on social media and therefore, more likely to follow the trend mentioned above, making it the target age group for this survey.

Further, the NRAI IFSR report released by National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) in association with Technopak states that Indians no longer reserve eating out for special occasions and now eat out way more on casual outings with friends, family or when shopping. It also mentions that in the metros, the share of western cuisines compared to Indian food is on the rise. In another report by Nielsen published in December 2017, it’s stated that trends in eating out among urban millennials especially have evolved and they now prefer eating out rather than cooking their own food. In fact, they spend about three times as much on eating out when compared to entertainment. (Nielsen Report: 2017)

So is it social media that has contributed to these changing trends and resulting in more people eating out? Also, does it provide for opportunities to give customers a wholesome, aesthetic, creative eating experience?

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Social Media Impact on Food. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/social-media-impact-on-food/
“Social Media Impact on Food.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/social-media-impact-on-food/
Social Media Impact on Food. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/social-media-impact-on-food/> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
Social Media Impact on Food [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Nov 25 [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/social-media-impact-on-food/
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