Engaging with the Instagram generation

3 May 2018

Colourful, exotic and unusual foods are on the rise as a growing number of consumers look for food experiences they can share on social media.

Engaging with the Instagram generation

The Sterling Rice Group was among a handful of firms that named Instagram-worthy food as a major trend for 2018. Food is one of the most popular themes on the photo-sharing site, which has become a natural platform for quality images of the most unusual foods and food experiences. It has also been a driving force for some of the most fanciful food concepts. “Unicorn food”, for example, has been trending on the site for about a year, referring to food items that have been jazzed up with cutesy decorations and rainbow colours.

Other recent themes have included black food, such as charcoal crust pizza, black bagels and almond charcoal ice cream; and hybrid pastries, like cronuts (a croissant-doughnut mashup), and duffins (doughnuts and muffins). A lot of the most “Instagrammable” foods are on the weird end of the spectrum, such as glitter pizza or raindrop cakes – which look like large water droplets made from agar and mineral water.

For food companies, however, Instagrammable food doesn’t have to be novelty food.

The idea of creating a buzz among consumers is a tantalising prospect, and in a digitally focused world, most food and drink manufacturers understand the importance of being active on social media. Engaging with consumers online ensures their brands remain relevant.

Food companies on social media

So it is notable that very few food ingredients companies are active on Instagram, including those for whom it might make perfect sense, such as suppliers of food colourings looking to show off the vibrancy of their products. Kalsec is among those to have taken notice of the trend toward Instagrammable food, and although it is not active on the site itself, Kalsec’s website highlights Instagram as a reason to use its products, which include natural colours, as well as herb and spice flavour extracts, and natural antioxidants.

Ocean Spray is one food ingredients company that does Instagram well, playing up the vibrant red of its cranberries from the harvest to finished foods. The key is excellent photography, with some beautiful images of cranberry drinks and cranberry-containing foods. The company clearly understands its target audience – one of its most recent images is of someone using their phone to take a photo of citrus shrimp linguine with dried cranberries, presumably to share on social media.

A lot of the food trends on Instagram are attention-seeking and non-conformist, and by their very nature, will have a limited shelf life. But creative thinking about how to make food more Instagram-friendly could lead to big rewards, whether that involves food colours, a change in packaging design – or the latest hybrid food product.

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