It’s no secret that we’re living in a “foodie” world. The hashtag #foodporn has 90 million Instagram posts and counting. People have an enormous appetite for content about food – they have the same hunger for a video about how to make a donut sundae as the sundae itself. And as people seek out balance, they’re tasting new types of foods, testing out different diets and new-to-them culinary techniques, all putting a bigger spotlight on the chef and the home kitchen. Vegan for a day and trying multi-cultural cuisines the next, consumers are balancing diets that include items like the diet-friendly kombucha, but have room for indulgences as well.
Perhaps this hyper spotlight on food is why the short-form, beautifully produced recipe video has risen to such popularity. In 2015 alone, food videos generated close to 11 billion views on Youtube. For groups like millennials who are largely painted to be obsessed with all things food, but mindful of their health, is watching food content a zero-calorie indulgence? Or is it the sensory experience of food videos which draws them in? With the advent of media-rich communication platforms like Facebook and Instagram and newer vehicles like virtual reality, brands will test new strategies to gain iconic status while promoting food’s sensory appeal.
Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency, routinely tracks trends which aid in forecasting the future. With global reach across thousands of sectors, Mintel works directly with clients in a variety of industries to provide expert analysis of consumer data and market research to help move businesses forward.
We conducted a Q&A with top food and beverage experts from Mintel to find out how food and beverage companies can continue to drive share through appetite appeal and sensory considerations.
People’s Insights: Tell us some of the history behind brands leveraging the five senses for marketing purposes, and what potential does the future hold for this?
Mimi: Brands have been using multi-sensory techniques to connect with consumers for decades. One of the most iconic examples is the CocaCola contour bottle invented in 1915. The bottle’s shape, along with the dynamic ribbon, has been used worldwide, for decades, to create a “smashable” effect, connecting the two images in consumers’ minds. With established and emerging platforms like social media and Virtual Reality, brands have more opportunity than ever before in intimately engaging consumers with the food story.
PI: What’s next for communication as it relates to the taste and look of food?
Mimi: Virtual reality will play a role in the form of cooking tutorials featuring chefs connected to brands or perhaps helping the shopping experience or decision making process.
PI: Is there another emerging vehicle or medium that will change the face of home cooking like the advent of food blogging? How strongly does social media fit into the picture?
Jeannette: Social media and mobile trends are changing the way we consume content and blurring lines between categories; for example, the intersection of food and travel. Tastemade, a food and travel video network built for mobile, hit the 100 million monthly active users mark in 2015, with more than 1 billion monthly views. On Facebook alone, Tastemade grew its audience from around 100,000 fans to more than 5.7 million.
Diana: Look at the way Snapchat has grown. It is already starting to become the next Instagram in terms of diners sharing their meals, but it can have broader implications if chefs start leveraging it to showcase the meal preparation process.
PI: How might changes in technology impact food marketing efforts?
Mimi: As technology advances, food sensory marketing techniques become more direct. Recently, Oscar Mayer has developed an iPhone app that will actually waft the smell of bacon through the air as your alarm clock signals – so you literally wake up to the smell of bacon. The California Milk Board has created cookie-scented bus stops in San Francisco. And now Haagen-Dazs has created their Symphony app, featuring songs that are perfectly in sync with the product melt time so the moment the music’s over, you’re ready to enjoy your ice cream.
PI: How do you think developments in “social” technology affect consumers’ behaviors? Would you say it influences their attitudes toward the food service space?
Diana: Social media has certainly influenced consumer attitudes toward the food service space. Instagram, for example, plays a huge role in the food service space – it’s driving an increasing preference for destination dining. We find that consumers are more willing to wait in lines and drive further for specific dishes and specific menu items that catch their fancy.
Annie’s, General Mills’ organic unit, introduced a line of yogurts targeted at children in 2016
PI: Chefs, home cooks, grower-chefs, chef-nutritionists, experts..the list of culinary influencers is long. Whom do consumers trust when it comes to culinary leadership?
Mimi: Older generations are still trading on the advice of celebrity chefs. But millennials prefer more grassroots and peer leadership. While popular in previous years, today when a celebrity chef partners with a large brand, it may end up back firing.
Diana: Highly acclaimed chefs now feel more accessible and personable than ever before and that is driving more of a direct trust relationship between chef and consumer. This is being seen through Netflix documentaries and higher caliber chefs offering meals that are affordable to the masses, such as David Chang and Rick Bayless.
PI: It’s been seen that consumers are more vocal now about food-related citizenship. What role can those in the food service sector play in addressing this rising food activism?
Jeannette: More and more consumers are seeking out information about how their food is made and where it comes from. This is especially true of millennials, who view their food choices as a personal reflection of themselves. Chefs have a unique part to play as they connect producers and consumers, serving as cultural icons that are not only shaping food culture, but changing perceptions of what a gourmet meal is. For example, Dan Barber, chef at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, educates his patrons about where their food comes from and the good agricultural practices required to produce it.
Mimi: Millennials and the iGeneration really seem to connect with mashups, but are driven by healthy alternatives. Some sort of hybrid of these may be the next sensation.
Diana: Hybrid bakery items still continue to engage interest, such as the donut cone for ice cream. The pizza inside of a pizza also gained viral attention. Indulgence (such as the Cronut) and visual appeal (rain drop cake, rainbow bagels) are integral to a viral trend.
This article is a part of MSLGROUP’s report The Future of Food Communications: Winning Share of Mouth in the Conversation Age.