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Gimmick or Genius? The Rise of the Food Fad

Epicures Liv and Francesca Explore London's Food Trends

With the advent of social media platforms like Instagram, food has been given a whole new lease of life. Food bloggers have become prolific and thousands of people are 'gramming their meals every day. Because this platform is essentially entirely visual, food photos are edited and staged to within an inch of their lives in order to make them as aesthetically-pleasing as possible. This preoccupation with pretty edibles has given rise to a multitude of “food fads”. Enter visual delights like galaxy donuts, cronuts, and - possibly most exciting - the freakshake. But are these fads mere gimmicks or is there something more to them? This weekend, Client Manager Fran and I took to the streets of London to find out.

London Food Trends

Heading to Brick Lane, we began the day with a breakfast of rainbow bagels. Originally the brainchild of New Yorker Scot Rossillo, this fad takes bread to a whole new colourful level. A normal bagel in flavour and texture, the only real difference is its vibrant rainbow nature. A cheap novelty? We didn't think so - in fact, although the taste remained the same, the sheer child-like joy of eating something so colourful made the whole experience wonderful.

Rainbow Bagel

Rainbow Bagels

Due to the massive popularity of the original, the rainbow bagel has made its way across the pond to Brick Lane's Beigel shop, where you can buy one for a mere 50p. This multi-coloured gimmick has spread over to several other, otherwise-normal food areas, from fairy bread to rainbow coffee. Photos of kaleidoscopic grilled cheeses are currently running amok across Instagram, as people attempt to make their everyday meals more visually stimulating.

Rainbow Bagel

Matcha

The next stop on our foodie adventure was Soft Serve Society to jump on the matcha train - another food-stuff that has taken the internet by storm. Matcha is a Chinese green tea powder, traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies. These days it is also used for dyeing and flavouring foods. Given the plentiful health benefits of matcha- such as being high in antioxidants and helping to burn calories- many health enthusiasts have appropriated it for healthy treat foods.

Admittedly, we may not have had it in its most wholesome form... as an ice cream swirled together with vanilla, covered in strawberry crunch, and topped with the world's largest marshmallow, but it did give us a chance to see what the hype was about. It was certainly very visually impressive, with a cloud of mallow perched atop a beautifully-swirled green and white ice cream, but I must say we were somewhat underwhelmed with the taste of it. Perhaps matcha is the new marmite.

Matcha

Freakshakes

Two stops into our day of gluttony we thought it best to walk to our next, and undoubtedly most ambitious, stop. Cue Maxwell's Bar and Grill in Covent Garden for the aforementioned freakshake. This food marvel was originally a product of Australians Anna and Gina Petridis and has been rapidly spreading across the continent - and now to several areas of Britain - with Maxwell's being the first to jump on the bandwagon. Described by many as “Instagram-worthy”, the pair wanted to create a dessert that customers felt they just had to take a photo of before eating it. Mission accomplished. The one we had was salted caramel and was essentially a mountain of cream, caramel, and sugar, topped with a doughnut and yet more marshmallows - an apparent theme of the day.

Freakshake at Maxwell's Bar and Grill

The day finished with the onset of food comas, and a growing understanding of the appeal of food fads. The transmission, and thus popularity, of these fantastic culinary spectacles has been made possible by the rise of media platforms such as Instagram. Through it people can create identities for themselves and even, in the case of food bloggers and “’grammers”, forge a career. However, as these become more popular professions it is no longer enough to create really good-tasting, well-balanced dishes. People need to come up with ways to beat the crowds and catch the attention of their target audience. Thus flavour appears to be giving way to aesthetic as the most important factor when it comes to food marketing.

Softserve Society

Instagramable?

Does this then mean that there is no longer a need to focus on the taste of a dish? Is it such that, as long as it is striking to look at, all other elements of the experience are irrelevant? Well, no. For those who truly love food it is unlikely that they'll be fooled into liking something merely because it's pretty. Nonetheless there is evidence that our enjoyment of food is influenced by more than just taste. A multitude of studies have been carried out over the years, proving that altering the appearance of foods can completely change how people experience the flavour of them.

One such test was performed by taking white wine and adding a flavourless red food colouring to it. Subjects reported experiencing flavours associated with red wines, such as merlots and cabernets, despite the fact that the flavour of the original wine had been left unaltered. Eating is a whole body experience, combining all the senses, and so, while these aforementioned food fads are designed primarily to be visual spectacles this does not mean that taste has to go completely out of the window. 

Epicure Loves White and Red Wine

Food fads are, at the most basic level, a tool for driving popularity, in the form of gaining Instagram traffic. The more visually-striking a foodstuff is, the more likes and follows one can get. Through recreating, or even starting, these popular fads, restaurants can appeal to, and market themselves to, a wider demographic. However, on a subtler level, the extremity of the visual can enhance the whole eating experience, making foods not only look, but also taste, more new and exciting.

Get the Picture - An Epicure's Guide to Instagram

Instagram Like an Epicure

Whether you love it, hate it, are thoroughly confused by it, or have never even heard of it…trust us, you need to be on Instagram.

Restaurant Marketing on Instagram

With new social media platforms appearing every month, there can be a strong temptation to ignore the new arrivals and focus on the networks you already understand. Unfortunately, if Instagram is not currently in your roster, we are here to tell you it should be. Fortunately, we are also here to ease the transition. As Instagram newbies ourselves, Epicure has been swotting up on Instagram best practice – as well as figuring out what works for us – and this week we will be sharing our new-found wisdom.

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Moreover, we remember 80% of what we see but only 20% of what we read. These two facts combined show very clearly why Instagram is a marketing tool brands cannot afford to ignore. That and the fact that Instagram has half a billion users every month, of course.

The secret to its popularity lies in its simplicity – all you need is a good eye and a set of opposable thumbs – and a good eye is not to be underestimated. Steve Jobs understood one key idea when it came to making computers something people wanted in their homes: people like things to look good. Instagram is where people come to work out – and judge – the visual identity of a business and decide whether they like the look of your business.

Restaurant Marketing on Instagram

Of course, it is a little more complicated than whether or not you post beautiful pictures. Anyone who has just got to grips with Instagram no doubt threw up their hands in despair at the recent introduction of Instagram Stories. A direct threat to rival app Snapchat, the new feature (which allows users to post videos and photos which disappear after 24 hours) marks a new step in digital marketing, one which is less stylised, if not less visual. What Snapchat did, which Instagram had previously been lacking, was allow people a peek behind the scenes, into the lives of the people they followed, in a more raw and authentic way. Whereas in Instagram you create a visual archive, Snapchat merely offers a brief glimpse - think snap-shots rather than photoshoots. Now with Instagram introducing Stories… you can do both!

The key to doing both bits well is to act like a real person. Young people have become better than ever at ignoring traditional ads…so stop trying to sell to them, and simply engage with them! Use Stories to allow your audience a glimpse of the funny, silly, unedited side of your business and, if you don’t have one… perhaps you’re doing it wrong!

Top Instagram Tips

1. Do your research 

Before you start posting, get to know the app a little. Find accounts similar to yours and see what they are doing. Take a look at some of your target audience and get a feel for what they like.

 2. Hashtags

Here is where all that research you did will come in handy! Find out which hashtags are popular for your industry (a good app which can help you is TagsForLikes) and use them. There are pros and cons to using very popular hashtags – on the one hand it gets you in front of thousands of people, on the other your content risks drowning amongst all the other posts out there using that tag. Best thing to do is use a combination of both – use some less popular, more specific tags, and some more popular and generic ones. And never use tags which have nothing to do with your post. Big no-no. Also consider coming up with a hashtag for your brand and making the most of trending hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday.

3. Collaborate

In the words of Vanilla Ice – Stop, Collaborate and Listen. Actually, that’s pretty sound advice for social media as a whole. Find out who people are listening to –  brand influencers like bloggers and popular accounts – and collaborate with them! Let them take over your account for a day or initiate some sort of shared project. Equally important – collaborate with your audience! Comment on their pictures to start a conversation and re-share great posts, turning your customers into brand ambassadors.

4. Think visually 

Instagram is all about the way things look, so have an aesthetic idea in mind before you start. High quality pictures are a MUST. Also, it is worthwhile having a distinctive visual style – picking a specific filter can help with this, as can including other aspects of your branding into images, through logos or colour schemes.

5. Have Fun 

The most important thing of all! Social media may not come naturally to you, but it is designed to be something people enjoy – if you are doing it out of duty, then you’re not really getting into the true spirit of it!

 

A few of our favourite accounts

1.       A Pair of Dirty Pigs @apairofdirtypigs – Great pictures of food – not super-stylised – a mix of restaurant pictures and food they cook at home. Restaurant food pics come with short review of dish plus price point and mark out of 10. Great concept, easy to get on board with.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

2.       Sauce Communications @saucecomms – A lesson in how to do Instagram marketing…for a marketing agency! Account is all about letting their clients’ work shine. Beautiful pictures, posted regularly.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

3.       Eat About @eatabout – Excellent use of their logo in the top corner of every picture. Great mix of pictures – finished dishes, dishes in progress, chefs, chefs’ homes, and raw ingredients. Every aspect of the business represented visually.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

4.       Londoner on the Go @londoneronthego – Quite simply… just beautiful pictures of food! As well as sweeping pictures of London. High quality but all with the same personal style, as if taken on a phone – feels intimate and authentic.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

And while we've got your attention - why not head over to our Instagram account and say hi!