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Food on Instagram is increasingly authentic and creative

By Caroline Parry, Journalist

July 19, 2019 | 7 min read

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From impromptu picnics in the park to lazy summer brunches and barbecues in the garden, whatever we do with the warmer, longer summer days, food is an essential feature.

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A creative crush - the power of food on Instagram for marketers

Our social feeds are full of outdoor dining showcasing mouth-watering food, recipes and exciting new ingredients. Social media is a natural home for foodies, particularly in the UK where it is the most popular interest on Instagram, with 39% of people spending time browsing food and drink.

While many of us now use our mobile to compile digital shopping lists or search for promotions, we also use them to find new ingredients and recipes, decide what to eat now and inspire us to try new things.

Social is a catalyst for thinking more about what we eat and the impact of what we buy on the environment but also on our health. Together, we are discovering new ways to make good decisions

Honest Connections

Ethics play a role in our decision-making when it comes to food brands more now than ever before. According to a Facebook study from January, 76% of UK consumers now consider ethical supply chains as crucial to their decision-making.

With #sustainability surpassing 3.3 million mentions, it highlights a definite shift in consumer thinking. It demands greater transparency from brands, with 44% of consumer happy to follow a brand’s social feeds if the content resonates with their values.

Brands such as vegan chocolate brand Dom & Daisy, which uses Instagram to profile their Colombian cocoa farmers, and milk brand Rebel Kitchen, which announced its support for 1% For the Planet initiative on Instagram, are leading the way.

What does this mean for marketers?

Foodies want brands to offer an unrestricted view of who they are and what they represent. Using Instagram to post authentic and relatable content helps brands to build credibility and engagement incrementally. Social media offers the flexibility to respond to broader social and environmental issues as they occur.

Raw Foodies

The phrase “you eat with your eyes” has never been truer than in the social media era. There is nothing we love more than posting perfect pictures of our own food.

When it comes to our food and drink heroes, however, we value authenticity, and the personalities we love the most balance delicious-looking food with a pinch of reality.

Think nano-influencers such as niche sandwich reviewer @the.xandwich, Ghanian cook @zoeadjnyoh, who uses stories to introduce new ingredients and cooking methods, and food scientist and home cook @izyhossack, who posts beautiful food pictures but more authentic stories of her home-cooking experiments.

We want influencers that we can connect to, not aspire to, because we want to feel part of the experience.

According to the research from November 2018 by Accenture, we believe in their content too - with three in ten UK shoppers following food and drink influencers and celebrities because they post product reviews on potential purchases.

What does it mean for marketers?

Aspirational food imagery is still in demand, but the real narratives are behind these hunger-inducing creations. We want that human connection, and brands can take advantage of Instagram’s ability to create authentic content.

Collectively Sustainable

From reusable coffee cups to metal straws, foodies are on a mission to eat consciously and reduce the impact of our eating and drinking on the environment.

While we are taking on individual responsibility to eat consciously, it can be a challenge to embrace new behaviours alone, so we are turning to social media to find encouragement from communities and influencers.

It fits with the wider interest in environmental issues that have seen #plasticfree reach 1.1 million mentions and #zerowastelifestyle amass more than 251,000. Instagram is a place to learn new habits and connect with other zero waste “warriors”.

We’re inspired into action by our food and drink influencers and celebrities, and 33% of UK food shoppers say they follow them because they are inspirational. While, more than half of UK shoppers follow them for tips, tricks and tutorials.

Brands are also seeking to inspire. Just consider the UK-based coffee brand Percol’s plastic-free packaging, an industry first, and app Olio, which connects local people and businesses who have excess edible food waste.

What does it mean for marketers?

Short-form video helps to transform practical, educational advice into engaging and inspirational content. It helps us all to feel we are learning from like-minded individuals, while also feeling connected to a movement that is having a wider impact.

Natural Discovery

As we become more curious about the origins of our food, so too are we more open to exploring new flavours, particularly those from the natural world.

The boom in global tourism has encouraged consumers to become more adventurous in their food choices. According to food industry bible The Grocer, 60% of millennials like to experiment with new flavours regularly, or every time they snack.

This is stirring up interest in areas such as #botanicals, which has stacked up 6 million mentions, farm-to-table and minimally processed ingredients.

It seems social opens our minds too, with more than one in three UK food shoppers who are weekly users of Instagram, typically finding a new food or recipe idea that they want to try.

Instagram’s visual appeal helps to bring the sensory pleasure of fresh ingredients to life and makes it a portal of discovery for foodies. Alt-gin brand Ceder’s has used the platform to introduce buchu, described as South Africa’s miracle herb, and highlighted what raw ingredients go into their drinks.

What does it mean for marketers?

Bright shots of ingredients that highlight their natural, purer side help brands tap into a broader set of consumer eating and drinking moments. Whether it is introducing new ingredients in premium ways or new flavours or staple foods, it can help bring brands closer to the source of new consumer behaviours and trends.

Beyond Nutrition

With our approach to health becoming more holistic, we are looking for ways to fortify our diets beyond essential nutrition. Think functional foods that promote gut health, fuel our brains and benefit our appearance.

Rising interest in #gutthealth, over 1.7 million mentions hashtags, #fermentation, more than 255,000 highlight this appetite for new ingredients with benefits, while, according to Accenture, 78% of UK consumers either bought a new product or visited their website after seeing a new product on Instagram.

While brainfood and bacteria may not sound as appetite-inducing as many Instagrammable foods, brands are reframing them with accessible products such as probiotics and kombucha.

What does it mean for marketers?

Instagram’s stories are an accessible way to highlight how ingredients can be used in everyday life and to inspire consumers. UK brand Equinox Kombucha showed it being used in summer drinks such as smoothies and mocktails, while their pictures highlight year-round occasions.

You can have more Food for Thought here, with insights from Facebook.

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