For roughly half the global population, social media is an integral part of internet usage. Over 4.26 billion people worldwide were using social media in 2021, a number projected to increase to almost six billion by 2027, according to Statista data.
Online information and social exchanges are influencing personal eating habits and purchasing decisions. Viral social media recipes on platforms like TikTok and Instagram have spiked demand, in some instances causing shortages for products like Kewpie mayo and inspiring retailers to curate in-store displays promoting ingredients from trending DIY recipes.
Suzanne Higgs, expert in the psychology of eating, researches the cognitive processes and biological mechanisms that underpin people’s decisions about food choice and food intake. Higgs observes that online content is creating new social norms when it comes to food, as consumers’ eating habits are influenced by visual and social cues, nutritional knowledge, culinary ability, cost and more.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, social media propelled “whipped” or Dalgona coffee, which originated in Asia, into global stardom, driving demand for instant coffee. Drawing upon the rapidly globalizing trend and catering to increased demand for dairy-free products, Chef Henry Hill of Hill’s Research Kitchen developed a Whipped Coffee recipe using almond milk and almond butter.
Innova Market Insights noted that in other cases, social media trends have inspired new products like pixel-flavored soda. “Devouring Digital,” one of Innova’s Top 10 Trends for 2023, highlights the food industry’s continued opportunity to capture consumer interest by merging food with digital experiences.
Additionally, “Generational Push” is another of Innova’s 2023 trends, as health and novel and international flavors rise in popularity. Younger, adventurous and increasingly online consumers desire new and different experiences and often take their cues from online content. Product manufacturers are tasked with developing new formulations that surprise and delight the next generation. Almonds, with their healthy halo and over 14 versatile ingredient forms with textures spanning crunchy to smooth, go well with a variety of flavors, product categories, and nutrition needs.
But the internet’s fast-paced content exchanges can also be a source of food and nutrition misinformation. Erin Seidl, the expert voice behind @FoodScienceBabe, uses her chemical engineering and food science background to address myths about the food industry with evidence-based information. As a food industry professional on social media, she’s witnessed how social commentary and trends sway consumers to make or question certain food choices.
Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright argues that tomorrow’s diets will be defined by the intersection of these fast-flowing global social media trends and the unique environments in different parts of the world. To meet evolving consumer demands, food manufacturers both large and small must map rising trends against local pressures and cultures, creating products and propositions that will appeal to each niche audience.
Access a 30-minute panel discussion and Q&A to hear Suzanne Higgs, expert in the psychology of eating, Tom Cheesewright, applied futurist, and Erin Seidl, food scientist and social media thought leader, provide their perspective on the impact of social media and resulting opportunities for manufacturers.