Instagram’s impact on the food industry cannot be overstated. It doesn’t take much searching to find articles covering its effects on chain restaurants, operation design and menu innovation. Instagram-worthy food and beverage ignites a brand’s successful social presence.
But what’s behind the motivation for sharing dining experiences? Why does Instagram hold so much sway? The answer is: Craveability.
The popularity of food on Instagram is deeper than an enjoyment of pretty pictures. The visual impact of food, either on a plate or through an image, can stimulate cravings for that item. Consider that people post nearly 130 million photos on Instagram under #foodporn, which is significantly more than photos posted under any other benign catch-all uses of #porn, such as #travelporn and #vacationporn.
This phenomenon speaks to a fascination with the world of food and how it can trigger visceral responses.
Instagram has had another fundamental impact on the idea of craveability in modern society: It is now filtered through the eyes of millions of individuals rather than a handful of advertising firms and corporations. Prior to the democratization that the internet brought to mass communication, consumers were, for the most part, told what to crave by slick ad campaigns, strategically designed packaging, and well laid-out retail displays. Now, it’s less polished, in real time and authentic—a perfect recipe for buzz-worthy, organic promotion.
Before social media, craveability’s narrative focused on three key elements: fat, salt and sweet. Rarely was it discussed more broadly—or how that craveability might impact everything from morning meals to late-night snacking. Through Instagram and other social media, consumers can now decide and widely broadcast what they find craveable.
Craveability has moved back into the hands of consumers who have far broader tastes and interests than may be evident in mass marketing. As a result, what consumers perceive as craveable has shifted significantly. That change will be fundamental in how the industry leverages craveability.
The key today is in understanding how best to relay craveability—through modern menu language, flavor and texture cues.
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