We have entered into a new era, a new phenomena, a delicious epoch dominated by totally yummy buzzwords, like #foodporn and eat and tweet. The day social media and camera phones met, it was like two great oceans colliding with one another, and out of that white-water boom came one incredible surprise, the all you can eat buffet of food content.
Food has begun to dominate these platforms, and no one knows how or why? There was no precedent set in whatever life was lived before camera phones and social media. It’s not as if people were pulling out their disposable Kodak cameras, snapping their lunch and then posting a printed version to their friends o they could enjoy the visual joy of their lunch also. Yet, here we are, in age where people feel the need to take a snap (or several snaps) of their breakfast, brunch, lunch, high tea, tea, dinner and midnight feasts in exchange for what? Social status? A meal for one has now become a meal for a million.
But what is most incredible is the impact this idea of food-porn has had on the world. It has changed the way people eat. It has changed the way people market products. It has changed the way restaurants serve food. It has even built new businesses and changed the focus of existing ones. The idea of food-porn has been awesome, and in its rawest form too, for it has been extremely impressive and daunting, and it has inspired awe.
But let’s start with foods domination of social media, and the biggest success story of them all; Tasty. This is arguably the crown jewel of Buzzfeed right now. In essence, it shows viewers how to make delicious and innovative looking meals in short and snappy videos last no longer than sixty-seconds. But their success isn’t in their short and sexy sequences. Their success in their viewing figures. So, let’s chuck a couple out there. Well, Tasty has accumulated almost 35 million likes on Facebook alone and became the top dog for video creation at the end of last year with over a billion views. A billion views! A billion!
What’s even more impressive is how this success has changed the marketing game. Short and snappy videos have become the biggest desire across product marketing. It’s amazing. The success of Tasty, a food content site limited to Facebook, has changed the face of marketing. Just look at Apple’s ‘Don’t Blink’ video, which was basically the keynote speech for the new iPhone 7 smashed into 107 seconds. Sure, Apple through some dollar-dollar bills at the production, and did some science on how many words can be read a minute and all that, but it was still basically a Tasty video, just on steroids. In short, food is championing a new form of a short-form video that social media is thriving off and people are enjoying.
If you’re looking for a more closely aligned piece of proof, though, just look at Business Insider. Yeah, the global news website, that felt compelled to dip it’s little toe into this pool of deliciousness… and with great success too. They launched Insider Food (clever name, right) on Facebook and saw it grew quicker than their core business channel. Basically, food is selling fast, and that is partly because food has become more and more exciting (thank you Heston Blumenthal!) and partly because it is one of life’s most incredible pleasures, and people are allowed to talk about it publicly. Food is sexy, and the conversations seem to be too. Just look at the way Nigella talks when she describes her dishes; it epitomises the term food porn.
We are humans, though. We have always been humans, so why the sudden explosion of food. Well, that is probably down to the gorgeously delicious, exciting and highly visual way food is now marketed, make it perfect for sharing online. But making something gorgeously delicious, exciting and highly visual is not easy, which why there has been a sudden boom in the market when it comes to publishers hiring video experts and culinary photography gurus.
It is the rise of an almost entirely new business, and one that was pretty much started with those unabashedly arousing M&S adverts, with the saucy voiceover and soft-porn script which included things like “Traditionally cured Scottish gravlax salmon with creamy mustard and dill sauce, hand prepared turkey with Braeburn apple and sage stuffing wrapped in maple-cured bacon, and melt-in-the-middle chocolate fondants with cognac dimples and a scent of a wild unicorn.” These adverts were what teenage-boys were waiting up to see. Not Baywatch. And as such, it has sparked a revolution in the industry.
But it isn’t just big brand adverts that that are going down this route, advertising their frozen meals in a seductive way to get you to spend your pennies there. Hotels are hiring culinary snapshot-whizzes to come and photography their in-house restaurants in the most attractive way possible. And there is way more to this than you may think. Hoteliers and restaurant owners aren’t just satisfied with a photo of a plate of food. No no no. Every photo has to capture the perfectly-plated tower of hake and veg (or whatever) in such a way that it insinuates who delectable the rest of the menu must be, as well as how professional and friendly the waiters will be and how the atmosphere there might feel thus how your conversation may be steered. And all that needs to come from a photograph of a tower of hake and veg. Capturing that is a mega-challenge. They see chef’s as rockstar’s and artists, and they have the ability to capture their food with that in mind.
That is why the top-dogs of culinary photography are so in demand, because they take dramatic photos or food that make mouths water so much that the viewer then clicks the book now button. It’s more than just a close-up of a dish. Calling in the pros to snap a glass of champagne (or a pint of beer) in such a way that you get the perfect amount of bubbles and just the right size drops sliding down the outside of the glass. These then go onto Pinterest and get pinned thirteen million times or put onto Instagram where they hope Kim Kardashian will double-tap the picture and give them the biggest like in the universe.
What is even more incredible though, is how powerful Instagram has become, not just from the seller’s point of view, but from the buyers too. There has been this rise in Millennial eater-outers who are desperate to go to the latest pop-up restaurant, or swanky food van, just so they can chuck a selfie of them and their lunch on social media and improve brand me. But that is not the only reason people are constantly throwing their scrummy and yummy pictures of food online.
More and more people are eating out solo. Whether that is because they can’t be bothered to cook, or they’re jumping out for a quick lunch-time bite to escape the office for a minute, or because they forgot to take a packed lunch with them. Whatever the reason, more and more of us are doing it, and posting a picture up kind of makes it less of a solo experience and more of a social experiment. How good does society think this dish looks? Either this or your meal for one actually consists of you chatting to a distant friend on text or FaceTime or something, before chucking a quick review up on Tripadvisor with a sultry photo of your chicken katsu curry.
Social media and dining has become a combination getting more and more extreme. But it isn’t just a matter of posting online, or scrolling Facebook whilst we are eating; it has become a much bigger thing in some parts of the world. The most extreme example is this new trend called ‘gastronomic voyeurism’ which has taken South Korea by storm. In short, it basically consists of someone trying to eat through a huge amount of food in the comfort (or discomfort) of their own home while live streaming it online for their followers to see. Mad huh. Not as mad as the fact these people are making a decent living out of it and gaining celebrity status.
So this idea of #FoodPorn which was arguably started with M&S Food, and then boosted by the creative vision of chefs like Heston, before being brought to the masses by social media and smartphones, and then being used as a short-form marketing tool by the likes of Buzzfeed and Tasty, has taken the world by storm and been pushed to the very most extremes of what it could be. Basically, food is no longer just a necessity that fuels our bodies, gives us energy and ensures we don’t die. Food is now cool, it is now trendy, it is now fashion.