What Flavor Does Data Come In? This Is How The Culinary Scene Is Tapping Into Consumer Tastes

Menu monitoring, and recipe engagement tracking are just two examples of consumer/competitor-generated food-intelligence datasets enabling everything from market-specific consumer flavor trend analysis to the brand positioning of a new packaged food item
5 min read
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In this article we will discuss:

‘#foodporn’ – The ongoing trend of user-generated culinary content

#foodie #instafood #delicious #homemade #healthyfood #dinner #foodgasm #tasty #cooking #lunch #restaurant

Are just a sampling of the most popular food-related hashtags on social media, according to best-hashtags.com. According to the Association for Computing Machinery, food is the second most popular subject shared on social media after #selfies.

When we take a closer look at the ways in which consumers interact with food online, we can better understand the correlation between data and consumer tastes:

  • 99% of millennials, and Gen ‘Z’ers use social media in order to make a restaurant choice
  • Social media is the place where consumers mention, and express opinions most regarding food, and drink brands
  • 50% of people admit to having tried a new restaurant as a direct result of a user-generated social media post

This is just a sampling of a small portion of the internet (social media), representing one segment (restaurants). There is a much wider variety of data sources (e.g. marketplaces, search engines), and sectors (e.g. food vendors, digital grocers) that can benefit from data-driven insights, and analytics. Let’s take a closer look.

Data-driven gastronomy: ‘What the food industry is cooking up?’

Restaurants in their ‘digital form’, including online menus and increased take out orders, and deliveries saw a major spike due to Covid-19-imposed restrictions, and quarantine. Consumers abandoned physical dining-out options in favor of safer options. Food vendors who could not pivot digitally, did not survive.

Beyond pandemic-related changes, whether you are working on:

  • The marketing, and brand positioning of a new packaged food item
  • Market-specific consumer flavor trend analysis
  • Building a distribution network, and looking for buying signals, as well as carrying out location analyses
  • Or an application/software doing restaurant prospecting automation, building consumer motivation models, and performing real-time category analysis

Your food-intelligence can benefit from consumer/competitor-generated datasets:

Menu monitoring

Millions of restaurants globally upload digitized versions of their menus – be it on a food delivery app or on their website. By deciding which locations (say, London), and which categories (say, Asian) interest you most, you can map the state of a food market at the micro or macro level. By analyzing this data over time, you can see which dishes are removed from menus, and which are holding their ground, serving as an indication of ‘high-value evergreen dishes’ for a given geo-specific target audience.

Recipe engagement tracking

Recipe engagement is a great way to understand consumer trends. Discovering, for example, YouTube channels, videos, or influencers that have high numbers of views, shares, and click-through rates can have immense value for your brand. If you are part of the marketing team, these datasets may lead you to collaborations with these content creators. If you are developing a new product, it may lead you to include a previously unidentified ingredient. If you are in charge of design, you may use this information to include a recipe boldly printed on an item’s packaging.

Search/ review trends

As with other buyer journeys, foodie journeys tend to begin online. Think of someone looking for the ‘best Chinese in NY’ on a search engine or ‘Italian restaurant reviews in Paris’ on social media. These keywords, and consumer reviews can be collected, monitored, and analyzed in order to help digital marketers better target audiences. Negative delivery reviews can help competing apps perform targeted improvements in an attempt to grab increased market share. Longtail keywords such as ‘Rome dining on a shoestring’, can lead content managers to write an ‘ultimate guide’, capturing desired attention, and traffic.

Two food trends to closely follow in 2021

Data is the driving factor behind identifying consumer trends, as was the case with the information presented in a recent Food Technology Magazine article:

Trend #1: Plant-based

25% of adults currently eat a beef or poultry plant-based alternative. With sales of these products on track to grow from $1.3 billion (in 2020) to $2 billion ( in 2024). As far as dairy – milk, ice cream, yogurt, creamers, and cheese will consist of the largest, double digit growth categories after beef, poultry, and seafood alternatives. The data shows room for growth, and high market demand for companies that are willing to create a higher variety of snacks, and desserts for veggie-crazed consumers.

Trend #2: Food-healing

Consumers are increasingly interested in healing their ailments by implementing a healthier diet. This is evident in the fact that 33.3% of adults have a higher probability of buying a food/beverage if multiple health benefits are listed, and 50% of consumers are looking for foods that help them manage stress/anxiety. Other top ‘food goals’ include improving sleep patterns, energy levels, and skincare management.

Data in 2021 points to superfood trends that put:

  • blueberries
  • green tea
  • seeds
  • avocado
  • spinach/kale
  • nuts
  • Salmon

At the top of the ‘food-healing’ consumer’s list.

The bottom line

Understanding what people want as part of real-time trends can be extremely effective when developing a new food product. While discovering new recipes that increase consumption frequency, and drive brand engagement can be vital to becoming a powerhouse in your sector. These along with the business outcomes of understanding competitor behavior, and marketing campaigns from a data-perspective can be the deciding factor on whether or not your product or service ‘#trends’ over the coming year, and beyond.

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