Photo Shoot Fresh: Express Yourself Through Food

Younger consumers are spending more and more money on “Insta-worthy” meals at the hottest, chic brunch spots (or on fancy “coffee cones“) than on designer bags and shoes, so what does this mean for brands in the category? Food & Drink Magazine recently published an article titled Food: The New Luxury on the subject. The article featured expert commentary from our own Brady Sadler. So, we thought we’d take a deeper dive into this trend of food becoming a luxury item for millennial and Gen-Z consumers.

Overall, millennials are less concerned with privacy than previous generations and frequently share their lives through social media. The younger segment of that generation, and their brothers, sisters and cousins in Gen-Z, grew up with completely different means of communication. Having the ability to connect and communicate at all times through mobile is a way of life for these young generations, especially through photos. With the rise of Instagram, anyone can feel like a professional photographer, and food, a constant in our lives and something everyone can relate to, became a popular subject.

According to Mintel, 58% of millennials and 31% of Gen Z like to share their restaurant experiences online. For a while, it became popular to ‘check-in’ at a bar or restaurant, but the photo is the new check-in and in some ways, the new status update. Tagging friends in the photo or comment reinforces one’s social status.

As such, restaurants should prioritize how their food will look on social media. These trends provide a valuable opportunity to turn customers into advocates. Word of mouth is more potent than ever before.

If you step inside the hot new fast-food vegan burger chain by CHLOE, you immediately notice their attention to detail with modern design, consistent colors, succulents in hand-painted clay pots, and a swing that begs for a photo.

Some restaurants have even hosted photography classes in their space. Think about pairing this activity with a special tasting menu that encourages guests to learn, dine and share.

Simultaneously, consumers have become more explorative and experimental in dining conquests, especially when we can try new things in a cost-effective manner. This open-mindedness lends itself to the opportunity for brands to offer a wide variety of products and experiences at different price points, especially when they are appropriately positioned, packaged and differentiated.

We see this in fashion with luxury brands showing up at Paris Fashion Week and then at Target. In the beverage industry this has been executed by liquor brands like Johnnie Walker and Jose Cuervo, who offer lower cost, super premium products and options in between. In the food world we see this with chefs like Roy Choi, who is largely credited with creating the food truck movement, delivering his classic, five-star chef training in a completely different format. Now, you can experience his brand in the street, at his Hawaiian-themed restaurant in a former IHOP or at one of his higher-end restaurants like Commissary.

Additionally, luxury food may not always be synonymous to healthier eating (luxury foods and dining experiences can just as easily be indulgent), but we’re seeing a rise in the popularity of local and farm fresh foods. Even major metropolitans are increasing the presence of farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants. There’s ongoing debate around health claims as brands look to educate consumers, who today are largely confused and don’t necessarily know the difference between natural, organic and non-GMO. But, we’re going to continue to see more functional foods that claim to offer benefits beyond simply filling you up or tasting great.

Over time, these trends will lead to healthier options being more widely available. Even in convenience store, we’re beginning to see a bit more variety in energy bars, protein like jerky and functional beverages. Food delivery services from Amazon and big box retailers will also increase access. That being said, it will be interesting to see how the hyper local mom-and-pop shops and co-ops compete with natural products going more mainstream.

Consumer demand and empowerment has driven these trends. More than ever before, we all have the ability to influence our peers–and ultimately the industry–through our ability to express ourselves to large audiences via social media.


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