The Influence Of Food Media On Consumer Trends
Image Credit: Dalgona Coffee | Image Credit: Google

The world of food and drink media has always been incredibly influential in shaping consumer tastes. While it is difficult to measure the impact that such publications have in shaping consumer behavior, their ability to steer the conversation around the world of food and drink at large cannot be undermined. Whether it's taking what a celebrity says about their favorite drink in an interview and giving it mass coverage, resulting in that drink cropping up on menus and recipe blogs around both the real and digital worlds This was the case with the now-infamous Negroni Sbagliato, a take on the classic Negroni but with a dash of sparkling wine instead of gin. It was brought up in an interview with actress Emma D’Arcy and subsequently went viral on social media, as well as doing the rounds on a number of publications like Serious Eats, among others.

There is, of course, organic coverage of trends that appear on social media and adding dimension to them, such as by delving into the world of viral short-form recipes like Dalgona coffee, which took the internet by storm a few years ago. Various online publications may want to give such topics coverage not only to boost their own engagement metrics online but also to add dimension to the recipe and offer an experienced perspective. James Hoffman, a popular youtuber and author in the world of coffee, made a video in response to this trend, discussing how the recipe could be improved by using better ingredients and techniques so as to appeal to a more discerning coffee drinker. Other publications may also choose to go the op-ed route and cover a specific area of the industry that they feel is not being discussed enough. This was the basis of many documentaries showcasing the horrors of factory farming just a few years ago, which, although as discussed, will be challenging to measure the exact impact of, has certainly shaped public perception surrounding meat consumption. There is an emphasis today on ethical sourcing methods and even non-meat-based diets.

More recently, a number of op-eds have cropped up revolving around the world of fine-dining restaurants and how they have in many cases been environments where verbal, physical, and sexual abuses have taken place, as well as a whole host of other controversies such as customer deception surrounding the sourcing of ingredients, staggering amounts of food wastage, and so forth.

A piece by Meghan McCaron of Eater goes into detail about various allegations put forth against a much-celebrated farm-to-table restaurant in New York State, Blue Hill. It highlights how the restaurant's management mistreated its employees and knowingly misled its customers about where and how its food was sourced, as told by ex-employees. The restaurant championed the farm-to-table model but was found to have been flying in various out-of-season ingredients and even purchasing items from local supermarkets. Pieces such as these have largely changed the conversation surrounding fine-dining as a concept, a hotly discussed topic of discussion within the world of food and beverage currently.

Aside from attempting to create a conversation around a specific topic from an author’s POV, publications may also work together with relevant partners within the F&B space itself in order to bring out sponsored content. This could include, among other things, winning and dining a restaurant critic in order to gain favorable reviews, or providing free samples of a product in exchange for monetary compensation in order to receive positive media coverage.

This is a common practice, especially in the world of spirits, where liquor brands sit atop massive advertising budgets but cannot utilize them through regular channels of media owing to regulatory restrictions.

This type of arrangement can lead to biased coverage, as the publication may be more likely to present a positive view of the company and its offerings.

It is important for consumers to be aware of this potential bias and to approach such content with a critical eye. Some online food publications are transparent about their sponsored content and clearly label it as such, while others may not be as forthcoming. To avoid being swayed by biased coverage, it can be helpful to seek out a variety of sources of information and to consider multiple perspectives when making purchasing decisions.

In general, it is important to address the impact of Food Media outlets in general and take a holistic look at the kind of coverage they bring to the table in order to inform your own decisions surrounding your diet, your purchasing habits, and your biases because, after all, you are what you eat.