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Users sharing their food on social media is nothing new, but TikTok is taking the phenomenon to new heights.

Earlier this week, the hashtag for “food” had garnered a whopping 268 billion views on the app, while “#recipes” and #restaurant” clocked an impressive 9.1 billion and 6.9 billion, respectively.

In 2021, Google’s top trending food searches signaled a huge shift with searches stemming from TikTok making up over half of the list – and this doesn’t appear to be slowing down. TikTok is even launching its own food delivery service this year with a menu featuring what’s trending on the app quarterly.

Though at first glance it may seem like just another app stealing the attention of teenagers around the world, it’s clear that there’s more to the story. And food brands may want to pay attention.

WHY ARE FOOD TRENDS SO POPULAR ON TIKTOK?

Food videos on TikTok range from new restaurant finds to snack reviews to grocery hauls. But one category that stands out in particular is the recipe video.

Why are these videos resonating so much with consumers?  Robyn Carter of Jump Rope Innovation (JRI) and Brooke Stewart of Power Moms Media shared their thoughts in a joint email to The Food Institute.

“Many of these recipes tend to be simple recipes made with pantry ingredients–quick and easy to make, even for teens,” said Carter and Stewart. “They don’t require any advanced knowledge or special techniques or equipment.”

In the What’s Hot, What’s Not Annual Influencer Survey conducted by JRI in conjunction with Power Moms Media, it was found that influencers and their followers are looking for quick, easy, healthy meals that are also homemade and unique. TikTok delivers recipes that fulfill those needs in an easy-to-understand, visual format.

Additionally, Carter and Stewart noted that TikTok has given many consumers inspiration during a stressful time, making it a valuable creative outlet.

“We are looking for connection and participating in a TikTok food trend is an easy way to feel connected to something,” they said.

SHOULD FOOD BUSINESSES BE INVESTING IN THIS SPACE?

A 2021 study from marketing agency MGH found that 36% of TikTok users have visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing a TikTok video about the restaurant. The study also found 55% visited a restaurant from TikTok simply because the food looked appetizing.

For restaurants, there is a clear avenue for exposure on the app. For CPG, it’s a little different.

Carter and Stewart believe these brands should be investing, but perhaps not in the way they are used to doing so.

“Consider Dalgona candy,” they said. “This is an actual Korean street food. The world saw these candies featured on Squid Games when the series dropped on Netflix in September 2021.  By early October, articles were already being written about Dalgona candy trending on TikTok. By November they were in bakeries everywhere. And now, we’ve moved on.  Chasing TikTok trends is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle for traditional CPG companies.”

Carter and Stewart recommend brands have engaging conversations about trending topics and food items, as well as partner with content creators.

“There are many ways to engage; but it requires a level of cultural awareness and a real understanding of how best to engage in these mediums, and an understanding of how best to work with influencers and content creators,” they added.

IS THIS GOING TO BE A LASTING TREND?

It’s evident that TikTok is having its influence on the food industry – but will it last?

“Whether or not TikTok continues to be the main medium for sharing recipes a year or three years down the line, this theme of simple consumer generated recipes, shared visually and virally is going to be with us for a while,” said Carter and Stewart.

“Messaging is in the hands of consumers and the food industry is going to have to move fast … to capitalize on TikTok food trends.”

Source: TikTok is Becoming a Food Industry Influencer – The Food Institute