How Do Food Trends Start?

Not so long ago, before the web played such a big role and the explosion of food-related cable TV shows on media outlets like the Food Network, the genesis of trends was fairly straightforward. There were authorities like Gourmet magazine and Martha Stewart, and serious chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Julia Child. People turned to cookbooks and acquired recipes from friends. Restaurant reviews were written by a few “expert” reviewers in print media outlets.

Of course, the food world is not quite like the fashion world or the music world. There are no runways to strut down or award shows or “Top 10” charts for hit foods. What has changed the creation of food trends and increased the speed at which they spread and die out is the rise of social networking. Thanks to websites like Yelp and Foodspotting for restaurant reviews and other opinions, everyone – whether an experienced chef or a “regular Joe” diner — becomes an instant expert. Twitter and Facebook give people still more vehicles for spreading their unfiltered opinions widely and instantly. Popular chefs, bloggers, “eater tweeters,” and journalists all play a heightened role today.

All these forces come together in a hard-to-pinpoint combination to drive trends. It could be that something happens on a popular TV show and then it quickly goes viral over the web. The characters of Carrie Bradshaw and her friends on the cable TV show “Sex in the City” are credited with starting the cupcake craze, for instance. Other food trends start with a popular, media-savvy “celebrity” chef like Rachael Ray or Bobby Flay.

So what’s a food marketer to make of all this?

How are we to know, for instance, if the current popularity of “gluten-free” is here to stay? Certainly, the increased incidence of celiac disease is real, but we can also observe that there is clearly a larger non-celiac population buying these gluten-free products in the belief that they hold benefits to their health. As a food marketer, you have to watch the marketplace, monitor the blogs and web sites, and make your own judgment. A healthy dose of common sense certainly helps. I personally don’t have a crystal ball, but I do my best to make informed decisions based on credible authorities and what’s actually happening in the marketplace. Here are some tested suggestions, based upon my own experience in the food industry:

• Read trade magazines, blogs, etc. for your industry.
• Talk to your peers at networking events and trade shows.
• Make judgments based on your target consumer and category. Don’t jump too fast on the hottest trend unless your consumer is similarly inclined.
• Feel free to contact us for buying top food brand names at for advice and recommendations

To read more about how food trends get started, read more here.