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Navigating social media can sometimes feel like a minefield, but its importance in guiding popular cuisines, dishes and ingredients is growing exponentially, so retailers shouldn’t give up on it.
For example, the phenomenal success of Squid Game which was released on Netflix in September 2021 led to a spike in interest for Korean foods, and recipes such as Baked Feta Pasta and the Tortilla Wrap Hack went viral.
Learning how to capitalise on these trends could just be the key to success in independent retail, but be warned - it does require quick turnarounds.
Why indie retailers should stay up to date on social media trends
Having a presence on social media is one thing, but in order to fully reap the benefits of these platforms, retailers need to be up to date with viral food trends.
Ashton Marriott, head of marketing at Cotswold Fayre explained: “Social media plays a huge role in the B2C channel, influencing and reacting to consumer demand is a crucial part of a supplier’s marketing plan. As a wholesaler, our buyers use social media as part of their sourcing mix and use it to spot and follow the latest food trends.”
Helena, social media manager at Sous Chef agreed: “It is key that retailers like Sous Chef stay on top of social media trends at the moment as they have such a huge influence on consumer habits.
“Combining awareness of trends with looking at what is being searched for influences which ranges we push to promote as well as where to expand our ranges.
“Emily Mariko’s salmon rice bowls have increased the popularity of cult ingredients like Kewpie mayonnaise and Sriracha. Search has increased by 118% for kewpie mayonnaise, as well as sales of sriracha increasing 1200% onsite since 2019.”
Natasha Marlow, content creator at Cotswold Fayre agreed, adding: “I think that fine food retailers could be harnessing social media to look for ingredient trends that are perhaps not so widely available when it comes to products.
“The rise of Middle Eastern and Asian flavours is a great example of this. Upon spotting a flavour trend, retailers can discuss it with their customers and then source products from a wholesaler to capitalise on this trend.”
Lasting vs fleeting trends
Retailers need to be reactive to sudden food trends such as salmon rice bowls, Korean cuisine and baked feta pasta, but also realise that they are most likely brief and won’t be trending for long.
Mark Kacary, managing director at Norfolk Deli explained: “It would be very easy (for somebody who spent 30 years working in IT sales and marketing) to say that social media is the future of food, but I don’t feel that social media alone is the future. It is an influence and possibly a growing influence on what we do, and what we eat, but it should be pointed out that many trends started and powered by social media are fleeting and short-lived.
“A retailer has to look past the fluff of social media hysteria and use their experience to read the trends and adjust, without overhauling. Think of it like fashion trends. People might go nuts for a new trend shown on the catwalks, but larger retailers/fashion houses will take elements and introduce them to their existing range. That’s probably the best approach. Don’t go overboard, take out the elements which will last beyond the initial euphoria.”
However, some trends are built to last, and fine food retailers will do well to focus on these as a priority over fleeting popularity.
According to Helena, “Veganism and sustainable eating is one of the biggest trends at the moment and looks set to stay. Searches for veganism and vegetarianism are still slowly increasing each year by 40% and 60% respectively. And searches for veganuary skyrocketed this year with an 800% increase on the search ‘how to do veganuary’. The younger generations realisation that the way in which we eat is unsustainable in the long term, alongside their demographic as the predominant influencer on social media, is a combination that has caused this trend to skyrocket.”
Mark agreed, “I feel that veganism is one trend that has been fuelled by social media. For a trend to work and have some longevity there needs to be a little more than a fad. The veganism trend is supported, by a variety of messages, e.g., health concerns and saving the planet.”
The bottom line
Once retailers know what is trending and what is likely to stay popular, they need to be able to capitalise on it and generate revenue from it.
Ashton explained: “From experience, only a small proportion of independent retailers are actively engaged on social media, but they could certainly capitalise on trends by learning from others how to interact with their customer base and of course liaise with customers directly.”
According to Philip Linardos, CEO and Co-founder of ShelfNow, “To ensure you remain at the forefront of food trends you need to be keeping up with consumer tastes. Social media is one way you can do this as it lets you monitor live food and drink trends. Independent retailers can monitor growing trends on social media by following hashtags and dedicating ten minutes each day to look at different social platforms.”
Additionally, “Independent retailers can capitalise on the rapidly evolving by making sure their stock and products match the needs of the ever-growing market”, as Helena explains.
“Social media also offers accessibility to expose retailers to new audiences (with platforms like TikTok delivering content at random to those who have not directly searched for it) and with immediacy like never before.
“It has a future in the food industry just as it does in all industries it impacts. Sharing new food recipes/trends/experiences has never been so fast-paced and so it means the industry has to match this in its awareness of consumer demands, as they change quicker than ever.”