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How brands are capitalising on food porn

Food porn is undeniably compelling – so much so that it’s recently taken an extra-large portion of blame in Britain’s obesity epidemic (with a side of fries). Succulent depictions of food are said to be a ‘powerful cue’ to the brain – immediately music to a marketer’s ears.

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Indeed, brands are piggybacking on this pigging-out craze like nobody’s business. From established brands giving themselves a bit of a boost, to start-ups founded on the popularity of social posts, the possibilities for brands seem both endless and delicious. If 74 percent of people aged 30 and younger take photos or videos of their food for social media, and 47 percent of young consumers consider themselves foodies, it seems an obvious way to engage them.

When M&S first brought out their sexy, slow-mo ‘Not just…’ food adverts, they sparked a host of parodies. A decade later, however, their ‘Adventures in food’ ads are award winning and undeniably gorgeous. And although M&S might still be singing the same tune, now other brands such as Lurpak and Carte Noire have caught on, with equally mesmerising results.

It’s been easy for certain food trends to jump on the aesthetics bandwagon. Cuisines are often described as having ‘a moment’, prompting a host of restaurants with perfectly presented dishes and social feeds to crop up. Most recently, fried chicken was transported from a local kids’ meeting spot or greasy early-morning choice to the hipster hangout du jour. This hilarious juxtaposition was noted beautifully when East End teenagers went to visit the Shoreditch joint Mother Clucker. Yet it’s as Neil Rankin says: what’s being eaten is not really the trend – it’s the more the way we treat it on Instagram and beyond. Interestingly, the podcast This American Life recently explored who created culinary mash-ups like a mac and cheese burger or the hot dog crust pizza. They discovered it was marketers – no culinary training apart from a mouth and an idea of what a regular Joe would like to tell their friends about.

Although restaurants and established chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson naturally have a host of digital content all ready and prepped to create social feeds to salivate over, the real pioneers are those who’ve used social media to mould their popularity.

Gorgeous food porn content can generally be split into two categories: clean eating or cheat eating. Blogger turned culinary megastar Deliciously Ella recently released the fastest selling cookbook of all time after starting out her social feeds in her third year of uni. Food brands can also start from an Instagram account, such as Qnola, a quinoa-based cereal launched by a model from her Stoke Newington home after fans on social media wanted to try it.

It’s not just the glowing green goddesses capitalising on this trend, though. Cheat eating is also an enticing way to connect with the masses. Chrissy Teigen’s celebrity status is arguably in large part due to her drool-inducing snaps posted every other day. Not only does it make her seem oh so down to earth when you see her chomping on a McDonald’s – it has also given her the perfect platform from which to launch her personal website and cookbook. The vast appeal of buttery, baked or braised dishes is not something that’s lost on bigger brands either. Asos regularly posts photos of models clutching at doughnuts and ice creams (while wearing their watches of course). Travel and food go hand in hand, which makes beautiful aerial shots of international dishes a no brainer for Instagram pro Airbnb. Sporting chiefs such as Nike know that a big old brunch is the best motivation to keep going that extra kilometre. Even luxury brands are taking a hefty slice of the action, such as Burberry.

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And why wouldn’t they? Food porn is enticing, aspirational and inclusive all at once. It ignites the imagination. It’s relatable. It’s everything that a brand should want to be.