Blogger, Alice Katter, says it best, “We’re all guilty of it: Snapping a photo of that pizza or ice cream we couldn’t wait to dig into, and Instagramming it. Why? Because, we’re obsessed with #foodporn. We love seeing what others eats and showing off with our own dishes.” With the boom of social media, the food and restaurant industry has forever changed. In order for any business in the food industry to succeed, their engagement on social media is paramount. The industry which once relied heavily on word of mouth, has shifted to social media being the major influencer.
After being listed as number five on Fast Company’s Most innovated social media company of 2017, Taco Bell is making a way for itself by focusing on the customers for product development and research. To reach customers in a more personal sense, Taco Bell has been using social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to review customers complaints, ideas, and creativity. “Instead of sitting behind glass and listening to a focus group, we now have access to 20 million consumers and can be inspired by them and connect with them and have real relationships with them (Lacy, L. (2016, November)”.
While Wendy’s might normally be known for their famous sides – fries, chilli, baked potato, salad and the original frosty – their side of sassy social media responses brought them into 2017 as one of the hottest brands on Twitter. Earlier in the year, the fast food chain responded to media requests affirming that their social media accounts had not, in fact, been hacked. This after a series of responses coming from the official Wendy’s Twitter account to followers who engaged with the company on social media.
If you’re like me, it’s hard to scroll through your Facebook feed without having a video from Tasty pop up. Launched in December of 2015, this Buzzfeed-owned online food channel is garnering attention from across demographics. Tasty’s videos demonstrate how easy it can be to create mouthwatering food. Through simple marketing, Tasty has managed to attract consumer interest by creating a winning formula of customer engagement. Tasty has capitalized on the fact that people are looking to be able to make delicious food without having to watch a long step-by-step video, or follow a deeply detailed recipe. By promoting trendy videos across multiple social media channels, Tasty has managed to ingrain itself into social media culture across the globe.
A powerful component of social media from a business perspective is the ability to listen to what consumers are saying. Social listening technologies are available to track conversations around specific phrases, words or brands. As a result, companies are able to identifying new opportunities that may not have been on their radar, and many are responding with innovative product development or design. Twenty-five years ago, it would have been costly and time consuming to gather focus groups in order to gain feedback. But today, this valuable market information can be gathered in a matter of minutes—assuming of course that people are in fact talking about your brand. The food industry is a specific sector where product development is critical to success. There are a number of reasons why this specific industry is constantly creating new products or innovating existing ones. I chatted with my colleague, Karen Proper, who is a technical manager in the product and process development department at NSF International to gain more insight on this topic. Karen and her team work with clients in the food and beverage industry to help bring a product concept to life, overcome production challenges or to innovate an existing one. When asked why product development is so integral to business, especially in the food industry, Karen replied, “Product development keeps companies competitive in the marketplace, compliant to regulations, able to react to ingredient and manufacturing process changes, and also responsive to trends and consumer demands—all of which are critical to success in the food industry today.”