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Opinion: The app that ate the internet
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

9 March 2023

Opinion: The app that ate the internet


Branded the ‘app that ate the internet,’ TikTok has quickly established itself as the world’s most popular app, tapping seamlessly into the new age of instant gratification. In 2021, it topped Google as the most visited website – also beating the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Netflix. FoodBev's Phoebe Fraser finds out how the platform has impacted the F&B industry. Launched in 2016 – and known in China as Douyin – TikTok is a short-form video hosting platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance. Used in over 150 countries, with more than 1.5 billion active monthly users, the app has had a huge impact on companies worldwide. For food and beverage brands, TikTok presents fresh ways to reach new and existing consumers. It inspires innovative methods to present, package and consume products, and offers a novel platform to promote a brand’s values and story. FoodTok, for example – a mouthwatering subgenre of TikTok – has given a stage to some of the most buzzed-about food and recipe trends on social media over the past few years. Businesses looking to tap into new F&B movements would do well to scour this flourishing app for the latest. TikTok: The influencer In recent years, the consumer packaged goods industry has seen a shift towards increased fragmentation, instant gratification and a reduction in loyalty, which impacts product discovery and sales. According to TikTok, “83% of users turn to for product reviews; TikTok is at the forefront of this discovery shift”.

What’s more, food recipes or products that go viral on TikTok translate into purchases – think

Lotus Biscoff, for instance, which has now become a viral ingredient in all sorts of recipes, from cheesecakes and pancakes to meringues and mousses. Today, the app’s Biscoff hashtag has over 1 billion views. Lotus Biscoff’s global brand director, Kathleen Buyst, said that due to the home baking trend during lockdowns, consumers ‘seized’ upon their products: “They shared their fantastic creations enthusiastically via social media with the hashtag #lotusbiscoff, so that Lotus Biscoff reached even more people. What’s nice is that, through channels like TikTok, a younger generation is now getting to know our product too.” Another sweeping example is Little Moons – which took on the ‘East meets West’ trend with its rice-based dough (mochi) balls filled with ice cream. The brand is now one of the UK’s most sought-after frozen treats, establishing itself at the top of TikTok’s 2021 hashtags through a targeted and structured marketing campaign. Little Moons' content encouraged followers to join the experience, directing consumers on how to enjoy its ice cream balls and adding a playful catchline “bite it, squish it, stretch it, love it”. This stimulated organic user-generated content as consumers began to create their own videos playing with the products, increasing reach and exposure. A platform for foodservice TikTok’s influence does not stop at retail. The app’s mastery dominates marketing success across all sectors within the foodservice industry too. A 2021 study by MGH Advertising found that 36% of TikTok users had visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing it on the platform. Additionally, the study showed that 65% of TikTok content creators have visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing videos posted on TikTok by other influencers/food companies. Ryan Goff, EVP, social media marketing director at MGH, said: “The increasing popularity and breadth of users – coupled with direct feedback from users – demonstrate the power of TikTok and should encourage restaurant owners to add this platform to their marketing mix”.

Recipe for growth Thanks to TikTok, the hunger for new F&B-related content is larger than ever before. A recipe can go from a family secret to a worldwide sensation virtually overnight, and these viral recipes have the power to influence buying trends worldwide. In early 2021, baked feta pasta – a relatively simple dish that sees a block of feta added to a mix of pasta and tomatoes – went viral on TikTok in the US. The effect? Alleged feta shortages in some parts of the country. According to American retail company Instacart, ‘the feta effect’ caused sales of the top ingredients from the pasta recipe to be up 106% versus the week before. Not only that, but it tastes pretty good too! More recently, recipes for flavoured butter boards, negroni spagliatos, Biscoff tiramisu and salmon rice bowls have snowballed and as a result, so has consumption of and demand for the ingredients. It is clear that TikTok can act as an invaluable resource within the food and beverage industry, from increasing a brand’s global reach to introducing products to new audiences to affirming a reputation with consumer reviews.

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