Following trends in the food and wellness industry is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site or social media handles. But doing so without selling out—going against your brand’s values, cuisine, or dietary considerations—can be a challenge, especially when every day there’s a new ingredient or diet to demonize and another to sing praises to. The end of the year is typically the time when these predictors of what will be hot are released, wrapping up trends in another black hole—New Year’s resolutions—of externally-motivated decisions about how we do our work and what we share with others. When surveying new trends, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by asking yourself these questions before you jump on the proverbial bandwagon.
- Is this something I would eat? Say your best friend is coming to town and asks for a good place to eat. Would you send her to a restaurant you’ve never been to yourself? Unlikely. Before you become an evangelist for a food trend, make sure it’s something you would actually recommend to someone you care about (aka, your readers). Maybe it looks great in photos, but tastes horrible, or is too difficult to make, or not worth the expense of the ingredients. Take your time to become an expert on the trend, and really come to love it yourself, before you start writing about it. If you want to experiment and get informal feedback, try posting on Instagram or Facebook stories, or better yet tell some IRL stories at your dinner table with friends. After honing your opinion and your expression of the trend, the recipe you post will be that much more authentic and unique.
- Is this food really new? The 2020 food trend list as complied by Eater featured “Veggies, grains, and nuts (Chef John Russ, Clementine).” Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that these foods are “trending,” but honestly—they are just food! Decide for yourself if trends like these need to be called out as special or if it’s already incorporated into your brand’s typical content. If it is, then you were trending ahead of the curve! Make a point to highlight this in a recipe you would have already made, perhaps with a bit of snark, but don’t worry too much about calling attention to something you and your readers already know.
- How old is the trend? Certain food trends come and go, like unicorn drinks and sweet potato toast; others manage to make their way into the mainstream, like veganism and kale. If you’re seeing something come up for three or more years, you’ll be hard pressed to make it any more of a thing than it already is. At that point, you’ll sound silly to keep calling it a trend, but in touch if you simply accept it as a new staple. If it’s new to your blog and you want to incorporate it, do your research and see if there are typical uses or preparations for an ingredient that come up at the top of Google search. Can you give it a twist, rather than try to outrank something that’s been at the top for years?
- Why is this trending? Consider what category of food the trend falls in, or what social context it might be responding to. Lately the rise in interest in adaptogens, herbs, and other holistic foods reflect increased awareness of anxiety and mental health; non-alcoholic spirits and meatless burgers fall in similar health-focused categories, but perhaps appeal to different audiences. See if the trend matches up with the problems your readers are facing. If so, great!—you’ll be using the trend to meet a need; if not, then your content might not be received as well. Not every trend is for every blog, which bring us to the last question…
- What trends have I embraced recently, and why did they work? Take a look at any fashion archive and you’ll see a rotating door of styles: those scrunchies from the ’90s are in vogue (literally!), as well as the flared-leg jean that hit us in the ’60s and the ’00s. If you’re someone who looks good in such styles, you’re lucky for that window of time they’re popular; then when something new comes along, another body type or personality gets a leg up. Eventually, everyone gets a turn, and then in a few decades they will again. The same is true for food; we’ll all have our moments in the sun, so don’t stress about short-term fluctuations. As long as your site has enough evergreen content all year long, you’ll be able to resist spikes in trends that might not apply to you; eventually, your niche will hit the top again. Not everyone will like that for the hot second it’s trending, and when they’re tired of burning potatoes in the toaster and walking around with purple tongues, they’ll come back to you!
Are there any amazing trends your brand has made its name on, or majorly flopped with? What are you looking forward to for 2020? Share your stories in the comments below or over on Instagram @TastemakerConference!