Food Photo Frenzy: Inside the Instagram Craze and Travel Trend

How many times have you been sat at a restaurant, only to see someone at another table excitedly snapping a photo of their plate before digging in?

How many times have you been that person?

People love food photography because people love to look at food.

The saying “we eat with our eyes” rings truer than ever in the age of information. The proliferation of foodie culture across social media has been on a steady rise in recent years.

Related Article: Farm to Table: Must’s for Building a Green Strategy in Food and Beverage


When this article was written, there were 168,375,343 posts on Instagram for #food and 76,239,441 posts for #foodporn (and that number will grow in a mere matter of minutes). Because so many people from all corners of the world are sharing pictures of food they’re eating, our exposure to foreign foods is greater than ever before.

There are countless websites where you can find recipes for exotic foods, but for many people that isn’t enough. Enter the rise of food tourism. Food tourism, or gastronomic tourism, is tourism where the primary purpose of your travels is to visit a specific gastronomical region, to seek out producers of food, to visit markets and food fairs and festivals, and/or to embark on tastings and any activity involving food.

Focus is generally given to the local cuisines and flavors of a specific region. After all, food can tell you a lot about a culture and its customs, and what activity is more immersive than eating?

Seeking Authentic Experiences

The farm-to-table movement has spurred a whole slew of travellers who want to see where and who food comes from. Food production is made exciting for travellers by showing the narratives of farmers and local artisans on their social media pages. Farm-to-table restaurants are a staple in New York, and Instagram is one of their primary drivers of traffic. A cursory search of the #farmtotable tag yields 338,739 posts, many of them made by accounts belonging to chefs from all over the world. 

This is where attractive food photography is essential—grab the attention of travellers with tantalizing pictures of food, and they will jump on the next plane to be able to taste it. Travellers aren’t just looking for beautiful food, though, they’re looking for authentic cultural experiences. This is good news for rural and farming communities who previously experienced little to no tourist traffic.

The Rise of the Traveling Foodie

According to the American Culinary Traveler, the percentage of US leisure travelers catering their travels to unique dining experiences rose from 40 percent to 51 percent between 2006 and 2013. Unique dining experiences include, according to the UNWTO Global Report on Food Tourism 2012, food events (79 percent of survey respondents), gastronomic routes and cooking classes and workshops (62 percent), food fairs featuring local products (59 percent), visits to markets and producers (53 percent), museums (12 percent), and presentations (6 percent).

It’s noted in the same report that over a third of tourist spending is devoted to food. Instagram has played a hand in this–and it’s something that other businesses should take note of.    

Related Article: Fast Food 2.0: What Can We Learn From the Business of Food Trucks?

Many of the posts on Instagram tagged #travel feature shots of local foods and beverages. Tourism businesses have noticed this, which is why you will notice the prominence of content featuring food on their social media pages, Instagram being a leading tool. A rule of thumb for marketers in service and tourism industries is that their service must be made tangible for consumers. This means that it should offer consumers something visual or physical to latch onto.

Tapping the Power of Visually Appealing Subject Matter

Your business doesn’t have to pertain to food for this to apply. Tech companies also use visual tactics to make their services tangible to customers. Think how many tech sites feature images and videos of people using their products.

NikeLab’s Instagram is a star example of this–their product images on their site show their shows floating in mid-air, ready for customer to reach out and grab them. Think also of the images brands show of people smiling and doing activities not necessarily related to the immediate use of their products, but related to the emotions that they want customers to associate with their products.

WeWork’s Instagram is a great example of this kind of emotional tangibility. Their service offers coworking office space for small businesses, and their Instagram reflects the variety of faces that use the space. This approach serves the dual purpose of showing off their workspaces while also forming strong emotional associations with the images of the spaces, allowing customers to picture themselves in those spaces as well.

Because Instagram has a feel of immediacy–a photo is snapped on the go, that photo is uploaded–the images on Instagram have an inherent personability that exceeds a company’s website. Even though the images on company Instagrams are generally far from spontaneous, if pictures are uploaded frequently, customers will still feel like they’re being given a high number of images to associate with the company, offering them a more rounded and tangible understanding of the company and its products.

Considering that Instagram will bring in $595 million in mobile ad revenues worldwide by the end of 2015, and $2.81 billion by 2017, it’s easy to see that Instagram is where companies are going to appeal to the eyes, minds, and stomachs of the masses.

Here is an infographic with some quick stats and facts about the rise of food tourism, and how artistic imagery has played a key role.

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