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TikTok brings unexpected success for food, beverage industry

The social media platform has produced a new way for online creators to share food and beverage trends -- and brands -- that can become popular almost instantaneously.

4 min read

Consumer Insights

TikTok brings unexpected success for food, beverage industry

Sue Pressey of My Korean Kitchen

The coronavirus pandemic prompted people everywhere to focus on at-home cooking, especially during periods of strict lockdowns. This time spent on foods prepared at home also meant that many social media users were sharing their recipes and other food-related videos on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. 

The video-sharing app TikTok isn’t necessarily new, but the massive surge in the platform’s popularity in 2020 caused many major brands to refocus digital marketing efforts. Online connection has become essential for both consumers and brands, especially over the past year. While this social content is often created for entertainment value, these videos have made significant impressions for brands that net worthwhile results.

Viral recipes

One of the first notable foods and beverages to blow up on the app was dalgona coffee, otherwise known as whipped coffee. The drink — made by whipping hot water, instant coffee and sugar and adding the mixture to milk — is named after the Korean street food snack dalgona. Sue Pressey from the food blog My Korean Kitchen said she saw the drink on Instagram last March and was intrigued by the beverage’s beautiful presentation and its name. She even shared her own version of the recipe on her site.

“So many people who missed going out to a cafe for a good coffee wanted to have some fun with dalgona coffee and share on social media to stay connected with others,” said Pressey.

Other popular TikTok recipes in 2020 included pancake cereal and baked feta pasta. These foods share something in common with whipped coffee, which Pressey identified: a simple, fun recipe that can be created with easy-to-find ingredients. This proved especially important during the spring of 2020 when pandemic-related supply chain shortages and pantry loading resulted in empty shelves at retailers across the country.

User-generated content boosts brands

TikTok creators are making videos about specific food products and tools as well as recipes, which has created a serendipitous effect for several companies. A video posted from @tourdelust touted the OXO 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer as a useful kitchen hack, which gained roughly 5.9 million views, 630,000 likes and 20,000 shares. The straightforward product demonstration “defies all expectations and norms — and proves that you can’t predict what’s going to resonate and go viral,” said Kate Gagnon, OXO’s associate director for brand communication.

She added that the kitchen utensils brand experienced a 166% year-over-year increase in website traffic in April 2020 partly buoyed by the TikTok video as well as “[c]onsumer habits of the last year focused on cooking, baking, cleanliness, storage, and coffee, which have made new products in these spaces more approachable and in-demand.”

Arguably one of the most well-known food and beverage TikTok videos is by Nathan Apodaca — @420doggface208 — featuring him skateboarding while drinking Ocean Spray’s Cran-Raspberry juice and singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” The organic content generated +11% sales growth for Cran-Raspberry and +3-4% for the entire franchise, according to Melanie DiBiasio, senior manager of digital precision marketing at Ocean Spray. She added that while there were some photos online of initial empty store shelves, the beverage producer was able to ramp up manufacturing to quickly meet the newfound demand.

“We recognize that viral moments are once in a lifetime, but we have optimized this moment, collaborating across our PR, comms, social and marketing channels, to ensure we are reaching younger consumers in new, different and engaging ways,” she said. 

After Apodaca’s initial video, Ocean Spray continued to invest in both TikTok as a platform and Apodaca as an influencer. The company gifted him with a “cranberry red” truck to show their appreciation and collaborated with him for a TikTok challenge-based Super Bowl campaign following the brand’s creation of their own account on the social media site when brand mentions of Ocean Spray were dominating the internet.

“We are now on TikTok with a long-term strategy — but we can also react quickly to trends and viral moments. TikTok is now doing well for us and brought us a new audience. … We’re creating together with the community, which is what makes the platform feel so authentic and special,” said DiBiasio. 

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