Instagram and Food Culture: History, Present and the Future

Do you remember the time when you weren’t functioned to take amazing pictures of the food served to you before taking a single bite? Holding your phone high above the table to get that perfect shot in pre-COVID times for your Instagram Feed or documenting your food baking/cooking journey on Stories.

The social media platform celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Abigail Abesamis Demarest, Contributor at Forbes, chats with CJ Hernandez, Partner Solutions Manager, Publisher & Lifestyle Partnerships, at Instagram, to discuss how the platform has changed in the last 10 years, how the pandemic has shifted food-focused content and the future of Instagram.

Hernandez explained that food has always been a popular interest area for the platform, and in the last 10 years the focus has shifted away from aesthetic photos of food (though those are still popular) to the people eating and making the food and the stories behind them. “ In those early days, all the food content was beautiful photos of food. Now we see people putting themselves and their personality at the forefront of this content.”

This addition of personality is the key for influencers on Instagram as well, who primarily focus on food as content creation. He says it gives the followers to build deeper connection and set their content apart from their competitors out there in a unique way. Additionally, the concept and introduction of video blogging has given even more exposure to them, enticing some engagement as well. When video was first introduced to the Feed, then long-form capabilities came with IGTV, it gave people an opportunity to go a lot deeper with their audience, whether it’s showing a recipe or taking you on a food tour around a city,” Hernandez said. “Now with Reels, short form entertaining video, food creators have leaned in much more to video content.” Kevin Curry (@fitmencook) for example, posts recipes on Reels with captions and ingredient lists in English and Spanish. “He’s delivering recipes and doing it in a really creative, fun and concise way. He’s also making it accessible to more people by making it bilingual.” With time, these communities just keep on spreading and diving themselves into further sub-communities on social media, such as plant-based, keto and other trends in the food space, creating niche communities.

The usage of the platform has sure witnessed a change ever since pandemic due to the limitations of individuals to continue the long trend. As content has shifted from food served at bars and restaurants to at-home cooking, Hernandez noted that people are turning to Instagram for inspiration and to find accessible recipes that you don’t need a culinary degree to make. Features like Instagram Live and IGTV have become increasingly popular in 2020. People are looking to recreate that in the moment feeling when we can’t be together in person, according to Hernandez.

As for the future of Instagram, Hernandez predicts a continuation of this shift from brands to individuals. “Creators are such a superpower of Instagram, and I think we’re going to see the people within this space continue to drive growth and engagement, and Instagram is building tools to help people actually turn it into a living,” he said.

“My hope and dream is that in 10 years, and hopefully a lot sooner before that, we’re going to see a platform that is doing everything it can to represent diverse voices and people who have traditionally been underrepresented in the food and beverage industry, and make sure that everybody has a fair shot and equal playing field,” Hernandez said.