Restaurants, coffee shops and even baseball stadiums aren’t just making food that tastes good. They’re making it so it will be shareable on Instagram.
Starbucks made headlines recently for its “Unicorn Frappuccino,” a pink blended drink made with mango syrup, a sour blue drizzle and sweet pink powder, topped with vanilla whipped cream. Many customers rushed out to buy the multicolored drink and post photos of it on social media. Nearly 161,000 Instagram photos have been tagged “#unicornfrappuccino” as of Monday.
The Unicorn Frappuccino’s success on Instagram FB, will also provide a springboard for Starbucks’s Frappuccino Happy Hour, the company’s Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said during an earnings call last week. He said he thinks that special promotion, which offers consumers Frappuccinos for half price from May 5 to 14 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., will be “a huge home run.” The company also promised more novelty beverages.
Food designed for social media is increasingly popular, said Amanda Topper, the associate director of food service research at the market-research firm Mintel. Younger consumers may be especially likely to share, Topper said. Some 34% of diners say they like taking pictures of their food, with 63% of millennials saying they enjoy it, according to Mintel research. “The over-the-top ideas help create this visually appealing dish or beverage that people want to share.”
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The restaurant IHOP even did a special Snapchat campaign in February 2016, when it released its own art customers could add to photos and videos they posted while using Snapchat at the restaurants.
And in recent years, sports stadiums have continually tried to one-up one another with outrageous food offerings. Chase Field, where the Arizona Diamondbacks play, offers what the team’s president Derrick Hall calls “Wow items.” They include a $10 churro “hot dog,” and an item that’s new this year, a chicken sandwich with funnel cakes on either side instead of a bun.
“There are a lot of selfies with the food item first and then afterwards, when it’s empty,” Hall said. “There is that high demand for the oversized items that even have a higher price point of $20 or $30.”
The restaurant Black Tap Burgers & Beer, which has several locations in New York, regularly has a line out the door, helped in part by its self-described “crazy” milkshakes, which come with toppings including pretzel rods, lollipops, rock candy and cookie sandwiches, another food that’s popular on Instagram.
Last year, the Rainbow Bagel from the Bagel Store in Brooklyn went viral on social media, so much so that the store temporarily shut down because it couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Tom Lohr, a blogger who has visited every major league ballpark for his website, Blog About a Dog, said people want to have thrilling food experiences — complete with photo documentation — and stadiums are just capitalizing on that. “It used to be, ‘I did the walking through hot coals’ or ‘I did the zip line through the jungle,’ and now it’s, ‘I ate some of that two-foot-long hot dog,’” he said.
But these adventures in photographing our food don’t come cheap — and may not always be good for consumers’ health. Starbucks Frappuccinos typically cost between $3 and $5, depending on which stores they’re sold in and the size of the drink. While Unicorn Frappuccinos were officially on menus from April 19 to April 23, they cost between $4.25 and $4.95.
They’re also loaded with calories. A ”tall” 12-ounce Unicorn Frappuccino has 280 calories, 11 grams of fat and 39 grams of sugar, according to a Starbucks spokesman. That’s the same amount of sugar in a 12-ounce can of classic Coca-Cola. A “grande” 16 ounce-version of a similar beverage, the “Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino,” has 370 calories, 15 grams of fat (23% of the recommended daily value), 56 grams of carbohydrates (19% of recommended for the day) and 54 grams of sugar.
But when customers are participating in a food trend, they may not care as much about health, said Bennett Jacobstein, the author of the 2015 book “The Joy of Ballpark Food.” “They’re out, drinking beer, spending money, they’re with their friends,” he said.
This article was originally published in Marketwatch.