With social media so intertwined with a majority of consumers’ everyday lives, it’s not a surprise to see trends—including food and flavors—beginning to develop from social media platforms. “We see new and disruptive flavors beginning to emerge from TikTok and other social media trends for which Gen Z will be the key audience,” says Lu Ann Williams, cofounder and global insights director at Innova Market Insights.
Bringing Viral Trends to Retail Shelves
This past summer, The Pink Sauce, created by Veronica Shaw—known as Chef Pii on TikTok—went viral on the social video-sharing app. As images of Shaw drizzling #pinksauce on everything from fried chicken to tacos spread so did demand for the condiment, which as its name implies is florescent pink in color and made up of sunflower seed oil, raw honey, distilled vinegar, garlic, dragon fruit, and Himalayan Sea salt. After a failed attempt at producing and selling the sauce on her own—making food scientists and safety experts everywhere cringe—Shaw has partnered with Dave’s Gourmet to produce the condiment at commercial scale this fall.
“It’s our pleasure to reach out to a talented foodie who has not had any experience with commercial production of sauces, and, with our expertise and resources, help bring her Pink Sauce to the market,” said Dave’s Gourmet’s President David Neuman in a press release. “The youth of today have their fingers on the pulse of what their contemporaries want but may not have the knowledge, ability or capital to bring a product idea to market quickly, safely and on a large scale.”
Another brand seeking to deliver products based on social media trends is Funtola. This new German beverage brand uses artificial intelligence from Neuro Net to analyze the most popular themes in beverages across social media and then mixes them together arbitrarily to create unique sodas. The three developed so far are Bubblegum, Mango Trio (mango, pineapple, and orange), and Space Cow (featuring strawberry and marshmallow flavors). The company plans to unveil at least one new flavor each year.
Connecting Flavors to the Metaverse
Companies looking to promote existing brands to Gen Z consumers are realizing the importance of a digital presence. In February 2022, Coca-Cola Creations, the beverage giant’s new global innovation platform, launched a limited-edition take on its classic soda called Coca-Cola Starlight (Galaxy in countries outside of the United States). Fusing the signature Coca‑Cola taste with “unexpected touches, including a reddish hue and cooling taste sensation,” Starlight is hyped as “evoking the feeling of a journey to space.”
The second limited-edition flavor—Coca-Cola Byte—rolled out in April as the “the first-ever Coca-Cola flavor born in the metaverse.” According to the company’s website, it has a “bright, upfront taste … reminiscent of powering up a game” with a “refreshing finish.” Like the Coca-Cola Starlight drop, which featured an augmented reality (AR) concert starring pop star Ava Max, immersive digital experiences were created for fans of Byte, including a new island within the popular online video game Fortnite.
Just a few months behind Coca-Cola, the fast-casual restaurant Chipotle debuted in the metaverse just in time for Halloween 2021. The chain opened a location within the gaming platform Roblox giving users the chance to win a free (real-world) burrito coupon by completing the brand’s in-game quest. And last month, Chipotle became the first restaurant to officially unveil a new menu item in the metaverse by debuting Garlic Guajillo Steak through the Chipotle Grill Simulator experience on Roblox. The brand offered its Roblox community and rewards members the first chance to try the new item at its locations before making it a permanent in-store IRL (in real life) menu item.
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