How TikTok is changing the food & drink industry (and how your brand can succeed)
Could TikTok be that magic missing ingredient from your social strategy? Dismiss it at your peril. Here’s our guide to the power of #FoodTok and how you can use it to build brand awareness and sales.
Whether you’re a kitchen creator, restaurant frequenter or supermarket sweeper, we can almost bet that at some point you’ve been exposed to TikTok content relating to food and drink.
This might be because you’re scrolling the app yourself. Or, if you’re a more reluctant TikToker, a result of someone sending you videos on WhatsApp or Messenger. In the UK, there’s been over 37.2 billion views of #FoodTok content. There’s no stopping the #TikTokMadeMeTryIt trend.
So, when we say this social media platform is changing what we eat and drink, how we eat and drink and where we eat and drink, we’re not lying.
But if you’re still yet to get onboard, not to worry — there’s still plenty of space at the table for food and drink brands who want their slice of this fast-growing TikTok pie.
The TikTok effect: #FoodTok has got us…
Eating spam (again)? Microwaving mini eggs? Air frying babybels? Freezing fizzy laces? Buttering boards? #FoodTok — the largest and most vibrant food and drink-related hashtag on the platform — has quite the story to tell so far.
One of the biggest impacts we’ve seen is on search. In 2021, feta pasta and charcuterie boards were in the top 5 trending global searches in 2021 — they stemmed from TikTok. This also means it’s no surprise that, two years later, TikTok are pushing the importance of their platform for search engine optimisation.
Supermarkets are sitting up and taking note of the influence of TikTok.
Waitrose is now including TikTok in their annual food and drink report, exploring key trends (such as ‘#Nextovers’) and how the platform has impacted sales of certain products. Sales of feta increased by 33% thanks to the ‘whipped feta’ trend!
“Whipped feta burst into our lives this year thanks to TikTok (42.9 million views and counting). Now the creamy, crumbled cheese dip blended with olive oil, cream or yogurt is a firm fixture on the supermarket shelf, with sales up by 33% (May 2022 to June 2022), and searches for whipped feta recipes on waitrose.com up by a whopping 4,325% year on year!”
It’s not too controversial to say that Waitrose has an older, more affluent customer — certainly not TikTok’s primary audience — so it’s interesting to see that they are reacting.
All it took was one catchy song on TikTok and the chip shop in Coventry found itself with thousands of people flocking to get their hands on a battered haddock and cup of curry sauce — some from as far as Australia, reportedly.
With the ability to check out seamlessly without having to leave the app, the launch of TikTok Shop towards the end of 2022 put new revenue streams on the menu for food and drink brands. Brands like Pasta Evangelists were first on the scene here by launching their TikTok Shop.
Who are #FoodTok lovers on TikTok?
As we tuck into our starter, let's get acquainted with your new TikTok audience. Based on TikTok’s data of those who watched content with the #FoodTok hashtag, we know that:
65% are aged 18–24
22% are aged 25–34
13% are aged 35+
It should come as no surprise to learn that the majority demographic are Gen Z; those born in the late nineties and early noughties. The passion of Gen Z for food and drink has grown markedly; 35% of Gen Z in the UK and US reported an interest in cooking.
With more free time on our hands, the pandemic may have had a sway on this, with many of us turning to TikTok for inspiration and donning our aprons for the first time.
TikTok has allowed anyone to grab their wooden spoon and become a kitchen counter chef. Don’t discount the Millennials; 44% of 13–39-year-olds have cooked a recipe that was going viral on social media!
We can also use TikTok’s data to look at the audience breakdown of beverage lovers. The audience engaging with #drink videos is as follows:
How is TikTok (and #FoodTok) impacting the food and drink industry?
Now, onto our main course and the meatier content (or plant-based content, if you’d prefer): how is TikTok impacting the food and drink industry? Well, there are multiple different categories cast under the #FoodTok net, so let’s break things down!
New products — who else is also now an #airfryermaster?
We can’t not mention the viral feta pasta trend that saw ASDA create its own bundle for online customers. Not a new response, admittedly; we see end of the aisle bundles all the time around seasonal events like Pancake Day, but this was the first time we’d seen a retailer react like this to a social media trend.
For retailers, it’s paying to be on top of TikTok trends. In more recent times, #WhippedFeta gained never-before-seen popularity. With 42.9 million views and counting, Waitrose reported that searches for whipped feta recipes on their website were up by a whopping 4,325% year on year, with sales for the ingredients up by 33%.
Then there’s the furore hatched by the 1kg mini egg bags, or the unavoidable hype surrounding PRIME drink.
But when we talk about products, we don’t just mean edible ones. Kitchen equipment has also benefited; in the face of spiralling energy bills, air fryers are almost this year’s meme product, with demand soaring by 3000%.
If we look at the audience consuming this sort of recipe and product-focused content, we see:
51% are aged 18–24
27% are aged 25–34
22% are aged 35+
Related interests include cooking, life hacks and health and wellness. Related hashtags you might be interested in exploring include #airfryerrecipes, #airfryertiktok, #airfryermaster, #chickenwings and even #philips. As a brand, Philips have done a great job at managing to align themselves with this hubbub of excitement.
Recipes, serving suggestions and menu hacks — TikTok isfuelling foodie trends
Many food and drink TikTokkers will be acquainted with ‘messy dinners’ — where you wrap your table in foil and then pour the food directly onto the table without plates.
Household names like KFC have made their finger-lickin’ mark who got on board with the ‘menu hack’ trend, which features a foodie creation containing something that doesn’t actually feature on the menu. There was also the Starbucks trend, with TikTokkers detailing drinks orders for people to copy.
Restaurants, pubs, cafés and bars — #FoodTok has got us hungry to discover places and experiences
Food critics are practically out of a job thanks to TikTok. It can be argued that creators and customers who make video reviews of their experience can make a much bigger, more authentic impact than those of the more traditional setting.
Humble independents had similarly incredible success too, though. Take Fat Pat’s in Manchester. It was all over TikTok as a 'hole in the wall’ restaurant — a hidden gem — featuring delicious smoky cheese pulls and their signature messy milk rolls. It's down a back alleyway next to some bins, but thanks to the power of TikTok it’s now a firm fave with Manchester’s finest foodies.
TikTok is becoming its own search engine for local attractions, with many brands creating their own brilliant content to attract hungry, curious scrollers. Take a look at Barnsley-based Dolly’s Desserts, with over 72 million views at the time of writing.
Please excuse us while we shamelessly mention one of our clients, Alcotraz. We’ve implemented a social strategy for the cocktail bar experience brand that has resulted in over three viral TikTok videos and some excellent return on investment (if you’ll excuse us saying so ourselves!). One video has clocked up 6.8 million views and counting…
Brands — big names are seeing a big impact
The trend #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has over 43 billion views. There are a few brands that may spring to mind when we think of their impact in this industry.
Chipotle and TikTok are two companies that seamlessly work in the same sentence. They were an early adopter which paid off massively for them as they were the first food brand to reach 1 million followers on the platform. They have proven that they really just ‘get’ the platform, pairing with valuable new Gen Z audiences beautifully.
Are you familiar with the “I really love corn” kid, Tariq? If not, you’re forgiven. But he quickly became a viral TikTok sensation after his sweet interview about his adoration for corn quickly turned into a trending sound.
What did Chipotle do? They took it one step further than just using the audio. Within 24 hours of his viral video, Chipotle had discovered he was a regular customer of one of the fast-food chains, had managed to get in contact with him and his mother, and had organised a sponsored partnership with him in his local restaurant.
The results? It’s their top organic TikTok video ever, with 21.4 million views and 3.8 million likes. It’s also their highest performing Instagram post, with 13.2 million views and more than 800,000 shares. This shows that your TikTok content can be multipurpose and multiplatform.
If you want an example a little closer to home, you may remember when the British public went crazy for Little Moons after seeing a ‘come with me to big Tesco’ video. Soon, it felt like everyone on your FYP was headed to the supermarket giant.
That unexpected campaign led to a 1300% uplift in sales for Little Moons, along with the brand seeing its biggest ever sales week in UK grocery ever across all retail partners.
Another brand we also have to mention here is @chamoyguysuk. Regularly selling out on their website thanks to viral TikTok challenges, The Chamoy Guys have harnessed the power of the platform like no other.
As the UK home of Mexican chamoy candy, they started out on TikTok in the heady days of 2021. But fast forward to September 2022 and in came the #PickleKits. We’re talking giant pickles that are filled with takis, wrapped in a fruit roll with Tajín sprinkled on top and chamoy drizzled over it.
(No, we’re not making it up — at the time of writing this, TikTok predicted that #picklekit was likely to trend in the next 7 days)
As they’re not available to shop directly on TikTok, Chamoy have set their sights on awareness and owning that #pickle space, with a huge focus on collaborating with Creators to be the brand viewers associate anything pickle with.
Chefs, cocktail makers & critics — a new wave of foodie experts & TikTok Creators
From restaurant and bar reviewers to kitchen counter chefs, TikTok has seen a birth in all kinds of creators, and we’ve dug out some of our favourites.
@poppycooks — as the self-proclaimed potato queen, Poppy found fame on TikTok during the pandemic when she was made redundant from her job as a junior sous chef. Fast forward three years and 4 million followers later, she’s released her own recipe book, taught celebrities on Channel 4’s Celeb’s Cooking School, is a judge and host on Young Master Chef and has worked with brands like Ninja Kitchen UK, Knorr and Quorn.
@mealsbymitch — it’s budget bites on Mitch’s menu, with everything he makes coming in under a fiver, and typically feeding a family of four. His cheap, cheerful and easy-to-follow recipes have won over one million followers. Whilst the budgets may be modest, his engagement is anything but, his feed having racked up an impressive 14 MILLION likes. That’s not to mention the book deal in the works. Bon appetit indeed, Mitch.
@eat.snack.repeat — ‘sharing top eats’ is this London-based foodie’s speciality. Although she does sometimes stray as far as Manchester, most of her content is focused on London’s latest launches and must-try eateries. Whether you’re looking for brunch, budget, boujee — or even boujee on a budget — you’re going to find it here. A relatively small but growing account that certainly hits the spot.
@chefthombateman — Chef Thom welcomes us into his home kitchen to share his take on everyday cooking, home comforts and a series titled ‘all about the sauce’. It’s a 50-part series dedicated to saucy dishes. A quick glance at the saves on Thom’s shows that as well as watching, people are here to learn and to make his recipes themselves. The man knows his way around the kitchen and the TikTok algorithm — our compliments to the chef on reaching nearly 16 million likes.
@mycocktailbible — if you find scrolling through TikTok to be thirsty work, Owen is on hand to serve up some refreshing cocktail content. Expect elaborate ‘follow along’ recipe videos paired with trending sounds, like Harry Styles’ hit Watermelon Sugar and a Watermelon & Chili Mezcal Margarita. Occasionally Owen mixes things up with a collab or two, but mostly it’s just really mind-blowing mixology.
So, enough on TikTok’s seismic impact on the food and drink marketing landscape. Ready to claim your rightful slice of the growing food & drink pie on this platform?
Top tips and ideas for succeeding on TikTok as a food & drink brand
Be sure to keep your TikToks seasonal and on-trend, tapping into the latest crazes and phenomenons. Keeping things simple and consumable with a clear ‘hook’ is key — there’s no time for complexity or hard-to-find ingredients. More strategically, consider growing your reach by teaming up with creators and pairing your organic content with sponsored content.
Tap into seasonality with your content
It’s no secret that people associate key seasons and events with food. Take Halloween. According to The Grocer, there were 2.3M videos with the hashtag #halloweenfood in September 2022 — in October, this has grown by 313% to 9.7M videos.
But you don’t have to stick to the mainstream events. 65% of users would like to see brands do more around niche holidays. You can pretty much point at the calendar and there’ll be a dedicated food holiday for it — 23 February, National Banana Bread Day. 3 June, National Egg Day. 13 October, National Yorkshire Pudding Day. Getting involved here also means less competition and a greater chance to appear for searches and on For You pages.
Whether you’re providing recipe inspiration, reviewing supermarket ranges or sharing food, cooking or baking hacks, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved when it comes to food-centred events throughout the year, no matter their size.
Keep it simple, stupid
TikTok isn’t the place for complicated recipes and elusive ingredients. Whilst videos can now be up to 10 minutes long (as opposed to the previous 3-minute limit), viewers still crave simplicity. Keep your content easy to follow.
Take the viral #FetaPasta recipe. It contains 3 main ingredients and around 5 steps to follow. No pastes to make, 24 hours of marinating or 50 steps to follow.
That’s not to say there isn’t an audience for that type of content. You’ll just create content differently and may drive them off to a blog or your YouTube or Instagram to follow the steps for a more time-consuming recipe. You could also serialise the content — creating a part 1, part 2 and so on.
Tune into new habits and trends
Think about growing interests and habits on and off TikTok, like the rise in vegetarian and vegan diets, low alcohol options and sustainable food. Creating content around these pillars will help you to discover and engage passionate young audiences, which may stretch beyond your core customers.
When it comes to sustainability, there’s the ‘#Nextovers’ trend. This involves using up ingredients from the day before to make something else. How can you help people repurpose and reuse?
With Gen Z drinking around one fifth less than their Millennial counterparts, the rise in alcohol alternative content shouldn’t come as a huge surprise — think sober bottomless brunch spots, mocktail recipes, and sober-friendly bars and experiences. Then there’s the growing predilection to #makeitvegan. This is as simple as it sounds — you take a popular recipe or product and make it vegan friendly!
With costs rising, it would seem TikTok is also helping us be a little bit more frugal. This naturally ties into the sustainability trend — people want to make things go a little further, perhaps with hacks or by providing options for smaller budgets.
Savvy shoppers have been proudly taking to TikTok to share their ‘magic bag’ hauls which are ‘too good to go’.
Pair your organic content with sponsored content
Organic content can be powerful by itself on TikTok, yes. But for many brands, investing into TikTok ads only enhances your organic strategy.
Add your top performing organic content into your TikTok ad campaigns by connecting your ad account to your TikTok profile (known as Spark ads). The reason this tactic is so delectable for your success? You already know the content resonates with your target audience.
You can also use organic posts made by other creators in your ads by asking the creator to toggle on ‘ad authorisation’ for their video. This will give you a unique code which you can paste into your TikTok creative library, allowing you to use their video for a set period of time.
You can create ads that complement your organic strategy. These might help you to continue the organic conversation with your ads (or vice versa). A brand like Hotel Chocolat could publish hot chocolate recipes as part of their organic strategy to lure chocolate lovers in, and then retarget people who saw, clicked, or engaged with that content with their signature velvetiser to make their viral recipes at home.
There’s a number of ways you can collaborate with creators on TikTok…
Challenge them to come up with a recipe
Invite them down to try your new menu
Gift them your product to review
Name a drink, dish or recipe after them
Ask them to create content using your campaign sound (like the Just Eat song)
Ask them to stitch or duet one of your videos
Creators are to TikTok what ice cream is to sticky toffee pudding — they just go so well together! Take a look at HelloFresh’s work with @daddymaycooks and @annaisbolton…
Draw users in with video hooks
Capturing attention is only getting harder as TikTok gains popularity and people become more acquainted with how to create great content. So, to stop the scroll and draw people in, you need to make your videos stand out.
A hook is one such way to do this, piquing the viewer’s curiosity and imploring them to watch right until the end. Here are 10 popular ones for food and drink brands to try:
You’ve been using/eating/drinking this all wrong
This will be the best thing you’ll eat this week
I ate here for only £x
I didn’t think I like x until I tried y
If you love x flavour, then you’ll love y
This is the best kept secret in x
This is the worst thing I’ve ever drunk
I thought I knew my favourite restaurant until I visited x
This is the best time to visit this bar
Don’t buy this, your bank account will hate you
Hungry to succeed on #FoodTok?
Our team know exactly what it takes — we offer a full range of TikTok marketing services to help you reach new foodie audiences.
Whether you’re just after a few knockout ideas or you’d like us to manage your entire strategy to deliver mouthwatering results, get in touch using the button below. You can also reach us through our contact page!
Extreme's resident Instagram queen, Beth lives and breathes all things social media! After graduating with a degree in Advertising, she explored all aspects of the digital world before firmly finding her feet in the land of social. Day to day, you can find her brainstorming for campaigns, drafting up witty content and strategising to help clients soar on social.
Since forming Extreme’s social media department back in 2012, our Head of Social Donna and her team’s work has been recognised nationally. With extensive experience spanning mutiple sectors, Donna specialises in social strategy, ideation and paid social advertising.
Laura joined Team Extreme in 2017 and through the years has refined her social media skills to become our Paid Social Strategist. She works with our social clients to plan and execute content across a broad range of sectors and channels, helping clients maximise their results and ROI.