The results come from a TikTok food trends report released by meal-kit manufacturer Hello Fresh.
Focused specifically on the UK, the report drew back the curtain on the culinary topics that dominated the conversation on the popular social media platform throughout 2023.
TikTok is something of a phenomenon in the UK and around the world, boasting more than 1bn active monthly users around the world. Meanwhile, it is particularly popular among Gen Z, a cohort that food and drink manufacturers are keen to appeal to and understand better.
According to the report, the top-searched UK food trend was overnight oats, which averaged 70,300 monthly searches, a 49% increase year-on-year. Coronation chicken came next, garnering 38,700 monthly searches, while orzo ranked in third after receiving 25,900 monthly searches.
Other foods to finish in the top 10 included tteokbokki, birria tacos, onigiri, Korean corn dogs, flavoured water, tinned fish and peanut noodles.
Commenting on the findings, senior recipe development manager at HelloFresh Mimi Morley said: “We understand that the cost of living crisis, the emergence from the pandemic and the impact of social media are all factors influencing our changing eating habits and mealtime inspiration.
“Our mission is to provide households with everything required to make delicious, speedy, budget-friendly meals, with no supermarket trips, queues or hassle attached. Plus, we want to continually provide new and exciting recipe inspiration, so that dinnertime is never stressful or boring.”
Food trends travel fast on social media
HelloFresh is just one of many businesses within food and drink manufacturing that has looked to inform its new product development by taking inspiration from social media. I.T.S, a natural flavour manufacturer based in Newbury, also monitors platforms such as TikTok to “open the world up” and understand the trends that are resonating.
Specialising in the development of flavours for the bakery, dairy, beverage, savoury and snacks category, the firm’s marketing manager Adam Cohen believes that the assent of social media has put consumers on the “front foot”, meaning that they are often “ahead of the experts when it comes to what is trending”.
He explained: “Long gone are the days when trends stayed in their own countries or even cities. As quickly as something pops up in a coffee shop in New York, it'll be shared throughout the world within hours with the power of social media.”
For many previous generations, search engines like Google defined how new information was disseminated, but increasingly “users are rushing to platforms like TikTok and Instagram to search for where to eat, or where to stay”.
With that in mind, Cohen attests that it has never been more important to stand out from the crowd. This has led to more limited edition and “fantasy flavours” being produced as they “help drive engagement” online.
“Many brands are tapping into the power of social media engagement and creating products that are designed to do just that,” Cohen continued.
“Flavours may not necessarily never become a staple core flavour, but a flavour used to raise awareness and turn consumers' heads towards their products.”
Look good, taste good
With TikTok and Instagram both operating as visual mediums, Cohen believes that the appearance of a food or drink product will go a long way to determining its success.
He elaborated: “The way food and drink looks has never been more important. Consumers are looking for bright and exciting products they can share online. The brighter and bolder your food, the more chance people will spread the word and do your marketing for you. Ever wondered why the bright green avocado became so popular when Instagram appeared on the scene?”
While it may feel scary to people that have not grown up with a smart phone, Cohen believes that social media is not something that manufacturers necessarily need to fear, as the platforms bring “food and drink brands closer to their consumers”. Nonetheless, success will be defined by how the tool is used.
“Social media opens up dialogue with fans and consumers helping them build their brand awareness and identity,” he concluded.