Like thousands of others today, I am passionate about Gastronomy, or more precisely, by every type of food imaginable. Coming from a family where food is held sacred, my interest in this subject is hardly surprising. And yet, far from being limited to a single heritage, cooking has become my principle means of expression and of escape. I discovered my creativity through baking, and I feel it was this that allowed me to bring it to life. Fast forward a few years, well before the current food flexitarianism trends, I was diagnosed with a Type 3 allergy to wheat, rye, barley, eggs and milk. What ingredients remained to cook? Would this food allergy completely alter my personality? Without realizing it, I became the archetype Millennial of today: #nogluten #veggie #foodaddict #topchef.
As a new adherent, fascinated but not duped, I am intrigued by the bubbling energies of these new modes of consumption that feed on each other, and ultimately give rise to and restructure real social mutations. The food revolution is well underway – what does that say about us?
Food & Identity
The day I discovered my food allergies, my identity changed. Or more specifically, I inherited a new vision brought about by their restrictions. Did they have to communicate something essential about my personality? The food revolution is, above all, about identity. The most representative developments are the “-free” diets: gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free…. In choosing foods and products we no longer want to consume, we redefine our values, we try to discover who we really are and what we think is good for us. My new diet has sparked a lot of debate around me. Does my consumption of soya signify my commitment to the environment, a gesture to help reduce meat consumption globally? Am I aware that my newfound attraction to quinoa or smoked tofu has marked me out socially? Or that my prominent integration of plants into my daily diet projects a well-balanced and #healthy image of myself? Who have I now become, in reality?
What is clear is that the food revolution has definitively changed our relationships with others and generates new social interactions. In my case, by adapting to my new dietary constraints, I find myself part of a real community which enables me to assimilate my new way of living more easily. Even if I don’t intend registering on the GlutAime dating site (yes, it’s an actual thing…), I have to admit that it represents something about me. That said, as a consumer, I wander happily from Naturalia to Monoprix, via MacDonalds or Eclair de Genie. My new identity is just as complex and full of contradictions as the previous one. Have Millennials become schizophrenic? What we can say for sure is that consumer behavior is more unpredictable than ever before. Therefore, the real challenge for brands is to know how to capture and play with these often contradictory signals. The essential being, of course, remain coherent.
The #Food Experience
Having written a thesis on the subject in 2016 and having spent time working in a gastronomic House, I was lucky enough to meet many famous chefs – pastry chefs in particular – as well as various other actors within the sector. Starting from the realization that a real democratization of luxury pastry is underway, I researched alongside of them to understand its origin. The dominant new business model was centered on the identity of the Pastry Chef, which teaches us a lot about what appeals to consumers. The major revolution here is to provide access to the Chef, to his savoir-faire and to his signature. We can affirm once more that today’s consumer expects to live a real experience, to be convinced by the story, and witness once again that mere food is transcended into signifying something meaningful and special.
If pastry fascinates me so much, perhaps it’s because it’s managed to perfectly succeed in this challenge and that it reveals the power and the range of the #Food. In an exchange with the commercial director of Fauchon, I realized that this is not just a passing fad, but a major restructuring trend. He explained how the Fauchon brand has redefined itself to integrate to this business model without changing its DNA, and adapted to new modes of eating to capture a new target. Fauchon partnered with Amazon Premium for home delivery, developed affordable individual pastries, developed and distributed frozen pastries to supermarkets, and created free pastry masterclasses at weekends in the Place de la Madeleine flagship. Above all, the popularity of the mono-product seems most revealing. Initiated by the “haute couture macaron” phenomenon launched in the 2000s by the world-famous pastry chef Pierre Hermé, the brand creates seasonal collections that the consumer can easily enjoy while on the go. In fact, the power of such democratization is extremely strong. It has come to influence consumers’ expectations of #Food in general, to question the existing frontiers, to change the appearance of the supermarket food shelf and the expectation of what can be found there.
The Art of #Food
Brand new innovation, the classic “dressage”, the presentation of food on the plate, has created a whole new sensitivity: #Food is made to be eaten, but more importantly, to be photographed! So today, eating a dish or consuming a product comes (especially for Millennials) after a ritual that is just as important as tasting: sharing on Instagram. Intrigued by the success of multiple hashtags, I experimented by creating my own account. The result was amazing: membership is strong and sustained, the rate of sharing posts is lively, fast, and practically instantaneous. For example, my last post alone gained me no fewer than 200 new subscribers in just one day, and the first reaction came exactly 47 seconds after my sharing…. And that’s nothing compared to the success of a lot of particularly active pages. With Instagram, it is not just a question of every consumer having their individual say, but of giving life to their new identity and expressing their creativity freely. This is a huge challenge for brands who must now learn to co-construct hand in hand with their consumers.
Sephora Margulies, Project Manager