Screenshot courtesy of Tasty / Facebook

A 'Tasty' Peek Into American Food Culture

Whether in the dorms after class, amidst a study break at O’Neill, or during the lunch rush at the Rat, countless BC students find themselves staring at their laptop and phone screens that are constantly aglow with their respective Facebook feeds. In scrolling through these news feeds, it isn’t difficult to recognize a certain pattern; hundreds upon hundreds of food videos will cover these screens in the span of a single day.

BuzzFeed’s wildly successful “Tasty” videos, quick clips typically featuring an aerial view of a countertop on which a new and unique recipe is prepared, have taken the Facebook scene by storm—and the widespread American obsession for them shows no signs of slowing down. As it turns out, though, this craze isn’t completely arbitrary; in fact, it reflects back on the consumerist tendencies of the American people.

“American consumers seek products that are easy to use and that also deliver great results,” says CSOM marketing professor Nailya Ordabayeva. “Nowhere is this dual desire more salient than in food preferences. Consumers expect food products and recipes to be easy and quick to prepare and to deliver on taste.”

And that’s exactly what these videos provide.  Even for college students with meal plans, something about watching these sped-up video montages of quick, easy, do-it-yourself food preparations is especially captivating. At less than a minute long each, these clips can be addictive, especially with Facebook’s autoplay feature that starts playing these clips, sans audio, as soon as they’re shown on the screen.

For the greater audience of American Facebook users, these viral videos only confirm many researchers’ claims on what draws them in as consumers and what piques their interests when it comes to food.

“These preferences are the result of multiple factors which include increasing constraints on consumers’ time, rising concerns about physical wellbeing, as well as the growing appeal of do-it-yourself and waste reduction solutions since the Great Recession,” says Ordabayeva, noting that online video recipes are an extremely relevant example of this.

Generally, the aim of most “Tasty” videos is either creating something totally different or putting a new twist on a classic staple food. Either way, the team at BuzzFeed has certainly cracked the code to racking up views by creating delicious-looking meals within the time frame of a viewer’s attention span.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8.34.24 AM

Screenshot courtesy of Tasty / Youtube.com

The near-tangible "DIY" factor of these BuzzFeed videos is likely what draws in many viewers, but the relevance of the material doesn’t hurt, either. Recipes featuring trendy food items like cake pops, avocados, bacon, and Nutella frequently appear on the “Tasty” Facebook page.

Eventually, however, it all comes down to the priority Americans place on their quality of life—a life in which food is playing an increasingly large role. A study by John Ikerd at the University of Missouri highlighted the importance of the fact that food has become so ingrained in the American culture, noting that “cost, convenience, and appearance” are the dominant characteristics in our modern food demands.

What we demand of our food reflects heavily on what we value as a people, according to Ikerd. For instance, the recent growth in demand for organic foods shows a shift in the “ethical values” that Americans are choosing to prioritize. This shift is less about the actual sales of foods that are natural and free of hormones and pesticides, but more about the higher quality of life that Americans have begun to tend towards. And this trend isn’t just limited to the spike in demand for organic foods—in their own way, the “Tasty” videos are indicative of a similar trend.

When scrolling through Facebook and seeing clips of these delicious recipes on their feeds, viewers are likely to become more conscious of their own dietary choices in comparison to the ones shown on the screen. While some of these BuzzFeed recipes are certainly healthier than others, the impact is all the same; Americans are recognizing the innovative taste and technique that these videos are bringing to the table, and they’re starting to seek out change in their own eating habits.

“What this means for the food industry is that consumers are growing increasingly sophisticated and involved in their food choices,” says Ordabayeva. She adds that in order to maintain relevance in a world where even BuzzFeed’s recipe videos can raise consumer expectations, “food companies will need to pay more attention to the origins, healthiness, and degree of processing of their food ingredients, and they will need to find effective ways to balance high-quality ingredients with taste and ease of preparation concerns that consumers will increasingly expect food products to satisfy going forward.”

Needless to say, most Facebook users are unaware of the impact that they’re making in the greater scheme of American food culture during their sprees of mindless scrolling.

A compelling video of delicious-looking food can pull in anybody for a quick view without much afterthought. That said, Americans everywhere are trying out these innovative “Tasty” recipes for themselves—and they’re subconsciously demanding more from the foods that they eat because of it.

This new food culture has permeated life on campus, too. For example, UGBC’s recent “March Madness Policy Bracket” allowed students to vote for the policies that they wanted to see UGBC work on. The overall winner was keeping the Rat open until 4:30 pm on weekdays, while another finalist and item on the UGBC agenda is making avocados available in the dining halls. Even if college students don’t link their viewing of these recipe videos to any higher intentions, their impacts are certainly shown through the changes in our food expectations.

While BuzzFeed’s “Tasty” videos are not likely the cause of all these changes in our modern food culture, they are certainly indicative of the fact that the culture is changing. So, scroll on, Facebook-ers. With each Nutella-filled strawberry tutorial, you’re helping to establish a new American expectation of what we want from our food. And even if you don’t feel inspired to demand more from your meals after viewing, the page’s Facebook description ensures that their food will at least make you “close your eyes, lean back, and whisper ‘yessss.’”

Comments