Food & Beverage on TikTok: the secret to success on the social media sensation

Food & Beverage on TikTok: the secret to success on the social media sensation

By
Louise Burfitt
April 20, 2021

🍽️ What is it?

  • There’s no doubt about it: food is having its moment in the limelight on TikTok. Whether it was lockdown banana bread or the #dalgonacoffee sensation, a year at home with only screens and our kitchens for company led many users to discover the love of home cooking and food hacks - a trend that canny restaurants and CPG brands have capitalised on. 
  • TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing social media channels, providing a less ‘curated’ alternative to Instagram, and allows users to make snappy videos set to music that must come in at under 60 seconds. 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • As of January 2021, Tiktok had 689 million users worldwide (excluding China) - overtaking more established platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.
  • The app is particularly popular with younger users. According to Statistica, 62 per cent of American users are under the age of 29 - and only 7.1 per cent are over 50 years old. 

💡How did it start? 

  • Social media sensation TikTok is an international version of the Chinese app Douyin, which was first released in China in 2016. 
  • Tiktok launched internationally in 2017 for iOS and Android, and became available worldwide in 2018.
F&B Influencers on TikTok


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Food and TikTok have been interwoven for some time: the 60-second video format lends itself well to simple food tips, cooking hacks and easy tutorials.
  • And in the past year, the app has shown how influential it can be in pushing a food trend or brand to go viral. 
  • Although established brands like Red Bull, Chipotle and Pocky have successfully used TikTok to their advantage, the democratised nature of the app makes it a great place for smaller brands to make a big impact. Examples include MyCookieDough, a small dessert chain in the UK, who have done this to perfection with their calming, visually appealing videos of oozing cookie dough. At least count, the brand had clocked 2.8 million likes. This kind of ‘food porn’ is increasingly popular on TikTok.
  • Brands do best on TikTok when they embrace the unaffected, home-video style that translates well to the app. Sabra, which produces hummus, is a great example of a brand that has gone the whole hog on this style. Its videos are shot exclusively on smartphones and have a low-fi, homemade quality. 
  • Similarly, the best TikTok branded food content utilises down-to-earth humour, comedy, or goes behind the scenes of product making or a restaurant. As TikTok does not have a sales component, this kind of low-key ‘advertainment’ has been proven to resonate most with its Gen-Z users. 
  • Many brands smashing it on TikTok have one thing in common: they make the users work for them. Challenges like Chipotle’s #guacdance and Gusher’s invitation to match likes for donations to the NAACP get their brand names out in front of a wider network, as user videos act like a word-of-mouth marketing tool online. 

🤷 Why?

  • COVID-19 lockdowns around the world meant large swathes of the population, including Gen Z-ers, were stuck at home with nothing to do. This led to increased downloads of social media apps - TikTok included. In the UK, for example, TikTok visits skyrocketed from 5.4 million in Jan’ 2020 to 12.9 million in April 2020, as the first lockdown bedded in. 
  • Home cooks have been going viral on TikTok for some time, with cult creations like #fetapasta and #pancakecereal, but 2020 saw even more people turning to cooking for comfort during the pandemic. This also made it the year that QSRs and food brands also cottoned onto the app’s influence - offering as it did a new way to connect with young users stuck at home, only able to order takeaway food. 
  • TikTok also allows brands to engage directly with fans, making it a powerful virtual form of word-of-mouth marketing. Clever companies have realised the power of a social media app that encourages shoppers to create what is essentially branded content for them for free. 
Source: Sensor Tower Store Intelligence

👀 Who? (16 F&B companies using TikTok well)

📈 The figures

  • As of March 2021, TikTok had been installed on devices 2.6 billion times.
  • The Chinese-owned app has more than 100 million active monthly users in Europe.
  • And 70% of the social media app’s active users belong to Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012). 
  • The hashtag ‘food’ on TikTok has a staggering 47 billion views, with ‘cooking hacks’ bringing in another 3 billion hits, making the app a prime market for food and beverage brands.

🌶️  Case study: Chipotle 

  • Fast-casual, Mexican-inspired restaurant Chipotle, which boasts over 2,600 locations across the USA, often tops lists cataloguing the best food brands on the social media app. 
  • The brand’s TikTok account has 1.5 million followers and 29 million likes and has consistently been praised for its informal, but engaging campaigns that connect with a younger fan base. As 50% of the brand’s customers belong to Gen Z, Chipotle’s TikTok strategy makes good business sense.
  • The fast-food brand launched its official TikTok account in 2018 with a strategy described as ‘advertainment’, that shuns traditional advertising techniques (which Gen Z aren’t keen on) for branded content that young people actually want to watch. 
  • In 2019, the brand broke TikTok records with its viral #guacdance challenge, which invited guacamole lovers to dance with avocados, that garnered 450 million views in less than a week - and as a result sold more than 800k portions of their guacamole in store that same week. Similar viral hits include their #boorito promotion and the #LidFlipChallenge.
  • Chipotle says it tracks the latest trends with its in-house team of ‘culture hunters’ who browse the interwebs for clues about what young users are posting about and how to convert this into successful Chipotle campaigns. 

🌙  Case study: Little Moons

  • Siblings Howard and Vivien Wong launched Little Moons in London in 2010 on a mission to bring mochi - a sweet Japanese rice cake - to a wider audience.
  • According to reports, the Little Moons TikTok account arose almost by chance - set up by a young staff member who began posting videos on the platform for the brand last summer.
  • Engagement quickly snowballed - by the start of 2021, Little Moons mochi balls had gone viral, and sales had increased by 2000 per cent as a result.
  • Little Moons’ account now has 2.9 million likes and 224.9k followers, and their highest-performing videos play on the trend for food ASMR as happy customers cut into the mochi desserts.
  • Two organic hashtags related to the brand (#littlemoons and #littlemoonsmochi) together have 26.5 million views, sparking the curiosity of new would-be customers who’ve headed to the supermarket on the back of watching the viral videos to see what all the fuss is about.
  • And that’s paid off for the brand: at UK supermarket Tesco, Little Moons’ sales jumped by a whopping 700% and many retailers have struggled to keep stock on the shelves.
  • The Little Moons team attributes their TikTok success to their laidback, organic approach - in fact, that same young graduate employee still oversees video content for the brand. 

👍 The good

  • For up and coming F&B brands, TikTok’s focus on charisma and engaging, shareable content makes it a great fit for young brands aimed at Gen Z and millennials to showcase their brand’s personality and creativity. 
  • And unlike the more traditional social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram, even smaller brands can find traction pretty swiftly (or even overnight). Follower counts play less of a role on TikTok so companies don’t need a large audience to see success. 
  • Similarly, TikTok’s algorithm is designed in a completely different way to Facebook’s, and its offspring, so there’s much more space for ‘discoverability’ and for smaller accounts to go viral. 
  • The most successful brands also demonstrate a deep understanding of their target demographic: on TikTok that’s Gen Z, and to a lesser extent, millennials. In-depth knowledge of the kind of content these groups are after will boost a brand’s chances of success. 

👎 The bad

  • For brands not specifically targeting younger consumers, the usefulness of Gen Z-favourite TikTok may be limited. F&B brands who are aiming to reach boomers or similar age groups won’t find their demographic online there - at least not yet
  • Many bigger brands are still wary of TikTok, with their social media expertise centred around older platforms like Facebook or traditional advertising. 
  • On a related note, companies should be cautious of reposting their other social content to TikTok - the app, as we’ve learned, works pretty differently to other channels and your carefully staged Insta shots won’t fly in the casual, ‘home-video’ environment on the Chinese-owned app.

💡The bottom line

  • Success for F&B brands on TikTok requires many of the same commitments as other social channels - regular and consistent posting of content that adds value for your audience. 
  • But to get TikTok right, brands need to dive deep into the platform and understand its relaxed, unceremonious vibe. Although this might not come naturally to some F&B companies, the runaway success of some brands shows it’s well worth taking the time to do so.
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🍽️ What is it?

  • There’s no doubt about it: food is having its moment in the limelight on TikTok. Whether it was lockdown banana bread or the #dalgonacoffee sensation, a year at home with only screens and our kitchens for company led many users to discover the love of home cooking and food hacks - a trend that canny restaurants and CPG brands have capitalised on. 
  • TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing social media channels, providing a less ‘curated’ alternative to Instagram, and allows users to make snappy videos set to music that must come in at under 60 seconds. 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • As of January 2021, Tiktok had 689 million users worldwide (excluding China) - overtaking more established platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.
  • The app is particularly popular with younger users. According to Statistica, 62 per cent of American users are under the age of 29 - and only 7.1 per cent are over 50 years old. 

💡How did it start? 

  • Social media sensation TikTok is an international version of the Chinese app Douyin, which was first released in China in 2016. 
  • Tiktok launched internationally in 2017 for iOS and Android, and became available worldwide in 2018.
F&B Influencers on TikTok


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Food and TikTok have been interwoven for some time: the 60-second video format lends itself well to simple food tips, cooking hacks and easy tutorials.
  • And in the past year, the app has shown how influential it can be in pushing a food trend or brand to go viral. 
  • Although established brands like Red Bull, Chipotle and Pocky have successfully used TikTok to their advantage, the democratised nature of the app makes it a great place for smaller brands to make a big impact. Examples include MyCookieDough, a small dessert chain in the UK, who have done this to perfection with their calming, visually appealing videos of oozing cookie dough. At least count, the brand had clocked 2.8 million likes. This kind of ‘food porn’ is increasingly popular on TikTok.
  • Brands do best on TikTok when they embrace the unaffected, home-video style that translates well to the app. Sabra, which produces hummus, is a great example of a brand that has gone the whole hog on this style. Its videos are shot exclusively on smartphones and have a low-fi, homemade quality. 
  • Similarly, the best TikTok branded food content utilises down-to-earth humour, comedy, or goes behind the scenes of product making or a restaurant. As TikTok does not have a sales component, this kind of low-key ‘advertainment’ has been proven to resonate most with its Gen-Z users. 
  • Many brands smashing it on TikTok have one thing in common: they make the users work for them. Challenges like Chipotle’s #guacdance and Gusher’s invitation to match likes for donations to the NAACP get their brand names out in front of a wider network, as user videos act like a word-of-mouth marketing tool online. 

🤷 Why?

  • COVID-19 lockdowns around the world meant large swathes of the population, including Gen Z-ers, were stuck at home with nothing to do. This led to increased downloads of social media apps - TikTok included. In the UK, for example, TikTok visits skyrocketed from 5.4 million in Jan’ 2020 to 12.9 million in April 2020, as the first lockdown bedded in. 
  • Home cooks have been going viral on TikTok for some time, with cult creations like #fetapasta and #pancakecereal, but 2020 saw even more people turning to cooking for comfort during the pandemic. This also made it the year that QSRs and food brands also cottoned onto the app’s influence - offering as it did a new way to connect with young users stuck at home, only able to order takeaway food. 
  • TikTok also allows brands to engage directly with fans, making it a powerful virtual form of word-of-mouth marketing. Clever companies have realised the power of a social media app that encourages shoppers to create what is essentially branded content for them for free. 
Source: Sensor Tower Store Intelligence

👀 Who? (16 F&B companies using TikTok well)

📈 The figures

  • As of March 2021, TikTok had been installed on devices 2.6 billion times.
  • The Chinese-owned app has more than 100 million active monthly users in Europe.
  • And 70% of the social media app’s active users belong to Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012). 
  • The hashtag ‘food’ on TikTok has a staggering 47 billion views, with ‘cooking hacks’ bringing in another 3 billion hits, making the app a prime market for food and beverage brands.

🌶️  Case study: Chipotle 

  • Fast-casual, Mexican-inspired restaurant Chipotle, which boasts over 2,600 locations across the USA, often tops lists cataloguing the best food brands on the social media app. 
  • The brand’s TikTok account has 1.5 million followers and 29 million likes and has consistently been praised for its informal, but engaging campaigns that connect with a younger fan base. As 50% of the brand’s customers belong to Gen Z, Chipotle’s TikTok strategy makes good business sense.
  • The fast-food brand launched its official TikTok account in 2018 with a strategy described as ‘advertainment’, that shuns traditional advertising techniques (which Gen Z aren’t keen on) for branded content that young people actually want to watch. 
  • In 2019, the brand broke TikTok records with its viral #guacdance challenge, which invited guacamole lovers to dance with avocados, that garnered 450 million views in less than a week - and as a result sold more than 800k portions of their guacamole in store that same week. Similar viral hits include their #boorito promotion and the #LidFlipChallenge.
  • Chipotle says it tracks the latest trends with its in-house team of ‘culture hunters’ who browse the interwebs for clues about what young users are posting about and how to convert this into successful Chipotle campaigns. 

🌙  Case study: Little Moons

  • Siblings Howard and Vivien Wong launched Little Moons in London in 2010 on a mission to bring mochi - a sweet Japanese rice cake - to a wider audience.
  • According to reports, the Little Moons TikTok account arose almost by chance - set up by a young staff member who began posting videos on the platform for the brand last summer.
  • Engagement quickly snowballed - by the start of 2021, Little Moons mochi balls had gone viral, and sales had increased by 2000 per cent as a result.
  • Little Moons’ account now has 2.9 million likes and 224.9k followers, and their highest-performing videos play on the trend for food ASMR as happy customers cut into the mochi desserts.
  • Two organic hashtags related to the brand (#littlemoons and #littlemoonsmochi) together have 26.5 million views, sparking the curiosity of new would-be customers who’ve headed to the supermarket on the back of watching the viral videos to see what all the fuss is about.
  • And that’s paid off for the brand: at UK supermarket Tesco, Little Moons’ sales jumped by a whopping 700% and many retailers have struggled to keep stock on the shelves.
  • The Little Moons team attributes their TikTok success to their laidback, organic approach - in fact, that same young graduate employee still oversees video content for the brand. 

👍 The good

  • For up and coming F&B brands, TikTok’s focus on charisma and engaging, shareable content makes it a great fit for young brands aimed at Gen Z and millennials to showcase their brand’s personality and creativity. 
  • And unlike the more traditional social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram, even smaller brands can find traction pretty swiftly (or even overnight). Follower counts play less of a role on TikTok so companies don’t need a large audience to see success. 
  • Similarly, TikTok’s algorithm is designed in a completely different way to Facebook’s, and its offspring, so there’s much more space for ‘discoverability’ and for smaller accounts to go viral. 
  • The most successful brands also demonstrate a deep understanding of their target demographic: on TikTok that’s Gen Z, and to a lesser extent, millennials. In-depth knowledge of the kind of content these groups are after will boost a brand’s chances of success. 

👎 The bad

  • For brands not specifically targeting younger consumers, the usefulness of Gen Z-favourite TikTok may be limited. F&B brands who are aiming to reach boomers or similar age groups won’t find their demographic online there - at least not yet
  • Many bigger brands are still wary of TikTok, with their social media expertise centred around older platforms like Facebook or traditional advertising. 
  • On a related note, companies should be cautious of reposting their other social content to TikTok - the app, as we’ve learned, works pretty differently to other channels and your carefully staged Insta shots won’t fly in the casual, ‘home-video’ environment on the Chinese-owned app.

💡The bottom line

  • Success for F&B brands on TikTok requires many of the same commitments as other social channels - regular and consistent posting of content that adds value for your audience. 
  • But to get TikTok right, brands need to dive deep into the platform and understand its relaxed, unceremonious vibe. Although this might not come naturally to some F&B companies, the runaway success of some brands shows it’s well worth taking the time to do so.

🍽️ What is it?

  • There’s no doubt about it: food is having its moment in the limelight on TikTok. Whether it was lockdown banana bread or the #dalgonacoffee sensation, a year at home with only screens and our kitchens for company led many users to discover the love of home cooking and food hacks - a trend that canny restaurants and CPG brands have capitalised on. 
  • TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing social media channels, providing a less ‘curated’ alternative to Instagram, and allows users to make snappy videos set to music that must come in at under 60 seconds. 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • As of January 2021, Tiktok had 689 million users worldwide (excluding China) - overtaking more established platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.
  • The app is particularly popular with younger users. According to Statistica, 62 per cent of American users are under the age of 29 - and only 7.1 per cent are over 50 years old. 

💡How did it start? 

  • Social media sensation TikTok is an international version of the Chinese app Douyin, which was first released in China in 2016. 
  • Tiktok launched internationally in 2017 for iOS and Android, and became available worldwide in 2018.
F&B Influencers on TikTok


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Food and TikTok have been interwoven for some time: the 60-second video format lends itself well to simple food tips, cooking hacks and easy tutorials.
  • And in the past year, the app has shown how influential it can be in pushing a food trend or brand to go viral. 
  • Although established brands like Red Bull, Chipotle and Pocky have successfully used TikTok to their advantage, the democratised nature of the app makes it a great place for smaller brands to make a big impact. Examples include MyCookieDough, a small dessert chain in the UK, who have done this to perfection with their calming, visually appealing videos of oozing cookie dough. At least count, the brand had clocked 2.8 million likes. This kind of ‘food porn’ is increasingly popular on TikTok.
  • Brands do best on TikTok when they embrace the unaffected, home-video style that translates well to the app. Sabra, which produces hummus, is a great example of a brand that has gone the whole hog on this style. Its videos are shot exclusively on smartphones and have a low-fi, homemade quality. 
  • Similarly, the best TikTok branded food content utilises down-to-earth humour, comedy, or goes behind the scenes of product making or a restaurant. As TikTok does not have a sales component, this kind of low-key ‘advertainment’ has been proven to resonate most with its Gen-Z users. 
  • Many brands smashing it on TikTok have one thing in common: they make the users work for them. Challenges like Chipotle’s #guacdance and Gusher’s invitation to match likes for donations to the NAACP get their brand names out in front of a wider network, as user videos act like a word-of-mouth marketing tool online. 

🤷 Why?

  • COVID-19 lockdowns around the world meant large swathes of the population, including Gen Z-ers, were stuck at home with nothing to do. This led to increased downloads of social media apps - TikTok included. In the UK, for example, TikTok visits skyrocketed from 5.4 million in Jan’ 2020 to 12.9 million in April 2020, as the first lockdown bedded in. 
  • Home cooks have been going viral on TikTok for some time, with cult creations like #fetapasta and #pancakecereal, but 2020 saw even more people turning to cooking for comfort during the pandemic. This also made it the year that QSRs and food brands also cottoned onto the app’s influence - offering as it did a new way to connect with young users stuck at home, only able to order takeaway food. 
  • TikTok also allows brands to engage directly with fans, making it a powerful virtual form of word-of-mouth marketing. Clever companies have realised the power of a social media app that encourages shoppers to create what is essentially branded content for them for free. 
Source: Sensor Tower Store Intelligence

👀 Who? (16 F&B companies using TikTok well)

📈 The figures

  • As of March 2021, TikTok had been installed on devices 2.6 billion times.
  • The Chinese-owned app has more than 100 million active monthly users in Europe.
  • And 70% of the social media app’s active users belong to Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012). 
  • The hashtag ‘food’ on TikTok has a staggering 47 billion views, with ‘cooking hacks’ bringing in another 3 billion hits, making the app a prime market for food and beverage brands.

🌶️  Case study: Chipotle 

  • Fast-casual, Mexican-inspired restaurant Chipotle, which boasts over 2,600 locations across the USA, often tops lists cataloguing the best food brands on the social media app. 
  • The brand’s TikTok account has 1.5 million followers and 29 million likes and has consistently been praised for its informal, but engaging campaigns that connect with a younger fan base. As 50% of the brand’s customers belong to Gen Z, Chipotle’s TikTok strategy makes good business sense.
  • The fast-food brand launched its official TikTok account in 2018 with a strategy described as ‘advertainment’, that shuns traditional advertising techniques (which Gen Z aren’t keen on) for branded content that young people actually want to watch. 
  • In 2019, the brand broke TikTok records with its viral #guacdance challenge, which invited guacamole lovers to dance with avocados, that garnered 450 million views in less than a week - and as a result sold more than 800k portions of their guacamole in store that same week. Similar viral hits include their #boorito promotion and the #LidFlipChallenge.
  • Chipotle says it tracks the latest trends with its in-house team of ‘culture hunters’ who browse the interwebs for clues about what young users are posting about and how to convert this into successful Chipotle campaigns. 

🌙  Case study: Little Moons

  • Siblings Howard and Vivien Wong launched Little Moons in London in 2010 on a mission to bring mochi - a sweet Japanese rice cake - to a wider audience.
  • According to reports, the Little Moons TikTok account arose almost by chance - set up by a young staff member who began posting videos on the platform for the brand last summer.
  • Engagement quickly snowballed - by the start of 2021, Little Moons mochi balls had gone viral, and sales had increased by 2000 per cent as a result.
  • Little Moons’ account now has 2.9 million likes and 224.9k followers, and their highest-performing videos play on the trend for food ASMR as happy customers cut into the mochi desserts.
  • Two organic hashtags related to the brand (#littlemoons and #littlemoonsmochi) together have 26.5 million views, sparking the curiosity of new would-be customers who’ve headed to the supermarket on the back of watching the viral videos to see what all the fuss is about.
  • And that’s paid off for the brand: at UK supermarket Tesco, Little Moons’ sales jumped by a whopping 700% and many retailers have struggled to keep stock on the shelves.
  • The Little Moons team attributes their TikTok success to their laidback, organic approach - in fact, that same young graduate employee still oversees video content for the brand. 

👍 The good

  • For up and coming F&B brands, TikTok’s focus on charisma and engaging, shareable content makes it a great fit for young brands aimed at Gen Z and millennials to showcase their brand’s personality and creativity. 
  • And unlike the more traditional social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram, even smaller brands can find traction pretty swiftly (or even overnight). Follower counts play less of a role on TikTok so companies don’t need a large audience to see success. 
  • Similarly, TikTok’s algorithm is designed in a completely different way to Facebook’s, and its offspring, so there’s much more space for ‘discoverability’ and for smaller accounts to go viral. 
  • The most successful brands also demonstrate a deep understanding of their target demographic: on TikTok that’s Gen Z, and to a lesser extent, millennials. In-depth knowledge of the kind of content these groups are after will boost a brand’s chances of success. 

👎 The bad

  • For brands not specifically targeting younger consumers, the usefulness of Gen Z-favourite TikTok may be limited. F&B brands who are aiming to reach boomers or similar age groups won’t find their demographic online there - at least not yet
  • Many bigger brands are still wary of TikTok, with their social media expertise centred around older platforms like Facebook or traditional advertising. 
  • On a related note, companies should be cautious of reposting their other social content to TikTok - the app, as we’ve learned, works pretty differently to other channels and your carefully staged Insta shots won’t fly in the casual, ‘home-video’ environment on the Chinese-owned app.

💡The bottom line

  • Success for F&B brands on TikTok requires many of the same commitments as other social channels - regular and consistent posting of content that adds value for your audience. 
  • But to get TikTok right, brands need to dive deep into the platform and understand its relaxed, unceremonious vibe. Although this might not come naturally to some F&B companies, the runaway success of some brands shows it’s well worth taking the time to do so.

🍽️ What is it?

  • There’s no doubt about it: food is having its moment in the limelight on TikTok. Whether it was lockdown banana bread or the #dalgonacoffee sensation, a year at home with only screens and our kitchens for company led many users to discover the love of home cooking and food hacks - a trend that canny restaurants and CPG brands have capitalised on. 
  • TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing social media channels, providing a less ‘curated’ alternative to Instagram, and allows users to make snappy videos set to music that must come in at under 60 seconds. 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • As of January 2021, Tiktok had 689 million users worldwide (excluding China) - overtaking more established platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.
  • The app is particularly popular with younger users. According to Statistica, 62 per cent of American users are under the age of 29 - and only 7.1 per cent are over 50 years old. 

💡How did it start? 

  • Social media sensation TikTok is an international version of the Chinese app Douyin, which was first released in China in 2016. 
  • Tiktok launched internationally in 2017 for iOS and Android, and became available worldwide in 2018.
F&B Influencers on TikTok


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Food and TikTok have been interwoven for some time: the 60-second video format lends itself well to simple food tips, cooking hacks and easy tutorials.
  • And in the past year, the app has shown how influential it can be in pushing a food trend or brand to go viral. 
  • Although established brands like Red Bull, Chipotle and Pocky have successfully used TikTok to their advantage, the democratised nature of the app makes it a great place for smaller brands to make a big impact. Examples include MyCookieDough, a small dessert chain in the UK, who have done this to perfection with their calming, visually appealing videos of oozing cookie dough. At least count, the brand had clocked 2.8 million likes. This kind of ‘food porn’ is increasingly popular on TikTok.
  • Brands do best on TikTok when they embrace the unaffected, home-video style that translates well to the app. Sabra, which produces hummus, is a great example of a brand that has gone the whole hog on this style. Its videos are shot exclusively on smartphones and have a low-fi, homemade quality. 
  • Similarly, the best TikTok branded food content utilises down-to-earth humour, comedy, or goes behind the scenes of product making or a restaurant. As TikTok does not have a sales component, this kind of low-key ‘advertainment’ has been proven to resonate most with its Gen-Z users. 
  • Many brands smashing it on TikTok have one thing in common: they make the users work for them. Challenges like Chipotle’s #guacdance and Gusher’s invitation to match likes for donations to the NAACP get their brand names out in front of a wider network, as user videos act like a word-of-mouth marketing tool online. 

🤷 Why?

  • COVID-19 lockdowns around the world meant large swathes of the population, including Gen Z-ers, were stuck at home with nothing to do. This led to increased downloads of social media apps - TikTok included. In the UK, for example, TikTok visits skyrocketed from 5.4 million in Jan’ 2020 to 12.9 million in April 2020, as the first lockdown bedded in. 
  • Home cooks have been going viral on TikTok for some time, with cult creations like #fetapasta and #pancakecereal, but 2020 saw even more people turning to cooking for comfort during the pandemic. This also made it the year that QSRs and food brands also cottoned onto the app’s influence - offering as it did a new way to connect with young users stuck at home, only able to order takeaway food. 
  • TikTok also allows brands to engage directly with fans, making it a powerful virtual form of word-of-mouth marketing. Clever companies have realised the power of a social media app that encourages shoppers to create what is essentially branded content for them for free. 
Source: Sensor Tower Store Intelligence

👀 Who? (16 F&B companies using TikTok well)

📈 The figures

  • As of March 2021, TikTok had been installed on devices 2.6 billion times.
  • The Chinese-owned app has more than 100 million active monthly users in Europe.
  • And 70% of the social media app’s active users belong to Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012). 
  • The hashtag ‘food’ on TikTok has a staggering 47 billion views, with ‘cooking hacks’ bringing in another 3 billion hits, making the app a prime market for food and beverage brands.

🌶️  Case study: Chipotle 

  • Fast-casual, Mexican-inspired restaurant Chipotle, which boasts over 2,600 locations across the USA, often tops lists cataloguing the best food brands on the social media app. 
  • The brand’s TikTok account has 1.5 million followers and 29 million likes and has consistently been praised for its informal, but engaging campaigns that connect with a younger fan base. As 50% of the brand’s customers belong to Gen Z, Chipotle’s TikTok strategy makes good business sense.
  • The fast-food brand launched its official TikTok account in 2018 with a strategy described as ‘advertainment’, that shuns traditional advertising techniques (which Gen Z aren’t keen on) for branded content that young people actually want to watch. 
  • In 2019, the brand broke TikTok records with its viral #guacdance challenge, which invited guacamole lovers to dance with avocados, that garnered 450 million views in less than a week - and as a result sold more than 800k portions of their guacamole in store that same week. Similar viral hits include their #boorito promotion and the #LidFlipChallenge.
  • Chipotle says it tracks the latest trends with its in-house team of ‘culture hunters’ who browse the interwebs for clues about what young users are posting about and how to convert this into successful Chipotle campaigns. 

🌙  Case study: Little Moons

  • Siblings Howard and Vivien Wong launched Little Moons in London in 2010 on a mission to bring mochi - a sweet Japanese rice cake - to a wider audience.
  • According to reports, the Little Moons TikTok account arose almost by chance - set up by a young staff member who began posting videos on the platform for the brand last summer.
  • Engagement quickly snowballed - by the start of 2021, Little Moons mochi balls had gone viral, and sales had increased by 2000 per cent as a result.
  • Little Moons’ account now has 2.9 million likes and 224.9k followers, and their highest-performing videos play on the trend for food ASMR as happy customers cut into the mochi desserts.
  • Two organic hashtags related to the brand (#littlemoons and #littlemoonsmochi) together have 26.5 million views, sparking the curiosity of new would-be customers who’ve headed to the supermarket on the back of watching the viral videos to see what all the fuss is about.
  • And that’s paid off for the brand: at UK supermarket Tesco, Little Moons’ sales jumped by a whopping 700% and many retailers have struggled to keep stock on the shelves.
  • The Little Moons team attributes their TikTok success to their laidback, organic approach - in fact, that same young graduate employee still oversees video content for the brand. 

👍 The good

  • For up and coming F&B brands, TikTok’s focus on charisma and engaging, shareable content makes it a great fit for young brands aimed at Gen Z and millennials to showcase their brand’s personality and creativity. 
  • And unlike the more traditional social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram, even smaller brands can find traction pretty swiftly (or even overnight). Follower counts play less of a role on TikTok so companies don’t need a large audience to see success. 
  • Similarly, TikTok’s algorithm is designed in a completely different way to Facebook’s, and its offspring, so there’s much more space for ‘discoverability’ and for smaller accounts to go viral. 
  • The most successful brands also demonstrate a deep understanding of their target demographic: on TikTok that’s Gen Z, and to a lesser extent, millennials. In-depth knowledge of the kind of content these groups are after will boost a brand’s chances of success. 

👎 The bad

  • For brands not specifically targeting younger consumers, the usefulness of Gen Z-favourite TikTok may be limited. F&B brands who are aiming to reach boomers or similar age groups won’t find their demographic online there - at least not yet
  • Many bigger brands are still wary of TikTok, with their social media expertise centred around older platforms like Facebook or traditional advertising. 
  • On a related note, companies should be cautious of reposting their other social content to TikTok - the app, as we’ve learned, works pretty differently to other channels and your carefully staged Insta shots won’t fly in the casual, ‘home-video’ environment on the Chinese-owned app.

💡The bottom line

  • Success for F&B brands on TikTok requires many of the same commitments as other social channels - regular and consistent posting of content that adds value for your audience. 
  • But to get TikTok right, brands need to dive deep into the platform and understand its relaxed, unceremonious vibe. Although this might not come naturally to some F&B companies, the runaway success of some brands shows it’s well worth taking the time to do so.
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