How did kale become so popular? Why can you not go a day without avocado toast in your Instagram feed? Why do some food trends come and go before you can say Po-Taco and others stick? The Wall Street Journal dove into the topic this week looking at the case of broccoli rabe, and the meteoric rise of avocado toast, which we are very familiar with. While the WSJ piece focused on the use of paid influencers, sometimes it is simply having the right idea at the right time in an easily translatable and approachable context.
The curious case of avocado toast began at Café Gitane in New York City in the summer of 2008. It did not take off immediately, but by 2014, everyone was taking notice. Some credited the increased awareness of the good fats and nutritional benefits along with visual social mediums like Instagram and Pinterest helping it to explode. It also fit into the “clean living” trend which is also ripe for social boasting. Working with APEAM (Avocado Producer and Exporters Association of Michocan), now Avocados From Mexico, we first picked up on the trend when reading reports from campus dining promotions we organized in the fall of 2011. Also that year we launched the “Good Morning Avocado” campaign. In the fall of 2012, we served avocado toast at the Wanderlust “Yoga in the City” event in New York. The following year we went to more cities with Wanderlust and handed out illustrated tote bags with directions for making avocado toast. During this time, we reinforced the health messaging to this “clean-living” group. And then, Instagram came along and avocado toast was ready for its close-up.
Now, a new toast is in the limelight, but despite the cleverness of Sweet Potato Toast from an inventive blogger, I don’t anticipate it having the staying power of its avocado forerunner. We tested it in our Culinary Studio today, and while not overly complicated, it doesn’t quite have the same grab and go ease of avocado toast. What it does offer is the customization and creativity, but it could just as easily be a loaded baked sweet potato.
We have been working to ignite new usage trends for clients since we began marketing food 60 years ago. While celebrity influencers certainly have a role, the stickiness of these ideas really comes down to a few basic principles.
KISS: It needs to be approachable and easy to understand for the masses to gravitate toward it. If it is a concept that can be picked up from an Instagram post without a recipe you are on your way. It should also be quick, and not require ingredients people don’t already have on hand. The beauty of something like avocado toast is that beyond bread and avocado, the rest is up to you. I personally like a little sriracha and maple syrup for a sweet and spicy kick.
Seed the trend with the right group: For avocado toast it was the Yogies at Wanderlust, but for the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup we worked with mixologists and the emerging cocktail trend developing in 2009. Maple Rocks was a program that gathered influential bartenders to start using maple syrup in signature cocktails. Maple in drinks expanded to lattes and then coffee in general as an alternative sweetener to honey and agave. Now even water is getting flavored with maple.
Strategy to scale: A simple message will help with all groups, but you need a plan to move it beyond your initial target to reach the masses. For avocado toast, Instagram and celebrity adoption both helped. It was a natural fit for celebs, who carried the idea to a larger audience. It won’t be enough to post it to Facebook. Have a plan for paid support to your digital efforts and continue to seed the idea to new targets that can expand your reach. This may include media or blogger events, sampling or other experiential marketing efforts.
As for the next kale, I’m banking on kale sprouts. They are a natural hybrid between kale and Brussels sprouts. With two trendy parents, they are poised for stardom, and with great chefs from Michael Voltaggio to the grand dame of vegetables, Amanda Cohen putting them on the menu. You can learn more about PadillaCRT’s food and beverage practice and how we fuel trends for clients at padillacrt.com.