Has Instagram changed the way we eat?

Saints of Mokha has a large Instagram following.

By Conor de Smith

Apicius, the first-century Roman gourmand and author, is credited with the aphorism: “The first taste is always with the eyes.”

In fact, some of the largest increases in cerebral blood flow occur when a hungry brain is exposed to images of desirable foods. This might go some way in explaining why the phenomenon of ‘foodporn’ has changed the world’s eating habits over the last decade.  

The British public are sharing images of food more than ever before with a huge amount of this food-centric media revolving around the photography uploaded on social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. More than 130,000 pictures of food are shared on Instagram every day in the UK and one-in-five Britons have admit to sharing photos online once a month.

Ever since its launch in 2010, food has been a great provider of content on Instagram. The immensely popular social media site, which boasts 600 million monthly active users, specialises in photosharing and around 208 million posts have been tagged on the app with the “food” hashtag since it was founded.

The introduction of mobile phones with in-built cameras have made sharing pictures of our food easier than ever. Taking a photo of an aesthetically appealing ‘freakshake’ or ‘raindrop cake’ has become customary when dining out, but is this changing the way the public consume food?

Breakfast, for example, has shifted from unphotogenic cereal or jam on toast to the bright hues of avocado toast – there are nearly 750,000 #avocadotoast hashtagged photos on Instagram –  and trendy smoothie bowls. Some meals are now social media magnets and some cafes or restaurants aim to hone on this ‘free advertising’.

In Leicester, there are dozens of independent establishments that utilise social media in order to draw in customers. Some, such as the Toast Inn, have become self aware and have called a fruity Prosecco drink infused with candyfloss ‘I want that drink I saw on Instagram’. Sex sells and ‘food porn’ is no different. In 2005, for example, M&S’ sales skyrocketed by 3,500% when the supermarket launched an advert showing a chocolate pudding with an extravagant melting centre.

The younger generation are the main culprits with 18 to 24-year-olds five times more likely to share photos of their food online than the over 55s. According to research by Zizzi, 18-35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 per cent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.

This consumer behaviour is literally changing the way some restaurants, cafes and eateries approach their business. Omar Sacranie, owner of a Leicester coffee shop called Saints of Mokha, believes he runs his store differently because of social media.

“A lot of the launches we do are on Instagram,” says the 20-year-old. “When I look at people of an older age and how they construct a business, it is very different to how I do things. They will launch products in-store, everything is in-store for them, while I like to launch things online. I find it more efficient and easier to do things online.”

The store opened in the summer of 2016 and has proven to be a huge hit on Instagram. In March 2018, there were 50 geotagged posts of the store or its products. The majority are aerial views of wonderfully designed coffees and cakes, while others focus on the wooden interior which is made entirely of recycled pallets from factories.

Mr Sacranie is very aware of the power of photographs. Above the counter, there are dozens of polaroids of customers that staff have found eccentric or interesting with messages underneath. These are rarely placed on Instagram but they add a personal touch to the cafe. “I would cover the whole shop with these pictures,” he says but was adamant that he has never sold a product due to its ‘Instagramability’.

“I don’t think people put photos first. I have considered making something because it looks good on Instagram, but it is not the main crux of the decision. I’ve not thought ‘this is picturesque, I’m going to sell it’ if it doesn’t taste good, if it’s not efficient, if it’s not popular, if it’s not a familiar taste – there’s a lot more that goes into a dish for me.”

Leicester Food posts photos of establishments such as Cake Club & Doughnotts.

Some are very aware of this amplified word of mouth and restaurants such as Media Noche in San Francisco designed their restaurant to be perfect for Instagram, from the floor pattern to the lighting. Some chefs have labelled this strategy, putting this much focus on style, dangerous. It is a risk many are taking due to the impact these social influencers harbour.

In Leicestershire, the Instagram account ‘LeicesterFood’ is unrivaled when it comes to followers and influence. Going public in 2016, the account now has near 7,000 followers by offering high-definition photographs of the city’s most popular food trends. Its hashtag, which users can place below their photos to get featured, has been used over 10,000.

Pia Chauhan, 26, runs the account as a hobby and makes no financial gains from the account, but does get invited to the opening of some restaurants in return for some coveted online exposure. Instagram is difficult the monetise for influencers without seeking brand deals so why has it proven so popular?

“It is very easy to use,” said Miss Chauhan. “It’s very visual and attractive. Also, people seem to be more active on Instagram compared to other social media – especially the younger generation. For me it’s a hobby, I enjoy it and I can pass time. I also get invited to new restaurant openings and food events to eat for free.”

It appears traditional newspaper and magazine restaurant reviews are losing their influence over millennials in favour of online round-ups, social networks and influencers. One anonymous publicist, however, says influencers can become a burden for top establishments. They say these social media stars have demanded not only the complimentary meals, plus-one’s, and a free buffet of every dish on a restaurant’s menu. The publicist added, “I get emails: ‘I have 114.3K followers. Here’s where I’d like to go.’ Miss Chauhan believes that befriending influencers can be vital to the success of local businesses.

“It’s free advertising for them and they can connect with other local businesses,” she says. They can showcase their food and target them to the Leicester population very easily and with minimal effort.”

The fear for long-serving food creators is that ‘minimal effort’ might start to creep into the food industry due to Instagram but, for now, ‘Instagrammable’ dishes are here to stay in a big way.

Students discuss their experiences of using social media while underage

By Rosie Vacciana-Browne

Social Media Image

Image: Collage of Digital (Social) Networks by Tanja Cappell



De Montfort University students have discussed their experiences on social media accounts that they had before the recommended age of 13.

This comes after the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, Tim Cook, referring to younger members of his own family, told the Guardian: “I don’t want them on social media.”

Yet, last November Ofcom reported that under-age use of social media was on the rise.

Following a report by the BBC on the issue, students were asked if they had any social media accounts before 13 and whether or not they felt safe on these sites.

To hear what they said, listen to the audio report above.


How Twitter reacted to Leicester fire

By Yousuf Ali

A huge fire in Leicester has caused inconveniences to 45,00 people in the form of a power cut this morning

It is understood that power has now been restored, over one hour later.

Police have said there is no official statement but have said the fire is under control.

People have expressed their concerns on social media, including businesses and services affected as a result of the fire.





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Social Media Success for DMU Graduate Champion

By Natalie Whitehouse

Journalism graduate Georgina Baker found herself remaining a part of De Montfort even after leaving, when she undertook an internship through the university’s DMU Graduate Champions Scheme.

The 21-year-old has this week completed a six-week placement with Media Board International, a Leicester-based marketing company, where she has been enjoying her role as Social Media Marketing Officer and Journalist.

Since graduating last summer, Georgina has applied for “no end of jobs in journalism,” but says she wasn’t too disheartened that the applications, thus far, have been to no avail:

“I was ready for a little break, so I wasn’t too downhearted at my failings for finding something permanent.”

Georgina has since found herself back at her local pub, in the part time job she has had since she was fourteen, before getting a letter through the post advertising DMU Graduate Champions, tempting her to look into the internship scheme and apply:

“I got a little letter through the post and to be honest I actually didn’t think they would have any positions for me, as I didn’t think there were any journalism postings about.

“I left the card on my desk and for a few weeks it kept staring at me, so one day when I was writing a blog post I bit the bullet and applied – not expecting to hear anything at all!”

Gee Baker

Georgina’s application was thankfully successful, undertaking her internship at the beginning of the year. Her role at Media Board is diverse and enjoyable; providing her with a whole host of tasks to keep her busy from day to day:

“I have been involved with setting up Media Board’s official blog where I write all the blogs, which have included an ‘About Media Board’ one, as well as personal blogs from myself tracking my time here. I’ve also been let lose editing content already on the website.

“I’m involved in planning content for Media Board’s clients, which we then draft and schedule to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This sort of stuff can be anything from opening hours of the restaurants we work with, to coming up with competitions and special offers.

“Because no one client is the same it has been really interesting to see how ideas can be adapted for each business, and it’s great because you meet so many different people.”

Georgina has also praised the internship scheme, ran by DMU, which enabled her to gain this vital experience in an industry she wishes to work in, in turn hopefully giving her the extra push she needs to secure a full time role:

“I really would [recommended the scheme to graduates], especially if you are like me and find job searching a minefield! For the sake of going online for ten minutes tops and filling in the application form, it is so worth it. DMU does all the hard work once you’ve submitted your application, and you just say yes or no to the jobs they find you. Whatever job you end up being assigned to is all experience and will look great on the CV!”

With regards to the future and her hunt for a job, Georgina would ideally like a job in journalism, PR or marketing, noting that she’s “not fussy” as to where she ends up; as long as it gives her the chance to do something she loves, as well as passing some personal milestones:

“I’m hoping to still do stuff with Media Board from them such as blogs and I will keep up my own personal writing too while I look for a full time job in the journalism industry, but while that happens and while I’m still at home I am going to try and get my driving test passed as soon as possible, and keep working at the pub to stop myself going bored and provide me with money and a bit more of a social life!”