Unicorn Food and Goth Ice Cream: Should you buy into Food Fads?


I've watched with fascination as over the past five years as another aspect of retail food desirability has come into play: instagramability. 

It is no longer just enough to have a great product that is delicious- it must also be beautiful. As I explained to a client with a weak Instagram a few months ago- food and sex go hand in hand. The photos must be sensuous, beautiful and titillating- leaving the follower always wanting more, and to be ready to drop everything to go get some. 

Enter food Fads for a new generation- can it be so beautiful and unique it will go viral? Does viral have a dollar value? Is it all it's cracked up to be? 

Here's some things to consider: 

Numbers don't mean anything, unless they're dollars

500 likes on your latest post? 7000 followers? The thing this will help with is your branding and business name exposure- which does have value.  But unless all the people who liked your viral photo are frequenting your shop on a daily basis, don't count on breaking even in the long run. 
Large followings these days don't translate to dollars. Same goes for likes- as I explained to a client in despair that her direct competition had ten times the followers she did- you can buy a following online these days. Don't take it too much to heart, and don't compare yourself to others- it's a negative practice. watch your own accounts. 
Getting lots of folks in the door for a novelty item is exciting, and fast cash is fun and satisfying. I know- I used to do it all the time with pop ups, candy bars and one day only flavours at my bakery Auntie Loo’s. The problem with this is keeping up the momentum and keeping the butts in the seats once you've been selling your “unicorn latte” for a few months. What and who will be left standing after that? 
Food trends are fun, but most get played out and exit quickly: see cupcakes. Pizza cones. Avocado toast. You don't want to have loads of perishable stock to make the item left over and wasted once it's not selling anymore. Even if you choose to see it through until stock is depleted, having an off trend item in house makes you look dated. Food Fads are dangerous in the respect that they are just that: Fads. They're quick and they're gone. If you jump on each one, you’re making your brand look quick and disposable. Wham bam no thank you m’am. Can you honestly say you’ll still be selling goth ice cream a year from now? If the answer is yes, then have at ‘er. 


Setting a Precedent and not Muddying your Brands Bottom Line

The best advice I can give to you on this is find one thing you do well, and build on that before venturing out. Good examples of these locally are Art-Is-In’s Bread, Cafe My House’s vegan cheeses, Beau Brewery’s Lug Tread and the Manx’s Chicken/Tofu wrap. These are well loved items that have been carefully cultivated over the years, habe their own cult following and are beloved. The client knows they can enter anytime and this product will be there. 
Disappointment can and will kill a beautiful relationship with a repeat long term customer. 
Disappointment comes in hand with muddying your brand. If you're constantly posting about a new trendy “cotton candy” cocktail to be on fad, but you're a pints kind of place, what will happen when new clients google you and see the viral trendy cocktail and show up wanting one? They'll be disappointed it's a pints place, and negative reviews and lost dollars will ensue. If you do choose to try a fad ingredient or item, ensure it's on brand with what you already do. For example, hypothetical pints place could have just as easily gone with a wild yeast and/or sour style beer, two hot new trends that are on brand with their client base and will yield actual dollars from delighted regulars. 

Still not sure? Ask yourself- Are you ready to be known as “the unicorn latte place”? 

Hopping on the Bandwagon

I ran into a friend of mine in business who I very much respect. I mentioned I was writing this post, and asked him for his thoughts. His reply was he saw no harm as long as you were among the first to bring it to your city. I marvelled at this idea. It does make sense to bring something new and exciting that fits with your brand to the city. 
But- Were you first, second or tenth? 
If you hop on because all of your direct competition is, you're not doing yourself any favours- see points above. However, if you see something that could work with your business, ask yourself these 5 questions before deciding.

financially: is it viable? 
Realistic: How easy are the ingredients to source?
Labour: How complicated is this to make? 
Your brand: does this fit with your brand’s culture? 
Market saturation: how many others in your city are offering this product? 


I tell my clients all the time- Businesses are like kids. Everyone will have an opinion on what you are doing, but at the end of the day- it's your kid. You call the shots. Do your research and decide if producing a food fad is right for you.

Xo m.