videos of hot cocoa bombs, which turned into mugs of hot cocoa when hot milk was poured over them. Banana bread — an oldie but goodie — became all the rage once more. And people hovered over their stoves to create adorable miniature pancakes in an effort to re-create pancake cereal.
Now, in the past few weeks, we’ve seen even more TikTok food trends emerge, including comfort-food feta pasta.
However, to Nolan Lewin, executive director and director of operations of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, New Jersey, this is old news. Sort of.
“People have always invented food products — that’s a continuous thing — over time, but with social media becoming so popular and with so many different channels to go through, some of them have become natural spreaders for certain types of activities,” he said.
One thing that is novel, however, is the people driving these trends. According to TikTok, 60% of users are between ages 10 to 29, categorizing them as millennials or Generation Z. Lewin believes the natures of these generations helped to drive these food trends.
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“The people who are more apt to see these videos are much more willing to try new things, different ethnic foods and flavorings and spices,” he said. “I think our American view of the world has really expanded. The benefit is people don’t have to travel to try this coffee with coconut milk or to go or some of these Indian countries to try their chutneys. They can find a recipe online.”
Lewin doesn’t completely give credit to pandemic boredom for helping these trends spread – he recalls many times pre-pandemic when his 19-year-old would show him innovative foods found online – but he said it’s definitely a factor, even for the Rutgers Food Innovation Center.
Lewin said it has gotten many calls from people coming up with new foods – the center’s job is essentially to help people launch their food businesses – many of whom said they have spent the last few months at home and are now trying to make some extra cash or bring a family recipe to life.
But why food, and not fashion, art or other cultural phenomenon? Because food is universal, Lewin said, and everyone has some degree of comfort with cooking something, even if it’s just eggs or a burger. That forms a good baseline to follow a simple recipe, especially if there’s a fun video in it.
Only time will tell, though, if these TikTok food trends continue to take off once the pandemic is “over” – whenever that may be. Lewin thinks they may drop off a bit as more people return to their offices, but the interest will keep on cooking in some form.
“I think that you’ll probably continue to see these fun variations of products coming out,” he said. “People are always looking to be creative and that will never stop. It may fall out a little bit when people are going into the office and they can’t play with a frying pan and pancake mix for an hour, but they still will have some time for things that are fun.”
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