13 Tasty Trends Shaping Food Imagery

Cindy Rogers, Creative Director
May 9, 2018

Full disclosure: I have more cookbooks than shoes. (I have three closets full of shoes, BTW.) When I hear the words mizuna, maitake or harissa, my ears perk up instantly. I am, it’s fair to say, obsessed with all things food, and the trends and stories they inspire — especially when told through the universal language of imagery.

Authenticity and creativity are still big drivers. And a view from above is still in vogue. But, we can’t look at food imagery trends in isolation. We have to look at food trends as well.

A Growing Appreciation for Global Culture

According to Whole Foods Market's 2018 trend report, we will be eating a lot of Middle Eastern cuisine this year. Spices and ingredients such as harissa, cardamom, za'atar, pomegranate, eggplant, parsley, and tahini are appearing on plates right and left. Even in cocktails. What have you done with your harissa lately?

Breakfast for Dinner

It started in 2016 with chicken waffles and gravy. It’s only grown since then. And here’s one to truly blow your mind: the sushi doughnut. Project Poke’s ultimate savory doughnut gets points for hitting both the global and the breakfast for dinner trends.

Plated for Instagram

Today, even high-level chefs are paying attention to how their food will look on a screen, and how many times their dishes get ‘grammed. The famed Culinary Institute of America has courses for chefs in food styling and photography for Instagram. Le Cordon Bleu in London even offers a three-day workshop on Food Styling and Photography.

Emphasis on Plants

As veganism and vegetarianism become more mainstream, and more chefs add plant-based dishes to their menus, creative combos of colorful veggies are owning the plate. Bloggers and chefs alike are turning perceptions of plant-based eating upside down.

Eat the Rainbow

Beet burgers that bleed red. Purple yams used to color ice cream and cupcakes. Turmeric EVERYWHERE. Incorporating as many colors as possible is one of the key trends this year. Nutritionally, we want to eat the rainbow. Visually, we want to marvel at its beauty.

We Still Worship the Avocado

Seriously: who’d have thought the avocado latte would be such a viral sensation? Or that we’d be devoting entire restaurants to this beloved green wonder-fruit?

Perfectly Imperfect

Right now, it’s all about experimentation and celebrating imperfection. Images may seem spontaneously put together, but they are actually artfully arranged. That asparagus tip or cilantro curl did not find itself perfectly adjacent to the salmon fillet on its own.

Old is New, Raw is Refined

Perhaps in protest of all the crazy in our day-to-day lives, we’re looking back to the Old World. Raw natural surfaces like slate and stone and wood. Tall glass jars, copper handis and other acoustic utensils are making appearances. Food imagery is turning away from modernity and high-tech and toward Old World DIY craft.

10 Ingredients or Less

Easy, simple, under 10 ingredients is still key. Yes, consumers have more adventurous palates than ever, and are eager to experiment with fusion cuisines, but by and large we’re still time-stretched, budget-bound, and more cooks than chefs.

Better in a Bowl

The Smoothie Bowl. The Bread Bowl. The Buddha Bowl. The Poké Bowl. If it’s not in a bowl, chances are it will be soon.

Story is Still King

A plate without context is hard to relate to. The story could be subtle. A carefully selected utensil, with a hint of who it might have belonged to, or the occasion that is about to commence. Even a sponsored post can tie back to something large and human.

Moving Backstory to the Foreground

How and where our food is sourced or produced is increasingly important. Food photos aren’t just about the finished dishes. Even in cookbooks, basic ingredients are making appearances in raw and natural ways.

Food in Motion

Animated GIFs have been around since 1987, but the use of motion in food imagery has only recently exploded – especially with Instagram Stories. Watching the steam rise seductively from a bowl of soba noodles or a gorgeous fillet of fish en papillote adds a layer of depth to the story and makes viewers want to dig in even more. GIFs are also a super-easy way to impart simple how-to info as mobile-friendly content.

If you’re in the business or just like to eat, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Reach me at cindy.rogers@partnersandnapier.com to dish on food marketing, my cooking adventures, or just to debate the merits of greens and if you can really ever have too many, or if salad in a Mason jar should be a thing.

Cindy Rogers Headshot
About the author
Cindy Rogers, Creative Director
An accomplished copywriter and creative director, Cindy’s experience spans food and beverage, healthcare, technology, education, financial services and non-profit. Her work has been honored by the Effies, Clios, and American Advertising Awards, including three Best of Show winners.
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