Food Thought Leader: Why Hashtags are the New “Extra Something”

The new pop stars don't sing; they cook, blog and share. The food industry is booming. Two network analyses by the GDI show what makes these celebrities so successful.
1 November, 2018 by
Food Thought Leader: Warum Hashtags das neue Salz in der Suppe sind
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

This is an excerpt from the GDI study "European Food Trends Report". The complete study can be downloaded from our website.

Food is becoming the hottest pop trend, and pop culture always has superstars. Through network analysis, GDI researchers pinpointed the biggest stars and what makes them special. A list of players in the food industry–including TV chefs, nutritionists, restaurateurs and bloggers–and the web and Wikipedia were used to determine the most important people in each network. A second analysis was conducted to see how the top five are connected.

The web network analysis found people in the food sector are discussed mostly on social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Food Thought Leaders owe their prominence to the new media, which spreads information rapidly. While online news portals like "The New Yorker" and "Time Magazine" are relevant, they lag far behind social media.

Food Thought Leader Web network_of_food_thought_leader.jpg


Cross-linked with the most influential Food Thought Leaders on Wikipedia are sites like the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), because most Food Thought Leaders appear in a series or film. Other indicators of prominence are national libraries and library associations.

Food Thought Leader Wikipedia food_thought_leader_wikipedia.jpg


In terms of their influence on the food world, however, this does not tell us a lot. It gets more interesting when we take a closer look at individual thought leaders. Anthony Bourdain occupies a central position in the network, which is why he earned first place as Wiki Food Thought Leader. Bourdain is known not only for his restaurant and books but also through television programmes, including “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”. There is a cluster of television journalists, radio broadcasters and correspondents closely linked to Bourdain.

Similarly, Michael Pollan–a journalist and professor at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism–is linked to a group of journalists. In this cluster, however, there are fewer TV journalists and more who write for newspapers and magazines, as he does. Since Pollan is a  sustainability and healthy diet advocate, he is also closely linked to veganism and vegetarianism and associated organisations, including Britain’s Vegetarian Society.

Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver hail from similar cohorts: both are British celebrity TV chefs who own several restaurants, so they are close to each other in the network. The cluster between Ramsay and Oliver, which can be seen in the graphic, consists mainly of dishes and recipes which appear in their cooking shows or books. Surrounding them are Ramsay’s and Oliver’s respective restaurant chains, TV shows and campaigns.

Vani Hari is found in a looser network, and there are no clusters. As a food activist, she is linked with pages from different areas. These include media companies Twitter, "Time Magazine" and "The Wall Street Journal", food companies Kraft, Anheuser Busch and Subway, and pages related to food safety, genetically modified food, livestock antibiotic use or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

So what is the recipe for becoming a food star? A presence on social media platforms is almost certainly the critical ingredient! Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are providing new avenues for stars to communicate and interact directly with followers. Other ingredients for success are films, television shows or books, through which food celebrities can reach a wide audience.

Read more about the future of food in the "European Food Trends Report".

# Food
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