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Influencer Marketing in the Food Industry: The Who, The What, and The ROI

Influencer Marketing | January 4, 2023 | 9 min

Restaurants, cooks, and supermarkets are evolving at the edge of one of the most enduring industries. Since the beginning of life, people are making sure they are nourishing their body and soul. On top of that, the food industry also stands as one of the pillars of modern social life; a hot meal bursting with savory flavors along with a cozy ambiance will always bring people together.

Two French baguettes are making today’s competitive world go round. First, the art of making food ingredients sizzle together in a symphony of flavors. Secondly, rendering these results in true-to-life photography. 

That’s because it’s easy to draw attention by stimulating the eyes and taste buds through appealing visuals. Nonetheless, numerous brands are oblivious to the low-hanging fruits right in front of them. The truth is social media has gifted them with the perfect growing conditions: influencer marketing.

In a nutshell, influencer marketing in the food industry fosters the same elements that make content viral. Mouth-watering visuals, a sense of authenticity, and a close-knit community – these elements native to influencers’ accounts coincide with key ingredients that food and beverage brands need in order to grow prominent. 

Along the following lines, take the time to observe how compatible food brands and influencer marketing are in real life. You’re also in for a breakdown of strategies on how to maximize the potential of your social media partners.

1. Influencer Marketing and the Food Industry – a Match Made in a 3 Michelin Stars Kitchen

Social media has turned into a source of shopping inspiration. What happens is that social users are following friends and famous users rather than brands. This way, it’s easy for them to observe how modern lifestyles are taking shape.

In other words, consumers are not turning to social platforms to see what is new in terms of brand offerings. Instead, they are consuming social content to stay connected and find out how other people build their lifestyles.

Since we’ve established that the food industry is extremely visual, it organically gains the upper hand in social media. Pictures deliver a message faster than a caption can. 

Two things take place when a social user snaps a photo of their meal. Viewers’ appetite is instantly stimulated and they also find out where their next treat is going to be.

Imagine the ripples such a photo can create when its author manages a great community of followers. Hundreds and even thousands of people get to see that a successful person online is enjoying an easy Sunday morning with an extra-large sundae. Wouldn’t you want to follow in their footsteps and share their happiness with the same sundae?

2. Examples of Food Social Influencers

Influencer marketing in the food industry draws its energy from content creators. Brands enjoy working with account owners passionate about gastronomy and photography. 

Most times, organic campaigns in collaboration with influencers drive results as long as creators are free to experiment. As a result, brands’ main job limits itself to briefing their partners on what they can and cannot do according to their cultural compass. The rest remains a matter of storytelling.

Let’s go over some examples of food influencers for each of the two most visual social platforms: Instagram and YouTube.

Food Industry Influencers on Instagram

The first bite out of a freshly baked cookie filled with melted chocolate is the most delicious part of a day. Food influencer Frederikke knows this too well. As such, she took well advantage of this vulnerable spot to the point of growing an extremely connected community of over 200,000 followers.

Her signature style as an influencer encapsulates a close-up video of a fork digging into a cake accompanied by ASMR sounds. Judging by her number of followers, Frederikke is a micro-influencer with a great engagement rate.

From a sugar fantasy, we’ll turn the page over to the super-healthy side of Instagram. Kevin Curry has over 1 million social users following his work. This time, our influencer is more interested in spreading good vibes through a balanced body-mind approach. 

His wellness lifestyle reaches people through genuine photos of his trips and recipes. His constant activity as a macro-influencer on Instagram coupled with a relaxed attitude in front of the camera won him several food collaborations on Instagram over the years.

Food Influencers on YouTube

Food looks good on camera, especially when you have a charismatic chef in charge of cooking. Jamie Oliver is actually a TV celebrity thanks to his “The Naked Chef” cooking program courtesy of BBC. 

Nonetheless, Jamie soon discovered that the online love him as much as the offline does. So, he’s taken social platforms by storm, especially YouTube where he’s free to post his recipe videos. 

Thanks to his over 5.5 million followers, Jamie belongs to the side of macro-influencers. He continues to recommend a healthy, home-cooked diet and quality kitchenware and ingredients.

Unlike Jamie Oliver, Haste’s Kitchen is a micro-influencer yet with a few special aces up his sleeve. Ian, the account owner, paid attention to detail when he created his brand. A logo, a unique line “Simplifying Nutritious Recipes,” and a particular style of filming make Ian stand out in the crowd.

Haste’s Kitchen has recently reached the 100k subscriber milestone, and the channel has already signed several partnerships with prestigious brands. His promotional content is unique, fresh, original, and engaging judging by the many reactions it kindled. 

3. Top Food and Beverage Brands Brave Enough to Change Social Media and Use Influencer Marketing


A steaming bowl of influencer – and user-generated content is what keeps Oreo’s Instagram profile so friendly. At first sight, the account looks creative, spreads a lot of good vibes, and follows the trends (if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, you actually don’t exist on social media).

Most of all, it is clear to the naked eye that the cookie brand takes the connection with its followers seriously. Among the branded content that Oreo is painstakingly planning, authentic pictures of its customers stand out. Oreo doesn’t shy away from regramming user posts with their staple cookie, and the results are spectacular.


The simple fact that there is no person left on this planet who hasn’t heard about it doesn’t mean McDonald’s can get a break from building brand awareness. On the contrary, the company is busy working on some of the best organic and influencer campaigns in the food industry.

Following this project, McDonald’s exposes real stories behind real customers. Through these glimpses into the real world, the company documents people’s new realities and how they connect over a video call and a tasty menu.

Rosarito Fish Shack

However, not only food behemoths are making Instagram look like a piece of cake. Rosarito Fish Shack is a casual seafood pub in New York that places fun above all. Their in-house recipe for mouth-watering photography keeps them away from those cold studio mockups. 

In the meantime, the restaurant doesn’t forget to include its community in its social cookbook. The team uses candid pictures of their decorations to keep their followers posted on their future events and happy hours. On top of that, they repost their patrons’ posts every time they get the chance.

4. An Appetizing Social Media Presence with a Side of Hot ROI

Ultimately, two things are stimulating brands to seek the partnership of social media influencers. First, there’s the social ingredient. Working with real accounts pulls brands as close as they can get to an authentic profile in the eyes of the public. In this process, the salesy edge that leeches any brand profile gets lost.

Secondly, there’s the matter of a tremendous ROI improvement. A well-thought visual campaign amplified through natural promotion lingers on users’ minds for longer. Thanks to its organic fabric, the project attracts people benevolently, without intruding. 

Unlike aggressive ads, it’s users’ choice to inquire further about the topic. As a consequence, ROI gets buffed with a minimum of effort, without investing in ads all the time.

Research shows that Instagram influencer marketing in the food industry incentivizes an engagement rate of 7.38%. Compared to the average a food or beverage brand pulls off through in-house means only, influencers harness 5 times better results.

The story doesn’t end here. The more likes, comments, and shares a post generates, the greater the return on investment will be. By investing in a genuine connection with their social audiences, restaurants and fast food companies are earning $6.50 for each dollar they spend on influencer campaigns.

5. The Secret Influence Recipe

Usually, food brands have three main ingredients to fry viral campaigns until golden. All are equally effective, yet they serve three different purposes. What sets them apart is the type of influencers brands are working with.

Foodie Macro-Influencers

On the one hand, food brands can contact macro-influencers or celebrities such as chefs or food critics with a partnership proposal as long as the budget allows. Their international popularity hands over to companies the key to audiences of millions.

However, macro-influencers prove of value mostly to restaurant chains that target all kinds of consumers from all corners of the world. To the rest of the company sizes, macro-influencers are beneficial as massive channels that broadcast brand awareness. Next time their followers have to choose between two restaurants, the odds will give a bias to the one influencers mentioned.

Foodie Micro-Influencers

On the other hand, micro-influencers can be of greater assistance despite their lower numbers of subscribers. Usually, the typical profile of a medium food influencer reveals a youngster or mommy passionate about local gastronomy. 

What drives brands towards micro-influencers is their extremely targeted audience. Their niche following resides mostly in a particular region. As a result, the local food industry receives a stronger flow of customers when working with influencers of this sort which translates into a visible boost in sales.

Miscellaneous Micro-Influencers

photo of a juicy burger in a fast food restaurant while eating out

It doesn’t have to be a content owner that talks about food all day long. Lovers of beauty, lifestyle, travel, entertainment have to take a break from their passion at some point and enjoy a delicious meal.

Following this idea, restaurants and companies are building a portfolio of diverse influencing partners. As such, influencer marketing in the food industry isn’t always about the gourmet market. Beauty vloggers, daredevils, or travel aficionados are also on the menu of successful food campaigns.

6. Strategies to Activate Food Influencers’ Potential

In our journey across the restaurant influencer market, practical strategies are also drawing our attention. ROI goals have been set, influencers have been chosen, but how can restaurants and companies set them in motion?

a. Sponsored Yummy Posts

Influencer marketing penetrates most often the food industry through sponsored posts. Usually, there is a straightforward path to follow.

Brands reach out to content owners showing they are interested in working together. After a brief and a two-way dialog, it is digital artists’ turn to make the campaign memorable. Whether an instagrammable snapshot, a candid Story, blog post, or a recipe video, their project has to be yummy to make a difference in the food industry.

b. Name Your Ambassadors

A display of commitment on behalf of a resounding name in the food industry generates traffic over a long period of time. In other words, a well-known influencer who is bringing more than once your brand into the discussion can spark massive awareness and loyalty.

An ambassador program is about recruiting chefs, food bloggers or celebrities for a long period of time. At the same time, such a project needs constant signs of brand-influencer cooperation. For instance, the social profile of a restaurant ambassador can be filled with pictures from events, product reviews, giveaways, brand mentions, etc.

c. Reviews

Another practical way of taking advantage of influencer marketing in the food industry is to start delivering product samples. In their turn, influencers are encouraged to communicate their opinion to their audience. For this strategy to work, their reaction has to be genuine, off-script.

Such initiatives usually render the best results in case of a new product launch. This is a great way to grow an audience familiar with novelties organically. 

d. Hashtag Mashup of Your Brand and a Movement

Start your own movement and use a hashtag to amplify and track it! It can be anything from promoting a healthy diet using your dishes or discovering the city through local cuisine. In these cases, #ABrandKindOfHealth or #BrandUrbanFlavors fit like a glove. But first, make sure your hashtags are unique.

One way to jumpstart the campaign is to allow food influencers to make the announcement. Their followers will hear about new restaurants and will be glad to see they have the initiative. Given that this is a long-term type of campaign, various influencers and loyal customers have enough time to add value to this movement by creating unique content.

In the end, the aftermath can amass rapid social media growth. Thousands of insightful posts, hundreds of thousands of interactions, and millions of views. With the right CTAs integrated intuitively into the movement, food and beverage brands can redirect their social traffic to their website.

7. Offer Continuity: Repurpose Social Media Content on Your Website

influencer eating a fancy plate of goat cheese salad at restaurant

All that work with influencers can easily get buried under millions of daily posts. Instagrammable table settings, yummy recipes, cozy restaurant nukes – these visuals coupled with a great story earn companies astounding reach on social media. 

Fortunately, the same photos can easily migrate to official websites. Although in a completely new environment, UGC can still switch on its influential juice and generate satisfactory results. This way, your powerful social content can change your eCommerce store the same way it changed your social media presence.

As for the technical part, there’s the hard way and then there’s the automated way. The hard way implies a marketing team setting up a gallery in their eStore and updating it with daily UGC by hand. 

The automated way is Flaminjoy. Our team possesses the know-how and years of expertise on how to set up a shoppable gallery and customize it to appeal to certain audiences. As soon as an influencer or client posts a new photo of your brand, the software curates and adds it to your Visual Commerce

By leveraging UGC right on their websites, Flaminjoy customers increase their conversion rate by 2.5x. Thus, influencer marketing in the food industry can spread its benefits outside social media and at optimum moments across customers’ journeys through online and O2O shopping.

Final Word: Food Influencers Have Already Reshaped the Industry

All in all, social content creators have already spread their wings in the food industry. Numerous accounts have made a name for themselves as macro-influencers and many others are following in their footsteps as micro-influencers. Moreover, restaurants, fast food brands, and delivery services are busy spotting their next ideal partners on social media to create engaging campaigns together. 

Want to create an Influencer Campaign yourself? Book a meeting and the Flaminjoy experts will help you set everything up.

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