The newest culinary craze is lighting up social media
They’re getting glowing praise.
Call it the summer of light: Earlier this month, glow-in-the-dark neon doughnuts (“Glonuts”), fashioned by the famous Black Star Pastry, made their debut at Sydney’s Vivid festival, an annual installation of outdoor lighting and multimedia projects. Around the same time, Disneyland began selling glowing “fairy floss” cotton candy as part of their “World of Color” show. And New Zealand’s Lux Light Festival in May featured glow-in-the-dark ice cream, cotton candy, and even popcorn.
Why are glowing foods so popular now? According to experts, the new trend is part of a broader focus on food appearance among millennials, augmented by the new expectation that foods will show up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. “This is the latest example of an interesting twist on a classic dessert,” says Genevieve Aronson, vice president of communications at Nielsen. “Surely the novelty is appealing and certainly something that plays well into our social-media-fueled culture.”
Indeed, around the web, food bloggers and fans of neon treats are showing their love. “How much did we love our glow in the dark cotton candy?” asked millennial food Instagrammers @juniorfoodies. Another user speculated, while visiting Vivid: “First time eating ‘Glowing’ food. I wonder if I’ll start glowing.”
The craze is even catching on in higher-end restaurants. “Amazing seafood ceviche! #food #foodporn” captioned one user last year, with a photo of a classy, and glowing, dinner. Another user recently posted a series of pictures of a fully glowing sushi dinner, sporting such hashtags as #Yummy, #beautiful, #pretty, #fancy, #amazing, #delicious and, of course, #itslit.
And in a rapidly shifting consumer landscape, experts say the newest trends may spring from the things that are most familiar. “The key is we’re finding new ways to innovate and differentiate items that people already know and love,” says David Portalatin, vice president and food industry analyst for the NPD Group. With glow-in-the-dark food, “you’re not telling me to do anything I don’t already love, but you’re giving me a fun and innovative way to experience it.”
Is it here to stay? That depends on whether the quality and taste of the food can outlast the novelty. Ultimately, says Portalatin, it’s still the basics that differentiate a short-term fad from a new staple of popular culture. For the Glonut to stick around, no matter how flashy, “it better continue to be delicious, because that’s why I eat doughnuts in the first place.”
“You have to go back to the basics,” he explains. “Are these things American consumers really need? And do they continue to satisfy basic needs? If it doesn’t satisfy these two things, I’ll get over the fact that it glows.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved