As a nation of food lovers, Australians have raised their forks and declared veganism the most talked about dietary trend of last year, with the Paleo diet dropping off the social media radar according to research from OpenTable – the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations.
The research found online chatter about veganism increased by 35% year-on-year, making it the top food-related discussion online, eclipsing all other dietary trends including superfoods (second most talked about, increasing 9% year-on-year) and vegetarianism (third, up 1% from 2015). The love affair with Paleo is on the decline, with the once-popular diet receiving the biggest decrease in online interest, with discussions dropping by 52%, while interest in clean eating also falling by 28%.
As part of the study, OpenTable reviewed more than two million online discussions by Australians relating to diets, cuisines, dining styles and dining occasions on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – as well as online reviews and news.
When it comes to cuisine trends, traditional favourites such as pizza and seafood continue to be among the most discussed, however it seems people’s palettes are craving spicier options with African cuisine recording the largest growth in cuisine-related topics on social media, increasing by 36% since 2015. This was followed by Spanish (21%), Cuban (21%), Caribbean (14%) and Brazilian (16%) cuisines.
Lisa Hasen, Vice President of OpenTable, APAC, said: “Australian diners are adventurous and love to try new things. The rise in popularity of spice-infused dishes from Africa and South America demonstrates this. Alongside changing appetites, we see that major events can also influence tastes and online food discussions – the Rio Olympics sparked a noticeable wave of interest in Brazilian and South American foods in 2016.”
Hasen noted that while the research indicated that health-conscious food trends such as veganism are here to stay, the nation is also embracing a new take on comfort food dishes such as fried chicken, pizza and burgers.
The humble charcoal chook experienced a significant rise in discussion during 2016, seemingly driven by the ‘hipsterisation’ of the dish. Many social media users commented on venues adding pickles, craft beers and fancy sides to the chicken dining experience.
Commenting on the rise of topical food trends, Hasen added: “In recent years we’ve seen reimagined food and beverages step into the spotlight as a result of social media such as designer donuts, freak shakes and frosé, all of which are served with a unique twist. As a result, many of our restaurant partners are introducing tailor-made offerings to meet these diner demands creating Instagrammable venues and unique types of experiences that can be shared across social media,” Hasen said.
“Similarly, food-related news trends dominated headlines in 2016 with savvy restauranteurs using topical social conversations, such as ‘smashed avocado’ and ‘oyster shortage’, to capitalise on offline offerings by introducing tongue-in-cheek discounts and revamping their menus to satisfy Aussie tastebuds,” Hasen added.
Looking ahead to 2017, interest in outdoor dining experiences are set to rise as chatter of alfresco dining increased by 31% over the course of 2016.
When it comes to celebratory dining occasions, diners are shifting their focus with references to eating out for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day dropping by 20% year-on-year. Instead, more people are organising restaurant bookings to celebrate Easter with the holiday period gaining significant momentum in the past 12 months.