Emerging trend: Food and beverage industry joins forces with TikTok influencers to build brands

By Marissa B. Wiley

In today’s increasingly virtual world, visibility on a variety of social media platforms is a marketing must-have. How companies leverage social media continues to evolve, but one powerful trend is stepping into the limelight (or, should we say, the ring light): leveraging the brand-building power of influencers.

Since March 2020, we have spent an unprecedented amount of time at home, where many of us could be found puttering around our kitchens (baking bread, for example) or lounging on the couch in our newly acquired "resort wear," scrolling through Instagram or TikTok. It was only a matter of time until these new-found hobbies converged, and we saw the result of a piqued interest in at-home cooking with simple recipes from accessible ingredients and useful kitchen gadgets reflected in the content of our social media apps. And what do a refreshing cran-raspberry juice, a delicious and easy baked feta pasta, or a simple, yet helpful, avocado slicer have in common? They were brought to our attention by an influencer.

If you frequent the TikTok world, you've heard the phrase "TikTok made me buy it," and it’s the undeniable truth; TikTok’s user-generated content boosts brands.

For example, one of the most popular TikTok beverage videos was posted by Nathan Apodaca (@420doggface208). The premise is very simple—Apodaca drinks Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry Juice while cruising on a skateboard to the tune of "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac. Simple as it may be, something about the organic video resonated with its audience: it has more than 12.8 million likes and 680,400 shares. Following the post’s popularity, Ocean Spray experienced an +11% boost in sales for that particular juice and a +3–4% jump for the entire franchise. Thereafter, Ocean Spray logically continued to invest in TikTok as a platform and Apodaca as an influencer.

As another example, consider the OXO 3-in-1 avocado slicer. A video posted by @tourdelust giving a simple demonstration and endorsement of the product had more than 59 million views, 631,000 likes, and 20,200 shares. While no one could predict that this straightforward content would have had such an effect, the OXO brand experienced a 166% year-over-year increase in website traffic in April 2020, thanks in part to the TikTok video.

Brands are realizing, and capitalizing on, the value that influencers bring, which could enhance their business, but there are many legal considerations to keep in mind. For example, it is important to memorialize the relationship between the influencer and the brand in a written agreement, which often includes an equity-as-compensation component. The characteristics of that equity compensation are highly customized and sensitive, which requires a specialized knowledge of corporate structures and brand dynamics.

As influencers continue to succeed at raising the profile of food, beverage, and agricultural products, they are becoming an integral part of brand marketing strategy. Leveraging influencers, brands are reaching all potential audiences, with the added bonus of feedback on the needs of their consumer via the direct line that influencers have with their viewers. The most successful brands will be those with a long-term digital strategy with the capability to react quickly to momentary trends.

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Marissa B. Wiley


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