2014-04-08

Co.Exist

The Food Porn Index Is Making Vegetables Look A Little Sexier

When you take pictures of food, do you take pictures of the healthy stuff, too?

Maybe it’s not surprising that when a photo is tagged #FoodPorn on Instagram or Twitter, it’s more likely to be something a little guilt-inspiring, like a cronut or a stack of bacon, than, say, a turnip. A website called the Food Porn Index tracks the numbers: About 70% of #FoodPorn photos are junk food. That’s actually a slight improvement since the site first launched, which is part of the goal--the index was created by juice manufacturer Bolthouse Farms in an effort to remind Americans that vegetables can look just as sexy.

“Although there are people who share pictures of fruits, veggies, and other healthier choices, it is very apparent that we love to share pictures of waffles drenched in syrup and deep dish pizzas,” says Amir Haque, a partner at Tiny Rebellion, the creative agency that developed the index. “It's as if we enjoy showing off indulgence even though we know the consequences. That’s what spawned the idea to mine social data in this way and see if we could shine a light on the matter to reverse the trend.”

At any given moment, the site shows the current stats for a curated list of 12 of the most popular vegetables and 12 junk foods (#condiments, somewhat inexplicably, has the lead with around 30 million mentions as of this writing). Click on a food and you’ll see a little animation and, depending on whether the food is healthy or unhealthy, you’ll get a little nudge to tweet or not.

The site is never pushy about telling people what to eat--instead, it’s just meant to start some a conversation about healthier food. “We think it’s a fun barometer of the food conversation,” Haque says. When the project started, there were 24 million posts tagged #FoodPorn on Instagram alone, giving the site enough data to be a fairly accurate visualization of what people are talking about.

“By having the experiences be fun and weird, just like the Internet, it helps open up the discussion without being too preachy,” he adds. “We built this project around that core belief that visibility drives behavior--especially when users engage with content on their own terms. That's why this project shows both sides of the story, both healthy and unhealthy foods, letting people explore and share the individual food experiences, learn about the imbalance and come to their own conclusions.”

And the project might help fight, in a tiny way, the fact that the fast food industry pours around $4.6 billion into advertising every year. “There is no question that marketing drives behavior on food consumption overall; junk food marketing has exploited this for decades,” Haque says. “Healthier foods, in particular fresh and fresh packaged foods, are up against Goliath in terms of marketing spend. We think projects like this give healthy foods a chance to narrow the spend gap.”

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