Learn how to visually select healthy food images that market your business better, plus find the top trends to consider in food advertising.
Visually representing healthy habits through food and drink imagery is changing. In the past, depicting health through food and drink imagery meant staring at a government-mandated food chart, or a simple top-down image of an array of fruits and vegetables.
However, the rise of culinary interest in the general population—thanks to viral cooking shows, Bon Appetit-style food blogs, and awe-inducing food imagery on Instagram—is shifting how we think about healthy food.
How we market healthy eating has changed over the past decade. Image by golubovystock.
Marketing Healthy Habits in Visual Imagery
There’s a whole healthy food scene today to be marketed to, and that doesn’t mean only showing what you find in the farmer’s market. Our idea of healthy food is constantly evolving. We’ve come a long way since the food pyramid as our beacon for healthy eating. Now brands are marketing healthy food in new and interesting ways through dynamic visuals.
In today’s article, we’re sharing some ideas and inspiration on how brands can market healthy food imagery in creative ways. Beyond just considering vegan and vegetarian options, there’s a whole food scene that’s rapidly shifting. As more and more of us consider the environment as an important decision-maker in what we eat and educate ourselves on the science behind processed food, we’re making informed decisions on what goes into our bellies.
Get creative with how you show healthy eating in visuals. Image by Zamurovic Brothers.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when visually marketing healthy food imagery in your campaigns. Plus, you’ll find some insights on the type of stock imagery you should be searching for.
Food Trend #1: From the Farm
As we become more health-conscious about what we put into our bodies, we also become conscious of what we take and give back to the earth. With pollution and environmental degradation on the rise, this is influencing how and what we eat. Organic and regenerative agriculture is trending, with a returned focus on shopping locally and shopping seasonally.
Farm fresh ingredients should be highlighted with local farming in mind. Image by Kanyarat Ngamjunyaporn.
What Is Shopping Seasonally?
Technologies such as refrigeration and expanding transportation networks allow individuals to have access to food year-round. However, that convenience comes at an environmental cost. Transit for food production accounts for 10% of the carbon footprint of food production.
Eating seasonally means consuming fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. Modern convenience encourages us to consume less locally, and supports the perception that whatever is in the grocery store is good for us. However, if you shop seasonally, you limit your effect on more than just your health. You also limit your impact on the environment.
When you consider this trend in visual imagery, select ingredients and food that consumers can find during that time of year.
There’s a reason you don’t have butternut squash soup in the summer (and it’s not just because of the hot weather). Image by Nataliia Zhekova.
The #ShopLocal Trend
Local, seasonal eating also supports local farmers, which, in turn, can help your local economy. Even if you aren’t in an agricultural-rich place, showing ingredients—olive oils, vegan cheeses, or whatever else your local market creates—encourages the farm-forward food trend.
Depict this trend visually in imagery by highlighting ingredients and food from the local area you’re marketing your business in.
Here’s a creative example on highlighting summer ingredients seasonally in your social campaigns from Whole Foods’ Instagram.
Food Trend #2: Portion Control
In the last twenty years, the average bagel in America doubled in size from 1.5 ounces and 140 calories to six inches and 350 calories. There are more super-sized meals in fast-food restaurants, all-you-can-eat-24/7-buffets in casinos, and jumbo sodas at convenience stores (aptly named) than ever before. Portion sizes have consistently grown, along with our waistlines.
Show accurate portion sizes to the amount of people in your image. Image by Sveta Y.
In this health food trend, visually marketing appropriate portion sizes is important in depicting a more representative perspective of how much we should eat. When depicting healthy food in visual imagery, it’s important to consider how much food you’re showcasing in your ads. It can be tempting to put out a flat-lay of a bounty of colorful dishes. But, consider the perspective of the audience who sees that imagery who could think of it as an appropriate amount of food to consume. To really showcase healthy eating, ensure your portion sizes are accurate to the number of people present in your imagery.
Food Trend #3: Vegan Alternatives Aren’t Just for Vegans
We can thank vegans for the rise of plant-based milk alternatives. However, it’s not just vegans who are consuming these vegan-alternatives to traditional products. In fact, plant-based milk has become a $16 billion dollar industry.
As we continue to see a rise in food allergies, vegan alternatives are more than just alternatives for vegans. One of the first reasons for this is (often) these vegan alternatives actually do taste delicious. Ever try a macadamia nut latte? Then you know what I mean.
Vegan alternatives, like tofu, aren’t just for vegans. Image by homelesscuisine.
Considering the Environmental and Ethical Effects of Meat and Dairy Production
The second reason for choosing vegan alternatives is an increasing awareness of the environmental effects of eating meat and/or dairy products. As we seek to lower our environmental footprint, many people are choosing vegan alternatives to limit their effect on environmental issues relating to food production. This is the first time in history that alternatives to meat and dairy products are available on a global scale.
And so, the ethical treatment of animals becomes a consideration. Now that individuals have access to an array of vegan-friendly products, there’s an awakened interest in limiting our environmental and ethical footprint on the planet.
Food Trend #4: Information Informs Decisions
As recent as the 1960s, food sold in America contained limited amounts of ingredient and nutritional information. The onset of social media and the internet has given consumers more access to information than ever before. What this means is that businesses are more accountable to consumers, and their audience will scrutinize the decisions they make. As consumers continue to seek transparency in the products they use, brands in the food industry face an increasing amount of pressure to meet that transparency with factual information about what’s in their products.
Here is an example from vegan-friendly brand Coconut Bliss.
No longer can food brands hide behind complex chemical descriptions for processed foods. Food brands need to consider what terminology and ingredient information they’ll provide when marketing healthy food imagery to potential consumers. As brands visually represent this through healthy food, you’ll see an increase in terminology such as “Vegan-friendly,” “No animal byproducts,” or “Fairtrade certified.”
Food Trend #5: The Fridge of the Future
In the past several years, we saw a rise in bulk food and food stored in reusable containers and bags. Social media users are constantly looking for opportunities to showcase their life to the world, and that includes what’s in their kitchen and how it aesthetically looks. The brands, logos, and designs of the labels in their cabinets matter, not just the products themselves. An organized fridge that looks sustainable, with minimal plastic packaging and an emphasis on natural ingredients, reigns supreme.
Consumers care about what’s in their kitchen pantries, and what it says about them to the world. Image by Bogdan Sonjachnyj.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic, we also see an increased onset of food delivery and takeaway containers. These two trends live in conflict with each other. One trend highlights bulk, no-named goods as the environmentally-conscious option, and the latter shows the food of a safe future.
Over the next few months, it’ll be interesting to see how these two trends face each other and adapt. More than likely, brands will want to target the environmental impact that takeaway has and figure out a way to move forward with delivery options that also minimize environmental footprints and favor sustainability.
What will zero waste fridges look like in 2021?
3 Tips for Selecting Healthy Food Images on Stock
With all of these trends in mind, here are three quick tips for selecting healthy food and drink images on stock marketplaces like Shutterstock. Consider these when selecting images that represent healthy food in your visual branding.
Tip #1: Play with Color
When depicting food from the earth, color should be your number one consideration. Whether you want to depict a rainbow of colors or focus on one color—such as green vegetables—color is the easiest way to play with natural, farm-fresh ingredients.
Use colors to help style the type of images you want to showcase. Image by marcin jucha.
Tip #2: Sustainable Packaging
If you want to find sustainable packaging to show the takeaway experience, search for packages using natural ingredients such as hemp, wood, or other compostable materials.
Healthy eating isn’t just about the food you consume. Image by juliaap.
Tip #3: Get Specific on Ingredient Searching
When you’re looking for healthy food images on stock marketplaces, get highly specific with what you’re searching for. While an image of milk could represent almond, oat, or soy milk, if you search for the specific ingredient, chances are you’ll get a style that’s more representative of the type of imagery you want to use.
Get highly specific with your search to get the best results. Image by StudioPhotoDFlorez.
For more food inspiration, check out these articles:
From the 1800s to Present Day: The History of Food PhotographyGet Cooking with 2020’s Top Food Video TrendsSee What’s Trending in Food Photography in 2020sPhotographing Vegan Food: The Growing Trend of Sustainable DiningArtist Series with Food Photographer Joanie Simon
Top image by Zamurovic Brothers.
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