From Plate To Face: Food & Beauty Trends Blend

sparks & honey
Sep 28, 2017 · 5 min read
sparks & honey cultural strategists Amirah Cisse and Merlin U. Ward hosted the Special Edition: Food & Beauty culture briefing.

The ingredients on your dinner plate could also be in your beauty collection. From a maximalist aesthetic to savory palettes, trends in food often manifest in the beauty space, and vice versa. Last week, sparks & honey highlighted these mutual synergies in a Special Edition: Food & Beauty Culture Briefing, livestreamed on sparks & honey’s Facebook.

Our panel of seasoned food and beauty experts discussed a variety of trending topics, including upcycling ingredients, the evolution of luxury, sustainable packaging, whether for burgers or makeup, and more. The hour-long discussion illuminated how the intersection of food and beauty can create a unique blend of opportunities for brands in the future.

Food Artist David Ma (left) misses eating from a simple plate.

Camera culture fandom

The ever-present eyes of camera culture, a trend we track in sparks & honey, is pervasive across food and beauty, and it often blends into one. On Instagram, fans of iconic food brands, such as Nutella or McDonald’s, are creating their own special sauce with homemade Nutella lip balm or exaggerated eyebrows that mimic the shape of the burger brand’s iconic golden arches.

It’s the ultimate compliment to your brand, according to David Ma, an Instagram food artist and commercial director, “With a brand like McDonald’s, when people are talking about your brand out of its original category into this (beauty) space, that speaks something about your brand.”

Annette Green, President Emeritus of the Fragrance Foundation, calls this aesthetic “adventurous on the face,” is “a brilliant untapped market” that the cosmetic industry, too.

Labeling gone wild

In our desire to understand the provenance of anything we consume or devour, radical transparency has become a pervasive trend across both beauty and food products. But what was once useful is starting to veer on absurd, as “free-from” and “gluten-free” are spread across any item — regardless of its contents.

You can now buy “premium” water that’s not only free-from GMOs and gluten, but certified organic. Yes, it’s still water. When the label doesn’t match the product, it becomes an absurdist play.

“Credibility is key,” said Nilou Motamed, a lifestyle consultant and former editor-in-chief of Food & Wine and Epicurious. Referring to craft beers and olive oil, “Region labeling is about looking for guidance as consumers. If we can see that it’s closer to where the product originated, we trust it.”

Annette Green, President Emeritus of the Fragrance Foundation (left) and Tina Hedges, CEO of Loli Beauty (right) debated the labeling of natural ingredients.

The label, after all, is a snapshot of the narrative consumers absorb when they decide whether to buy, or not.

“The gluten-free water reminds me of how important storytelling is — but you need to understand that consumers can sometimes be weary of just a good story,” Nilou Motamed added.

Farm to food — and skincare

Born out of the demand for fresh food, farm-to-table has been a mainstay of foodie culture. But now beauty businesses, such Zahara Skincare, are emerging to serve the organically minded. The line’s products contain zero chemicals, and are naturally grown and harvested, according to the company.

This focus on pure ingredients tracks to “farm to skincare,” said Olivia McLean, a cultural strategist at sparks & honey. But it also provokes the question around sustainable practices across food and beauty.

“This is more than a trend, it’s a movement,” said Shen Tong, founder and managing director of FoodFutureCo, on the upcycling of ingredients.

Lifestyle consultant Nilou Motamed (left) and Shen Tong (center), CEO of FoodFutureCo, discussed the surging importance of sustainability.

Tina Hedges, founder and CEO of Loli Beauty, noted that the craving for sustainable product ingredients is already common practice for consumers who are making their own magic mix of products. “We’re upcycling ingredients from food in our own products. Sixty percent of US Millennials, and 44% of British Millennials, are buying food-grade ingredients to make their own beauty products,” Tina Hedges said.

Annette Green added that FDA restrictions can get in the way of marketing natural ingredients, “It’s very hard to put the ingredients on the box. Every product has both chemicals and natural ingredients. That’s the reality.”

The onus is on both beauty and food brands to use ingredients that appeal to the sustainably-minded consumer. “We need to be responsible for what we’re putting in our products,” Tina Hedges added.

Subtle is the new luxury

Whether it’s a grass-fed burger or a rose-hued lipstick, packaging speaks volumes of the product it contains. This new softly whispering luxury reflects the shift across food and beauty where self-actualization is trumping substance.

“Years ago, when you bought a luxury product, it came in multiple boxes. Now, you need to feel good about a luxury product I’m buying,” said Harvey Gedeon, former EVP of worldwide innovation at Estee Lauder.

When it comes to luxury, less may be more.

You don’t just have to feel good about buying something, you have to feel it in an utterly immersive way. “Packaging has to appeal to all the senses. For a fragrance, unless you get a sensory experience, you lose the appeal,” said Annette Green.

The Special Edition: Food & Beauty Culture Briefing was filmed live in sparks & honey’s NYC headquarters.

Wrap it up — in anything

The new luxury has its limits, however. The trend of wrapping food in everything from seaweed to platters and yes, even shoes, makes you miss the basics: like a plate. “If two patties are made of rice cakes, the burger falls apart. There’s zero functionality,” said David Ma.

“A bar I went to was serving food from Nike shoes,” David Ma said, although he admitted instagramming his dinner, still.

In the foodie world, planting the seed of luxury in inventive serving solutions may get people through the door. But, as David Ma said, “I miss plates.”

Serendipity, the ultimate ingredient

Whether it’s opening a new box of face cream or snapping a shot of the latest unicorn colored ice cream, consumers are still looking for an element of surprise.

That may mean, not sharing everything you find with your hundreds, or thousands, of followers.

“There are chefs who don’t want you to photograph anything. You want to walk into a restaurant and not know what you’re expecting,” said Nilou Motamed.

After all, over-exposure may just take the flavor out of a good meal. “There’s a certain joylessness when you get all the images, before the experience,” Nilou Motamed added.

Our panel did agree that there’s still a lot of joy, and inventiveness, to be gained from the growing energy of food and beauty alike.

Curious? Join our Live Daily Culture Briefing, every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

sparks & honey

Open Minds and Create Possibilities

sparks & honey

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open minds and create possibilities

sparks & honey

Open Minds and Create Possibilities

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