National / Media | Japan Pulse

A picture of food is worth 1,000 words for businesses on Instagram

by Alyssa I. Smith

Staff Writer

With end-of-year parties now in full swing, social media users are curating their profiles with “Insuta-bae” photographs that capture them enjoying enviable times.

Businesses have taken note of the interest in the service and the most tech savvy are seeking to attract online users craving social media eye candy.

Insuta-bae, a term referring to picture-perfect locations or products for the photo-sharing service Instagram, shared top spot in the 2017 U-Can New Words and Buzzword Awards. Its English equivalent would probably be something along the lines of “Insta-worthy.”

The term has become so widespread that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used it in a speech to encourage the revitalization of local regions through social media engagement.

The phenomenon of taking visually appealing pictures in order to attract as many “likes” as possible has become an important factor in how people are choosing to spend their time, money and social media space.

The Insuta-bae hashtag in Japanese has been used in more than 790,000 Instagram posts.

According to market research agency Intage, Japanese households have changed the meals they prepare on Christmas Eve in recent years.

Cake and chicken — either fried or roast — continue to dominate the top spots during the festive season, but Intage notes that paella doubled in popularity between 2015 and 2016. The agency suspects the dish’s colorful and bright appearance has something to do with the uptick.

As far as Christmas food goes, cake appears to reign supreme. Matsuya Ginza conducted an online survey on holiday cakes, targeting women aged 20 to 70 years old and asking them whether they would post pictures of seasonal cakes on their Instagram accounts.

Of the 847 women who responded to the survey, 40.9 percent answered that they would post pictures of their Christmas desserts. Almost a third of the respondents answered “no.” The remainder didn’t use social media.

The survey also asked whether the respondents who actively used social media had already posted cake photos on their profiles.

The survey found that 84.8 percent of women in their 20s, 53.5 percent of women in their 30s and 63 percent of women in their 40s had uploaded photos, figures that suggested that desserts are popular Insuta-bae images and “regardless of age, consumers strongly value whether their choice will be enjoyed by many people.”

Restaurants, hotels, department stores and patisseries have been especially enthusiastic about getting in on the Insuta-bae action. The Grand Hyatt Tokyo released an online list of its most “photogenic” menu offers catering to the holiday season.

“We have carefully selected Christmas sweets, cocktails, and special afternoon tea and new year menu items that will make you want to take pictures,” the hotel says on its website.

The list includes spiced hot chocolate that features floating marshmallow snowmen and cinnamon sugar donuts, drawing comments such as “This is a super lovely photo (heart emoji)” from Instagram user @minat.__.

Yoyogi Park is holding an event titled Photogenic Xmas Gourmet Corner on Dec. 23 and 24, enticing Instagrammers to peruse decorative holiday-themed foods from 20 different stores, including the Colorful Pop Burger from Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku and the Christmas quiche from Sakura Bar in Meguro Ward’s Jiyugaoka.

The event tries to capitalize on its “fashionable and cute” factor, promoting the festival as “a little different from previous gourmet food festivals” and encouraging people to snap photos with their smartphones in one hand as they devour various culinary delights with the other.

There’s little doubt the popularity of Insuta-bae reflects the significance of social media on daily life and, as a result, businesses are highly likely to be motivated to develop attractive products and services targeting their photo-savvy consumers.