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How 'Food Porn' Posted on Social Media Has Become an Industry

Hey, all you food entrepreneurs out there: You need to take note and get in on the act, quickly.

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The term "Food Porn," believe it or not, wasn't coined in the age of Instagram, but was in fact first entered into the cultural vortex by feminist critic Rosalind Coward, in her 1984 book Female Desire. Food porn,defined, means images of food presented in such an appealing and, well, titillating way -- more delicious than health-conscious -- that that food could substitute for sex.

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Related: 3 Big Ways Instagram is Changing Restaurants

"Cooking food and presenting it beautifully is an act of servitude," Coward wrote (probably making feminists bristle). "It is a way of expressing affection through a gift . . .That we should aspire to produce perfectly finished and presented food is a symbol of a willing and enjoyable participation in servicing others. Food pornography exactly sustains these meanings relating to the preparation of food." I

In recent years, people apparently have dusted off Coward's original association between food and sensuality and added a hashtag; that is how the concept of food porn got introduced to the social media set.

And since then, the concept of food as a means to arouse the senses has only grown more prevalent, in tandem with our overall addiction to photographing food and gazing at pictures of food online and on our mobile devices. This is great news for "foodpreneurs" who are savvy enough to use this obsession to their advantage.

So, if you recognize yourself here -- as the owner of the newest restaurant on the block serving up the latest fusion cuisine, say -- or as a chef, caterer or confectioner, be sure to recognize the food porn craze as your best friend, when it comes to growing your following and your business.

The social media, after all, have made us hyper-visual creatures. According to the website, "The mere sight of delicious food stimulates the appetite. A study on healthy young men has documented that the amount of the neurosecretory protein hormone ghrelin in the blood increases as a result of visual stimulation through images of food."

In other words, you can actually make people hungry by having them view pictures of your food. That adds up to a pretty powerful marketing tool. Add to that the ability to direct viewers' hunger to your business's front door, and you've got a food business bonanza on your hands.

In a recent article, titled, "Food Photo Frenzy," writer Sara McGuire wrote: "The saying, 'We eat with our eyes' rings truer than ever in the age of information. The proliferation of foodie culture across social media has been on a steady rise in recent years."

Related: These 4 Apps Will Make Your Dining-Out Experience Awesome

As I open the Instagram app on my own phone and type the hashtag "#FoodPorn" into the search box, 122 million listings pop up, more than I even anticipated. What has launched on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and, no doubt, in countless text conversations across the world, has spawned a niche industry that is dedicated, not to picture-sharing but to pictures of food used as an effective marketing and advertising tool.

You food entrepreneurs out there need to take note and get in on the act, quickly.

Think about it. When you're trying to decide what your next meal or social gathering will center around, would you rather troll online menus and Yelp reviews (although I'm sure your Yelp reviews are impressive, and all), or see a picture of food that gets your juices flowing and inspires you to hunt down that food as intently as a cheetah in the wild hunts down a gazelle?

If you're in the food trade, you must know instinctively that enticing food porn combined with the right hashtags and captions will get you tons of followers hanging on to your every pic.

But how do you translate that phenomenon to people actually being willing, assuming they're able, to buy your food? Below are some apps that are good tools for helping you convert local foodies into customers.

FoodFaves app

The FoodFaves app found its way onto my phone through a colleague who suggested it as a way to find food in New York City. Sure, you can't turn around in New York without bumping into another eatery. But, frankly, the act of walking up to a maitre d, asking to see a menu and then taking that blind leap of faith has always given me a hint of anxiety as in, "I'm taking a big chance here."

Moreover, browsing through online take-out menus typically leaves me asking anyone within earshot, "Is this place any good? Are you sure it's good? Should I order from here? Anyone?"

With FoodFaves on my phone, I can put in hashtags for the kinds of food I'm craving and scroll through images until one food pic drives me cockeyed with salivation, and I have to have it!

I click on the pic's tag and get directed right to the restaurant that produced my food porn pic of the day. Trust me, there is no better feeling than gazing at amazing food porn, seeing that it's only three short miles (or a few short blocks) away and making it yours.

Restaurants can take advantage of this app by posting their best-in-show food pics, which automatically get tagged with their address and map information, as well as the restaurant's numbers of miles-radius from the person looking at the picture.

Because this app is strictly for finding food, the users you'll have looking at your pics will already be looking for their next great meal.

Tender app

Okay, can we be any more subliminal here? We're talking Tinder for Food here. Get your dates on Tinder and your food on Tender. See how easy that is? The Tender app curates amazing food porn pics and their corresponding recipes. So, maybe the gratification isn't quite as instant as that inspired by looking at a pic and having the food served to you in a matter of minutes; but there is something to be said for getting your hands dirty, to make that picture a reality on your plate.

This app is also vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, allowing users to filter for pics of food that their dietary philosophy allows, which I love. On the app store, this app is described as, "[serving] up the most beautiful dishes straight from kitchens around the world for your viewing and cooking pleasure."

It's a great way to not only become familiar with amazing new recipes but also with different cultures. This is a great app for folks who want to turn their passion for cooking and food preparation into a professional career. You've got a captive and targeted audience.

Foodie app

Finally, if photographing food is your passion (or your business), you will love the Foodie app. This app promises to make your food pics pop, making them "next-level gorgeous" as per Bustle's endorsement. Restaurants and other foodpreneurs who are smart enough to market their dishes through this exploding food-imagery trend can use the app to enhance the lighting and presentation of their culinary creations.

Examples? Avocados look greener, ice cream looks more lickable, sushi seems more succulent -- you get the picture (so to speak). You can then post your Foodie pics to Instagram, FoodFaves, Tender or any other assorted number of apps that foodies frequent. En route to getting those great pics, as any good photographer or model knows, you may have to "cheat the camera" to really show off the goods.

Related: Taco Bell Digs on Food Porn With New Breakfast Ads

So, harbor zero guilt about pumping up the look of your food pics to show off your latest dishes, using this helpful app. If you're a die-hard foodie who loves looking at pictures of your favorite foods, you'll want to follow photogs who edit their food pics with the Foodie app -- though some may be reluctant to cop to using photo enhancers. In that case, you'll have to simply sniff these images out.

Six ways you can leverage food porn

Between the psychological cues you offer, the clever copy you write and the connections you forge with others on social media, you can leverage food porn for your culinary business in a number of ways:

Consider photo-sharing apps an absolute must, along with good lighting, effective hashtags and clever captions. It’s not enough to post a picture of the best piled-high burger the world has ever seen. You’ve got to do your homework by searching popular (and niche) hashtags, captioning the pic with something clever and engaging and doing your homework to see who you can tag that might be interested in your picture.

Make sure your food images are well lit. With today’s technology you can overcome a slim budget by simply using photo editing apps that make your food pics stand out from the crowd.

Invite food influencers to “take over” your account and ask them to promote the takeover among their fans and followers.

Use a human touch in your imagery. Food pics are great, but integrate pictures of people enjoying your food during happy and celebratory occasions. It will add a human interest component to your feed.

Play with food imagery when it comes to advertisements and promotional materials. We’ve already learned that people are more likely to respond with desire when shown pictures of food, than they are from a review, a menu, or a logo. Lead with food and then reel them in with additional information.

Whether you are restaurant, chef, caterer, or mobile foodpreneur, litter your website or mobile app with food pictures. In short, make your visitors salivate before they can even get past the homepage.

Allison Kugel

Written By

For a decade, Allison Kugel was entrenched in the culture of celebrity as an entertainment, pop culture and political journalist whose work was quoted and re-printed by hundreds of media outlets, worldwide. She has interviewed more than 200 newsmakers from entertainment, sports, fashion and politics. She is now co-founder and CEO of the Upitch app, the first app matching journalists with story leads using a swipe modality. She recently released her first book, Journaling Fame