2017’s Top 5 Food Brands on Instagram

By Caitlin Sherwood     |     November 20, 2017

Tantalizing photographs of food and drinks have always been one of the most popular features on Instagram. If you see someone, and/or are annoyed by someone next to you at your favorite ramen place snapping a photo, it’s a pretty safe bet it’s going to wind up on Instagram. (4.85 million shots of ramen alone.)

It’s a given that food and beverage brands were early commercial users of the platform, and continue to be wildly popular on it today. Here’s a list of the Top 5 Brands on Instagram for 2017, and what other brands can learn from them. We’ll also give you a taste of other foodie finds we thought were delicious this year.

Top 5 Brands in 2017:

Starbucks: The ubiquitous coffee brand topped our last list in 2015, and remains not only the top food/beverage brand on Instagram, but one of the top brands, period. Its following is at 15.7 million today, and its hashtag has been used 29.7 million times, making it the 24th most widely used brand hashtags on Instagram. Theme: Camaraderie, but secondary to its recognizable cup.

Buzzfeed Tasty: Innovative leader in overhead recipe videos, Tasty now has 14.5 million followers. It’s not alone in 2017 in what it does, but it shows the value of being one of the first in a popular category. Theme: This brand is all about recipes for food that has mass appeal.

Red Bull: The 7.9 million followers of this brand might not even notice it makes beverages: The feed leverages a large pool of athlete ambassadors to share adrenaline-junkie content. The brand grew by 5.2 million followers in just the last 18 months. Theme: Action-packed user-generated content that you’d actually want to watch, again and again.

Food Network: One of the few traditional media companies that is also trendy, the Food Network has 5.2 million followers and shares a trove of video content every day. Theme: Volume! A lot of content, giant portions of food, and a lot of celebrity chefs.  

Monster Energy: Taking a cue from the Red Bull playbook, Monster – with 4.3 million followers – doesn’t post a whole lot about its energy drinks. The main difference is the content is more machine-driven (think race cars, badass trucks and motorcycles) than human-driven. Theme: Monster machines, not Monster Energy drinks.

What can brands and marketers learn from this list?

The brands with the biggest audiences know their audience and cater to their tastes. That also makes them a little less likely to push the envelope or set new trends: They tend to stay in their lane. And while video works really well for some brands – notably Red Bull – it’s not a required medium. Many amazing accounts have just photography. The key is high-quality, appetizing content that is consistent and aspirational.

The Top 5 aren’t the only sources of inspiration, however. Consider engagement: The audience of each is huge, but the engagement can be low. Smaller, inspired accounts see much higher engagement rates.

For instance, while Monster has a monster following, its hashtag is not often used: The Udi‘s Gluten Free brand, #UdisGlutenFree, is a more common hashtag, even though the brand has just under 65,000 followers.

Here’s a taste of some of our favorite trend-setting brands:

Do trends like this interest you? We do a lot of research for our clients in the food and beverage industry. Subscribe to our Food Trends Report and we’ll ship it right to your inbox once a month.

About Caitlin Sherwood

Caitlin is an Account Supervisor with a focus on natural products and the food industry. When out of the office, she can usually be found in the kitchen (eating, cooking, or both), or rock climbing.

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