Food is inherently sensory. It engages our senses every step of the way – we procure, prepare, salivate, and savor. But more importantly, food is social. It connects us to the people who provide for us, for whom we cook, and who eat with us at the same table.

It’s not surprising, then, that food is fetishized in our high-tech world. Chefs are the new rockstars. Michelin-star restaurants have become pilgrimage sites. And how we eat has given rise to whole movements, including eat local, slow food, and nose-to-tail. As we spend more time in front of screens, we crave experiences that connect us to the earth and the people around us. At the same time, technology influences how we experience food. From the Food Network to Yelp to online recipe sites, food dominates our digital pop culture. Everyone has claims on being a foodie, since almost anyone can take a beautiful photo of a memorable meal with the help of smartphones and photo editing apps.

The fact that our everyday food is so often photographed and broadcast to our networks informs how we cook, too. Culinary tools once reserved for chefs are now accessible to the home cook. And molecular gastronomy, which plays with the science of cooking, presents food in unexpected new ways that trick our senses and create stunning visuals. But in this brave and delicious new world, food photography has become ubiquitous and audiences have developed more sophisticated palates. To top it off, attention spans are growing shorter. For brands, this means using surprising, eye-catching visuals that force audiences to take notice when it comes to food:

For example, Lurpak strives to wow home chefs in this ad for Cook’s Range:

Every piece of food is shown in extreme close-up via surprising points-of-view meant to capture its essence – the creaminess of an egg yolk, the crunch of a cauliflower floret, the juiciness of a pomegranate seed. This is accentuated by slow motion (a technique famously used in Jiro Dreams of Sushi) and background sounds, which immerse us inside the cooking range. We hear the sizzle and see the heat so viscerally, our brains are tricked into thinking we can taste, smell, and touch, too.

French brand Carte Noire boosts its visual appeal with a beautiful cream puff recipe:

Like Lurpak, coffee brand Carte Noire taps the ambitious home chef (along with the avid eater) with a “try this at home” ad that takes viewers through the delicious, delicate process of making cream puffs. This piece also uses extreme close-ups, time-lapse, and unexpected points-of-view to showcase the science of baking. But sound is the biggest star, fooling our senses into thinking we can touch and taste the airy cream puffs since we hear the crack of the egg and the sizzle of the butter.

Other brands have tapped new technology to target senses once unreachable through traditional advertising. Most recently, Kraft Foods and Pop Secret launched clever ad campaigns that used plug-in devices for the smartphone to emit the smell of bacon or buttery popcorn.

But recent viral videos about food (like a time-lapse video of ice cream melting, or a slow-motion video of food falling on someone’s head) reveal that sometimes, consumers can be enchanted with simplicity, and the art of looking at something familiar in a whole new way.

The best of this imagery reminds us that the experience of food – despite our efforts to make it beautiful – is fleeting. And that’s what makes it meaningful.

Key takeaways

  • Though based in still life, food imagery is much more dynamic. It pops on tiny digital screens through use of close-up, time-lapse and interesting points-of-view that make us see our food in a new way.
  • Food itself is sensory and social. Immersive imagery conjures the same sensations we feel as we experience a meal firsthand.
  • Sound is an important partner to immersive imagery. It helps the audience get lost in the experience, evoking tastes, textures, and scents as well.
  • It’s possible to delight consumers through new technologies that can stimulate smell and taste. The key is to surprise, since audiences how have sophisticated palates and are inundated with food imagery.
See more sensory images of food HERE