Sitting in your favourite restaurant, enjoying its speciality: would you resist the temptation to take a picture and share it? According to the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation, there are about 321 million posts featuring #food on Instagram, and you don’t need to be a popular food blogger to get a lot of social appreciation when posting delicacies or supreme dishes.

This happens to be a huge opportunity for food and beverage marketing, as most companies are increasing customers engagement by launching viral digital campaigns where people are invited to consuming products and share their experience through social platforms. Starbucks seems to be ready to replicate 2017’s Unicorn Frappuccino initiative (with some receipt changes), which generated more than 1.3 billion impressions on Twitter and at least 150 thousand posts on Instagram. Ferrero had an astonishing hype on February 5th, when consumers joined World Nutella Day by spreading pictures, videos and original preparations based on its globally famous chocolate cream.

But the ‘social media effect’ does not limit to communication and marketing. The demand for more visually appealing products and customised receipts is deeply impacting on the food and beverage supply chain, including packaging. As aesthetic becomes more important, production plants need to be more flexible and quickly adapt all stages of the manufacturing process to meet new formats, flavours, or garnishments.

Advanced digital technologies – think of 3D printing, or IoT connected equipment – contribute to effectively manage all the complexities of 1:1 marketing, for instance when consumers are offered the possibility to order their own product variation or a packaging with a customised label. Reliable operations management systems are more and more used to ensure cost efficiency and the best time-to-market, and Artificial Intelligence is being introduced to allow a deeper analysis and correlation of the massive amount of data generated by supply chains. ResearchAndMarkets consultants forecast AI in the food and beverage industry to grow at a CAGR of over 65% during the period 2019 – 2024.

In a dynamic and somewhat crazy food market, consumers’ desire for more pleasing and social media friendly products is thus boosting marketers’ creativity, but also accelerating the digital transformation of production plants and facilities. Why shouldn’t food businesses take advantage of this future-looking opportunity?