Why we predict a global feta shortage by March
Analysis by Michelle Lee
Design by Eeza Sheren
Data analysis by Hoang Nam Nguyen
Header image credit: Jenni Häyrinen, the original creator of baked feta pasta
“Baked feta pasta” (or #uunifetapasta) first went viral on Finnish Instagram in early 2019, causing a shortage of feta in supermarkets across the country. Previously isolated to Finland, TikTok has recently helped the dish go viral globally. First posted in English by American food influencer Mackenzie Smith, then shared by popular food accounts, the hashtag #bakedfetapasta has (at the time of writing) over 48 million views on TikTok.
A combination of trend trajectory signals from open data (TikTok, Google, YouTube), offer confidence that this trend will continue to rise and break into the mainstream in the coming weeks - with the potential to drive a 500% increase in demand for feta cheese. Each platform surfaces a different aspect of consumer behaviour, and using Shift - Synthesis’ insight platform for detecting change - we can monitor the spread of trends. Below, we use Australia as a case study.
Google search reveals consumer curiosity about feta pasta
Search data provides an important signal of initial curiosity and intent. Google is where people turn when they’re first intrigued by a new trend and want to find out more. Google Search interest in feta pasta in Australia is rocketing to its highest ever point. Demographics data signals people searching are younger (38% are between the ages of 25-34) and female (60%) - an untapped audience for dairy brands.
YouTube helps reveal ways people are engaging, as well as new and creative manifestations
Unlike TikTok, the longer and more polished format of YouTube videos gives content creators more room to play. We can analyse this to understand why people are engaging and imagine how it might next evolve.
The trend is clearly highly driven by visuals, with the majority of the top videos’ thumbnails attempting to replicate the original viral image of an entire block of melty, oozing feta sitting in a dish of tomatoes and pasta.
Interestingly, the second most popular video presents a vegan alternative to the trend - reflecting a wider growing interest in vegan lifestyles and alternative dairy products.
While the dish may be indulgent in the amount of feta used, its base ingredients - tomatoes, basil, olive oil - are still relatively healthy, satisfying the tension between the desire for comfort food in lockdown and the desire to watch one’s diet.
What’s next for feta?
Viral food trends like #uunifetapasta typically don’t sustain consumer interests at the same dizzying heights indefinitely. However, they do drive renewed interest that requires further inspiration to build on an entry level recipe, presenting an opportunity for brands.
Before brands place any big bets on feta thanks to TikTok, it’s helpful to take a look at whether this is simply a flash in the
pan baking tray, or likely to endure. In this case we can explore “feta pasta” in the market that first incubated the trend, Finland. Following the peak in interest, we can see that average search interest in feta pasta is five times higher than before.
What’s worth paying attention to are the deeper drivers of behaviour that fuel a trend. Brands can take note of the desire for simplicity, healthful indulgence and an sharable dish that might drive connection through sharing online.
Making feta pasta
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