Trend Expedition: Tokyo
Tokyo: Trend Expedition
aesthetically rich food & beverage experience
Maybe it was your family’s amazing Thanksgiving spread. Or that intricate latte art your favorite barista busted out. Or a dessert that almost looked too good to eat. Chances are, you’ve snapped a few photos of your food over the years.
These snapshots from everyday life are part of what we refer to as your instalife–those special moments and experiences that you just have to share with the world through social media.
And, as we saw on our recent trend expedition to Tokyo, businesses have taken note.
In a country long renowned for the bizarre and kitschy aspects of its food-and-beverage culture, we found that the market has taken a sharp turn toward a high-end, aesthetically rich experience where one cannot help but be amazed—and attempt to dazzle their followers with the resulting images.
Trend 1: The Inclination to Capture
At every turn we saw retailers responding to the inclination to capture those things that we consume, designing drinks, dishes and spaces that were more interested in appealing to our eye than to our taste buds. Nowhere was this development on display more than the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House.
Attached to a high-end flower shop, the café nestles you in a greenhouse that has been transformed into a fairy tale land, with every object not only designed to be photographed, but capable of instantly communicating your magical experience to your followers. By the time the customers were done snapping, it was safe to assume that their beverages were cold. However, amid the surrounding splendor, this did little to diminish anyone’s excitement.
Trend 2: Realize Childhood Fantasy
Next we headed to Bon Bon Land, where you can realize your childhood fantasy of being whisked away to Candy Land. Bon-bon Land’s outlandish concoctions—and slight gamification—were also quite good at getting you to fork over your money.
On the first floor is a “Cupcake Machine” where you move from station to station (provided with mind-blowing examples of other cupcakes at every turn) while designing a cupcake so outlandish one could not possibly eat it—both because you won’t want to alter how it looks, and because it is decadent enough to put you out of commission. Oh, and if that’s not enough, just proceed to the Cotton Candy Bar on the next level.
The most obvious courting of the instalife occurs on the third floor, where you pour your heart out to an anonymous individual over the phone, and then enjoy a cocktail that has been crafted to match your responses. The experience is so personal, and so whimsical, that you couldn’t help documenting it.
What we saw there, and in Tokyo in general, lines up with a much larger trend that our team has picked up on: Millennials are willing to invest considerable time and money in food-and-beverage experiences—provided that the experience being provided is unique, memorable, and capable of being broadcast to their followers. As we see it, the reason for this is the relative ease of access food and beverage offers when compared to other avenues for personal brand cultivation. There is no need to save up, no need to get in with the right crowd, no need for anything other than a sharp eye and a willingness to experiment.
Trend 3: Catering to the Instalife
Despite what is suggested by our first two stops, catering to the instalife crowd isn’t dependent on the creation of a world separate from the humdrum, everyday one.
Coffee houses all across Tokyo are utilizing parfait, ice cream, matcha, red beans and jellies to add visual and textural components to their drinks. While these elements add very little in taste, they can’t help enhancing one’s photographs. The cafes are also generous with the photographable content they do provide, posting displays of your drink options throughout the space to ensure that your time in line does not limit the potential for capturing your experience.
Trend 4: Waiting is Vital to the Experience
Another fascinating discovery we made during our trip was that the line—yes, standing in line—has shifted from an annoyance to a vital part of the experience. A line is no longer or something that has to be suffered through.
For example, let’s look at the trendy dessert spot, Ice Monster. Despite specializing in shaved ice—typically a late-afternoon, late-night treat—people began lining up mid-morning, before the shop had even opened! We could actually feel the excitement build the longer people were held in queue. And that buildup was not for naught. Once inside, customers could choose from a refreshing array of options that they seemed as excited to photograph as they were to consume.
Our experience at Ice Monster illustrates the shift that we feel is underway in the food-and-beverage space. Dessert is no longer an activity dictated by the clock. Instead, a wait is becoming a desired part of the experience, something that fosters enthusiasm for the wonders—and memories—waiting within.
Trend 5: Show-Stopping, Memory-Making
Throughout Tokyo, we saw evidence that the instalife is no longer just about preserving an individual’s memories. It is also providing the lifeblood for business, allowing those that can offer a memorable, unique experience to live on.
Remember the sensation Dominique Ansel Bakery caused with its Cronuts a few years ago? Apparently, the buzz was strong enough to span the globe, because we encountered an outpost of this famous bakery in Tokyo.
And they aren’t resting on their laurels—the showstopper at Dominique Ansel is no longer the Cronut. Instead, it’s the Frozen S’more on a stick, which relies on a small butane torch to provide the traditional toasted quality. This small bit of showmanship made the already seductive treat impossible to ignore—during our visit, everyone scrambled for their phone the second the torch was alight.