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CNBC has a report on the increasing democratization of food fads, which “can go viral in the time it takes to upload a picture of salted caramel ice cream. The arbiters of trendy tastes include big-name chefs, bloggers, urban hipsters, eater tweeters and journalists. Usually, they work in some hard to-quantify combination ... Food fads are older than the fondue pot in the back of your parents' pantry. But the lines of dissemination were easier to track before the existence of the Food Network and the Web. The high-brow authority was Gourmet magazine. Home cooks took cues from cookbooks and friends. There were just a few famous culinary authorities, like Martha Stewart or Paul Prudhomme, who helped popularize Louisiana cuisine.

“Top-down authorities live on in the food world, even if they now share the stage with the cyber-masses. Serious eaters still are influenced by the magazines like Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. But the rise of food TV has dramatically multiplied the number of celebrity cooks who can popularize a food item. Think of what Rachael Ray did for extra-virgin olive oil, or what Bobby Flay did for grilling.”

The primary examples cited by the piece are the increased popularity of bacon, cupcakes and food trucks - all of which seem to have been fueled not by chefs ands gurus who make proclamations from on high, but by social media that give these trends momentum and a sense of grass-roots popularity. Old world media do play a role, but the opportunity for trends to bubble up is much greater than it was back in the 20th century.
KC's View:
It isn’t just food trends that have been democratized. I think what we are seeing around the world that people’s emotions and opinions can bubble up via technology and take on a viral quality, spreading quickly and disrupting traditional ways of doing business; the institutions affected can includes both governments and private industry.

Marketers need to pay close attention and be part of the process. Or risk irrelevance and eventual obsolescence.