Food as a Status Symbol

. Posted in Berlin

Credits Autumn Sonnichsen 1
'Food as a Status Symbol'

The difference between the cooking influence your grandmother and you have, is that cooking was a necessity for her, and for you it’s actually become a status symbol. Being ‘chained’ to the kitchen was a duty for our grandmothers, and something to rebel against for our mothers, but for us, it has become more like an honour (that we have the time!) and a domain to show status (no matter if you’re male OR female) about your prowess beyond what your day job is.

Manuela Rehn, founder of Grüne Köpfe, a popular Berlin-based food consultancy specialising in organic and ethical food systems, explains the concept to me over a BBQ pork belly roll at the ever-trending Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg.

‘About nothing else is more talked then food. Being knowledgeable about food enhances social status. But the difference to earlier days is that it is not about being a snobby connoisseur… It is more about being impassioned with food interest. Thanks to facebook, instagram, blogs and food websites which deliver inexhaustible funds of information, almost everybody can be a food expert,’ Manuela said to me.  

What got me thinking was, Manuela explained, that our then cool knowledge about clothing and music that we grew up with, is now the foodie-knowledge of today.

‘What we see is that among youngsters, restaurants and food events have replaced clubs as the new places to be. You are hip if you know where the best burger is served, if you are one of the few invited to a secret supper club or if you know the farmer you get your veggies from personally. Young people get there "coolness credibility" by being the "coolest foodie",’ she said.

I stopped mid-pork-belly-sandwich with almost a full mouth and couldn’t help to joke to Manuela, ‘surely teenagers don’t have pictures of sprouts and growing cycles of vegetables up on their walls like celebs…’ (I confess, I splurged out mid bite). It just seemed absurd that the food was so ‘ontrend’ that pop star posters were being replaced by foodie posters. Of course, she saw the ridiculousness in my statement, but said that the trend and cult following wasn’t about that typical 16-25 target group, the all allusive market, but the infinitely more influential (and attractive) 25-55 year old target group who is cashed up, starting to think beyond their own needs and develop more social ethics and also evolve their own tastes as a legitimate sensory path to enjoying life more, not just wine tasting and pairing, but FOOD tasting and pairing.

‘We believe that in the future it will be crucial to describe much more specific how not just wine but also food tastes. That means we see a trend in ‘developing a more diverse food language’. A language which can reflect what happens in your mouth and why it does happen like it does - which means you need to know about the story behind: production craftmanship etc.’ she said.

And the funny thing is, Manuela said that yes, even food posters – not quite like the celeb pin ups, are being bought and sold in new fever.

What I learned from Manuela’s expertise, is that the handling of foodies, as a target group, is to tickle the idea of pleasure and inquisitiveness. That these are the door openers to foodies using their nutrition/consumption as the space to show their identity and lifestyle. Indeed, German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote earlier in the year: ‘it comes to the point where you want to show that you are better fed than other consumers. That you are eating ethics, animal rights and environmental protection all in one view’.

‘Well if you want to talk about food (and as we see that is becoming a important fact) the more you need to know about the food you eat. It would be ridiculous to talk about food but not talk about farming and agriculture. I dont want to tell my friends at dinner that the fantastic steak they just enjoyed came from cruel animal farming. As Wendell Berry said ‘eating is an agricultural act’,’ Manuela explained.

Food knowledge today is less about mixing, and classic cookbook recipes. As we know, the trend for following recipes as guidelines is very off-trend in many cultural aspects these days. Having knowledge from foundation, and creating your own way is not only the fashion and tech trends, but deeply the way of foodies too. Ironically, a target-group that is typically defined by following recipes and rules, is less about the dogma and more about the purpose, pleasure and reason why… and making their own version of it.

It is the job of retailers and manufacturers, to leverage their own know-how and expertise, pass this onto the foodie and put the power and influence in their hands. Something that I try very hard with my little chocolate company, BLYSS, and something that anyone interested in sustenance as a market, can benefit from.

You can connect with Manuela Rehn and her business partner Joerg Reuter in Berlin at their NEXT PUBLIC WORKSHOP ON NOVEMBER 20-21 IN BERLIN (auf deutsch!). They run workshops for manufactures (like me!) and retailers alike, side by side, about the food trends which turn roots into revenues, and how there is a space to honour the consumer, land and seeds where it all comes from. A great mix of ethics and business in Grüne Köpfe and essential market direction for those in the food industry, ethical consumption and European trends in nutrition. For more information, contact Manuela 

—by  Alyssa Jade McDonald-Baertl

Photo Credit: Autumn Sonnichsen

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