Food trends: influencers and the thriving online competitive eating scene

Posted by Lucinda Diamond in Trends

3 years ago

Internet food trends are rife and compelling. Whether it’s the Mukbang (where vloggers eat takeaways and chat with their followers) or YouTubers allowing the person in front of them to choose their order, extreme vegan meal planning or addictive lunch box packing clips. Creators with the best chat, menus and tupperware have become social media stars as users devour their content. Due to this, YouTube is still the biggest food network in the world. From Joe Wicks’ post-workout meals to Cravings by Chrissie Teigen, we are addicted to watching people devise new meals. But the internet has other, dark cravings that it has to satisfy…

Influencers gorging on food until they are sick is one of those: because watching someone take on a mountain of delicacies we’re constantly told not to eat triggers equal amounts of awe and jealousy. It also leads us a little closer to the age-old question, exactly how much can a human eat? In the past few years, we’ve seen numerous viral challenges emerge from this community, including the 10,000 calorie challenge and even a 20,000 calorie challenge. But now there are influencers whose livelihood depends on stricter, more extreme food challenges. Meet the competitive eaters.

Competitive eaters

The trend has long been a tradition in the US and has evolved from hot dog and pie eating competitions at the local fair, to serious international tournaments with competitors motivated to win world records. Since the first episode of Man Vs Food on The Cooking Channel in 2008, the social world has seen a rise in wannabe Adam Richmans. In the US, YouTuber Matt Stonie gained 52million views on one video alone: that of him eating the most amount of fire noodles (15 packets) in one go. Meanwhile, Erik The Electric has over one million subscribers on the platform – thanks to his 100,000 calorie challenge. Australian journalist Marc Fennell released his investigation into the competitive chilli eating community with Audible in 2019 through his podcast, It Burns. This delved into the psyche of the competitive eater – particularly those who document this passion on social media.

Creators in the UK

In the UK there’s YouTuber Kate Ovens, who has said that it was Man vs Food that inspired her to become a competitive eater and led to her finishing Britain’s biggest hot dog. Also in the UK is Adam Moran, better known online for his YouTube channel BeardMeatsFood, on which he has nearly 900,000 subscribers. Here he films himself taking part in ridiculous food challenges such as the 100,000 calorie challenge and eating Tyson Fury’s daily diet in under half an hour. To ensure that the challenge is as extreme as possible, there has to be a timer, and anything eaten outside of the time limit doesn’t count. Adam may be known for his beard and clever puns but in truth, he is a serious competitor on the world stage and has humbly branded himself Britain’s best competitive eater.

However, despite his prowess, he may have a fight on his hands to maintain that title thanks to fellow British YouTuber Leah Shutkever who has shared videos online of her beating strongman Eddie Hall with ease in a hot wing challenge. She has also taken on fellow competitive eater and influencer Kyle Gibson, also known as Kyle V Food in a hot dog challenge, which saw her completely annihilate the newcomer. The trio even appeared in the Channel 4 documentary, Battle of the Super Eaters. This allowed them to expand their already dedicated followings into mainstream media, amassing hundreds of thousands of followers in the process.

Working with competitive eaters

What may come as a shock, and perhaps the most interesting aspect of these influencers, is that they are currently all in good shape. They are lean, fit and healthy. Baffling, considering Leah can eat 12 Krispy Kreme doughnuts in under a minute and Adam once ate all of the pizzas available at Domino’s. On an average day, their diets are equally strict, often sticking to one meal followed by intense weight-training sessions. Kate favours marathons while Leah frequently posts pictures of herself post workout on Instagram to showcase her gym-toned body.

When it comes to working with these influencers, consider suggesting new challenges which feature your brand and product. Because it is such a niche area, everyone knows everyone and they frequently collaborate which leads to their content having even greater reach. It is also worth suggesting these types of challenges to non-professionals who might lack the skill, but make up for it with enthusiasm. For example, MattDoesFitness and Adam Macros have both shared 10,000 calorie challenges on their channel, but could they go up against a professional eater? Time to get stuffed.