In an era where the boundaries between the tangible and virtual are blurred, the culinary world is not to be left behind. The latest entrant to the gastronomic scene is not a novel ingredient or a groundbreaking cooking technique but a digital asset: the non-fungible token (NFT). Are they the future of culinary content?
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NFTs: a bite-sized explanation
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets verified on a blockchain network. Unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, where each unit is identical and interchangeable, each NFT is distinct. Thus, they have become the perfect representation of one-of-a-kind items such as art, collectibles, and food.
How can a digital collectible fit in the food industry?
The intersection of the food industry with NFTs is driven by a desire for innovative marketing and brand interactions. Global food companies with massive marketing budgets are beginning to experiment in these emerging virtual spaces. The allure of NFTs as culinary content has been met by these big brands with excitement, lurking at the potential to energize a younger audience.
However, like any cutting-edge marketing effort, even small missteps can make brands seem culturally out of touch or overly corporate. Remember the backlash Burger King faced after a mild dig at Taylor Swift on Twitter? Trying too hard to be cool often backfires for corporations.
To navigate these waters, many big food brands are venturing into this ecosystem, partnering with established artists and incorporating a charitable component. This approach not only ensures authenticity but also resonates with a socially conscious audience. While dedicating resources to custom NFTs might be challenging for smaller food brands, it’s fascinating to observe how industry giants are engaging with the medium and the public’s response.
A culinary tour of NFTs
Over the past year, several food brands have ventured into this space:
Taco Bell was a pioneer, releasing a collection representing its iconic tacos. These GIFs, priced at just $1, sold out rapidly, with some being available on the secondary market for between $3 and $313,000.
Anheuser-Busch unveiled the Budverse Cans Heritage Edition, unique digital designs of beer cans. Following this, Bud Light introduced the Bud Light N3XT Collection, offering exclusive voting rights on brand decisions. More recently, the company partnered with the FIFA World Cup for an exclusive metaverse experience.
Coca-Cola ventured into the metaverse with a series of NFTs, with proceeds benefiting Special Olympics International. They haven’t stopped here, and a few weeks ago, the brand released the Masterpiece collection, showcasing several cans with unique designs created by worldwide artists:
Pringles released CryptoCrisp, a virtual flavor of its signature chips, with the NFTs reselling for thousands of dollars on the Secondary Market.
Campbell’s collaborated with artist Sophia Chang for a series of NFT art pieces inspired by Andy Warhol’s famous Soup Cans paintings.
Burger King partnered with the Sweet Marketplace to integrat NFTs into its Real Meals initiative, with QR codes on meal boxes leading to digital collectibles.
Applebees unveiled “Metaverse Mondays,” releasing one-of-a-kind digital images with unlockable content.
Pizza Hut Canada released “1 Byte Favourites,” pixelated slices of pizza, some of which have since resold for upwards of $8,000.
Mcdonalds celebrated the 40th anniversary of the McRib sandwich with a series of NFTs, later overshadowed by a scandal involving a racial slur inscribed on the Ethereum blockchain. More recently, the company also released an exclusive collection in Singapore amidst the Grimace Shake hype.
The road ahead
The fusion of the food industry with blockchain technology through NFTs is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of gastronomy. Whether you’re a brand looking to shine in the blockchain or traditional media, the world of culinary content is vast and ever-evolving.