The latest TikTok trend just might start in the grocery store

Going viral helps grocery items fly off the shelves as retailers partner this holiday season with influencers on the popular social media app.
TikTok and grocery
Grocery retailers widen their TikTok usage. / Photograph: Shutterstock

Grocery retailers are jumping on the TikTok bandwagon and viral videos are propelling their grocery items to fly off the shelves.

TikTok was the surprise star of last month’s general session panel of industry experts at the International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA) Global Produce & Floral Show in Orlando. Retailers on the panel said grocers would be foolish to ignore the power of the video-focused social media site that draws millions of eyeballs each day. 

The TikTok trend shows there is a big opportunity for retailers, Tammy DeBoer, president of the Kroger Co. banner Harris Teeter, told the packed audience.

Understanding firsthand, Harris Teeter stores in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area faced a feta shortage last year, causing feta sales to spike 117% after a recipe calling for a block of the salty, white cheese went viral on the social media platform.

The TikTok feta recipe is one of many viral postings to benefit grocery retailers. Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market’s $5 deli sandwich went viral as well. The hashtag #sproutssandwich has garnered nearly 13 million views since it started circulating in July. 

So, it comes as no surprise that this holiday season, grocery retailers are partnering with food influencers in the U.S., to widen their cumulative reach via TikTok. 

Austin-based Whole Foods Market is hosting its ultimate home-cooking showdown to find the “Next Hot Bar Star” for the holidays. Partnering with Whole Foods Market for the festive challenge is TikTok star Babs of Brunch with Babs. The self-proclaimed “everyone’s grandmother” is TikTok famous and an author with expertise on all things cooking, hosting and guesting. Babs announced the partnership on TikTok.

The contest asks participants to follow Whole Foods Market and tag #WFMHotBarStarContest and the brand’s account in the video caption.

“We’re giving our fans the ultimate way to steal the show this year—getting their dish named the Next Hot Bar Star and available for all to enjoy next holiday season,” Susan Stillson, senior culinary development chef at Whole Foods Market, told WGB. “The internet's grandma is already trusted for her wisdom on holiday traditions that impress guests and hosts alike, so she was a natural partner to help us spread the word and encourage recipe submissions.”

And it’s not just grocery retailers who are reaping the benefits of video sharing on TikTok. Going viral has helped many smaller food companies expand distribution as well, including Dan-O’s Seasoning.

Just two years ago, Dan-O's Seasoning could be found only at flea markets, trade shows and a handful of local grocery stores in the company's home state of Kentucky. When the pandemic hit in 2020, in-person sales opportunities dried up, but then founder Dan Oliver turned to TikTok.

Thanks in large part to the brand's successon TikTok with the hashtag #danosseasoning, the all-natural seasoning company announced last month it is set to enter into an agreement with Tops Friendly Markets, Wegmans, Weis Markets, Stop & Shop and Price Chopper in the Northeast. Kroger and Walmart already carry the products, the company said.

"It's crazy how our 'Plan B' pandemic marketing strategy resonated with so many people," said Oliver in a statement. Oliver is the star of the brand's now-verified TikTok account with 3.1 million followers, dishing up comforting recipes for mashed potatoes, extra-cheesy macaroni and cheese, and more using hefty doses of his company's seasoning mix. 

In September, retail giant Walmart announced a pilot program with Walmart Connect and social media apps, including TikTok.

More than 50% of TikTok users say they watch ads on their feed instead of scrolling past them,” Seth Dallaire, EVP and chief revenue officer of Walmart U.S., wrote on the company’s website, adding, “This provides a great opportunity for advertisers to connect with potential shoppers. The first-to-market pilot between TikTok and Walmart Connect will provide advertisers with the opportunity to serve in-feed ads on TikTok, leveraging the impact of TikTok's sound-on full-screen video format together with Walmart Connect's targeting and measurement.

With holiday shopping already underway, shoppers and grocery retailers alike will be merrily scrolling for the next viral TikTok trend.



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