Wed., March 12, 2014 6:00pm (EDT)

Who Says Food Porn Has To Be Dominated By Junk Food?
By Linda Poon
Updated: 5 months ago

Relax with Food Porn Index's "melon meditation." Om ...
Relax with Food Porn Index's "melon meditation." Om ...
It's one of our guiltiest pleasures on the Internet, and though some of us may not like to admit it, chances are, we've done it. Some are even addicted. That's right, we're talking about the endless consumption and distribution of food porn.

Photos of fatty foods like grease-laced bacon and glistening donuts abound to satisfy our virtual cravings, yet their healthier counterparts fruits and veggies just haven't been getting as much love online.

But why should the junk food guys have all the fun?

That was the thinking behind Food Porn Index, an interactive website that highlights this unhealthy imbalance in social media. The index uses a custom algorithm to track how many times certain food hashtags are used on Twitter and Instagram, updating every 15 minutes.

Sure, the site is part of a marketing campaign from carrot and juice company Bolthouse Farms whose thing is to make healthy foods edgy but it's also pretty interesting, nonetheless.

On the index's front page, you'll find a grid of boxes featuring 24 different food hashtags and pictures 12 healthy ones and 12 unhealthy ones along with the number of times they've been mentioned. Depending on which box you click on, you'll be shuttled over to a different interactive experience say, a fast-paced game of "guac-a-mole" or a trippy "melon meditation," led by a soothing voice.

The goal is to sway the online conversation to be more about fruits and vegetables, and less about junk food, in a lighthearted way, says Todd Putman, Bolthouse's chief officer for marketing and innovation. He plans to showcase the success of the website at the Partnership for a Healthier America summit this week, where first lady Michelle Obama will be speaking.

"We're aiming for humor, to make guacamole fun, to really bring to life the juxtaposition of Brussels sprouts and having fun with them," he says. "Because people don't necessarily do that today and ... we think [that], to the extent that you can have fun with fruits and vegetables, it can accelerate the consumption." (For the record, we here at The Salt have always found guacamole fun.)

Bolthouse may be onto something. Over half of Americans who use social media agree that seeing photos of fruits and vegetables actually motivates them to eat healthier, according to a recent survey that market research company Harris Interactive conducted for Bolthouse. At the same time, about a third of respondents admitted that those glorified photos of cookies, pizza and cake also make them give into their unhealthy cravings.

"What better way than to have a little bit of a laugh around something that's quite serious, which is the way the people eat in this country," Putman says. "We all know [our eating habits are] out of whack, out of balance, and you can clearly see that mathematically."

To date, the website has collected nearly 200 million hashtags 71 percent are for junk food, while only 29 percent are for healthy foods. That's actually a slight improvement from when the site was first launched back in February, when the numbers sat at 72.4 percent and 27.6 percent.

Among the most popular hashtags? #condiment. As of this writing, it's clocked in more than 26 million mentions. On the healthy side, the winner is #vegetable with only 14 million uses.

While junk food may be winning the hashtag war so far, the site is getting attention attracting 42,000 unique visitors in under a month. Putman hopes that will encourage other marketers to get more playful with selling healthy foods.

"Marketing of healthy fruits and vegetables need to be more creative, needs to be more innovative, needs to be more relevant ... and more emotive versus rational," he says.


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