American Food Trends 'Heat Up' Via Social Food Sharing

Based on social media posts shared by Americans across all 50 states, a new study revealed that nearly half of socially shared food content included smoked, hot and spicy flavors paired with popular proteins, while the most common ethnic flavor was Cajun.

DES MOINES, Iowa (PRNewswire) — After analyzing more than 30 million posts1 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to discover what makes up the ultimate American meal, the National Pork Board (NPB) in conjunction with digital analytics from Crimson Hexagon's ForSight™ tool  found that it may not be as traditionally "American" as many might think. Based on social media posts shared by Americans across all 50 states from Nov. 1, 2013 to Nov. 30, 2014, NPB revealed that nearly half of socially shared food content included smoked, hot and spicy flavors paired with popular proteins, while the most common ethnic flavor was Cajun – with Mexican and Asian close behind.

"It doesn't matter if you consider yourself a foodie, a novice chef, a restaurant aficionado or just someone who enjoys a great home-cooked meal – diversity is the most common denominator in our tastes, based on what we're sharing on our plates," said Pamela Johnson, director of communications, the National Pork Board. "Exotic and unexpected flavors are becoming such staples of our American cuisine; they can easily be seen as our new American palate. We see Sriracha on pizza, ramen on burgers and chorizo in everything from eggs to eggplant parmesan. Flavor is at the center of our country's table."

The Ultimate American Meal: A Mashup
While one meal didn't emerge as America's No. 1, NPB's data did reveal socially driven trends in flavors, ingredients and pairings:

  • When it comes to culinary passions shared with #foodporn, the diverse flavors of the American palate have one thing in common: pork. Pork is by far the "spiciest" meat with 41 percent of pork posts including #foodporn. Only one in three posts about beef (31 percent) included #foodporn and a mere 23 percent of chicken posts included the sultry hashtag.
  • Swiss, Cheddar, American or Brie: it doesn't matter, so long as it's cheese. It's America's most popular food topping.
  • Bacon is the top-mentioned pork product in the majority of the U.S. When it comes to this nationwide favorite, 23 percent mentioned maple as a preferred seasoning and 35 percent want it crispy.
  • Bread is the most frequently mentioned grain, pulling in 22 percent of mentions alongside proteins, which confirms that Americans are fans of foods that they can really wrap their hands around.

As part of an exclusive branded advertorial content series produced for food and dining site Eater, NPB took those results and developed a data-driven recipe representative of America's favorite flavors and foods: Cheesy Maple Bacon Cajun Pulled Pork Sandwich. The NPB-Eater team's flavor-packed, juicy sandwich combines seven of the research's most significant findings into one dish. The true "meal mashup" features Cajun-rubbed, cayenne pepper-infused pulled pork atop a hearty bun with extra-sharp cheddar cheese, bread and butter pickles and maple bacon, then served alongside crispy potatoes and a Sriracha yogurt.

"They say the sum is greater than the parts," said Johnson. "After the Cronut, mashups have been gaining momentum, so an original recipe mashup of our most socialized food is the truest illustration of how we eat and what we share."

Social sharing has been catapulted by hashtag usage, which has reached new heights with platforms like Instagram gaining in popularity. NPB social research also uncovered some unique findings about what's really happening when people share food posts along with what they consider "#foodporn":

  • #Foodporn is an evening affair. More than six in 10 individuals posting about a specific meal are posting about dinner – but it's just as likely to be about a great meal at a restaurant as it is about one that is home-cooked. Twenty-six percent of posts were about a restaurant meal while 28 percent featured a home-cooked meal.
  • Americans like it smoked, hot and spicy. The top flavors shared on social media associated with pork are hot (28 percent), spicy (18 percent) and smoked (16 percent) – and the most popular cuisines across all proteins include Cajun, Mexican, Italian and Asian.
  • Side dishes remain standard, not sophisticated.  While the American palate may have become more diverse over the last decade, when it comes to #foodporn Americans are still all about the meat and potatoes. Over one in three (38 percent) of all sides mentioned were about the potato – largely split between fries (16 percent) and other varieties of baked, mashed, sweet or gratin potatoes (22 percent). But vegetables have their share of the love as well. Almost a third (32 percent) of posts that mentioned a side mentioned a vegetable. 
  • You are where you eat. When it comes to conversations about food, geography matters. For example, New Yorkers lead all food conversations about protein and seven western states pair pork most frequently with eggs.

No matter how a person's personal palate or flavor profile relates to these research results, NPB has four seasonal recipes worth sharing:

  • Pork Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Balsamic – At only 310 calories, this colorful pork tenderloin and sweet-tart salad is a refreshing and nutritious recipe for the winter months. It's perfect alongside your favorite wrap, sandwich or roasted vegetables.
  • Pork Tenderloin and Sausage Flatbread – Sweet Italian sausage mixed with salty Kalamata olives, savory Parmesan cheese and a fresh pop of basil make for a mouthful of pork umami. This is a great recipe to make if you have leftover pork tenderloin.
  • Pork Pozole Verde – This hearty Mexican stew is packed with protein, fiber and flavorful ingredients like pork shoulder, tomatillos and green chiles. It can be tailored to any palate by adding sliced avocado, shredded cabbage or sliced radishes.
  • Pork and Hash Brown Shepherd's Pie – This vibrant, veggie-packed recipe can be cooked with either a boneless pork sirloin roast or pork sirloin chops. Requiring just two pots, it's a simple but hearty recipe to prepare with your loved ones.

Visit for the latest data findings from the social media analysis, and check out Pork Be inspired on Pinterest, Facebook , Twitter and Instagram for global culinary inspiration, recipes and more. 

About the National Pork Board
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at

1Using Crimson Hexagon's ForSight™ platform, National Pork Board gathered over 30 million Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media posts to analyze food conversation across major meat categories and food groups from November 1, 2013 – November 30, 2014.

More in Operations