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Top Three Tips to Ensure Cultural Sensitivity in Food, Agriculture and Beverage Content

October 8, 2020

One benefit of a digitally-connected world is that recipes from around the globe are just a fingertip away – introducing people to food cultures and ingredients they may not otherwise have known. However, as it becomes more and more competitive to drive engagement, and with SEO at the forefront of content creation, an alarming trend is rising: the white-washing of global cuisine. While it may sound harmless to ensure the title and keywords of online content are familiar to a white audience – “pad woon sen” becomes “Asian noodles,” “Bolognese” turns into “meat sauce” – a potential consequence is that the cultural history is stripped away.

Food, and the words used to describe it, are deeply emotional, so as Food, Agriculture and Beverage marketers it is important that we keep cultural sensitivity at the forefront of our work, honoring the cultures of those who inspired the ingredients and recipes we are promoting. Here are some steps to ensure you’re being respectful of other cultures when developing food content:

  • Avoid Buzz Words: It’s easy to get caught up in the quest for the perfect caption or catchy headline to grab your audience’s attention. However, resist the temptation to use buzz words like “authentic” (unless you have the expert to back that up) or “exotic” (remember, just because it may be new to some, it is steeped in tradition for others). The same caution should be taken when naming a dish, as VICE explores further.
  • Know Where the Food Comes From: This goes beyond food transparency and consumers wanting to know the source of their food. We are talking about doing the research to know about the cultural history of the dish. This is important to ensure the right stories are being told as there is a fine line between food appreciation and food appropriation, which author Brooke Marine spoke about with Padma Lakshmi in W Magazine.
  • Tap the Right Experts: Before the issues of discrimination and a toxic work culture surfaced at Bon Appetit, there was the controversy around one particular article about a seemingly innocuous topic: pho. The lesson we should learn from this mistake? Make sure we are engaging and showcasing diverse voices, being mindful that the story being told is (here it comes) authentic.

As cultural awareness (and conversations about appropriation) increase in our society, the goal should be to not only share delicious recipes, but to also educate readers about the rich and diverse origins of these foods.