There's something kind of bizarre about watching one of your stories get onto the content aggregation cycle.
The story I wrote for the Guardian about the turmeric latte trend was one of those pieces: I've now seen all versions and hot takes on the story - outrage, curiosity, more outrage, serious trend pieces.
I spend a lot of time on the internet, all in the name of researching trends. It's not just as easy as searching "turmeric trendy drink how?" Sometimes someone will mention something in passing and it'll click with something I've read or heard about. The turmeric latte story was a combination of a lot of this.
To start off with, I am often hugely cynical of trends. David Sax's fantastic book The Tastemakers shows just how the food we think is trendy lands onto our plates and Instagram feeds in an organised, almost mechanical fashion. Trends are rarely organic. And while there's probably a turmeric lobby out there too, what I thought was interesting about this was the reworking of the traditional South Asian turmeric drink, haldi doodh, especially after the ketogenic diet movement found ghee.
I can't recall the exact process, but this is how I developed the turmeric latte story:
- I saw images of the latte and was curious about what this was.
- I subscribe to a lot of newsletters: lifestyle, fashion, wellness. Turmeric kept popping up, particularly the mention of Cafe Gratitude's latte.
[If you're interested in lifestyle/beauty/style, I'd recommend signing up for Well & Good, The New Potato, the Coveteur and Byrdie. There's also a ton of sub Reddits, depending on what you're interested in / eating / et al.
I also read Goop, because why not? (Turmeric lattes also featured on Goop)]
- If there's something that strikes me as being particularly interesting, I then spend a lot of time checking out whether there's more to it than just a manufactured trend or a newsletter mention, since it might just be for a very niche audience. Pinterest is often a good barometer: the site also puts out a regular trend report. [Though as a result my Pinterest feed is often flooded for weeks with items I only looked up for a story - please, Pinterest, stop creeping on searches!] I also scour Instagram to see if I can see the makings of a trend. (It was kind of amazing to see how significant turmeric latte already was on Instagram by the time I wrote my piece.)
- Research: The Google food trends report mentioned turmeric, and that was an interesting insight to include. I also subscribe to research briefs from Mintel and Hartman.
- Talking to people: Yeah, the basics. Who are the people actually driving the trend? Trends are cyclical, seasonal, arbitrary, irrational, and it's quite possible you've caught it too late (don't pitch pumpkin spice in 2016) or missed the original wave, and so the most important thing is to actually try and trace the history of the trend. It's actually fairly difficult to figure that out online, because there is so much replication of images and ideas, which is why talking to people is key.
- Relevance and being remote: It's often difficult to gauge a trend's impact or relevance to an editor / publication, especially if you're not based in NY/SF/LA/London and can't see the trend up close. I used to shy away from these stories, never believing I could do them remotely. But you can do this kind of story, regardless of where you are: Over the last year, I've reported on the revengebody trend and spoken to chefs and food entrepreneurs around the world on how they use Nutella, and invoked the internet's wrath over a turmeric-infused drink.