#ad on Instagram: Investigating the Promotion of Food and Beverage Products

Rebecca Reagan, Sonia Filice, Sara Santarossa, Sarah J. Woodruff


The recent rise in popularity of social networking sites has prompted modern-day food and beverage companies to switch their marketing objectives from the traditional top-down strategies to a peer-to-peer approach, utilizing social media influencers to promote products online. The current study investigated the promotion of food and beverage products on Instagram tagged with #ad. Findings of this study indicated that the majority of food and beverage products promoted were processed, premade, and not considered healthy in nature. In addition, the majority of authors did not list credentials on their Instagram pages thereby making it unaware if they were credible sources of nutrition information. An overall positive audience reaction to images suggests a low message resistance to food and beverage products advertised on Instagram. These findings support the implementation of policies targeted at online food and beverage marketers, as well as the further development of public health initiatives involving digital literacy education specific to food and beverage marketing.


Instagram; food; beverage; advertisement; influencer

Full Text:



Adegbola, O., Gearhart, S., & Skarda-Mitchell, J. (2018). Using Instagram to engage with (potential) consumers: A study of Forbes Most Valuable Brands’ use of Instagram. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 7(2), 232-251.

Ad Standards. (2019, January). Influencer marketing steering committee: Disclosure guidelines. Ad Standards. Retrieved from http://adstandards.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Influencer-Marketing-Steering-Committee-Disclosure-Guidelines-Jan-2019.pdf

Almerico, G. M. (2014). Food and identity: Food studies, cultural, and personal identity. Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies, 8, 1.

Bouvier, E. (2018). Breaking Bread Online: Social Media, Photography, and the Virtual Experience of Food. Who Decides?: Competing Narratives in Constructing Tastes, Consumption and Choice. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Burke-Garcia, A., Kreps, G. L., & Wright, K. B. (2018). Perceptions about disseminating health information among mommy bloggers: Quantitative Study. JMIR Research Protocols, 7(4), e116. doi:10.2196/resprot.7764

Byrne, E., Kearney, J., & MacEvilly, C. (2017). The role of influencer marketing and social influencers in public health. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 76(OCE3), E103. doi: 10.1017/S0029665117001768

Carter, D. (2016). Hustle and brand: The sociotechnical shaping of influence. Social Media + Society, 2(3), 1-12. doi:10.1177/2056305116666305

Chan, T., Drake, T., & Vollmer, R. L. (2018). Qualitative comparison of nutrition content and advice from registered dietitian and non-registered dietitian bloggers. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 50(7), S105-S106.

Childers, C. C., Lemon, L. L., & Hoy, M. G. (2018). #Sponsored #Ad: Agency perspective on influencer marketing campaigns. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 1-17. doi:10.1080/10641734.2018.1521113

Cho, M., Bonn, M. A., & Li, J. J. (2019). Differences in perceptions about food delivery apps between single-person and multi-person households. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 77, 108-116. doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2018.06.019

Chung, C. F., Agapie, E., Schroeder, J., Mishra, S., Fogarty, J., & Munson, S. A. (2017, May). When personal tracking becomes social: Examining the use of Instagram for healthy eating. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1674-1687). ACM. doi:10.1145/3025453.3025747

De Veirman, M., Cauberghe, V., & Hudders, L. (2017). Marketing through Instagram influencers: The impact of number of followers and product divergence on brand attitude. International Journal of Advertising, 36(5), 798-828. doi:10.1080/02650487.2017.1348035

De Vries, L., Gensler, S., & Leeflang, P. S. (2012). Popularity of brand posts on brand fan pages: An investigation of the effects of social media marketing. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(2), 83-91. doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2012.01.003

Djafarova, E., & Rushworth, C. (2017). Exploring the credibility of online celebrities' Instagram profiles in influencing the purchase decisions of young female users. Computers in Human Behavior, 68, 1-7. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.009

Dunlop, S., Freeman, B., & Jones, S. C. (2016). Marketing to youth in the digital age: The promotion of unhealthy products and health promoting behaviours on social media. Media and Communication, 4(3), 35-49. doi:10.17645/mac.v4i3.522

Engler-Stringer, R. (2010). Food, cooking skills, and health: a literature review. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 71(3), 141-145. doi:10.3148/71.3.2010.141

Erkan, I. (2015). Electronic word of mouth on Instagram: Customers’ engagements with brands in different sectors. International Journal of Management, Accounting and Economics, 2(12), 1435-1444.

Evans, N. J., Phua, J., Lim, J., & Jun, H. (2017). Disclosing Instagram influencer advertising: The effects of disclosure language on advertising recognition, attitudes, and behavioral intent. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 17(2), 138-149. doi:10.1080/15252019.2017.1366885

Ewen, S. (1996). PR!: A social history of spin. New York, New York: Basic Books.

Facebook. (2018). 19. Personal health. Facebook Advertising Policies. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/prohibited_content/personal_health

Federal Trade Commission. (2017, September). The FTC’s endorsement guides: What people are asking. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking

Fernandes, P. R. M. (2018). Instagram: Investigating the influence of healthy food posts on consumer purchase intention. (Master's thesis, University of Sussex, Brighton, England). Retrieved from https://estudogeral.sib.uc.pt/bitstream/10316/79490/1/FINAL%20DISSERTATION_PDF%20Patricia%20Fernandes%283%29.pdf

Fleiss, J.L. (1986). Reliability of measurement. The Design and Analysis of Clinical Experiments, 1–32.

Freberg, K., Graham, K., McGaughey, K., & Freberg, L. A. (2011). Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 90-92. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2010.11.001

Freeman, B., Kelly, B., Baur, L., Chapman, K., Chapman, S., Gill, T., & King, L. (2014). Digital junk: Food and beverage marketing on Facebook. American Journal of Public Health, 104(12), e56–e64. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302167

Government of Canada. (2019, January 14). Canada’s food guide: Be aware of food marketing. Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/marketing-can-influence-your-food-choices/

Gregersen, M. C., & Dokken, H. E. (2018). To disguise or disclose? The effects of sponsorship disclosure on the recognition and evaluation of sponsored content on Instagram (Master's thesis, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway). Retrieved from https://brage.bibsys.no/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2579420/2040644.pdf?sequence=1

Hartmans, A., & Price, R. (2018, June 20). Instagram just reached 1 billion users. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/instagram-monthly-active-users-1-billion-2018-6

Hayes, R. A., Carr, C. T., & Wohn, D. Y. (2016). It’s the audience: Differences in social support across social media. Social Media + Society, 2(4), 2056305116678894. doi:10.1177/2056305116678894

Holmberg, C., Chaplin, J. E., Hillman, T., & Berg, C. (2016). Adolescents' presentation of food in social media: An explorative study. Appetite, 99, 121-129. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.009

Katz, E. (1957). The two-step flow of communication: An up-to-date report on an hypothesis. Public Opinion Quarterly, 21(1), 61-78.

Keller, M. (2012). Advertising and consumerism in the food industry. (Honors Theses, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/22f7/9778f24a89ca36ad19b9128bdc6c20a6ef48.pdf

Killian, G., & McManus, K. (2015). A marketing communications approach for the digital era: Managerial guidelines for social media integration. Business Horizons, 58(5), 539-549. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2015.05.006

Klassen, K. M., Borleis, E. S., Brennan, L., Reid, M., McCaffrey, T. A., & Lim, M. S. (2018). What people “like”: Analysis of social media strategies used by food industry brands, lifestyle brands, and health promotion organizations on Facebook and Instagram. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(6), e10227. doi:10.2196/10227

Lacasse, J., Santarossa, S., & Woodruff, S. J. (2019). #yoga on Instagram: Understanding yogic principles in the online conversation and community. International Journal of Yoga.

Lambert, M., & Farringdon, F. (2019). In their own words: A qualitative study exploring influences on the food choices of university students. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 30(1), 66-75. doi:10.1002/hpja.180

Lee, E., Lee, J. A., Moon, J. H., & Sung, Y. (2015). Pictures speak louder than words: Motivations for using Instagram. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(9), 552-556. doi:10.1089/cyber.2015.0157

Linqia. (2017). The State of Influencer Marketing in 2018: A look into how brands and agencies view the future of influencer marketing. Retrieved from http://www.linqia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Linqia-The-State-of-Influencer-Marketing-2018.pdf

Lowe-Calverley, E., & Grieve, R. (2018). Thumbs up: A thematic analysis of image-based posting and liking behaviour on social media. Telematics and Informatics, 35(7), 1900-1913. doi:10.1016/j.tele.2018.06.003

Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J. P., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 33(11), 2477-2483. doi:10.2337/dc10-1079

Marwick, A (2016). You May Know Me from YouTube: (Micro)-Celebrity in Social Media. In Marshall, D. & Redmond, S. (Eds.), A Companion to Celebrity (pp. 333-350). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Mathisen, A., & Stangeby, M. F. (2017). Factors influencing advertising effectiveness and purchase intention on Instagram. (Master's thesis, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway). Retrieved from https://brage.bibsys.no/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2487280/1760137.pdf?sequence=1

Mitchell, F. R., Santarossa, S., & Woodruff, S. J. (2018). Athletes as advocates: Influencing eating-disorder beliefs and perceptions through social media. International Journal of Sport Communication, 11(4), 433-446. doi:10.1123/ijsc.2018-0112

McCaskill, A. (2015, September 28). Recommendations from friends remain most credible form of advertising among consumers; Branded websites are the second-highest-rated form. Nielsen. Retrieved from https://www.nielsen.com/eu/en/press-room/2015/recommendations-from-friends-remain-most-credible-form-of-advertising.html

Pasho, J. (2017). #INSERTDIETHERE: Tracing the techno-linguistic associations of dietary hashtags on Instagram. (Doctoral dissertation, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada). Retrieved from https://curve.carleton.ca/system/files/etd/9fdff289-3e58-4fd6-b356-6928f37af6d6/etd_pdf/4ec537d99afd6e56b64582c3854460a6/pasho-insertdietheretracingthetechnolinguisticassociations.pdf

Peltner, J., & Thiele, S. (2018). Convenience-based food purchase patterns: Identification and associations with dietary quality, sociodemographic factors and attitudes. Public Health Nutrition, 21(3), 558-570. doi:10.1017/S1368980017003378

Rainie, L., Brenner, J., & Purcell, K. (2012, September 13). Photos and videos as social currency online. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/media/Files/Reports/2012/PIP_OnlineLifeinPictures_PDF.pdf

Ramachandran, D., Kite, J., Vassallo, A. J., Chau, J. Y., Partridge, S., Freeman, B., & Gill, T. (2018). Food trends and popular nutrition advice online – Implications for public health. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 10(2). doi:10.5210/ojphi.v10i2.9306

Remnant, J., & Adams, J. (2015). The nutritional content and cost of supermarket ready-meals. Cross-sectional analysis. Appetite, 92, 36-42. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.069

Richard, J. E., & Guppy, S. (2014). Facebook: Investigating the influence on consumer purchase intention. Asian Journal of Business Research, 4(2), 1-10. doi:10.14707/ajbr.140006

Santarossa, S., Coyne, P., Lisinski, C., & Woodruff, S. J. (2016). #fitspo on Instagram: A mixed-methods approach using Netlytic and photo analysis, uncovering the online discussion and author/image characteristics. Journal of Health Psychology, 1-10. doi: 10.1177/1359105316676334

Santarossa, S., Lacasse, J., Larocque, J., & Woodruff, S. J. (2018). #Orthorexia on Instagram: a descriptive study exploring the online conversation and community using the Netlytic software. Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 1-8. doi: 10.1007/s40519-018-0594-y

Santarossa, S., & Woodruff, S. J. (2018). #LancerHealth: Using Twitter and Instagram as a tool in a campus wide health promotion initiative. Journal of Public Health Research, 7(1). doi:10.4081/jphr.2018.1166

Serazio, M. (2013). Your ad here: The cool sell of guerrilla marketing. New York, New York: University Press.

Serazio, M., & Duffy, B. E. (2018). Social media marketing. The SAGE Handbook of Social Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 481-496.

Uzunoğlu, E., & Kip, S. M. (2014). Brand communication through digital influencers: Leveraging blogger engagement. International Journal of Information Management, 34(5), 592-602. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2014.04.007

Vaterlaus, J. M., Patten, E. V., Roche, C., & Young, J. A. (2015). #Gettinghealthy: The perceived influence of social media on young adult health behaviors. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 151-157. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.013

Woodruff, S. J., & Hanning, R. M. (2008). A review of family meal influence on adolescents’ dietary intake. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 69(1), 14-22. doi: 10.3148/69.1.2008.14


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, USA, The Journal of Social Media in Society is sponsored by the Colleges of Liberal and Fine Arts, Education, Business, and Graduate Studies.