#SupportLocal: how online food delivery services leveraged the COVID-19 pandemic to promote food and beverages on Instagram

Si Si Jia*, Rebecca Raeside, Julie Redfern, Alice A Gibson, Anna Singleton, Stephanie R Partridge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To explore the promotion of discretionary foods/beverages and marketing strategies employed by the top three online food delivery services' (OFDS) Instagram accounts in three countries before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

DESIGN: Publicly available data were extracted for the top three OFDS Instagram accounts for Australia, United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA) from March to May 2019 and 2020. Food/beverage items from posts were classified as 'discretionary' or from the five food groups (FFG) according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Marketing strategies were coded using an existing framework. Posts referring to COVID-19 were coded under four marketing strategies: (i) appropriating frontline workers; (ii) combatting the pandemic; (iii) selling social distancing; and (iv) accelerating digitalisation.

RESULTS: From 581 posts, 618 food/beverage items were shown, of which 69 % (427/618) were classified as discretionary. In 2019, the most used marketing strategies were product imagery (unbranded) (137/195, 70 %), links (111/195, 57 %) and sponsorships/partnerships (58/195, 30 %). In 2020, the most used were links (252/386, 68 %), product imagery (unbranded) (179/386, 49 %) and branding elements (175/386, 45 %). The most common COVID-19 marketing strategy was combatting the pandemic (76/123, 62 %) followed by selling social distancing (53/123, 43 %), appropriating frontline workers (34/123, 28 %) and accelerating digitalisation (32/123, 26 %).

CONCLUSIONS: Following the COVID-19 pandemic, OFDS adapted their marketing, creating content with the theme of 'combatting the pandemic'. Due to the growing number of discretionary foods/beverages promoted on Instagram, this highlights the need for policy action to counter the potential influence social media platforms have on dietary behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4812-4822
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


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