Using our social data analysis platform, we gathered and analysed 7k+ TikTok and Instagram posts featuring “breakfast” and “coffee” (and adjacent terminology) to see what’s going on with people’s morning meals and latte rituals. These findings combine automated analysis with our ‘human’ interpretation, based on our in-house cultural and cross-category expertise.

Social media platforms often attract different kinds of content: while Instagram typically favours aesthetic perfection and curated plates, TikTok tends to focus more on eye-catching inventiveness and concept-based content (e.g. “I ate nothing but Chipotle for one whole day!”). However, across both channels, we can see several shifts in the ways we drink and share coffee moments, and new opportunities when it comes to connecting with consumers over breakfast.

Breakfast as sweet, sometimes-healthy rewards

On TikTok especially, a significant amount of breakfast posts feature creative rethinking of ‘established’ dishes – e.g. tiramisu reworked as a latte. Many of these dishes are semi-healthy, refined sugar-free yet very sweet, framed as breakfast dishes that could be dessert.

Some of the most-liked & reshared posts featured healthy chia breakfast puddings; banana pancakes; oat pancakes; a “Caramel cookie butter protein frappe” and a recipe for high-protein, blood sugar-balancing “brownie batter for breakfast.”

From left: @healthygirlkitchen; @thewomensdietitian; @tracesoats

All this content points to an increasing desire to be uncompromising when it comes to health and pleasure. Consumers are finding inventive ways to get their nutrients and feel full for longer, turning a functional morning meal into an exciting, flavourful, and visually compelling one. Across these posts, there’s an aesthetic focus on colliding, transformative textures – uncontrolled swirls of syrup, slowly oozing viscosity, etc. Photographing breakfast & brunch is now less about showing a ‘perfect’ composition, and more about capturing the varied sensory richness of each bite.

Coffees as sculptural, floral compositions

When it comes to coffee, much of social media has been celebrating the aesthetic elevation and adornment of specialty drinks. We’re seeing baristas take latte art to new heights, with rose petal flourishes, whipped foam, herbal garnishes and handmade edible toppings. This kind of coffee artistry doesn’t have to be materially loaded: accounts such as @coffeebygrant showcase a quiet decadence, with attention to intricate layers and the subtlety of microfoam.

From left: The Butcher’s Daughter, NYC; Cafecito Pecas, Arizona

Coffee has long been associated with craft and artistry – be that a swan captured in latte art, or a perfectly pulled espresso. What these newer elaborate, sculptural coffees point to is a desire to take coffee further, with fresh creative inspiration from outside of coffee conventions. In this vein, US coffee shop Intelligentsia has partnered with floral artist John Cable Pendleton of Planks and Pistils. Their collaboration highlights the affinity between the crafts of coffee and floral art – each attentive to seasonal changes, natural phenomena, cultural rituals and thoughtful composition.

What does your breakfast/coffee moment say about you?

From left: @kayy_nas; @zadeh9; @okcron

Many of the most highly liked & reshared posts around coffee and breakfast were based on ‘character’. Memes highlight the tendency of some moms to stow away jam and cereal pots from hotel breakfast buffets, or the difficulties faced by couples with different wakeup and breakfast times. A TikTok with 29.4k likes shows DJ Khaled pouring champagne on his fruit salad, saying “They don’t want you to have a luxury life. The key is to have a luxury breakfast.”

Breakfast moments have become a kind of playful conduit for cultural messaging and personal identification. For breakfast and coffee brands, depicting taste and flavour is key – but witty alignment with wider cultural archetypes, and creating moments in which people can “see themselves” (or those around them), can create a deeper personal resonance.   

3 key takeouts for brands:

  1. The line between a healthy, functional breakfast and an indulgent, taste-driven one is now blurred, and many consumers expect breakfast options that deliver both high nutrients and the uncompromising flavour appeal of dishes such as pancakes, brownies and chocolate pudding.
  2. Coffee is often a visual accessory, not just a beverage. Coffee brands can look for reference points outside of the coffee category to celebrate the craft and expertise of coffee culture (e.g. in brand collaborations). Starbucks has drawn on this cross-category creativity by releasing their Oleato range of coffee drinks infused with Partanna extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Brands can connect with consumers by creating relatable moments around breakfast/coffee, and tapping into online conversations around breakfast/coffee rituals that reflect personality traits. Of course, brands engaging in this need to do so without recourse to stereotypes.

Katrina Russell, Associate Director

Morning People: Breakfast & coffee on social