The Ketogenic Diet may have been around for the past few years, but this high protein, super low carb diet has moved from body builders into the mainstream. In fact, two of 2017’s best selling diet books on Amazon were specifically for Ketogenic Diets, and Pinterest is flooded with low carb high protein recipes tagged “Keto”. Google saw searches for “Keto Diets” surge by 300%, becoming the top searched food term in 2017.
But what exactly is the “Keto Diet” and who belongs to the “Keto” crowd culture?
The name, “Keto” derives from the metabolic state of “ketosis,” induced when one follows a diet high in fat and protein and extremely low in carbohydrates. Ketosis occurs when the body starts to burn fat (and sometimes muscle) for fuel. To some, it feels like something is scratching or itching under their skin. To many following a Keto Diet, it is a highly desired state of being, as it can cause significant weight loss and a renewed sense of energy.
Ketos are interested in loading their diets with high fat, high protein foods – like meat and cheese – while minimizing carbohydrates to as low as 50 grams per day. One might think the bacon craze and the jerky explosion were sparked by the Keto movement. In reality, this lifestyle is actually an extension of the Atkins and South Beach diets, and more recently, the Paleo diet and Whole 30, all protein rich and calling for varying degrees of reduced carbohydrates and refined sugars.
Ketos are highly suspect of many branded foods, fearing that so-called “high protein” labeled dishes and “processed” foods may secretly mask dreaded carbs, use the wrong kinds of protein, or cause some type of intestinal distress. Being thrown “out of keto” is the worst possible result, often revealed by their daily ketostix urine test (yes, many really do this).
Ketos are a powerful subculture that has fueled the protein craze, and is likely to fuel seafood and plant protein innovation. But staying “in keto” is hard to do, especially when the world conspires to throw you off course. For Ketos, their food crowd culture is the most trusted source of information and becomes essential for helping them steer the course. Evaluating the “Keto-worthiness” of the proposition is step one. If it passes this litmus test, then taste, usage and price discussions kick in.
Any product entering the “high protein, low carb” mainstream should pay careful attention to what Ketos might say. It could be the difference between success and failure in the marketplace.
Tapping into the shifting sands of food crowd cultures is what we do at Hyde Park Group Food Innovation in Chicago. By understanding this dynamic, we are able to hit the mark with authentic and meaningful new products, recipes and content that flow effortlessly into the cultural dialogue stream.