The Food-Blog World: Are Asians Taking Over?

May 25, 2011

Food blogs abound in the West, but it’s the denizens of Asian descent who might be ruling the epicurean roost.

Better Access to Technology - It's pretty hard to blog without a computer and Internet access. According to data collected by the US Census Bureau, Whites and Asians lead the way when it comes to computer usage. 64.6% of Whites and 62.7% of Asians aged 15 or older use a computer at home, while only 44.8% of Blacks and 39.1% of Hispanics do. Similar patterns can be found when looking at computer usage at work and at school. A computer, though, is only half the equation – we still need to look at Internet usage. Whites lead the way here, at 62.3%, with Asians not too far behind at 58.0%. Blacks ring in at 45.6%, and Hispanics, at 37.6%. Intuitively, the results make sense: access to technology should rise with income and education. The US Census Bureau data strongly supports this notion. Clearly then, the digital divide is well and alive.

A Propensity for Conspicuous Consumption - This is surely the most controversial of the five factors, but the tendency for Asians to conspicuously consume is legendary. After all, who hasn't heard the stereotypes about Asian women's obsession with all things Louboutin and Louis Vuitton, or the penchant of Asian men for Swiss watches, Italian shoes and German automobiles? We've all seen the anecdotal evidence, but according to an article in Entrepreneur magazine, such behaviour is endemic: luxury products comprise an $80 billion industry, with half of that revenue coming from Asians. For our good friend M. Vuitton, it's been estimated that, at one point, an incredible 88% of the brand's global sales stemmed solely from Japanese consumers. So what's the reasoning behind all the bling? Radha Chadha, author of The Cult of the Luxury Brand, points to the waves of socioeconomic change that have swept through Asia over the past decades. Historically, Asia had been, for the most part, relatively poor vis-à-vis its "Western" counterparts. With the influx of cash in recent years, combined with the dismantling of old, rigid social structures, spending lavishly becomes the most effective way of denoting your place in society. Furthermore, in their paper Conspicuous Consumption and Race, Kerwin Kofi Charles et al even argue that conspicuous consumption is a method of signaling to others that you've "escaped" the poverty of your people's past. Blogging, thus, becomes a foodie equivalent of the Patek or Birkin bag.

People blog about food for a variety of reasons. What I've tried to capture here is why Asians have a much higher tendency to do so. Thus, to summarize: culture provides the context; education/income/access provide the capacity; and a proclivity for conspicuous consumption provides the catalyst.


This post was originally published on Kevin Eats in January 2010.