South By South West rolls into Austin this weekend.
The wildly influential set of film, technology, and music festivals and conferences will screen about 300 feature films and shorts; more than 2,000 musical acts will perform at showcases; and the biggest names and brightest minds in emerging technology will captivate audiences at hundreds of interactive sessions.
Care to guess what all those artists and thought leaders will be talking about?
At last year’s SXSW, the online media monitors at Meltwater Group identified around 300,000 Twitter conversations (the social network of choice for festival attendees) taking place in social spaces surrounding SXSW. According to Meltwater’s data, most of that social bandwidth was buzzing about food. Food tweets outnumbered tweets about performances, events, and panels at a rate of three to one.
In the early years of SXSW, food appeared mostly to help soak up all the free beer flowing at the festival. The interactive conference didn’t host its first panel on food blogging until 2009, but each year since has seen a steady increase in food-related topics. Food themes are scattered liberally throughout this year’s conference sessions tackling topics like the niche food blog, the culture of ‘pop-ups,’ product branding for artisan producers, and the ways that technology can enhance the food shopping experience. A strong line-up of keynote speakers includes the founders of Whole Foods and Panera, and the provocative New York restaurateur Eddie Huang who will headline a panel titled The Social Media Chef.
The food scene outside of the Austin Convention Center is also a major draw.
More than 18,000 attendees have already registered for this year’s inaugural food crawl, a self-guided walking tour through some of downtown Austin’s notable eateries. Food trucks show up from as far away as Los Angeles—that’s a 1,400 mile trek in a rolling kitchen—for a spot at the annual Street Food Fest. So many marketers are looking to put their wares in front of the SXSW crowd that there’s a guide to all the free food and drinks.
From apps to check the ingredients in your cereal box to online reservations and new payment methods, technology permeates the way we consume and experience food like never before. Follow the happenings at SXSW to see how industry stakeholders are leveraging technology to help the food system become more efficient, entertaining, healthy, just, and sustainable.
You can’t make it to Austin? No problem. Many of the showcases, speaker panels, and interactive keynotes will be streaming live at sxsw.com/live. You can also follow the festival via official SXSW social media: