The Shining Truth About Edible Glitter
We share the good, the bad and the sparkly about this bedazzled food trend.
Edible glitter is "sparkling" controversy — but why? Countless food items from cupcakes to pizza have undergone the glitter treatment, and undoubtedly more will follow in their shimmering footsteps. While the food industry has all but adopted the motto "when in doubt add glitter," as a generation obsessed with natural foods like avocado toast and kombucha shouldn't we be asking ourselves what's in this glittery latte I'm drinking?
What is Edible Glitter Anyways?
Edible glitter is basically the pixie dust of the food world. It also goes by the name of disco dust, jewel dust, luster dust and the like. While these products certainly add a wow factor to your favorite food items, we can't be blinded by the sparkle so much so that we don't read the labels. Many glitter products clearly state "edible" and contain ingredients like sugar, cornstarch and approved color additives. Those are safe to consume, so go ahead and get glittery!
What's it Made of?
Before you sprinkle it on everything, it's important to know that this trend has a dark side in the form of edible imposters; they are the fakes of the edible glitter world. You may see them on cake supply shelves labeled as "non-toxic" (craft glue and modeling clay are non-toxic too, but you don't see people eating them, do you now?). In terms of choosing edible-grade glitter, make sure that the container states "edible" and has a list of ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration states that "If the label simply says 'non-toxic' or 'for decorative purposes only' and does not include an ingredients list, the product should not be used directly on foods."
Dan Langan of Baked by Dan says "whether it is edible glitter or edible luster dust, there are many products available and the edible versus non-edible distinctions can be confusing." Glitter products were first created for the cake decorating industry to add a bit of sparkle to display cakes. But as a professional cake decorator, Langan has witnessed the growth of this trend into other areas of the food industry. As companies rush to add glitter to their culinary portfolios, he warns "you've got to wonder how much care is being taken to source edible materials." Langan is careful when advising his glitter-loving clients, and when necessary creates his own version with gelatin and edible luster dusts or powdered food colors.
Are We Just in it For the Instagram?
In an attempt to create a "glitter coated" version of our lives via social media, we seek out visually eye-catching food items to post. It's all for the likes and we know it (#edibleglitter). Jade Yelvington the head barista at Chocolate Pi embraces this trend by creating lattes like their activated charcoal cappuccino called the Brushed Suede, which the bakery says was inspired by the Netflix show Black Mirror. They use food-grade glitter to create this strikingly dark cappuccino (pictured above, left), which is as mysterious as it is photo-worthy. Yelvington says "it's pretty normal for there to be a 5-plus minute photo shoot before anything gets tried." I mean who can blame them, these sparkly lattes are not your average cup of joe. Now, can I get a triple sparkle macchiato with extra glitter please!
Edible glitter continues to spread (as it does best) into more than just your morning latte. Emily Anatole, Associate Insights Director at research and trend forecasting firm Cassandra contributes its popularity to its ability "to turn any ordinary food or drink into an extraordinary item." She feels that it's accessibility has made it "easy for people to jump on the trend." And they surely have! We see it in the form of glitter beer, bagels, donuts, truffles, and pizza. Anatole describes glitter as "bling for food and drinks." So if you can eat it, you can bling it. She foresees "glitter-sprinkled tacos, or chips dusted in glitter" in the near future. The glitter-coated options are endless, and Instagram is loving it.
Your Instagram feed isn't the only thing benefiting from the growth of this trend. Companies like Chocolate Pi are fulfilling young consumers desire to bridge the gap between food and art by means of edible glitter. Anatole noted how other smaller shops like "The Bagel Store in Brooklyn, famous for its rainbow bagels, has elevated this item by adding edible glitter." These companies are finding much success with these sparkly items and undoubtedly just like the unicorn trend, glitter will make its way into the mass market. We see this transition happening already with companies like Ice Breakers unveiling their glitter gum, which will force other large-scale brands to up their glitter game.
Will potato chips get a glitter coating? Sparklin' Hot Cheetos anyone? Perhaps you will be scooping up glitter-speckled ice cream this summer? (After you apply your glitter sunblock, of course.) If you're not a fan of coating yourself in the stuff, you can add a glitter effect to all your photos with the Kirakira+ App. Lately it seems, everything's coming up glitter.