As she would later note in our interview, Isabelle Lumb, LSOE ’19, is one to put the team on her back. When she reached out to me last week, it was in search of some publicity—her food Instagram, @bite_into_this, was gaining some momentum. I took a quick glance at her page and it immediately had my approval—the frosting was plentiful, there was no shortage of sprinkles, and the follower count was north of 12,000. Between the colors, followers, and my coincidental hunger at the moment, it was an easy call to make.
As I sit here now, the follower count for @bite_into_this has jumped to over 14,000, and a new crop of colorful donut pictures has found its way onto the feed. This kind of growth, Lumb explained, has been nothing out of the ordinary recently.
“We gained 7,000 followers just this summer,” Lumb said. “The goal is 20,000 by Thanksgiving, but we usually get about 100 a day.”
“For the most part, they’re all real people,” Lumb added. “We don’t buy them.”
As it turns out, building @bite_into_this into a true contender in the crowded food Instagram market was actually somewhat accidental. The account is a product of a distinct mix of boredom and hunger. Her and a pair of friends were at a friend’s party when inspiration struck.
“We were really not enjoying the party,” Lumb said. “So we made it there, at our friend’s house, on a couch. We kept it going and we got 1 or 2,000 followers fairly quickly.”
After a brief lull in activity following their graduation from high school, the three of them resumed last spring and have been full-steam ahead ever since.
Lumb and her friends remain now at the helm of this flourishing account, and they’ve have maintained a broad geographical presence in addition to their collection of glamorous food shots. Reporting from Washington, D.C., and South Carolina, in addition to Boston and their hometown of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the trio brings a variety of flavors to the table, but their efforts are bolstered by their large and growing following. Curated, crowd-sourced food photography constitutes a large portion of their photo collection.
Filtering through countless follower submissions is also part of the job for Lumb and company, and their respective camera rolls are filled with thousands of candidate photos.
“I couldn’t take that many good pictures and I can’t spend that much money,” Lumb said.
The key to @bite_into_this’s success? Junk food photos go a long way, Lumb said.
“I do enjoy a good smoothie bowl, but healthier stuff definitely does not do as well,” she said. “Our average is a little over 1,000 likes, and even if it’s semi-healthy it doesn’t get there.”
From here, the conversation descended into an exchange of adjectives—an extended discussion of which adjectives best describe the most Instagram-worthy shots. High-resolution was a requisite parameter set immediately, but the nitty-gritty adjectives were the most entertaining. Highlights included gooey, chocolate-y, overflowing, and cheesy. “Also, donuts,” Lumb made sure to add.
“This one was actually a little low-res,” Lumb said, producing a photo of a particularly overflowing donut. “But I made the exception.”
The growth story of @bite_into_this goes beyond simple creative exercise. The account has received some love from big players in the Instagram food game, and reposting has been a big driver for gaining followers.
“We got reposted by a few really big ones, which made us a couple hundred followers each,” said Lumb. “Aside from that, once we hit 9 or 10,000 it’s just been crazy.”
Out of this craziness, @bite_into_this has also managed to grow to the point that it receives promotional requests. Free stuff, in other words.
The trio has already seen the perks of their popularity: presents ranging from invites to food festivals to promotional soup delivered to their doorstep. Most recently, they’ve been solicited by a frosting company called Dallop Frosting, and they’re hoping that the freebies will continue to roll in.
Ultimately, more free soup and frosting seem to be the objective of the group, who don’t really seek fame or facial recognition in their Instagram exploits. Beyond the occasional goodie in the mail, Lumb emphasized that the account is largely a way for the group to stay connected with one another.
“We talk almost every day about it and I don’t think we would talk that much if we didn’t have it together,” Lumb said, citing her relationship with her co-owners as her favorite part of the gig. “I do really like the photography—and it’s cheesy—but it’s a lot about staying in touch with my friends.”
The account certainly has high hopes for the future, and ideally the freebies should follow suit. That is, if they can keep their pancake arguments to a minimum. Lumb also spoke to occasional friction within the group, citing the recent deletion of a pancake picture that sparked controversy.
“My friend didn’t think they were worthy of Bite Into This,” she said.
Food debacles aside, my takeaway from our conversation was simple—a food Instagram between friends is a powerful tool. According to Lumb, nothing brings people together like breakfast, lunch, and dessert.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks/Heights Staff