Unicorn Food is the New Millennial Obsession

Leslie Price | April 18, 2017

Starbucks just hopped on board

What's-the-Deal-with-Unicorn-Food-Millenials-Man-Repeller-01

My first encounter with “unicorn food” came by way of a latte. It was bright blue — unnaturally so — and topped with sprinkles and bits of lavender. It looked like a toothache in a cup, but the shade was the result of a powder called Blue Majik (derived from blue-green algae), not food coloring. The drink is being served at The End, a coffee and juice shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that offers a menu of rainbow-hued yet healthy “unicorn” lattes made with powdered herbs or supplements. It’s all very “don’t worry, be happy” (their hot chocolate is spiked with CBD oil aka cannabinoid oil).

Unicorn foods are beginning to pop up at cafes across NYC and are becoming a mainstay of all sorts of wellness Instagram presences (even Starbucks is getting on board, a sign of peak trend), but I first started seeing them on the feed of journalist, food lover and former Eater LA editor Kat Odell, who is in the process of penning a cookbook titled — what else — Unicorn Food. “[It is] inspired by living in LA and then moving to New York,” she told me over the phone. “That was three years ago. I moved cross-country and I didn’t have access to all the fresh ingredients and clean eats of LA. So I started making all this stuff I couldn’t find for myself.” One of her first products was a spirulina-cardamom almond milk. “Almond milk has a more subtle flavor, rather than cashew, so it’s like a blank canvas,” she says. Further experiments included goji-berry powder, turmeric, pine nuts and rose petals.

“Blue Majik is really fun, but that’s getting very popular right now,” she says. “Dehydrated beet, hibiscus and pitaya are great for color. You get a really pretty green color with spinach, and it doesn’t add much flavor. My kitchen is embarrassing when people come over!”

A post shared by Adeline Waugh (@vibrantandpure) on

Lisa Frank-esque health foods sit perfectly at the crossroads of all things photo-documentable and our current fascination with healthy living. No surprise, then, that this shit is everywhere. According to Laurie Pressman, the VP of the Pantone Color Institute, there’s a reason why we’re craving rainbow brights right now. “Bright shades are happy – they make us smile,” she says. “These colors in foods…imply a sense of fun and levity. Engaging and inviting, they bring us back to a time when things were simpler and playfully innocent.” So, sort of like the culinary interpretation of adult coloring books.

“These trends may start in one area of the world but with the prevalence of social media, [they] quickly become international,” says Pressman. It’s true — this is food basically tailor-made for sharing online. At The Good Sort, a new cafe in Chinatown, the iced lattes and hummus toast are both shockingly pink (beets). Another iced drink looks like a Grateful Dead tie-dye tee come to life; it’s a matcha-turmeric-beet combo.

A post shared by The Good Sort (@thegoodsort) on

Therein lies the appeal of unicorn food: There’s something striking about the irony of such synthetic-looking colors matched with their actual, healthful origins. It’s simple and playful. “Here’s to feeling good all the time,” cheers The Good Sort’s menu. I might be the most cynical person in the room most of the time, but I ordered myself one of those iced rainbow lattes and I fucking enjoyed it. Drank it down in a few minutes. I didn’t Instagram it, though. Missed opportunity.

Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; images via @unicornfoods, @vibrantandpure, @thendbrooklyn@elenabesser and @kelseysortland.

  • Adrianna

    I’ve seen the lattes on Instagram, and I dry-heave at the thought of having to drink one

    • Kathryn Freund

      Seriously though, the unicorn latte at The End is amazing! The Starbucks one on the other hand… gross.

      • Meg S

        The starbucks unicorn latte came up on my IG a few days ago. I don’t know how to feel about it. There was no mention of how it tasted, just the typical IG starbucks post.

        I googled it and… just… why? “Starts off sweet and fruity transforming to pleasantly sour” “Swirl it to reveal a color-changing spectacle of purple and pink” “Pink and blue fairy powders”. I don’t understand. If a grande has 400+ calories and 16g of fat it should taste magical. I’m not sure I’d call this magical.

    • autillicautnullibi

      I just can’t imagine what they taste like – either weird herbiness or too sweet goo.

  • I personally don’t care how cheesy it is. It’s fun and it’s unicorns! I will definitely be trying one of these.

  • what is it with everyone obsessing over unicorns and mermaids!? i see so many graphic t’s and coffee mugs that are like “blah blah i’m a mermaid” I don’t understand. ariel was an idiot. she brushed her hair with a fork. have things gotten so bad in the real world that we are now taking up residence in these imaginary worlds? gosh i sound old and grumpy. I’M NOT, I’M NOT! just confused. beautiful pieces of bread, though.

    • i will add an apology for using this post on colorful health food to vent about my confusion with mermaid and unicorn merch. xo

    • Quinn Halman

      ceej have u seen Iliza Shlesinger’s “Confirmed Kills”?
      skip to 1:58 for just a sneak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0purE305WsY

      • haha! have not seen that. MY POINT EXACTLY.

    • Leandra Medine

      “we tell ourselves stories in order to live”

      • Leandra Medine

        sorry that makes no sense without context. but yes! i do think you’re on the nose, and that we’re leaning on escapism is a wildly literal way. literally trying to consume it as a rebellion or something

        • totally. also mixed with a bit of peter pan syndrome like “i can still be fun and youthful, just look at how carefree and imaginary my breakfast is!” not knocking it, this world for sure needs more color, i think i just fucking hate mermaids?

          • “Look how imaginary my breakfast is” is my favorite thing I’ve ever heard

    • Hanna Kubis

      your comment “ariel was an idiot. she brushed her hair with a fork” made me seriously LOL

    • Charles Charmichael

      What did adam say to eve when he saw her wading in the river?

      Now all the fish are gonna smell like that…

  • tmm16

    They do say the more colorful your food is, the better it is for you 🙂

  • mapillski

    I really don’t want my smoothie to taste like dirt so it can be florescent pink.

    • Leslie Price

      So far, everything I have tried has been surprisingly tasty.

  • Nope nope nope nope nope. I don’t need my food to look or taste like unicorn poop

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  • Suzan

    I might be on the older side of the millennial demographic (I’m 31), but this rainbow trend does nothing for me.
    I however would hate to pass up the opportunity to link to the source of the quote “Here’s to feeling good all the time” and one of my favourite series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR5X0c_KaQI

  • belle

    This made me really crave a regular, chocolate milkshake ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • I can’t get past how fake it looks. Sorry, but this one I’m gonna pass on!

  • 50% of me hates it and the other 50% is into it. Dunno what to feel.

    http://alexinwanderlust.blogspot.com.au

  • Hanna Kubis

    why is my generation so whack

  • Prog Nosis

    It’s amazing what people have piled onto the unicorn legend when the stories of unicorns were probably based on Elasmotheriums, which were probably not terribly pleasant or pretty creatures.

  • Kay Nguyen

    I don’t get people’s obsessions with unicorns or mystical creatures in general. Yea sure it’s fun to think about them because they aren’t real (as far as we know), which makes them special, but putting them on everything from toasts (looking so beautiful btw) and starbucks drink is a little much for me. If we see unicorn’s inspired goods everywhere, doesn’t it make unicorn less special and more annoying? Just my opinion

    http://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • bda 31175

    I turn to qualified experts like Man Repeller to keep me up to date with trends such as these. Keep up the good work.