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Using social media to explore regional cuisine preferences in China

Chengzhi Zhang (Department of Information Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China)
Zijing Yue (Department of Information Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China)
Qingqing Zhou (Department of Information Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China)
Shutian Ma (Department of Information Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China)
Zi-Ke Zhang (College of Media and International Culture, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China) (Alibaba Research Center for Complexity Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University, Hanghzou, China)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 22 November 2019

Issue publication date: 22 November 2019

510

Abstract

Purpose

Food plays an important role in every culture around the world. Recently, cuisine preference analysis has become a popular research topic. However, most of these studies are conducted through questionnaires and interviews, which are highly limited by the time, cost and scope of data collection, especially when facing large-scale survey studies. Some researchers have, therefore, attempted to mine cuisine preferences based on online recipes, while this approach cannot reveal food preference from people’s perspective. Today, people are sharing what they eat on social media platforms by posting reviews about the meal, reciting the names of appetizers or entrees, and photographing as well. Such large amount of user-generated contents (UGC) has potential to indicate people’s preferences over different cuisines. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to explore Chinese cuisine preferences among online users of social media.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on both UGC and online recipes, the authors first investigated the cuisine preference distribution in different regions. Then, dish preference similarity between regions was calculated and few geographic factors were identified, which might lead to such regional similarity appeared in our study. By applying hierarchical clustering, the authors clustered regions based on dish preference and ingredient usage separately.

Findings

Experimental results show that, among 20 types of traditional Chinese cuisines, Sichuan cuisine is most favored across all regions in China. Geographical proximity is the more closely related to differences of regional dish preference than climate proximity.

Originality/value

Different from traditional definitions of regions to which cuisine belong, the authors found new association between region and cuisine based on dish preference from social media and ingredient usage of dishes. Using social media may overcome problems with using traditional questionnaires, such as high costs and long cycle for questionnaire design and answering.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work is supported by the National Social Science Fund (No. 14BTQ033), Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. LR18A050001) and Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 61673151).

Citation

Zhang, C., Yue, Z., Zhou, Q., Ma, S. and Zhang, Z.-K. (2019), "Using social media to explore regional cuisine preferences in China", Online Information Review, Vol. 43 No. 7, pp. 1098-1114. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-08-2018-0244

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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