If I ate according to my zodiac sign this week, I'd start with a champagne and rose-flavored lollipop, as well as a cup of coffee, preferably a "subtle and delicate" blend like ReAnimator's Ethiopia Agaro. I'd order a spinach, artichoke and feta pie from Giordanno's, then make myself an Endless Sunrise cocktail with tequila, Cointreau, crème de cassis, orange juice and a slice of lime. I'd also treat myself to something sweet, like Mamaw Emily's strawberry cake or a simple cannoli.
Across the food and beverage industry, chefs and creators are increasingly looking to the stars for inspiration when it comes to menu-writing, cocktail crafting, food packaging and marketing. I first noticed this in late 2020.
Following almost six months of lockdown, my local coffee shop reopened to the public that October. In many ways, walking through the doors that first morning back was like stepping into a time capsule. The magazine rack by the counter was filled with alt-weeklies and newspapers that had been delivered in April. One employee was replacing leftover spring decorations, like Easter rabbit cutouts and pastel-colored tissue flowers, with plastic Halloween skeletons and rubber bats.
Another used a rag to wipe the loopy cursive advertising April's monthly special — "The Taurus," an iced mocha topped with whipped cream and crushed chocolate-covered espresso beans — from the menu board and replace it with "The Libra," a dark and white chocolate double-shot latte.
Now, I'm neither an astrology detector nor an expert. I've looked up my birth chart, but I only remember my "big three" (Libra Sun, Libra Moon, Sagittarius Rising). I don't check my horoscope daily, though I did check it today. In that moment, heady with nostalgia and a slight giddiness at returning to some modicum of normalcy, ordering that special coffee instead of my usual black cold brew seemed imperative, as if it was destined.
Since then, I've become particularly attuned to this trend of both artisan and big-name food brands using zodiac signs — and larger astrological happenings — to market their products and events. For instance, in July 2021, Eataly Los Angeles partnered with The Spirit Guild to host a Zodiac Pop Up Bar. "Just tell us your sign and our expert bartenders will create your custom cocktail tailored to you — each one even comes with its own astrology affirmation," Eataly advertised on its Instagram profile.
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This year, McDonald's and Del Taco both ran Mercury in Retrograde specials, while in May, Dole honored "national salad month" by publishing 12 different recipes, each corresponding with a zodiac sign.
"People's interest in astrology has absolutely exploded in recent years, and it's a booming topic on social media," says Nina Kahn, astrologer and author of "Astrology for Life" and "Wander the Stars." "So, it's no surprise that elements of this ancient practice have gone mainstream and made their way into the marketing world, too."
She continues, "Everything from food and lifestyle brands to tech and apparel companies have come out with campaigns, product lines and promotional content that draws inspiration from astrology and the zodiac signs."
Each individual's astrology chart is made up of much more than just their sun sign, which is the sign most people scan for when looking at their horoscope. Thus, a zodiac sign alone won't determine exactly what cocktail, cupcake flavor or fast food combo they would enjoy the most, according to Kahn.
"While some food brands' astrology-themed campaigns may seem gimmicky, there is also potential for them to be meaningful and interesting — especially when brands choose to work with professional astrologers to create thoughtful connections between the zodiac archetypes and their products."
"We're all individuals, after all, and I think these types of campaigns are meant to be fun," Khan says. "That said, each zodiac sign truly does rule over a unique variety of correspondences in astrology. For example, there are specific colors, body parts, objects and even foods associated with each sign. So, while some food brands' astrology-themed campaigns may seem gimmicky, there is also potential for them to be meaningful and interesting — especially when brands choose to work with professional astrologers to create thoughtful connections between the zodiac archetypes and their products."
One such brand is Amborella Organics, a company that makes really unique seed-bearing lollipops. The organic candies are flecked with edible herbs and flowers. After eating, customers can plant the leftover biodegradable lollipop stick in soil. If watered daily, it will sprout an heirloom herb or flower that has a connection to the lollipop flavor. The Sage & Marshmallow variety grows a sage plant, while the Peach & Marigold yields a marigold.
A few years ago, Amborella co-founder Taylor Clarke attended a zodiac-inspired Dessert Goals event in Los Angeles.
"My husband and I thought it would be unique to pair pops with sun signs. I did some preliminary research of my own looking into colors and personality attributes, but ended up consulting a girlfriend who now has a podcast called The Vicious Virgos Podcast," Clarke says. "It was a huge hit."
Clarke realized that Amborella should permanently sell the sun sign-inspired candies, which are now available on its website and at Macy's department stores. She reached out Hannah Greeleaf of Star & Leaf, an astroherbalist consultancy, to offer insight into what herbs best suited the signs.
"She created beautiful copy for us that lives on our website and paired all 12 seed-bearing lollipops," Clarke says.
Some examples of Greenleaf's descriptions include: "Apples were used in Ancient Roman times at the festival of Diana, goddess of the moon and ruling goddess of Cancer," and "Elder is a master plant known for its immune protecting qualities, but is also poisonous if used incorrectly, like many herbs of Scorpio."
Amid a constant barrage of advertisements, zodiac-themed branding manages to straddle appeals to one's individuality, as well as the desire to be part of an in-group.
That marketing is beautiful (and it definitely feels a bit more genuine than Wendy's tweeting about customers' #SodiacSigns), but it's also smart. Amid a constant barrage of advertisements, zodiac-themed branding manages to straddle appeals to one's individuality, as well as a desire to be part of an in-group. It's the same reason astrology meme pages have a widespread appeal. People love to share inside jokes — with thousands of other folks born around the same time they were — about the traits associated with their respective sun signs.
"Essentially, everyone wants to feel special and unique, and the archetypes of the 12 zodiac signs provide a really easy shorthand for that kind of personalization — and I think food brands are capitalizing on that," Kahn says. "Plus, food and astrology go really well together, as they are both so thoroughly enjoyed in the company of others."