Over the past year in the foodie world, it seems like you couldn't go anywhere without seeing something unicorn themed on the menu. From Frappuccinos to cupcakes to grilled cheeses, mystical creatures took over food culture.

ice, cream, strawberry
Rachel Ishee

Ever the innovators, the good people at Starbucks led the rainbow-paved way with their unicorn drinks, and opened the rabbit hole for tons of other mystical creatures to crawl through. And it seems like every storybook character from an enchanted forest has made its way through.

Arby's has its "Liger Shake," an orange cream and chocolate swirl milkshake, Burger King has a Lucky Charms shake, and Cali-chain Swirl Fiesta has come out with a sweet and spicy "Chupacabra" drink labeled as the badass cousin to all things unicorn. Oh, and did we mention that food blog giant Delish has endless articles and videos on mermaid food?

So why, in a decidedly post-Lisa Frank era, have mystical creatures been such a fixture in food culture? And, more importantly, are trends like these here to stay? Here are some of the main factors that have influenced how mystical creatures came to be trendy snacks.


dessert, candy, cookie, pastry, chocolate, sprinkles, cream, cake, sweet
Max Bartick

Don't you ever get tired of ordering the same old thing at your usual coffee/breakfast/sandwich shop? For the longest time, I've just been a straight up Plain Jane when it comes to my food. Iced coffee with a little cream and one Splenda, sandwiches with mayo on the side, etc.

Every once in a while I think it'd be fun to order something that my taste buds have yet to experience. Sometimes you just want people to ask what you're drinking and where they can get one. Enter brightly colored, aesthetically pleasing foods. They might not be your everyday order, but they're fun when you feel like taking a bite of the wild side.

Reaching Out to New Consumers

ice, chocolate, cake, candy, sprinkles, cream
Jayna Goldstein

One thing that a lot of these foods based on mystical creatures have in common is that they tend to be super sweet. And while some people are really grossed out by sickly sweet foods and drinks, the fact of the matter is that these options cater to those who don't like the taste of a certain brand's usual fare.

If you're not a fan of the taste or smell of coffee, a unicorn Frappuccino might be the only way to fuel your Starbs addiction with flavors you can manage. And, I can't think of a better way to lure kids into a store or a restaurant than brightly colored packaging and ingredients. Unicorns and leprechauns and mermaids can be real advertising wizards.


Erin Voss

Why do people post avocado toasts and smoothie bowls? Well, the simple fact of the matter is, they look pretty and are as good as guaranteed to get you that coveted double-tap. When people order a "mystical" rainbow food, the design and ingredients obviously appealed to them, and it's only natural that they want to show it off.

With all the filters and editing possibilities out there, anyone with an iPhone has the potential to look like a world-class food photographer. And it definitely helps if you have plenty of snaps of a creamy, dreamy pastel dessert to add to your feed. Can you spell "viral?"

Limited Quality

coffee, beer, tea
Allie Coneys

Similar to the novelty aspect, people seem to go crazy for food based around mystical creatures when they first appear especially if they're limited edition. There's a certain urgency to get one's hands on the newest trendy food before it's yanked from shelves or before it goes out of style.

Every March, people the world over flock to McDonald's for Shamrock Shakes. The same principle applies to other mystical foods—if you drum up enough publicity, people will clamber to get their hands on it before they get excluded from the cool kids' table

That said, you can list millions of different supposed reasons as to why foods like unicorn Frapps became super popular, but it really all comes down to personal taste. Mystical creatures have always been in the background of mass culture, be it in books, movies, and TV shows. It was only a matter of time before they moved into the foodie world and found an audience big enough to support their resurgence in popularity.