A Bunch of New Food Emojis Just Arrived to the Table

Apple / iOS

A new batch of emojis including several food ones are arriving to your smartphones following a round of approvals by Unicode Technical Committee, the body responsible for standardizing digital text globally. In the pantry of food emojis, you’ll now find an unpeeled yellow onion sitting at a tilt, a full head of garlic, a single Belgian waffle, several falafels atop tahini, a stick of butter, a single shucked oyster, yerba mate in a gourd and finally, a juice box. 

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The latter was proposed by Theo Schear, an Oakland-based filmmaker, writer and emoji creator, and co-designed by illustrator Aphee Messer. (Schear has also co-authored several other emojis including an upcoming disco ball emoji.)

“I realized there's eight alcohol emojis but only milk for kids,” says Schear who uses the term “digital alcoholism” to address the overrepresentation of alcoholic beverages in our emoji vernacular. In fact, the juice box emoji is relevant not only to kids but folks of all ages around the world who don’t drink alcohol.

Once approved, the juice box, or beverage box, got a spin from the different emoji makers of the digital realm from Apple, who went with an apple juice box for their version to Samsung who is partial to orange juice. Google kept their design close to Schear’s original grape design.  

Theo Schear and Aphee Messer's original juice box design.
Theo Schear and Aphee Messer's original juice box design.

Schear came to propose the emoji through his friendship with Jennifer 8. Lee, the vice chair of the Emoji Subcommittee of the Unicode Consortium. Lee has co-authored several emojis including the dumpling and the hijab emojis. She also co-founded Emojination, a non-profit organization dedicated to making the proposal process accessible to all and emojis more representative of the diverse people and quotidian objects of the world. 

Emojination’s website lists proposed emojis as well as their status in the approval process. Lettuce, for example, was considered redundant and was not submitted to the Unicode’s Emoji Subcommittee whereas beans, dosa, fufu, and durian have all been submitted and are awaiting approval. Soon, you could employ a flatbread emoji which has recently been approved by the subcommittee. 

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In her newsletter this week, San Francisco Food Critic Soleil Ho went deep on the falafel emoji and the thinking that helped shape it, literally, from the number of falafels to a split or whole presentation. Just like the language we write to describe food, emojis hold cultural power but perhaps the most interesting lives that emojis live are outside of their original meaning and in the adaptations that users across the globe devise for them. 

What will garlic serve as a proxy for? Along with the tomato and pepper emojis, the onion can form an emoji sentence that can read as salsa. As for the juice box emoji, time will tell what it’ll be a stand-in for. Naturally, juice at first but soon, maybe some other things too. Rapper Juice WRLD can certainly find a succinct ideogram and Lizzo’s “Juice” could have an emoji-led revival.

For Schear, the appeal of emojis lived in the impact of their reach. “To read comments from random people all over the world about this thing that I made is nuts,” he says. “I'll never make a film that so many people will see. It's a silly little thing but it's still in some measure a huge accomplishment.”

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