Food Ideas That Cross Borders & the Power of Online Recommendation
QnA with Esmee Williams , Vice President, Consumer & Brand Strategy, Allrecipes
People’s Insights: Are we approaching an era of global food culture in which flavors and food tastes freely cross borders? Or do national food traditions still dominate?
Esmee : As more people tap into the power of digital technologies to collect and share information, the smaller our world becomes. Today 3 billion people worldwide have access to nearly one zettabyte of data; answers to questions, guidance for creating new things and inspiration for expanding horizons are just keystrokes away.
Global food culture is greatly benefiting from this phenomenon as home cooks from all corners of the world share food experiences with other cooks through social media. According to Allrecipes’ 2015 Global Digital Food research, 93% of cooks worldwide seek new recipes weekly, with the web being the top source for recipes (79% of cooks). Allrecipes’ global reach with 19 sites serving 24 countries gives us the unique ability to witness the similarities that occur among cooks across cultures.
Our data shows that the most popular, most viewed recipes in the countries we serve are those which are deeply rooted in that country’s heritage and traditions. In the United States, the top recipe is ‘Good Old Fashioned Pancakes’, in Nederland it’s White Asparagus, in Brazil it’s Brigadeiro, and in China it’s ??? (double cooked pork). This supports the notion that national food traditions continue to dominate.
However, it’s interesting to note that when you read the cooks’ reviews of these dishes (there are typically thousands), stories emerge that demonstrate how cooks are increasingly introducing variations to these dishes that push traditional boundaries. Sometimes the review shares new cooking methods that make a dish faster, healthier or more affordable. However, increasingly, we are seeing reviews across the globe where cooks are introducing new ingredients and flavors to the dish – and often times the new ingredient or flavor is from a country outside of their own. For instance, in Nederland there’s a strong interest in world cuisine, with Thai and Moroccan flavors trending strongly.
Another interesting observation is that, while the most popular recipes in each country are often of local origin, the fastest trending recipes are typically recipes for dishes that are not endemic to each country. Trends in the United States alone show that there’s a growing curiosity and craving for global foods. In Brazil, guacamole (Brazilians think of avocados as dessert, a savory avocado dish is a revelation) and cupcakes are trending strongly.
The last piece of evidence of the growing interesting and adoption of global flavors, especially among Millennial home cooks, is from our 2015 Thanksgiving Attitudes and Behaviors survey. When we asked home cooks which cultural foods they planned to include as part of their Thanksgiving meal (arguably the least likely meal for American home cooks to stray from traditional foods), more than 2/3rds of cooks said they would introduce new twists on American foods. And a significant number of cooks, especially Millennials, indicated that they would be introducing flavors from a variety of cultures from Mexico, Middle East, South America and Asia.
PI: Some say that crowd-sourcing has subtsantially diminshed the role of our mothers in forming our food preferences? Do your data support that point of view?
Esmee : There’s no doubt that the most significant influence on a person’s dietary preferences – especially when they first begin cooking – is their parents. We see this influence play out on Allrecipes every day. Many of our most-loved, most reviewed recipes have titles that start with the word ‘Mom’. In fact if you do a search on Allrecipes, the word ‘mom’ appears just short of a half a million times in recipe titles and reviews.
Crowd-sourcing has expanded the sources of food information that are available to cooks – a seemingly unlimited supply of recipes, tips, articles and videos are available at their fingertips, and is always flowing through their feeds. Despite this abundance, mom still has a firm hold on us when we seek kitchen advice.
In Allrecipes’ 2016 Food and Social survey, online cooks responded that they are most likely to engage with Facebook food posts shared by a family member which supports the notion that it’s the wisdom of the crowd that fuels trends, opens up new horizons and determines what’s most popular, but it’s the wisdom of mom that prevails first in the kitchen.
We saw this same trend in Allrecipes’ 2015 Thanksgiving Cooking Trends Survey when we asked home cooks what sources they look to first for cooking and baking help. Survey results support that parents are cooks’ primary source for cooking help – especially millennial cooks who were more than twice as likely to select parents as a resource as compared to older cooks – followed by online searches, and then friends.
Allrecipes’ Dinner Spinner allows users to select from a wide range of recipes, while also serving as a recipe box and shopping list.
PI: Can you help us put into perspective the power of shared experiences and recommendations when it comes to food choices? How far has it come? Is its influence continuing to grow; if so, how fast and far can we expect to reach?
Esmee : Food and cooking are inherently social. As long as humans have been gathering together, prepared foods have served as a centerpiece for celebrating, caring and expressing creativity with others. Before there was MySpace and Facebook, the kitchen table served as the original social network. Broad-reaching mobile connectivity and social sharing is taking food sharing to entirely new levels. Go online today, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a social feed or stream absent of some form of a shared food experience such as recipes, reviews, photos, videos, comments and posts.
At Allrecipes, social is deeply rooted in our DNA; we were the website to allow and actively encourage cooks to share their food experiences among a community of their peers through shared recipes, reviews, photos, profiles and meals. What started as a bold, revolutionary idea 18 years ago, has grown to become a cornerstone experience of all leading digital food and social network experiences.
The volume of food-related shared experiences is so widespread it’s difficult to put an exact number on the quantity of posts, photos, reviews, blog entries and videos being shared – although according to data shared by Facebook, Instagram, Allrecipes, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter –it likely totals in the tens of billions of experiences. This number is large, and growing each year at an accelerated rate, thanks to the broad reach of mobile phones and infectious appeal of social network feeds
The reach and appetite for shared food experiences is considerable. In December 2015, three-fourths of all online users, and 91% of women ages 18-49 visited a food site. 87% of whom say they visit food sites or view food content in their social feeds at least weekly.
The impact of all of shared experiences on home cooking activity is significant. The first major trend we are seeing is an increased passion for cooking – especially among the next generation of cooks. In Allrecipes 2016 Food and Social survey, we asked online cooks their primary reason for cooking. The generation most likely to say ‘I love to cook, it’s a passion for me’ were millennial females (who also happened to be the most likely group to say they are visiting food sites and viewing food posts in their social feeds daily). Additional effects of the rapid growth of shared food experiences is cooks – especially millennial cooks – are preparing more meals at home, feeling more confident about their cooking, cooking healthier meals, and eating more adventurously.
For grocery brands seeking to connect and influence the purchase behaviors of these cooks, this is good news. These cooks are not only stocking up their kitchens with more products more often, they are also more likely to be advocating for the branded recipes and food products they like best.
In terms of what’s next or how far we think the power of shared food experiences can go, the activity we’re witnessing now is likely only scratching the surface of what’s possible. Smart Kitchen technologies (IoT) where sensors allow devices, appliances, gadgets, shopping carts, vehicles and more to connect and exchange data to deliver very personalized, simplified cooking experiences is extremely promising. With half of millennial cooks surveyed in All recipes 2015 Smart Kitchen Technologies responding that they ‘Love new technology, and am the first to purchase new gadgets’ we have every reason to think we are just now starting to see the impact of where the influence of a shared food experiences can go.
This article is a part of MSLGROUP’s report The Future of Food Communications: Winning Share of Mouth in the Conversation Age .
Esmee is the corporate voice of Allrecipes’ home cooks, championing insights and features that make everyday meals more rewarding. A 17-year Allrecipes’ veteran, Esmee helped facilitate Allrecipes’ growth from early start-up to the world’s largest digital food brand. Prior to Allrecipes, Esmee spent time with Vivendi Entertainment, McCann-Erickson, Nestlé USA and Aldus Corporation. Connect with her @esmeewilliams .