User-Generated Food and Beverage Content
Satisfying a Hunger to Create and Share
Food and beverage is the one of the few purchase categories that requires daily decision-making. It’s nearly impossible to escape the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Purveyors of consumer packaged goods (CPG) have long been there to provide answers, from back-of-the-box recipes to cookbooks suggesting new ways to incorporate their products into customers’ culinary repertoires.
But more and more, consumers are playing a larger role in the conversation. Regular people are seeking out inspiration from the like-minded, and a host of subjects are being discussed. Internet users have moved beyond meat and potatoes; they’re blogging about gluten-free stir-fries, pinning photos of rainbow layer cakes and submitting family biryani recipes to community cooking sites.
What was once niche—taking photos of food and writing about meals online—is transforming into a mainstream activity, and one that provides an opportunity for marketers to pull up a chair at the table. Whether it’s giving kudos to user recipes and photos online, working with bloggers to promote and develop content, or encouraging sharing through contests, brands can engage consumers by connecting with their passions. When it comes to making product decisions, consumers will always trust people like themselves over faceless corporations, so investing in user-generated content is a sound way to humanize food and beverage brands—no Jolly Green Giant or Aunt Jemima necessary.
Who’s Consuming Food Online?
When it comes to food, user-generated content creators are primarily sharing two things, each with a different purpose for consumers: photos, which provide inspiration, and recipes, which provide utility.
A Recipe for Engagement Recipes are one of the most sought-after pieces of food content online, and recipe sites are also highly influential on purchase decisions. Meal-planning information was one of the leading food topics of interest in both a December 2011 study by MSLGROUP and The Hartman Group and in a May 2012 BlogHer survey. Eighty-nine percent of internet users surveyed by BlogHer went online for recipes. MSLGROUP specifically asked about food topics internet users were attracted to when on social media and found one-quarter were most interested in meal-planning ideas, including recipes.
Allrecipes.com, a site that mixes user-submitted recipes with ones from brands such as Ocean Spray and Philadelphia Cream Cheese, conducted a survey that (not surprisingly) found that 58.3% of the internet users queried favored dedicated recipe sites when looking for recipes online. And when asked to choose one cooking aid for life, websites took the top spot (44%) over cookbooks, parents and recipe cards from family and friends. Also according to Allrecipes.com, 65% of females who regularly used recipe sites bought branded ingredients called for in the recipes at least sometimes. Twenty-one percent said they “usually” did this. Additionally, recommendations from online recipe sites were the biggest online driver of food purchases among both food bloggers and general internet users in the BlogHer survey. Steve Bryant, director of food and beverage at MSLGROUP Americas, recommends that food marketers rediscover recipes because of their relationship-building properties. “Shoppers want deals and recipes from brands,” he said. “A recipe’s pretty cool because they may enjoy that for the rest of their lives. It may sit on their fridge or in their recipe files, and that’s much more powerful and way more intimate than a transaction at the cash register.”