Back when Esmée Williams started working at Allrecipes in the late nineties, search inquiries on the massively popular recipe discovery site were, to say the least, a little basic.
“The top search term (in 1999) was ‘recipes’,” said Williams at the 2016 Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle.
Nowadays things are a little different.
“Today the search terms are so much more granular,” said Williams, now VP of consumer and brand strategy at the site which brought in 46 million seekers last November. “It’s like pork chops, gluten free, paleo, ready in 15 minutes, no garlic. The cooks have become so much more sophisticated.”
Williams joined other panelists to discuss how social media and digital platforms are changing the way consumers discover recipes and teach themselves to cook. Alongside Williams was Tiffany Lo, producer for Buzzfeed’s Tasty, Kevin Yu, CEO of SideChef, and the session was moderated by CNET journalist Ashlee Clark-Thompson.
One big focus of the 30-minute conversation (which you can watch below) was how Millennials are changing food and cooking discovery.
Kevin Yu pointed out that food and social media are tightly intertwined for Millennials.
“There’s two most shared photos on the Internet,” said Yu. “The first is the selfie. The second is food. It really starts with food discovery, food passion. Millennials are incredibly passionate about food.”
Williams pointed to the upbringing of many Millennials to explain their hunger for cooking information online.
One hurdle for Millennials wanting to cook is “not having that right skill set,” said Williams.
“A lot of folks have grown up in homes where both parents worked, in the eighties and nineties there were a lot of frozen meals that hit the mainstream. Maybe they didn’t get the skills they might need. Certainly, video plays a huge role in helping them obtaining those skills.”
This hunger to learn no doubt helped fuel the rise of Buzzfeed’s Tasty, which has used its quick-play first-person perspective recipe videos to fuel its growth on the way to becoming biggest video publisher worldwide in early 2016. According to Lo, the idea started as something fairly simple.
“When we started out, we were focusing on YouTube before Tasty,” said Lo. “Then our editorial team started uploading single recipe videoes with their iPhone. A little over a year later, decided to make a team and page dedicated to food videos.” The results surprised even her.
“No one on the team expected it to grow as fast as it did,” she said.
When Clark-Thompson asked about the importance of community, Allrecipes’ Williams said she is continually amazed at how communal the act of cooking can be.
“It has amazed me at how willing people are to share their food experiences. On some recipes, we have ten thousand reviews. It always surprises me, what does that ten-thousandth person feel like they had to say that was so different than all the people before? They just want to say ‘hey, I made this too!'”
Yu said the combination of new hardware and software in the kitchen will create entirely new experiences in coming years, not unlike how it’s recreating the automobile industry today.
“When you have Tesla and you have made an incremental technological jump like adding an electric engine, that’s great for cars, but when you add the software piece, you have a driverless car,” said Yu.
“What is this new driverless car of the smart kitchen space?” he asked.
While the panelists didn’t have the answer for what the driverless car of the smart kitchen would be, Buzzfeed’s Lo did offer some guidance for product makers: follow the Tasty video model.
“Make it approachable and simple,” she said.
Watch video below: