Food brands that want a seat at the dinner table this Thanksgiving should turn to the web. Through search and video, people are gobbling up recipes and cooking tips in preparation for the holiday. And that'll only increase as the day draws near. Last year, there were twice as many searches for recipes during the week of Thanksgiving than during the average week. This holiday, you can expect many cooks to have a smartphone in hand — 44% of recipe searches came from mobile on Thanksgiving Day last year, and it'€™s already trending higher. See more rising trends and find out how one forward-thinking brand, McCormick & Company, remixed its marketing to get ahead of them.

Written by
Jordan Rost , Allison Mooney
November 2014


More people look for recipes at Thanksgiving than at any other time of year

Who put out the best cookbook ever? All of us. Anyone who has ever posted a recipe or cooking tip online has contributed to it. The web has become the definitive guide for would-be chefs, whether they're looking to master the art of French cooking or learn how to cook everything. On Google, interest in food has consistently risen over time, and searches related to cooking are growing too. What people search for changes based on the season, though, and forward-thinking brands remix their marketing based on the trends.


Most recipe searches happen around holidays, especially Thanksgiving. "Any time you'll bring the family together for a shared meal, you'll see a spike," says Jennifer LaFrance, director, digital communications at McCormick & Company. November is when Google searches for recipes hit an annual high. While turkeys trend, it's sides and desserts that get the most interest. "No one wants to risk the turkey," notes LaFrance. "Where we see people taking chances and exploring more recipes is on side dishes and desserts." Interest goes strong as the holiday season hits full swing. Right after Thanksgiving is when "cookies go crazy," as LaFrance puts it. Post-Thanksgiving, people are also wondering what to do with all those leftovers. McCormick took note of this trend and now creates and promotes recipes such as Leftover Turkey Chowder and the Ultimate Leftover Turkey Panini.

  • Year over year, searches for dessert recipes are growing 3x faster than searches for turkey recipes in November (Google Trends).
  • In the past three years, searches for "leftover recipes" hit an annual high three days after Thanksgiving (Google Trends).
  • 25% of all cookie recipe searches happen in December (Google Trends).

Top 5 Holidays for Recipe Searches


Source: Google Data, January 2010-€“October 2014, Averaged Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Cooks prep in advance, but most recipes searches happen on the holiday itself

Thanksgiving cooks start searching for recipes in early September—a whole two months in advance. That's when they're likely deciding on recipes and making shopping lists of ingredients. Searches really take off the week leading up to Thanksgiving, as people do their shopping and start prepping dishes. Searches actually reach their peak on Thanksgiving Day, but traditionally, fewer marketers run their campaigns on the holiday, leaving a big opportunity for some forward-thinking brands to reach consumers in their key moment of need.

  • Searches for Thanksgiving recipes start around the beginning of September and peak on Thanksgiving Day (Google Trends).
  • There are twice as many searches for recipes during the week of Thanksgiving than during the average week (Google Trends).
  • Recipe searches peak on Sundays throughout the year (Google Trends).
  • Fewer advertisers are taking advantage of consumer interest on the actual holiday or event day.

Search Volume vs. Ad Volume for "Recipes" Around Thanksgiving


Source: Google Data, January-€“December 2013, Indexed Search Query Volume & Auction Depth, United States

Today's constantly connected cooks are using mobile, voice and video search

On Thanksgiving Day, constantly connected cooks will have a spatula in one hand, a smartphone in the other. More people will be using mobile to search for recipes than ever before.

  • 44% of recipe searches on Thanksgiving Day 2013 came from mobile—a 21% increase from the previous year.
  • So far this November, the share of mobile has grown another 19% on top of that.

Searches for "Recipes" by Device


Source: Google Data, November-€“December 2013, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

There is a reason we roll up our sleeves to cook: it's messy. And with more people using mobile while cooking, that poses a slight problem: Namely, no one wants to swipe their smartphone after stuffing a turkey. To get around this, one in four adults are using voice search while cooking, giving a new meaning to "talking turkey."

Video also comes in handy when hands are busy. Recipe searches on YouTube are growing year over year as more people, Millennials especially, turn to videos for food-related content.

McCormick is using the power of video to connect with consumers on a more emotional level for Thanksgiving and beyond. The brand recently launched a content series on YouTube called American Homemade that tells stories about food through videos, quotes and companion recipes. "Many of our favorite foods are tied to memories," says LaFrance, "to the people we love, the place we're from." McCormick's Thanksgiving Lookbook serves up classic recipes such as the perfect turkey gravy with a side of user-generated stories about sweet potatoes and pumpkin desserts. Within three months of launching a paid media campaign on YouTube, American Homemade videos racked up 1.5M views with an average 80% completion rate. A Google Consumer Survey showed that video viewers were 43% more likely to purchase McCormick.

What's on the menu? Depends on where you live

There are universal Thanksgiving staples—turkey, stuffing, pie—but how we prepare them differs by location.

  • Brining turkey is the most popular preparation for turkey this year (up 22% last year), especially in the Northwest. Frying is most popular in the South, smoking in the Midwest and roasting in the Northeast.
  • Among pies, pumpkin is most popular across the country. Apple pie is tops in Vermont, pecan and lemon meringue in Mississippi and cherry in Wisconsin.

Regional Interest in Turkey Preparation Methods


Source: Google Data, January 2011-October 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

To be more relevant to consumers, brands can bake regional differences into their content and promotions. That's a big strategic focus for McCormick next year. According to LaFrance, "We're paying attention to these [regional] trends and trying not only to figure out how to create content that has a geographic skew but also how to serve it up in a more contextually relevant, personalized way."