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Whether consumers are looking for a flatbread recipe or watching their favorite foodie celebrity, food is thriving on YouTube. New research from Millward Brown Digital, Firefly, and Google delves into how YouTube is fueling the foodie fan culture, with insights into the audiences who devour food videos. They're tuning in to watch videos that inspire, educate, or entertain. They're loyal, passionate, and highly engaged, powering a 280% growth in food channel subscriptions over the past year.

You're having friends over for a Fourth of July barbecue, and you need to plan a menu. Or you want to recreate an amazing dessert you tried at a restaurant last week. Maybe the kids need something other than spaghetti for dinner, again. Come to think of it, so do you. Where do you turn? Increasingly, the answer is YouTube. People are turning to YouTube for ideas, inspiration and tips on cooking techniques. In fact, in the last year alone, views of food and recipe content grew 59%, and social engagement (such as likes, comments and shares) on food channels rose by 118%.1

Who's hungry for food content on YouTube?

To better understand what's driving this growth in food content on YouTube, we worked with Millward Brown Digital and Firefly to analyze YouTube data and survey consumers about their viewing patterns. We found that while nearly half of all adults watch food videos on YouTube, millennials (ages 18 to 34) view the most food content, watching 30% more food content on YouTube, on average, than other demographics.2

Millennial food lovers are a loyal audience—one that's powered a 280% growth in food channel subscriptions year over year.3 They're also inclined to consume this content on the go, as we can see from the fact that 75% of the growth in YouTube food viewership comes from mobile devices.4 We found that millennials engage with YouTube content in four specific ways:

  • Millennial moms: These confident cooks love food, and they're looking for creative inspiration for new twists on family recipes. Sixty-eight percent of them purchase food products featured in the videos they watch.5 Sixty-nine percent of these highly engaged moms watch food videos every week, and 68% of them will also watch videos while cooking.6
  • Millennial women: They're special-occasion cooks who want to improve their cooking skills. Only one in four millennial women would call themselves a good cook, compared with their mom counterparts, of whom three out of five said they were.7 Millennial women tend to cook for social occasions rather than regular meals, seeking inspiration from baking and appetizer videos. While three out of four millennial women are open to watching branded food content, close to half (43%) have not done so, representing a significant opportunity for brands to gain new audiences.8
  • Millennial dads: These dads are cooking as often as millennial moms. Out of all four audience segments, they are the most engaged with food content on YouTube, watching videos to spark inspiration and create meals. They're proud of their role as the family cook and inspired by new food techniques, products and ideas. With a technique-driven approach to food, millennial dads tend to think in terms of "how-to" instead of "recipe" when it comes to food videos. And 42% of them will make special trips to the store to buy products they learn about in food videos.9
  • Millennial men: They're self-assured in the kitchen (68% described themselves as a "confident cook"— 2x more than their millennial female counterparts).10 This group is focused on honing their cooking expertise. Sixty-nine percent of millennial men watch branded food content on YouTube, and they're happy to do so as long as the videos are entertaining and not purely functional.11 They're most likely to watch YouTube food videos to be entertained by food personalities, such as Jamie Oliver, or popular food shows such as "Epic Meal Time."
Millennials Eat Up Youtube Food Videos

How brands can serve YouTube foodie audiences

As much as everyone loves a good meal, people are inclined to watch food videos on YouTube for four main reasons: entertainment, exploration, expertise or ease. YouTube food videos serve the spectrum from inspiration to creation: they're the chef, the teacher and the guide when you most need them.

And just how can brands benefit from these hungry audiences? There are three key ways to engage with these valuable millennial food fans:

  • Inspire: Think about that guy stretched out on the sofa after a long day, wondering what to do with the leftovers in the fridge or how he can make a slightly healthier version of his favorite fast food. He heads to YouTube to look for inspiration on channels like Nicko's Kitchen. Whether it's breaking away from a weekly routine, learning about a new cuisine or finding a quirky way to impress friends at a tailgate, the options are endless for brands. Brands can choose to either create the entertaining and inspiring content these audiences crave or partner with content creators.
  • Assist: Every food fan on YouTube is looking for a bit of help in the kitchen or beyond, whether it's for weekly dinner prep or some basic grilling skills. For those looking to YouTube, brands can create compelling video content to assist foodies, or identify a chef influencer, such as Laura Vitale, and extend their audience through her reach.
  • Align: Finally, many brands today are finding success with YouTube food audiences by aligning their media strategies with the existing food-related content on YouTube. After all, 78% of referrals from YouTube food videos to brand sites are from first-time customers.12 Drawing the attention of these keen audiences is even easier if brands can align themselves with one of the burgeoning YouTube food celebrities.

While YouTube food fans have different motivations for watching food content, the heightened engagement of these audiences makes them especially valuable for brands. These are people dedicated to all things delicious. They are happy to devote more of their paychecks toward food, they eat out more often and they shop for food items more frequently than non-YouTube food fans.13

This kind of passion translates to huge opportunities for brands that connect with this hungry audience. The moment is right to both inspire these YouTube food fans and assist them with their culinary creations.