Food recipe

How fast food recipe videos captured the imagination of India


A video from Gobble (by Pocket Aces, a digital entertainment company, 335,000 likes on Facebook) teaches you how to cook roast chicken with ghee. The video is shot from above, there are captioned instructions and upbeat music to accompany it. The spices are roasted in a pan, the chicken is marinated, then it is cooked in ghee. A little later, the dish is ready. While the actual process takes over an hour, the video is less than a minute. It is difficult to say how many people have tried to cook the dish. But, obviously, a lot of people have seen the video (471k views).

Gobble is one of the many social media pages that feature fast food videos. More than a dozen Indian food chains and dedicated Facebook pages have popped up in recent times. They are either run by amateur food bloggers or owned by new age media companies.

It includes Om Nom Nom (by digital company Scoopwhoop; 755,000 FB likes), Awesome Sauce (by digital company Culture Machine, 1 million FB likes), Cooktube (170,000 FB likes) and Your Food Lab (858,000 likes. FB; started by Sanjyot Keer, a former producer at MasterChef India), among others. The different regions of India are also represented by channels like Hebbar’s Kitchen (3.3 million FB likes; Kannada), Ruchkar Mejwani (4.98K FB likes; Maharashtrian) and Banglar Rannaghor (289K FB likes; Bengali).

Read: Going against the grain: Why Mumbai’s restaurants are going gluten-free

These pages are able to compete with content generated by established chefs and food brands. For example, in December 2016, the video analytics platform Vidooly showed how fast food video pages like Hebbar’s Kitchen and Om Nom Nom rank higher than Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s and India Food Network’s pages.

It helps that fast food videos are perfect for a short attention span (cooking shows require a minimum audience of half an hour to an hour) and can be consumed on the go. This is actually a version of instant gratification / food pornography previously associated with cooking shows or viewing food photos on Instagram.

When the global becomes local

As with many trends that are spreading in India, fast food videos also started out as an international phenomenon. BuzzFeed’s Facebook cooking channel, Tasty, was one of the pioneers. In 2014, the BuzzFeed Food team was experimenting to see which videos go viral on Facebook and found that food videos worked well. In 2015, Facebook changed its algorithm to promote videos that users liked or shared. Buzzfeed launched Tasty that same year with quick recipe videos, and it was a runaway success. In 2016, they were Buzzfeed’s most popular page on Facebook.

In India, fast food videos started in 2015. Chains like Cooktube, Awesome Sauce, Subbu’s Kitchen and Ayesha’s Kitchen were among the early creators of the scene. The success of Tasty has inspired many. “Fast food videos had become popular around the world. They were pleasing to the eye and made cooking easy. We got into creating these videos because they reach people at a faster rate, ”says Lopa Mudra Mitra, Channel Manager, Culture Machine (who runs Awesome Sauce).

How it started

Before these quick recipe videos appeared, there were hour-long cooking shows hosted by chefs. In the early 1990s, Dawat, India’s first cooking show, was hosted by restaurateur Jiggs Kalra in Doordarshan. Another popular show was Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khana Khazana (from 1993) which aired on Zee for 17 years.

Over the past decade, an increased demand for food-related content has led to an increase in food circuits. Chefs and foodies have started hosting shows based on themes, such as travel (Highway on my Plate, 2007) or a particular subcategory (Vicky goes Veg, 2011). Competitive cooking shows made their debut with MasterChef India in 2010 (MasterChef Australia and Top Chef also aired in India). But an overdose of similar format shows caused viewer fatigue, eventually giving way to fast-paced videos.

Make it work

Most of the videos are shot using a DSLR or iPhone and edited on a laptop. If the number of viewers is large, it becomes possible to monetize videos by charging brands for product placement or through YouTube ad revenue. For example, Gobble, Arre Grub, and Your Food Lab partner with different brands to showcase their product through videos, while All Recipes Hub relies on Adsense revenue.

Food video views continue to be high on Facebook (in 2016, views increased 283% since 2015, according to Tubular Labs). But in a market that is becoming saturated, even food circuits are becoming more diversified. While Your Food Labs plans a food app and videos for kids, Gobble plans to reboot its online show – Worth It – where people blindly taste the high-end, street-food version of a dish. “These videos are just a way to get attention. But a mobile app with step-by-step photos and instructions with short videos may be the future, ”says Archana Baikadi of Hebbar’s Kitchen.

A good indicator that a trend has become widespread is when it engenders a counterculture. The cooking videos inspired parodies of the Arre Grub channel (by Arre, an entertainment platform) which replaces the subtitles with funny lines.

And the cooking videos are just the start. Driven by the demand for engaging experiential activities, there are now one-minute videos on everything from crafts to beauty tutorials to gardening.

It remains to be seen whether the fast food videos turn audiences into better cooks or not, but for now, they’ve managed to convince viewers that cooking isn’t just the domain of seasoned chefs.


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