Millennials Are Eating Up YouTube Food Videos. Hungry Brands Can Dive in, Too

New research from Millward Brown Digital, Firefly, and Google digs into how YouTube is fueling the foodie fan culture, and provides some interesting insights into the audiences who devour food videos. The new research finds that people are turning to YouTube for ideas, inspiration, and tips on cooking techniques. Whether consumers are looking for a flatbread recipe, watching their favorite foodie celebrity, looking for something other than spaghetti for dinner, or having friends over for a Fourth of July barbecue, they’re tuning in to watch videos that inspire, educate, or entertain.

These YouTube viewers are also loyal, passionate, and highly engaged, powering a 280 percent growth in food channel subscriptions over the past year. In addition, views of food and recipe content grew 59 percent, and social engagement (such as likes, comments, and shares) on food channels rose by 118 percent in the last year.

Who Has an Appetite for Food Content on YouTube?

To better understand what’s driving this growth in food content, YouTube worked with Millward Brown Digital and Firefly to analyze YouTube data and survey consumers about their viewing patterns. They 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 percent more food content on YouTube, on average, than other demographics.

Millennial food lovers are also inclined to consume this content on the go. In fact, 75 percent of the growth in YouTube food viewership has come from mobile devices in the last year. The researchers also 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.

  • 69 percent of these highly engaged moms watch food videos every week.
  • 68 percent of them purchase food products featured in the videos they watch.
  • 68 percent of Millennial moms will also watch videos while cooking.

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.
  • 42 percent of them will make special trips to the store to buy products they learn about in food videos.

Millennial women: They’re special-occasion cooks who want to improve their cooking skills.

  • Millennial women tend to cook for social occasions rather than regular meals, seeking inspiration from baking and appetizer videos.
  • 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.
  • While three out of four Millennial women are open to watching branded food content, 43 percent have not done so, representing a significant opportunity for brands to gain new audiences.

Millennial men: They’re self-assured in the kitchen. But this group is focused on honing their cooking expertise.

  • 68 percent described themselves as a “confident cook” — two times more than their Millennial female counterparts.
  • 69 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.
  • 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.

How Brands Can Serve YouTube Foodie Audiences What They’re Hungry For

As much as everyone loves a good meal, the researchers found that 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 Millennials most need them.

And just how can brands benefit from these hungry audiences? The researchers identified three key ways to engage with these valuable food fans:

Inspire: Brands should think about “that guy” – the one 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 percent of referrals from YouTube food videos to brand sites are from first-time customers. 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.

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.

Related reading

CNN screenshot featuring a Simpson’s video parody of President Trump