Innovation in Food: Online Cooking Courses

by Adam on May 7, 2013

As part of a semi-recurring series on the state of food + tech, I’m interested in following trends around specific companies that are cropping up in the space. One of the big things I’ve noticed in this arena is that oftentimes, where there is one startup, there are many.

In looking at the breadth of the food space, I’m today focused on one area in particular that I think will see continued interest and growth over the next few months as new players come on the scene: e-learning (primarily video) platforms for food content, specifically recipes and techniques. A number of companies are iterating on various models, including Culination, Feast, and iFoodTV, which has perhaps been around the longest of the startup bunch. This is an area that has, for a long time, been dominated by a mix of Food Network and America’s Test Kitchen, among others, but there is room for some new players.

Some things to watch out for, both opportunities and potential challenges:

-The barriers for online video creation continue to decrease, both in terms of production costs and access to content. Building a content library can be done in a variety of ways much more easily than in years past. This is both a benefit and a strategic issue as new competitors come on the scene.

-While initially it seemed that YouTube was making a strong play into the online video space for food, there has failed to be a major push by the company that suggests the long-term viability of food content on the site. In tandem with that, interest from consumers in digital media around food has likely never been higher. That said, watch out for incumbents with strong brands (America’s Test Kitchen among them) as there is a high degree of consumer loyalty.

-Monetization around video content has to be a carefully crafted value proposition, especially when it relates to recipe and technique content. Subscription models for online cooking content have tended to be disastrous, while ad-based revenue is oftentimes too low to support ongoing operations. There would like need to be a mix of member-driven benefits, with a pay-per-use model that could leverage interest around curated content.

-Deliver is also another key concern, as it relates to intended use. While tablets and other digital devices are slowly making their way into the kitchen, it’s perhaps at a slower adoption rate than many digital media providers expected. This has obvious implications for how consumers access recipe content, especially video, and whether they cook from them in real-time or use them for inspiration. Each is a very different use case.

It also goes without saying that this is just a small sample of the core issues to be considered around these businesses. But, it is exciting to think that others are starting to see value in pure food content plays, especially where the technology is a necessary, but secondary, piece of the startup puzzle.

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