As wallets get tighter and tighter, the way consumers spend money on food is dramatically changing. Instead of making restaurant reservations, people are increasingly making their own meals. USAToday reports an average drop of almost 50% in the stock prices of the top 26 restaurants when compared to their highest points in the last year. As more people head into the kitchen to cook their own meals, they are turning to the internet for cooking help. Last month, people conducted 18 million searches that included the word "recipe," more than a 50% increase in the number of searches from the year prior. Searches for "casserole" and "pasta," both easy and low cost meal options, rose by 56%.
Among the top visited cooking sites, 4 are owned by large consumer packaged goods companies. Why is this so notable? Sale of brand name products has taken a hit over the past year. More and more budget-conscious shoppers are turning to private label product in lieu of their pricier brand name counter parts. Consumer packaged goods companies need to find more creative ways to sell their brands, and what better way to accomplish this goal than to create recipes centering around their products. Betty Crocker, Kraft, Pillsbury and General Mills are banking on this theory and are aggressively targeting people searching for recipes.
Above is search referral data for the four recipe sites. On average, search referrals to the sites have doubled over the past year. At the same time, the percent of paid referrals has increased exponentially. Non-branded food and recipe terms currently comprise a significant percent of their paid terms and, unsurprisingly, are among the top keywords driving traffic to the domains. This strategy has had a positive impact on site visitation.
Above is monthly traffic to the Top 4 sites hosted by food manufactures. Traffic to all four sites has steadily increased over the past year, peaking during the last two months of the year along with pumpkin pie, sweet potato, and gingerbread cookie consumption. So will this strategy compel shoppers to purchase Pillsbury crest rolls, Philadelphia cream cheese, Bisquick pancake mix and Progresso soups instead of the private brand? Perhaps, but if nothing else, at least these companies are helping people find a tasty recipe for a quality home cooked meal.
Debra Miller Arbesman is senior associate, retailer and consumer products at Compete, a Kantar Media company that helps brands improve their marketing based on the online behavior of millions of consumers.