‘It’s very TikTok-led’: BuzzFeed’s Tasty is making its videos look less professional
Tasty UK’s ambition is to be the voice for multicultural food.
Since its rebrand, Tasty UK’s editorial and commercial ambitions have rapidly accelerated / Chantal Garnier
BuzzFeed’s food network Tasty has a new look. Lit with neon signs and with interchangeable backdrops, the new kitchen setup is friendlier and noticeably smaller. That, it turns out, is by design rather than a necessity: the BuzzFeed sub-brand is thinking smaller to grow bigger.
Tasty’s executive creative director and head Homam Ayaso explains that the change was driven by feedback from its viewers. The original kitchen, with its sheer white backdrop and countless drawers and cupboards, looked “too professional” and less authentic to the experiences of viewers. For a brand that wants to be the de facto voice of multicultural cooking in the UK, that was anathema.
The new kitchen, Ayaso explains, is a much bigger drawer for audiences who recognize their own kitchen set-ups – mess and all – in the videos. While the behind-the-camera set-up has the same level of professionalism, the focus now is on providing authenticity and aspirational content. That, he says, is the key selling point to Tasty’s commercial partners.
“It’s very TikTok-led in diversity and authenticity. It’s ever-changing and personality-led,” Ayaso explains. He believes that the parity in terms of how audiences like to consume food and cuisine content across social media is the reason supermarket brands like Lidl, Co-Op and Tesco have all partnered with the brand.
He notes that the supermarkets are keen to align themselves with the core concerns of their consumers, particularly around three main topics: affordability, sustainability, and diversity. To that end, their presence in the studio itself is often quite subtle so that the videos do not disturb the authenticity. Ayaso says, however, that viewers are often keen to find out where they can purchase the ingredients, recipes, and even utensils – which is where the “purchase power” commercial imperative fits in.
James Martin, head of UK content for BuzzFeed, Inc, said: “Tasty UK never stopped being ambitious, but it’s undoubtedly becoming more focused on the cultures and personalities that make Britain's food scene so unique. What's been encouraging from our repositioning is that audiences and clients are responding positively. We see this in both audience data and a significant uptick in revenue and client campaigns with Tasty UK, which continues into this year.”
BuzzFeed’s own e-commerce strategy has changed dramatically in the past few years. It was once one of founder Jonah Peretti’s ‘nine boxes’ of commercial opportunity, and in January of last year, the UK team announced the launch of Shopping+, which aimed to grow the proportion of its revenue that came from e-commerce still further. Since then, many e-commerce-based companies have taken haircuts as pandemic-led buying behaviors have not persisted.
To that end, Tasty UK currently does not have a dedicated e-commerce strategy that diverges from its parent brand. Instead, its commercial ambitions lie with those partnerships with supermarket, cleaning and utensil brands.
Ayaso has been lead on Tasty UK since August last year. His arrival coincided with a rebranding from ‘Proper Tasty’ to ‘Tasty UK’ for a number of reasons. The first, he says, was closer alignment with the US team at Tasty which had first delivered the “Tasty format”. For his ambitions for Tasty, however, he believes the ‘Proper Tasty’ brand was holding it back and limiting its appeal to wider audiences. “It was an issue,” he acknowledges when it came to broadening its audience.
"Our focus for Tasty UK now is on building a community around the foundation that's already been built by Tasty generally. Our content is built from and caters to our audience, and we want to build a bridge between cultures by spotlighting every identity and creating a platform where everyone can come and celebrate food together. Previous iterations of Tasty started the journey and the foundation, and now we are building the community around it."
The goal is to make Tasty UK a destination for underserved and underrepresented voices around food culture. “We don’t think there’s anybody in that position right now”, he explains, noting that even food-based brands like BBC Good Food and others typically cater to food alone, rather than foodie culture.
He cites the example of Tasty Green, which he says despite appearances is “not necessarily vegan. It’s finding a solution for the spectrum of [consumers]” who seek to eat more sustainably when they can, rather than as an absolute. He also refers to the upcoming partnership with Seasoned, BuzzFeed’s Black-focused vertical: “Feed My Soul” aims to be a celebration of Black food culture and experiences, as an example.
When asked if Tasty is taking the sponsorship-first approach some other broadcasters have to ensure commercial success, Ayaso says Tasty is taking “the exact opposite” tack. In line with the goal to be authentic above all else, he says that Tasty is an editorially-led product and that the commercial considerations fall into place after the series has been commissioned.
As consumers seek better representation and affordable recipes in the face of a cost of living crisis, Tasty’s commercial success lies in being the conduit between them and their brands. As Ayaso explains, that is predicated on being as true to life and authentic as possible – even if it means scrapping a professional kitchen setup.