Posted on February 9, 2011 - by Will van Wyngaarden
Though crowdsourcing is a recent term; food and the community have been a natural partnership long before the internet. From our tribal beginnings we can see that the community coming together to prepare a meal dates back to the origins of hunter gatherer-existence. But the more ‘civilised’ a society becomes the more this practice falls by the wayside, something that is increasingly evident in our nine to five culture. In Britain, despite the rise in farmers markets and the accessibility of local ingredients, we spend more on sweets than fruit and still spend the same amount on eating out as we did ten years ago*. Ready meals and pre-packaged food make an ever increasing appearance in the supermarket. Whilst our throwaway culture is evident in the five million tonnes of food we discard each year that could be salvaged. This is increasingly an untenable position.
The impact of old media has resulted in glossy food programmes and magazines but increasingly it is apparent that people merely view these and then discard them. The area that have a definite impact on our culture are the internet and social media. Blogging platforms like Tumblr, Blogger and WordPress have lead to a mass sharing of ideas from anywhere in the world.
This increased interactivity has been used on a corporate basis with Vitamin V getting people to vote on Facebook for a flavour for their new Connect drink. The winner was the Black Cherry Lime flavour with added caffeine and 8 key nutrients. Japanese noodle company Acebook used a similar approach in coming up with a new flavour but opted to use emerging social networking site Mixi, their new flavour range that went on sale in December included Collagen Noodles and Ginseng Chicken. If nothing else this shows that corporations should be wary of handing decisions over to consumers.
It is when you integrate the crowd, communicate with people directly and honestly that you see the best results. One area that crowdsourcing has shone in is the circulation of recipes. The best example of this is Tasty Kitchen. This originated as a blog by Ree Drummond on Word Press where she blogged about her experiences living on a ranch. After a while she posted her first recipe and due to the positive response Tasty Kitchen grew organically from that. Unlike other food websites, such as the BBC’s, anyone can post a recipe up and anyone can join and rate the recipes. This level of crowd interaction, of contribution and feedback, is Tasty Kitchens strength. It has around 25,000 recipes on it and the user can easily rate them and leave comments to improve the experience for the next user. This level of crowdsourcing, on an impressive global scale, is something that has been missing from our lives. Culinary knowledge used to be passed done the generations but after the restrictions imposed by rationing during and after the Second World War this chain was broken. It’s websites such as Tasty Kitchen that can reinstate it. Unlike using a cookery book you can interact with the cooks behind the recipes and understand what you’ve done wrong and leave feedback as to what you liked about the recipe. The digital food revolution is rekindling our love with the physical act of cooking.
*Statistics taken from the Food Statistics Pocketbook 2010