Tastemade wants to shift from making popular foodie videos to becoming a lifestyle brand
The Los Angeles-based startup has carved itself a niche in online food videos. Alongside the classic recipe videos, Tastemade creates documentary style shows like "SOURCED," where viewers discover the origins of famous foods. Another breakout hit is the comedic show "Tiny Kitchen," in which Tastemade staff cook dishes in doll-sized proportions. The startup's revenue comes largely from sponsorships, ranging from one-off videos it will create for a brand, to entire shows it hosts on its own channels, such as the three seasons of the "Local Flight" series it produced with Grey Goose, visiting cocktail bars around the world.
The company raised $40 million at the end of 2015 from Goldman Sachs as well as media companies Comcast, Liberty Media, and Scripps Network.
The opening in London is the first European studio for Tastemade, after Los Angeles and Sao Paulo. The new studio houses four different sets, each modeled after the typical British kitchen to capture the local flair.
Moving beyond food
But although it's where Tastemade made its name, the brand isn't just about food. Its first shift away from foodie videos was when it expanded into the travel vertical, in 2014.
Tastemade's head of programming, Oren Katzleff, told Business Insider: "Food and travel are very entwined so it made sense for us to make that leap. You'll see in 2017 we'll start to expand the genres in which we create content with the angle that we're more of a lifestyle brand."
CEO Steven Kydd added: "We chose our name really purposefully because we didn't think there were an awful lot of people creating really high quality video."
The startup, ranked seventh on Tubular Labs' most viewed media and entertainment companies list, said more brands want to venture into online video.
Kydd said: "If you're one of the distributors right now, these lifestyle categories that we're in are very monetizable," hinting that there were social media companies asking Tastemade for even more content. Meanwhile, brands in categories outside of travel and food are also looking to Tastemade to create videos for them.
"There are massive categories with potential, specifically for high quality video," Kydd said. He pointed at home and design, style and beauty and DIY as potential categories where Tastemade could apply its unique aesthetic and formats.
"We've done quite well in food and travel and now we feel like we've earned our right to go to the next logical lifestyle category," Kydd said but no official decision had been made.
Tastemade says it differentiates itself from brands like BuzzFeed thanks to the premium quality of its videos
Tastemade isn't the only video brand that has "done quite well" in this space. BuzzFeed launched its own food video property Tasty in 2016, and recently doubled the size of its branded content studio in London.
Tastemade cofounder Steven Kydd said his network differentiates itself from BuzzFeed because the production of high-quality visuals and the talent it teams up with make it a more premium brand.
Tastemade startup shoots seven different videos a day, each of which gets up to six specific edits to give it a more natural feel for each distribution point. For videos that go on Snapchat, Tastemade even created a vertical-specific set, where the decor is narrower and higher so more of it can fit into a single vertical video shot.
Why it has taken Tastemade so long to expand internationally
The startup's attention to detail and goal to maintain a high level of quality is why it has been comparatively slow, since it was founded in 2012, to open more offices around the world. Before opening any office, Tastemade starts with a small team of talent scouts in a country. It has a network of scouts, in countries like France, Japan, and Germany who are looking at platforms like Pinterest and Instagram to find the screen talent they call "tastemakers."
Kydd said: "We don't call them talent or stars because their job isn't to jump up and down in front of the camera and be loud. Their job is to have taste and find something and curate the best and then deliver that to the audience."
Identifying the right talent is critical to Tastemade's strategy to break into new markets around the world. There are some ground rules: Tastemakers should already have a local following, which can be driven to the Tastemade network, and have an understanding of local style.
Katzleff, said: "Since day one of launching in the UK, we've looked very closely at the data. Specifically what UK talent performs well in the US."
Tastemade has seen two-thirds of its British talent roster perform well in the US. That content is translated for other countries like Brazil or Japan. Sometimes a recipe from one country is adapted with the ingredients from another country, but not every dish translates around the world. What often drives even very local dishes are strong personalities who connect with viewers Katzleff explained.
One of those UK personalities whose content has performed well in the US is the "Topless Baker" Matt Adlard, who has amassed a following of over 63,000 followers on Instagram. He's among the first UK talents Tastemade added to its UK roster.
"When you look at how we've picked the different places that we've launched studios, it's been massive audience opportunity and then we've got to monetize the content. The opportunity is also there from a brand standpoint," Katzleff said.
London, despite not being known as a culinary capital, ticked all of those boxes. The company is in currently discussion with 15 brands to create UK-specific content as well as expanding on partnerships with global brands, like Unilever.
The company is not currently looking to raise funding and nor does it want to veer away from video
Kydd declined disclose revenues but said that there had been very strong growth and that the company is not looking to raise more funding for the time being.
Kydd said: "But you never say never. The media landscape is totally up for grabs right now. There are massive transformative things happening in media right now."
Tastemade made the bet to focus on digital-only videos about one specific vertical of food when it was founded in 2012. The three Tastemade founders previously founded Demand Media, which went public in 2010 and today owns the publishing brands eHow and Livestrong. Kydd explained that when Tastemade launched, advisors to the founding team often told them to look at doing other formats such as articles or photos but the company maintained its focus on video.
Today that focus has paid off. Katzleff said: "I hold data in my hands that only maybe three other people in the world have and I can tell how to create the best content in the world across all those platforms. Tastemade does all that and on top we create the content for you."
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