Beyond reviews and recipes: Vice food channel Munchies rolls out UK site

Vice’s global food channel, Munchies, serves up a hipster brand of character-led content that spotlights the people behind the restaurants and recipes. A typical headline reads “Meet the Cambodian-American Baker Behind LA’s New Punk Rock Vegan Doughnut Shop“; its recipe vertical is called “Eat Me.” You get the picture.

Now the U.K. is getting a bigger piece of the picture too. This week Munchies launches a new British site where it will double its U.K. output, making its voice louder and more local.

“Food culture is so hyper-local and regional,” said Vida Toombs, svp of strategy and operations at Vice. “We really need to tap into that here and have the freedom to choose what we publish for our audience. A regional strategy is important for our growth, to find new stories and to find talent.”

This week, Munchies is wooing local U.K. audiences by running an editorial project, Munchies Guide to British Food, celebrating different British cuisines and the people behind them, and highlighting food personalities like Ken Hom, Ruth Rogers and Jamie Oliver.

Running each day this week is an episode from a five-part video series, the Munchies Guide to Wales, which was borne out of the success of other series Munchies has already done for Scotland and Northern England. In addition to video, around six pieces of editorial content will go live daily. The pieces are linked, so there’s editorial around Welsh whisky distilleries, plus a recipe on how to make a Welsh dish you would have seen in the video. This, said Munchies UK editor, Phoebe Hurst, helps to deliver “the whole package.”

“Millennials interact with food in a lot more of a three dimensional way,” she told Digiday. “They are not so interested in passively watching videos; they want to see if from different platforms, so they will watch a video, read the article and then make the dish.”

Previously, British visitors to Munchies would see mainly U.S. content. By the end of this week, the site will be geotagged, so visitors in Britain accessing with be redirected to the U.K. version, updated daily by Hurst, one other full-time staff member and a network of contributors.

For video, Munchies will be sticking to a formula that seems to be working, although it declined to give any success metrics. Its sweet spot is five-part series with episode lengths ranging from 11 to 18 minutes. Video is always created with the site in mind, though as part of the U.K. launch, Munchies will also launch Facebook pages. It’s a very different platform approach from Proper Tasty, BuzzFeed’s popular food channel, which publishes minute-long recipe videos designed almost exclusively for Facebook. Although BuzzFeed isn’t as concerned as other publishers about sending people back to its own site.

Munchies’ U.K. play is appealing to advertisers looking for more local audiences. “The younger generation is looking for the story behind the dish rather than a step-by-step guide,” said Chris Moon, head of insight and analytics at agency Telegraph Hill. Toombs added that brands can sponsor video series and also co-create video footage — last year Jack Daniels sponsored a video series on barbeque culture — although it’s too early for Toombs to mention any other specific partners.

With people trending toward following food philosophies over diets, Moon claims it’s the characters and the personalities, like body coach Joe Wicks and chef Jimmy Doherty, that are driving the food industry forward.

Still, Moon warns against jumping on too many trends that might be too niche. “Jamie Oliver got where he is because of accessibility and easy-to-follow recipes,” he said. “Not everyone is going to be interested in craft soda and three-chili salad. Let’s not forget the normal people.”

Image: courtesy of Munchies.

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