Create an online recipe contest to connect with your followers

Posted in: Ideas for your websiteLast update: 12/04/19

TV shows like Masterchef, Kitchen Nightmares or the Great British Bake-Off have collected a cult following around the world. Why? Because everyone loves cooking a good meal! Here’s how to make cooking and recipe contests part of your own interactive marketing campaigns.

Food and cooking have become modern obsessions. It seems like everyone is posting photos of their Saturday morning brunch, starting a cute new recipe blog, or cooking along with the Great British Bake-off. But here’s the good news: you don’t need to film your own cooking show to tap into all that enthusiasm! Instead, you can run an easy online recipe contest, and collect piping-hot sales leads at the same time.

Who are recipe contests for?

Given the popularity of gourmet blogs on social media, almost any brand could get involved with an online recipe contest. But if your brand is in the following list, then recipe contests are more than just a good idea. Instead, they’re an essential part of your content strategy.

  • bars, cafés and restaurants
  • recipe authors and publishers
  • supermarket chains
  • independent food producers
  • foodie festivals
  • cookware brands

And who can take part in your online recipe contest? Well… everyone! That’s one reason why this is such an effective marketing strategy: online competitions appeal to almost everyone.

Start small: newsletter subscriptions

You’ve probably heard people talking about user-generated content; it was one of the big marketing buzzwords of 2018. And recipes are a kind of user-generated content, because you are asking your followers to share their ideas with you.

So your followers are a great source of original, authentic content. But at the same time, they might not be ready to share their traditional family recipes with you just yet. You need to start by building a rapport with your readers or customers.

Here’s a clever example. Hampton Festival started off with a prize that would appeal to their core audience: two nights away on a gourmet retreat.

Image shows a balcony overlooking the sea with a cosy wood fire, and a view of a hotel set in grassy fields. The text reads: Win a 2 night gourmet escape! Ravensbourne Escape, Hampton Festival.

To join the prize draw, people had to share their contact details and sign up for the newsletter. In other words, they had to start building a relationship with the brand.

The image shows 3 mobile screenshots. 1: explains that users must subscribe to the Hampton Festival newsletter to join the prize draw. 2: an entry form asks for users' full name and email address. 3: the festival thanks users for entering, and invites them to share on social media or view the festival program with direct buttons.

Next, Hampton Festival could nurture those leads… until they are ready to share user-generated content, and even make a purchase.

Festivals, tasting events and gastrotourism are also key for wine marketing. Click here for more marketing ideas from the wine industry.

Collect family recipes and new creations

Once you have a thriving, active group of followers, then you can start collecting recipes and other user-generated content. Just like in the example with Hampton Festival, make sure you offer a relevant and generous prize to motivate people.

Take this recipe contest from Lunar, a caravan manufacturer. They asked families to share their favorite recipes to cook on the road. The prize was pure luxury, but easily portable: a hamper from the venerable UK foodie brand, Fortnum & Mason.

The image shows a book open on a table, surrounded by eggs, nuts, a bowl of sugar, a bowl of flour, and a whisk. The text in the book reads: Lunar, a Leading Light. Tell us your favourite caravanning recipe for your chance to win a fabulous Fortnum and Mason hamper. Closing date 1st September.

People could type up their easy recipes, with or without a photo. Then people could vote for their top recipes to win the contest.

This was a really clever move. Lunar didn’t just harvest content from their users; they gave something back to the community, as well. Anyone could visit the website and copy down the recipes to try at home.

Example of a Lunar Light online recipe contest entry. The image shows a slice of frittatta on a red and white plate. The caption explains the recipe in detail.

As well as gourmet treats, another popular prize is kitchenware or cooking equipment. In the example below, the brand offered a state-of-the-art foaming tool – an essential for anyone involved in the microgastronomy trend.

To win the equipment, people had to recommend their own foam recipes.

The image shows a foaming tool: a grey box with a rubber pipe leading into a glass of coffee, which is filled to overflowing with foam. The background is a deep, minimalist grey. The only text is 3 small buttons at the bottom of the image: "cook with us", "terms and conditions", and "share".

Here’s one more prize suggestion. Sometimes, what people want most is to feel seen and included. If they are dedicated to your brand, then they want some recognition!

Restaurant chain Italio put this into practice with an online recipe contest. They asked people to share their own pesto recipes. The best one would be featured on Italio menus (and the winner would get free Italio for a year).

The image shows 3 bowls of pesto in different flavors, alongside assorted vegetables. The main text reads: "Pushin' the pesto. Put your pesto on our menu. Win free Italio for a year!"

Opening a new café? Looking for new customers? Read our ideas for marketing restaurants to get inspired.

Add photos to your recipe contests

What would social media be without food photos? Pretty empty, probably…

Screenshot of food hashtags on Instagram. The hashtag "food" has over 330 million posts.

So if you’re going to run an online recipe contest, then it’s a great idea to include photos. Try using a photo contest app which will allow you to collect captions as well as photos. That way, people can still share the details of their recipes, alongside the mouthwatering pics.

Here’s an especially delicious example from Haribo Asia. They asked people to share their photos of recipes made with Chamallow marshmallows.

The image shows a smiling, cartoon woman in hijab standing in a kitchen. Thought bubbles floating above her head show chocolate and marshmallow treats. The main text reads: "Get creative with Haribo Chamallows".

And the pictures were… well, see for yourself. Suddenly we’re really craving ‘smores.

Photo gallery of online recipe contest entries for Haribo Chamallows. For example, there is a chocolate cake topped with marshmallows, a marshmallow ice cream sundae, and marshmallow French toast, among other recipes.

There are endless possibilities for photo contests. If you want people to play with your products, try a Scenes game where users have to build their own recipe from the ingredients you offer. Try the Chocofun demo or sip on a Martini while you finish this post!

Entertain and educate with quizzes

OK, so our final suggestion isn’t really an online recipe contest. But there’s more than one way to tap into your followers’ culinary expertise!

Challenge them to a quiz that’s full of information about your product, or tells users something about themselves. Everyone loves personality quizzes – and they’re easy to create.

The image shows an old parchment scroll on a wooden table, surrounded by food and Don Juan products. The scroll reads: "Don Juan. It was love at first bite."

Take this moustache-swirling example from Spanish cheesemaker Don Juan. People filled out a quiz with four questions about their flavor preferences and favorite meals. Then, Don Juan recommended the perfect cheesy recipe for them to try!

4 mobile screenshots from the Don Juan online recipe contest. 1: What Don Juan recipe are you? You could win delicious Don Juan cheese specialties by taking our quiz to find out which Don Juan recipe best matches you." 2. Which meal do you prefer? Breakfast or dinner. 3. Everything tastes better with bacon. True or false. 4. The quiz recommends a frittata for the user, based on their quiz answers.

This quiz from La Española olive oil went a bit more technical. They asked users which type of olive oil was best for a series of different recipes.

Screenshot of a La Española quiz question. The main image shows a Mediterranean salad, with the question "What kind of olive oil would you add to a salad?" Users can answer "extra virgin", "classic", or "mild and light".

Everyone who got the answers right had the chance to win a luxury pack of La Española products. And all the participants – even if they flunked the quiz! – got a free ebook full of tasty recipes.

Banner announcing the La Española recipe quiz. The image shows 2 cans of La Española oil, above an explanation of the competition rules.

Ready to whip up your own online recipe contest? Just click here to get started.

Corinna Keefe

English copywriter at Easypromos marketing team