The Cookbook: Fundamental or Fad?

March 23rd, 2017 by amandasarahbain | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Cookbook: Fundamental or Fad?
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Penguin Random House imprint Michael Joseph has just announced its 20th cookbook collaboration with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The book Jamie’s Quick & Easy 5-Ingredient Food is to be released in conjunction with a new channel 4 tv series of the same name. Oliver, having previously topped the Christmas bestsellers list for three consecutive years between 2010 and 2012, has generated £149,383,819 in revenues from the sales of his cookbooks according to Nielsen Bookscan data. Despite Rux Martin, editorial director of Rux Martin books once suggesting that “nobody is going to be using cookbooks again”, the cookbook industry has been enjoying an impressive resurgence with unit print sales in 2016 rising 6% on the previous year, demonstrating the demand for cookbooks is still strong in the UK sales market.

This resurgence can be attributed to numerous factors. The prevalence of health and wellness gurus such as Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) and Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) has undoubtedly contributed to the growing popularity of the cookbook, with the former’s debut Deliciously Ella: A Bible for Plant Based Living becoming the fastest-selling debut cookbook on record. Such cookbooks have become a gold mine for publishers and with impressive social media followings – Woodward and Wicks boast 171,000 and 263,000 twitter followers respectively – both authors have reinvented the traditional cookbook making cooking accessible to a new generation with little time and great expectations. Joe Wick’s debut Lean In 15 sold 77,097 in its first week, outselling Delia Smith’s 2008 bestseller How To Cook. The health-food craze has created demand for a new kind of cookbook and the food blogger has willingly filled the gap in the market. Alice Liveing (Clean Eating Alice) is a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist who overhauled her lifestyle and is now an instagram sensation, boasting 525,000 followers. Liveing’s debut cookbook The Body Bible: Feel Fit and Fabulous from the Inside Out has sold an impressive 50,644 copies since its publication on May 19th 2016 and it has outsold Mary Berry, Deliciously Ella and Jamie Oliver. The rise of “clean-eating” has forced the cookbook industry to become multi-dimensional and publishers are now beginning to see the benefits. The modern day cookbook author has to become a brand in order to be successful. Food bloggers turned authors have vast social media empires which guarantee a ready-made market of fans eager to buy their titles and with the health-food craze showing no signs of slowing, this seems to guarantee the continued growth of cookbook sales.

Although the health craze is largely responsible for the rebirth of the cookbook, there is still demand for more traditional titles. The Great British Bake Off is perhaps one of the most influential factors in the cookbook’s resurgence. Ratings for the 2016 final won by Candice Brown peaked at 14.8 million viewers, a vast increase on the 2015 final which recorded 13.4 million viewers. Such popularity has meant that the series has spawned no less than 18 cookbooks since its inception in 2010, yielding an impressive £14,032,553 whilst restoring the nation’s love for baking. Despite a book deal seeming likely for any Great British Bake Off Winner, it does not guarantee commercial success. Whilst content is indeed extremely important for any best-selling cookbook, the likeability of the author is also paramount to success. 2015 Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain is arguably the most popular of the shows alumni and her cookbook Nadiya’s Kitchen has sold 38,927 copies since its publication on the 16th of June 2016. The book offers innovative twists on traditional classics alongside her favourite bakes and has been billed as full of perfect family recipes. Nadiya’s Bake Me A Story was then published by Hodder Children’s Books on September 8th 2016 and has since sold 33,870 copies. The cookbook’s premise is to encourage families to enjoy baking together by introducing children to baking through storytelling, inspiring a new generation of bakers. Hodder and Hussain have tapped into a new consumer group in the cookbook market which is sure to see the demand for such titles to continue to grow.

Since his discovery by the BBC in 1997, Jamie Oliver’s authenticity and easy to follow recipes have propelled him into stardom and he is now the best-selling non-fiction author of all time in the UK. It seems that regardless of the competitive cookbook market, Oliver appears set for success in 2017 and beyond given that his 2016 title Super Food Family Classics has already sold 156,241 copies since July 14th 2016. Oliver announced his excitement for the publication of his new book via twitter where he regularly interacts with his 6.4 million followers. There is no doubt that social media is effective at marketing books. Authors such as Jamie Oliver can utilise online interactions with fans to aid sales by reaching a wide audience without the need for expensive marketing and Oliver’s 22,400 tweets suggest that such strategies are beneficial.

The nation’s obsession with food has made cookbook’s a profitable commodity once more. However, it is author likeability and interactivity that have propelled cookbooks to the top of best-seller lists and thanks to the social media age it seems that the cookbook is here to stay.

by Amanda Bain