By Marcus Leach

The second Like Minds Social Media Week event saw industry experts, including Jamie Spafford, founder of @SortedFood, Louisa James from Jamie Oliver, Ollie Lloyd of Great British Chefs, Mark Morris, Founder of the Staff Canteen, and Nathalie Nahai, the web psychologist, look at how social is shifting our relationship with food on Monday afternoon.

Once again the session was chaired by by Karen Fewell, Digital Consultant @digitalblonde, as the debate looked at how social media is shifting the consumer's relationship with food and the food industry.

Following this morning's session, which saw Michelin star chef Tom Aikens spearhead a look at how social media is benefitting the food industry, the panel centred much more on the role of social in terms of the consumer.

JS: "Sorted started as a way to share these recipes with people, and it has grown organically. We have over 450,000 subscribers, and on average 2.3 million video views a month."

MM: "Staff Canteen started as a bi-product from another venture and it soon became a stand alone platform, but the growth was organic and we ensure we have kept the community feeling and the focus remaining on the chefs themselves."

NN: "I look at the ways in which our online environment affect people's behaviour. I'm also interested in why people share food and what impact that has on society."

LJ: "I run digital and media marketing for Jamie Oliver. I over see how we use technology and how Jamie is portrayed across the channels."

OL: "We set up the company to take the amazing recipes and insight chefs had across the UK and giving that to the public. We only deal with the best in the industry, it's proper food porn if you will. We realised social had to be at the heart of everything that we do."

Why are people sharing food?

NN: "About 96% think it is socially acceptable to share food. The insight that it gives us is that it is so close to so many people's hearts. However, those that don't think it is acceptable believe you take the pleasure from the experience itself, rather than sharing it with people. Top three shared food items are cake, chocolate and fruit desserts. It is a mix of the medium of photography and sharing something that is beautiful.

"There is an element of seeking social validation, getting the approval of our piers to make us feel better about ourselves. This can be done through making people jealous, with a picture of something that is stunning, or simply engaging people for that sense of community."

OL: "I'm always amazed at how little time and energy brands spend on creating quality content. When we look at the images brands put out there, they are terrible. Our content is better than brands, maybe because that's we love what we create."

LJ: "I think that is it though, it's because they are big brands. They are lacking that passion and therefore there is a slight disconnect when it comes to the big brands."

JS: "I wasn't surprised that sweets get shared the most, especially when you look at our platforms. We have just launched 'Eye Candy' which is real XXX food porn as so many people want to share desserts and sweet pictures.

"For our community it ranges from 18-30 years old. It's potentially the first time they have taken on something other than beans on toast, and therefor these people are proud of what they have created. There is a real passion within our community."

So that begs the question, how can we turn this food sharing habit into something that is tangibly good?

LJ: "I think Jamie is right [using mobile for social good]. One of the scariest facts is that there are more people on the planet that have mobile phones than have access to clean water. We now have a tool, it is a part of people, and if we can use that tool to impart knowledge and inspire and educate people around food then it is one of the most powerful things we can do. Mobile means we can engage with an audience like we have never been able to before, and for the greater good of everyone."

MM: "It's no secret that more of us have smartphones and the opportunity to access the content that is out there by phone is incredible. It's a great tool that mobile can bring content to so many people, it's not just sat at home at the kitchen table. And there is so much good free content out there for people to access."

OL: "I think the game is that we have to be everywhere. It is a challenge to be on all platforms, and making sure that whatever platform you are on we can deliver content to you as an end user."

How can we use this to generate a greater love of food?

OL: "I think what is exciting is that this isn't a top down phenomenon. The charge is being lead from the ground up. We are all putting content out there, and different people are picking up on different things. Ultimately it is cultural relevance. The answer to food poverty is finding the right channels."

JS: "For us when we upload something it is just the start of the conversation, and conversations are the key factor here. As much as we try to talk back to everyone, as it has grown we can't answer every question. But the community are stepping in and answering themselves. We are now seeing people helping each pother, and that is purely through the power of social.

"Every video we have done is a request from someone in the community. It starts with the question, 'what do you want us to cook?' We use the feedback to distil the best possible recipe we can for our videos. That way we have the full buy-in from our community."

OL: "The key thing for all brands is to identify what area of content they want to own, and then create around that."

How is social inspiring other chefs?

MM: "Many chefs will post because it is a marketing tool, especially when you consider they have in excess of 30,000 people. It's inspirational and aspirational. With social the community will always come back to you, not always with good answers, but they engage. That is fantastic for chefs."

How has the advent of social given new talent an opportunity?

MM: "I think we are in an exciting era because when I was cooking twenty years ago nobody would share anything. The internet has changed that. It has brought about an environment where chefs want to share. Chefs realise they can't take recipes to the grave, and that they will benefit from sharing them.

"Noma have a fantastic concept of sharing on Fridays, where everyone can voice their opinion on the basis that not just the chefs can create. Collectively that resource is so much more powerful, when people don't have the egos.

"We are celebrating the next wave of chefs coming through. What we noticed is that the young generation of chefs coming through they are so much more media focused. The older chefs are great chefs but not so clued in on social and media awareness.

"There is some great talent out there, but the most important thing is that if people post something that is a bit of a howler, rather than jumping all over them but to help and say how thing s can be improved. So what if it is wrong, put it out there and use the community to help improve it and learn from the community."

NN: "With social you have that chance of one-on-one interaction with people at the very top. Twitter has opened that up. Failure is now seen as a positive, as it comes from the material for a story. If you have a narrative you have something people can engage with, and therefor you are more likely to relate to that person. We, as a race, are intrigued with people's stories."

MM: "Twitter has flattened out the hierarchy to a certain degree, it means every chef is as easily accessible as the next."

How does this then flip to the health side?

NN: "One of the interesting things we found in our research is that certain types of behaviour is indicative to eating disorders. We can see this from frequency of postings and focus of the food types. This is very new research, but something we are looking into a lot more.

JS: "Nothing we do at Sorted is too serious, it is about having fun. However, we are getting a lot of emails now thanking us for helping them to learn to cook and even more so emails from people who had eating disorders until they saw some of our videos. We had an email from a girl who hadn't felt hungry in over a year, and now seeing your videos I think I want to try and make a recipe."

OL: "We had a campaign with Tesco looking at cooking with children. The challenge is to get them to do more than cook cakes. Looking at basic techniques for chopping, food preparation. Food can be a way to bring a family together, the power of meal times and the power of cooking. The challenge is to try and do more savoury stuff, from a health point of view. We need kids to be able to prepare protein, not just lots of delicious cakes and treats. It is about educating."

JS: "There is a responsibility to educate. 70% of our recipes are now savoury, and we pay close attention to what we are putting out there, even though that the sweets and desserts are the most popular. But we are looking at growing something bigger than just that."

Is there a social responsibility for chefs to promote the health side of food?

LJ: "It is all about knowledge. If you have that knowledge and you are making things yourself, nine times out of ten you are making healthy choices. Jamie never set out to be a health spokesperson when it came to food, but he wanted children to be educated, as they have a right to know what they are eating."

MM: "Chefs have a responsibility to do is to make sure that the food they are providing is ethically sourced and it is what it says on the label. So therefor what you are eating is the best possible quality it can be. They have a responsibility that they are giving us the general public the best possible food they can source."

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