Karthik Pasupathy (aka KP)

The Unseen Struggle of Food Bloggers

Food bloggers play a major role in today’s food scene. They’re a small group of passionate people who visit restaurants and try new dishes every day (or during most days of a week). If they think a place is good, they recommend it to those who follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube. This, in general, is known as Influencer marketing, which is considered as one of the hottest custom acquisition methods today.

Social media is filled with food bloggers who try to make a mark in the crowded influencer market.

When I looked at all the accounts that had hundreds of pictures of delicious food, I had two questions on my mind. The first one was “How do food bloggers make money?”. The second one was “What effect does eating out have on their bodies?”

When I decided to dig a little deeper, I started talking a few well-known food bloggers from the city. I also ran a small survey among people who are food bloggers and influencers on Facebook groups and Instagram.

What I heard and found out was quite shocking. The life of food bloggers is not as fancy as it looks on their Instagram or Facebook account. It is a tough nut to crack. Food blogging is difficult and it is constantly filled with physical, mental, and financial roadblocks.

Only 42% of food bloggers make money out of paid promotions

Do Food Bloggers make money?

According to a survey conducted in 2017, influencer marketing was considered one of the fastest-growing customer acquisition methods. A study estimated that organizations would spend close to $2.38 billion in 2019 on influencer marketing. This includes spending money to pay influencers, giving them freebies, running contests, etc.

Food bloggers roughly spend Rs.60,000 – Rs. 1,20,000 every year for food.

But, the reality is different. A majority of the time, food bloggers are not getting paid. The survey I conducted showed that only 42% of food bloggers make money out of paid promotions. And, only 14% of bloggers make money through ads. The remaining 44% is not getting paid. Even though some of them do this for passion, a sizeable portion of aspiring food bloggers makes no money.

When I asked a Chennai-based food blogger how she manages to get paid promotions, she said “Usually once you build a good amount of followers, brands approach you for promoting their food and events. If your engagement is good and if you have a good number of followers, you can think about monetization”.

Why Monetization is Difficult?

Monetization is difficult as restaurants often consider offering free food as a means of paid promotion. So, getting paid on top of that is not impossible, but difficult. I experienced this several times in the past when I was a clueless blogger in 2013 (I am still clueless, but I realized it). I was often called to try out new restaurants, but the incentive was free food and nothing less.

And, even when restaurants don’t offer them any incentive, food bloggers rush to newly opened restaurants and cover them on their blog as they don’t want to lose followers. Since the competition is heavy, they often spend money from their pockets to try new dishes. This burns a huge hole in their pocket.

When I asked a food blogger about this, she said “I pay for 90% of whatever I post. I post my genuine opinion about a dish without any bias”

Close to 50% of food bloggers spend Rs.5000 – 10000 every month to eat out. This is a heavy price to pay to keep up the followers in the hopes of eventually doing paid promotions.

If you extrapolate, you can see that food bloggers roughly spend Rs.60,000 – Rs. 1,20,000 every year. That is a ton of money!

The deteriorating health

25% of food bloggers have gained more than 11 Kgs and 37% of them gained 7-11 kgs since they started blogging. And, a whopping 62% of bloggers constantly experience digestive disorders like GERD, heartburn, etc.

This is alarming!

Only 25% of the bloggers maintain 150-300 minutes of physical activity every week.

Their love for food is taking a toll on their body. Food critics who once wrote for newspapers and magazines did not face this problem. They usually write a weekly column or a story about one restaurant. They visit a restaurant, try out their food (not eat them all) and write about it. Their frequency in eating out is low and thus they had fewer health problems.

But, today, things have changed. Food bloggers should constantly prove their presence. There is no “taking it slow”. This pushes them to explore new restaurants almost every day.

Food bloggers should become aware of how much additives, salts, preservatives, and added sugar goes into their system when they eat out. Active food bloggers who eat out all the time should have a workout routine to keep their weight in check. Only 25% of the bloggers maintain 150-300 minutes of physical activity every week. The remaining portion of bloggers maintains only less than 90 minutes of physical activity per week. This increases the probability of several lifestyle disorders such as hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, heart conditions and other serious digestive ailments like stomach and colon cancer.

The Future of Food Blogging

Restaurants and bloggers should bring up new initiatives to keep up the health of food bloggers. Restaurants often offer a large portion of dishes to food bloggers when they visit the restaurant. This either results in overeating, or wastage of food.

As an alternative, restaurants can offer small portions or an assortment of dishes (something we can call a “critic’s plate”) to food bloggers. They can have a spoonful of each dish and write about them.

Another effective option is to go to a restaurant as a group and try food together. You can take pictures and at the same time eat smaller portions.

Veteran food bloggers can help new bloggers by talking about the benefits of eating right, having an exercise routine. Even though making a living by eating out sounds exciting, the long term effects are something one must be prepared for.

Food bloggers also have the responsibility to recommend the right restaurants. If you’re a food blogger and if you think a restaurant adds more additives, or colors beyond a permissible level, ask your followers to steer clear.

Food and Food blogging is here to stay. Going forward, restaurants will focus on micro and nano influencers to promote their food. So, in the next couple of years, the number of food bloggers is going to increase in number. Those who’re trying to venture into food blogging should think through the challenges and have a strategy to stand out. And, the most important thing is, keep a check on your health. Because our body is the only place for us to live in.