Teeny-tiny versions of things work like a dream for viral video content, especially on social media, where the squeeeeee-factor can drive engagement right off the charts. A hugely popular addition to the genre of videos that make you feel all warm and fuzzy is the tiny cooking challenge, where humans create edible masterpieces for themselves, or in the most crowd-pleasing sub-genre, hamsters, hedgehogs, and other little creatures.

We know that food-related content performs extraordinarily well on YouTube in terms of engagement, particularly among Millennials. And not only are tiny cooking videos adorable, they are racking up millions of views across the internet, and fans are engaging with them in the form of shares, likes, and tweets. In fact, tiny cooking videos are one of the hottest food trends on YouTube right now.

tiny cooking videos kawaii youtube trend

The ‘Kawaii’ (Japanese for ‘cute’) food trend started in Japan, but has picked up pace, especially in the last year, and now there’s a real appetite (geddit?) for video content that shows steady-handed chefs creating different meals and gourmet treats using miniature utensils and candle-powered cookware. The meals are produced using real ingredients, and served on beautifully scaled-down crockery, at doll-sized tables or kitchen counters.

As if tiny cooking wasn’t niche enough, many of the chefs use very highly-collectible small-scale pots, pans and other cookware, adding another layer of quirkiness to the craze. So, how well are these mini edible cuisine videos doing on YouTube, and how can brands and creators tap into their popularity?

Tiny Cooking Videos: 62K% Growth on YouTube

Views of ‘tiny cooking’ (and related keywords*) video content has risen from 8,142 in 2010, to over 5M on YouTube in 2014 – that’s an increase of over 62,000%. Daily viewership reached an all-time high on the 17th February 2015 with 456,572 views recorded for this particular topic:

tiny video views YouTube

YouTube views for ‘tiny cooking’ content (*and related keywords) between 01/01/15 and 03/31/15. (Data via Tubular Labs)

In the first 90 days of 2015, videos uploaded around this subject attracted over 8.2 million views, and a combined total of 138K likes and shares. Interestingly. ‘tiny cooking’ content seems to have mainly blown up on YouTube, with relatively little activity across other video platforms like Vine or Instagram Video.

Tiny Videos = A Global Internet Sensation

Japanese food and cooking expert Makiko Sano believes the pint-sized cookery demonstrations developed out of Japan’s fascination with all-things that are “kawaii”, or adorable: “Japanese people love ‘kawaii’ things, and things that are very small and delicate: the younger people in Japan use it to describe nearly everything they see”

But the interest in mini-cooking has spread right across the world, with 62% of U.S.based females aged between 18-24 the most engaged demographic for videos optimized with English titles.

audience insights

Global engagement demographics for ‘tiny cooking’ video content (*and related keywords) between 01/01/15 and 03/31/15. (Data via Tubular Labs)

There are really only a handful of successful YouTube creators making this type of content, but they are fast becoming major influencers. MiniatureSpace is undoubtedly the leader of the pack, attracting just under 6M views across the 41 videos it has uploaded to its channel since 1st Jab 2015. The MiniatureSpace team create meals from a specially built miniature-scale kitchen in Japan, and although the channel has only been live since late 2014, each upload brings a cascade of new fans via sites like Buzzfeed, Someecards, and Jezebel who pick up and run with each new video. For such a new channel, its popularity has been staggering, and it already ranks 12th out of 179K channels in the ‘Food – Cooking & Recipes’ category on YouTube.

Its most popular video to date is ‘Mini Food Pancake’ which has generated 1,078,658 YouTube views, 5.3K YouTube Likes, 4K+ Facebook Likes, and 1.4K Tweets at time of writing. Enjoy:

Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Food are Blowing Up the Internet

If mini-scale cooking isn’t quite left-field enough for you, why not throw a few furry animals into the mix? In the last 365 days alone, videos about the culinary exploits of some tiny hamsters** have generated just over 28.3M views on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram Video, particularly for content created around tent-pole events like Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day. Two of the most successful channels, HelloDenizen, and AprilsAnimals, have generated 1.6 million views between them in the last 30 days on YouTube, with their imaginative take on animal mealtimes.

HelloDenizen scored a huge hit with “Tiny Hamster Thanksgiving” in 2014, and again in February 2015 with “Tiny Hamster’s Tiny Date” to coincide with Valentine’s Day. But it was its “Tiny Hamster Eating Tiny Burritos” that went truly stellar in April 2014, generating 9.8 million YouTube views, and 577K engagements, including 198K Facebook likes.

AprilsAnimals like to diversify by showing off tiny hamsters in domestic settings (playgrounds, mansions, the usual) but its biggest video success shows ‘Chicken’, a year-old Russian Dwarf hamster wolfing down a mealworm and carrot pizza. Yum. The video has attracted 3.8 mllions views to date and propelled Chicken the hamster the stardom.

Quirky Cooking Videos: How Brands Can Benefit

Apart from a couple of notable exceptions, much of the tiny video content being uploaded to YouTube is from independent creators. But this still presents an opportunity that brands can learn from, in terms of engaging an audience and creating content that is enthusiastically shared. The most critical lesson brands and marketers need to understand is that it’s all about the story – the audience is being taken on a journey right from the beginning and as such, are then invested in seeing the outcome. Whether they are witnessing the creation of a fabulous 1-inch birthday cake, or being one of many flies-on-the-wall on a hamster first date, the viewer becomes part of the experience.

This is also why channels like EpicMealTime, or CookingWithDog are so consistently popular with a global audience – they are creating videos around recipes and cooking that are hugely entertaining to watch. Even when these influencer channels collaborate with brands, the content produced is still authentic to watch, and it’s rare that the product or service overshadows the original format of the shows.

HelloDenizen, part of the social media agency, Denizen, creates tiny content as part of its client portfolio, and YouTube creator AAAjoken appears to incorporate as many of Japanese toy maker Bandai Konapun’s miniature kitchen toy products when cooking as possible. But I struggled to find any big brands uploading tiny content to their YouTube channels or Facebook pages (let me know in the comments if I missed any). Of course, producing this type of video takes a special skill which many brands are not going to invest in, but there are still ways to benefit:

  • Collaborate with an influencer: If you can’t make the content yourself, then work with a creator that can and use their skills and expertise to promote your brand
  • Sponsor a video or offer your product and services to use: Perhaps you make miniature utensils or sturdy play equipment that could be used in these videos. Why not contact a few channels and see whether you could sponsor their content or offer to donate some products that they could incorporate.
  • Think of a variation on a theme: What kind of content could you create that would incorporate some quirky way of using your product or service in an unusual way?
  • Advertise against these videos.

Tiny cooking videos may be a flash in the (frying) pan, but viewers love them, and there is a lot more mileage to be had out of them. Food and beverage brands, toy manufacturers, and a host of other companies should think about how they can reach their target audiences using video content that goes beyond the sales pitch and gives the viewer a new experience using a pop-culture base such as kawaii.

Methodology: All data from TubularLabs and YouTube, taken between dates indicated. *Content relating to “tiny cooking”, “tiny food”, “mini cooking”, “mini food”, “tiny meals”, “Kawaii Cooking” and “tiny meals”. **Tiny Hamster content based on keywords “tiny hamster” OR “tiny cooking hamster” OR “tiny hamster eating”