In food circles, Thanksgiving is often referred to as the “Superbowl of Food” due to the massive amounts of grocery shopping, cooking, and shared eating occurring during this uniquely American holiday. At Allrecipes, we are often asked how we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, which consistently drives Allrecipes’ biggest traffic volumes of the year. Our response is that our teams spend 10 months getting ready.

Each January we reflect and analyze the preceding November and December’s traffic patterns. We look at top search terms and fastest trending search terms. We review how efficiently our code, database, and servers allowed us to load pages across PCs, tablets and phones. We explore changing patterns in consumer behaviors – signals such as increases in videos views, shared photos, recipe saves, and reviewed grocery offers – all provide validation that cooks in increasing volumes are leveraging their digital devices to guide them through all phases of their cooking journeys.

In January 2015, our review of Q4 2014 holiday cooking behaviors provided us with important clues regarding the experiences cooks would best respond to in the year ahead. Our analysis revealed the accelerating shift in the use of mobile devices – especially phones – to aid all phases of meal preparation, including shopping, cooking, and sharing. We also saw major increases in cooks finding and sharing inspiration with family, friends, and other cooks with similar food passions. Lastly, it was clear that the types of foods cooks thought belonged on their holiday tables were becoming more varied and personalized. Classic dishes are being replaced with variations that address health and lifestyle preferences, cultural influences, and creative expression.

In February, Allrecipes’ Development, Content and Marketing teams built project lists and timelines geared towards a fall release of new features, content types, and experiences. In September, we introduced the transformation of Allrecipes from a food-focused community deeply ingrained in social media, to a food-focused social network. The new omni-screen site experience introduced new ways for cooks to inspire one another through personalized feeds, followed cooks, profiles, saved recipes, ‘I Made It’, and personal recipe collections. We also introduced more ethnic, clean eating, Paleo, vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian recipes to the site.

Yesterday, comScore released its most recent monthly audience measurement data. It is incredibly rewarding for us to see reports validating November 2015 as Allrecipes’ biggest month in our 18 year history – and the biggest month ever for a food site. Last month, 46.7 million unique visitors visited Allrecipes over a combined 110 million visits across phones, tablets, and PCs consuming 299 million pages of recipes, reviews, photos, grocery offers, collections, profiles, and more. In addition to Allrecipes’ total audience food category leadership, we also lead the food category among millennials, reaching 17.7 million cooks aged 18 to 34, or 25 percent of all millennials online. This reach was even stronger among millennial women – expanding to 32 percent of online women aged 18 to 34 years.

As predicted, we saw a major shift to mobile, with 71 percent of November 2015 visits occurring from mobile devices. We saw more cooks using their devices to guide grocery shopping choices – viewing nearly 1 billion hyper-local grocery savings offers on recipes as they created lists, shopped aisles, and pulled products out of their pantries. We saw more cooks join our community to celebrate and share their experiences in more ways more often; November 2015 was our biggest month for new members, new collections, ‘I Made It’s’, Followed Cooks, and shared food photos.

Being a part of the food space since its early, humble beginnings has been incredibly rewarding for Allrecipes. When we launched, fewer than 1 million cooks were seeking food information online. Fast forward two decades and now food is among the most popular, most ubiquitous online behaviors. Per comScore, in November 2015, 66 percent of the total U.S. online audience (172 million cooks of all ages and genders), 88 percent of adult women (96 million women ages 18+ years), and 92 percent of millennial women (36 million women ages 18-34 years) sought food information online. These are massive reach numbers, especially considering the digital audience is on pace to quickly become twice the size of the largest broadcaster of food programming – Food Network – which reaches 97 million cooks through cable television.

We are excited about where the digital food category is today – but the best is certainly yet to come. The rise of (IoT) Smart Kitchen technology will quickly make its way into kitchens through digitally-enabled appliances, gadgets, and services with the likely effect of growing the category size and scale to levels unimaginable 18 years ago when Allrecipes first appeared as cookierecipe.com.

Esmee Williams