A Closer Look At The Popular Sorted Food YouTube Channel

According to Wyzowl, a staggering 2,500 videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That's over 3 million new videos on the platform every day, or roughly 271,330 hours of new content to consume. That is quite a lot of "noise" to rise above if you are an aspiring YouTube creator looking to grow your audience into a loyal community and your channel into a self-sustaining business. The channel Sorted Food, however, found a way to stand out amongst the crowded but lucrative cooking YouTube niche and become one of the most-watched food channels in the world.

Like many successful YouTube channels, the U.K.-based team behind Sorted Food started out as just a group of friends looking to make some videos, believing that they had something useful to offer their community. At the time of writing, over ten years after the first video was uploaded, the channel had amassed over 2.6 million subscribers, with over 878 million views across all of its videos. The channel produces a number of cooking series that help its fans become better home chefs all while reducing food waste as well as their grocery bills. The channel has developed over time into a robust community of fellow fans and home cooks, swapping ideas and recipes through everything from mystery box challenges to a smartphone app dedicated to meal planning. But how did it get to where it is today? Join us as we explore the story behind Sorted Food.

The channel started as an add-on for a student cookbook

As any member of Sorted Food would attest, they did not launch the channel with the idea that it would grow into the platform that exists today. On the contrary, Sorted Food began as a project dating back to the team's school years back in 2010. In an interview with Think With Google, the team (which includes childhood friends Ben Ebbrell, Mike Huttlestone, Jamie Spafford, and Barry Taylor) shared how Sorted Food began as a self-published student cookbook. In the beginning, the videos were merely an add-on for the book.

They also shared with The New York Times that the book began as a way to share easy recipes fellow students could create themselves. The Sorted Food team noticed that most of their peers had yet to develop culinary skills beyond what they would describe as "rubbish." They realized that there were likely many others feeling the same frustrations when it came to preparing simple yet tasty meals, and the channel quickly grew from there.

Sorted Food is based out of the United Kingdom, specifically Hertfordshire, which is located north of London. The name "Sorted Food" might come across to Americans as meaning organized, but as they describe in an interview with Richmond Magazine, in the U.K. it means completed with minimal difficulty or hassle.

The channel has a very clear mission

From its earliest years, Sorted Food set out to help its audience of fellow foodies come up with simple yet unique meal ideas that are as budget-friendly as they are flavorful. What started as a means of helping other Hertfordshire students grew into a channel that helps a global audience create an array of dishes, including those with only five ingredients, dishes you can make in 15 minutes, and dishes from around the world. Through the success of the channel, the team behind Sorted Food is aiming to help everyone become a better home cook.

Despite the channel's reach, the team also recognizes the work that still needs to be done moving forward. Founding member Jamie Spafford took part in an interview with Off the Record where he discussed the friction between the accessibility of cooking as a hobby thanks to the internet and the higher price of fresh meats and produce in grocery stores, and how that has an impact on who actually has access to easy home cooking. In the interview, the idea of educating young people on how to cook was a point of interest to Spafford, who wished that more programs like that were available nationwide.

It has always collaborated with other big YouTube channels

Sorted Food is no stranger to partnering with other prominent YouTube creators in order to reach a wider audience. Collaboration is a big part of the culture of the video platform for a good reason: It is actually one of the top recommended strategies offered to YouTubers when looking to grow their channel, according to Vlogfund. Collaborating with other creators also makes for a change in pace from the usual banter amongst the team and introduces different perspectives on the topics covered in their videos. Since the very beginning, collaborations have been a regular component of the channel. YouTubers who rose to early prominence on the platform like Charlie McDonnell (a.k.a. charlieissocoollike), Chris Kendall (a.k.a. Crabstickz), and Ingrid Nelson (a.k.a. missglamorazzi) appeared in Sorted Food videos.

The collaborations were also reciprocal, with Sorted Food appearing on other channels over the years. In 2015, they were guests on Good Mythical Morning, a popular YouTube series created by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal. The collaborations and guest stars have even begun to expand beyond the YouTube universe, and in more recent years celebrities have appeared on Sorted Food, including Emma Thompson.

The channel features multiple series

If you were to turn your television on to a channel like the Food Network, you would come across different types of programming throughout the day on topics ranging from easy recipes to international cuisine. To keep its current audience engaged as well as recruit new audience members, Sorted Food offers its viewers a variety of series and video types rather than just sticking to one formula. This way, the team is regularly uploading different types of content and mixing up what they produce, making sure that the channel does not grow stale over time.

Popular video types include the Beat the Chef series, an "Iron Chef"-esque competition show that often includes a mystery box of ingredients. Other examples of series that regularly return to the channel include the Budget Battles series, the Ultimate Battle series, and the Big Night In series. The various video series use different types of food, different cooking formats, and different challenges along the way to both keep audiences entertained as well as informing viewers of different ways to save in the grocery store, reduce food waste, and try new recipes.

It went on a culinary tour of the United States in 2015

Sorted Food is based in the United Kingdom, but the channel has a worldwide reach. In fact, according to The New York Times, American viewers make up one of the largest percentages of Sorted Food's audience. This was true even in the channel's earliest years. As of 2014, Americans were the largest audience segment at approximately 25%, with United Kingdom viewers taking up the second largest piece of the pie. With such a large appeal across the Pond, a trip to the United States was all but inevitable.

The four founders of Sorted Food came to the United States in 2015 and embarked on a trip courtesy of "The Today Show," which aired its own series featuring the team stopping in different cities around the nation to try some signature dishes. Their culinary tour included a stop in San Francisco to sample various clam chowders as well as a trip to Los Angeles to find top-tier fish tacos. The team also shared in an interview with Richmond Magazine that they tried a variety of quintessential American foods, like Texas barbecue and New Orleans dishes like crawfish boil (oh, and plenty of bacon).

It is always in communication with its audience

The team behind Sorted Food recognized early on the importance of engaging with its audience in a meaningful way. After achieving 1 million subscribers on YouTube, the team appeared in an interview with Tubefilter and shed some light on how engaged the audience is. Beyond simply watching the videos, fans often suggest recipes. Sorted Food's viewers also document themselves cooking the channel's recipes and share their results with the community.

According to an interview with Food Navigator, Sorted Food's audience has always taken an active role in shaping the channel. In addition to quantitative data collection in the form of surveys and polls, the channel makes sure to have an actual dialogue with its fans as well to see what kinds of content are working, what is not, and what audiences are looking for in future videos. That way, fans feel like they are a part of the channel and have a stake in the community as well as the content produced on YouTube. The fan feedback also helps the Sorted team know what's trending in the world of food at any given time.

One of its long-time members left in 2021

Like any other cooking show you will come across on television, Sorted Food has grown and evolved over the years, introducing new series and formats to keep its audience engaged. The success of the channel catapulted its creators into internet stardom, opening doors for new opportunities they perhaps would not be afforded otherwise. The team was even able to move into a new studio (which they talked about over on Twitter), which allowed for the next evolution in the production value of the content.

As the channel changed over the years, so did the makeup of the core team. In 2021, it was announced that long-time team member James Currie would be departing Sorted Food, according to an announcement made on the YouTube channel. According to Gistvic Blog, he accepted a new role elsewhere, and he also mentioned that he was taking time to further develop himself. Fans were sad to see him leave, as many expressed in a Reddit thread, and they voiced their wishes for a guest appearance in the future.

The channel once launched a club for its most devoted fans

The fan community's involvement with Sorted Food has gone beyond commenting on videos and suggesting recipes. For those looking to put their money where their mouth is, the channel also launched its very own subscription book club, aptly named Sorted Club, that distributed the team's various cookbooks that have been published over the years. Joining the club gave members access to discounts on the books, as well as early bird pre-order access to new books and gifts with every purchase. Various levels of the membership offered different perks, including how many books you would receive upon signing up.

The club also included access to a meal pack starter kit to help its members fully stock their kitchens with the tools needed to become their own expert home chefs, like an exclusive smart kitchen guidebook. While the book club site is still up, the team's focus seems to have shifted more toward the app Sidekick (which we'll cover in a moment). Most of the links on the book club website now redirect to the main Sorted site.

The team is open about its recipe for success

Most successful YouTubers would likely agree that the road to one million subscribers was not an easy one, and it is certainly not something that happens overnight or even in the course of a couple of years. While some may be inclined to keep the secret of their success close to the vest, the team behind Sorted Food has been more than happy to lend some advice to aspiring YouTubers and creators. In their interview with Think With Google, the Sorted Food creators said that they believe their success has come from offering various types of content to their audiences while sticking to a consistent upload schedule that their audience can plan for week after week.

Founding member Ben Ebbrell also shared some insights in an interview with Fourth Floor Creative. In the article, he advised creators starting their own YouTube channel to focus on building a community over time rather than going for quick and easy methods of getting attention, such as viral content or trends. He mentions that the Sorted Food channel has never gone viral, but "well over half a billion people have enjoyed our videos." While going viral may provide a rush of adrenaline along with a rush of views, the founders of Sorted Food would likely argue that it is not a strategy for sustainable, long-term success.

It launched an app to help you in the kitchen

One of the latest developments from the Sorted Food team came in the form of a smartphone app that allows fans to access a library of content anywhere they go. The app, known as Sidekick, was launched to help its users plan their week of meals, all while saving money on the next trip to the grocery store. Users pick recipes they want to try, and the app provides a list of ingredients to shop for. From there, the app offers step-by-step instructions on how to prepare each meal. To encourage more downloads, the team launched the Sidekick Challenge, which allows fans to try the app for a 30-day free trial.

Sidekick is not without its critics, however. Multiple fans have noted their disappointment with the app, sharing their concerns on Reddit. Several users pointed out that some of the ingredients were difficult to track down in their grocery store, especially for people who lived in smaller communities. One comment added that there were not enough vegetarian-friendly dishes on the app to justify paying for its use (which costs £4.99 per month or £49.99 per year).

They have received numerous accolades outside of YouTube

As of October 2022, Sorted Food has amassed a total of 2.63 million subscribers on YouTube. Aside from the achievement that comes from cultivating a community of that size, the channel has been recognized outside of the platform as well. In 2014, just a few years after the channel was first launched, The Guardian included Sorted Food on its list of the top 30 young people in digital media. At that time, the channel had approximately 700,000 subscribers on YouTube and 35,000 followers on Twitter, which included then-president Barack Obama as well as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

The team has also been featured in many publications over the years, with profiles of the four core team members behind Sorted Food, including in the Independent. In the article, readers learn that the channel was awarded Best Online entertainment at the Banff World Media Awards. In addition, one of its founding members, Ben Ebbrell, was recognized by the U.K.-based Good Food Channel as the next celebrity chef. What has made a difference between Sorted Food and its competition, the team says, is the consistent feedback from audience members.

Fans have their favorite moments and meals

Over the years, fans of Sorted Food have had countless moments and plenty of recipes to enjoy and look back on, and many have picked out their favorites. Much like a favorite episode from a beloved television show, there are a multitude of responses to a Reddit thread that asked for fans to share their favorite Sorted Food moment. One comment brought up the Sia Parody Breakfast episode, and another mentioned the Poker Face "Hot Sauce" Food Challenge.

Fans also have their favorite meals that the team created. Much like everyone's favorite episodes, there were a wide range of responses to a Reddit thread asking people to share their top picks for Sorted Food recipes. Comments included the Express Yourself pack, the vegetarian European Bites pack, and the Home Comforts pack. These packs are featured on the team's Sidekick app, which according to an interview with Food Navigator, publishes a new pack of three recipes each week for fans to replicate at home.