The website Recipe.com is a culinary resource established by the Meredith Corporation (an American mass media corporation with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa) in 2011. Its owners described Recipe.com as a “dynamic website containing more than 20,000 trusted recipes and featuring both in-store and manufacturer savings coupons; how-to videos; recipes from best-selling cookbooks; partner recipes from other well-respected brands; and an online shopping list and recipe box” (Source).
After publishing Recipe.com for seven years, Meredith took it offline. What could have happened to the website that once housed a quarterly magazine with an initial distribution of 350,000, a mobile web feature, and “branded television segments airing weekly on Meredith’s daily syndicated television program, Better,” which claimed to reach 80 percent of U.S. households? (Source).
We took the time to follow Recipe.com’s history, identify some of the recipes it featured, and find out what eventually happened to it.
The History of Recipe.com
Even though Recipe.com became famous as the culinary resource established by Meredith in 2011, the history of the website dates back much further. It’s not clear when the domain Recipe.com was registered for the first time. However, a search through the website’s archived pages takes us to a first capture in January 1997. At the time, it was run by a San Francisco-based company named Ketchum Kitchen (Source).
Ketchum Kitchen’s Recipe.com described itself as a channel to “develop recipes, test ingredients, track food trends, and dream up creative new ways to use all kinds of food and beverage products.”
At this time, one of the popular sections on Recipe.com was Dear Sandy, written by Sandy Hu. Hu was the Vice President and Director of Ketchum Food Center. The website introduced her as the founder of Ketchum Kitchen and the creator of “the first Website produced by a test kitchen” (Source).
Ketchum Kitchen appears to have shut down Recipe.com in July 2001. At that time, users who visited the site were met with a notice that read, “We closed our virtual kitchen at the end of July 2001.” The announcement further said, “Thank you for having been part of our family and for having shared the journey with us” (Source).
Redirecting to Cooking.com
After being absent for some time, Recipe.com was back online around February 2002. However, visitors were being redirected to a website called Cooking.com. Cooking.com described itself as a resource “designed to offer the best assortment of cookware, accessories, and specialty foods available anywhere.” The site also claimed to offer “exciting creative content like recipes, menus, and tips” from that time’s top chefs (Source).
This redirect only worked for a few months. In the years that followed, Recipe.com reappeared online several times, only to disappear again after a short while.
Meredith Announces Launch of Recipe.com Portfolio
Even though Meredith announced Recipe.com’s establishment in 2011, the rights to Recipe.com seem to have been in its hands starting around July 2009 (Source). It’s uncertain how the previous owners of Recipe.com, such as Ketchum Kitchen, lost the domain’s rights. However, we speculate that they didn’t see it as a valuable resource and possibly abandoned it.
The primary source of confusion as to how the website ended with Meredith stems from the fact that Meredith seems to have made no formal acquisition of Recipe.com from anyone. What we do know, however, is that on June 29, 2011, the Meredith Corporation announced the launch of Recipe.com and the acquisition of the EatingWell Media Group.
In the words of the Chief Digital Officer of Meredith, Liz Schimel, the company’s goal was “to create a multi-revenue food platform that aligns with the modern way women plan, shop and prepare meals for their families” (Source). Schimel adds, “We also realize that many marketers have a deep collection of trusted recipes, and Recipe.com will enable them to significantly expand their connection with consumers.”
Editorial Director of Meredith Food Content, Linda Fears, also announced that Recipe.com’s mission was to “provide women with a trusted kitchen companion that saves them money while helping them serve easy and delicious meals to family and friends” (Source).
It’s quite interesting that only about a decade ago, a Chief Digital Officer and Editorial Director of a company, such as the Meredith National Media Group, could specifically refer to “women” when talking about recipes. This is certainly something that would raise eyebrows in today’s context where gender neutrality requires that policies and language avoid distinguishing roles based on gender or sex because this could be a source of discrimination.
Over 20,000 Recipes and a Huge Following
If the figures claimed by Meredith are anything to go by, Recipe.com was highly successful. For instance, the company announced that Recipe.com contained over 20,000 recipes. Visitors to the site could expect anything from the Caesar salad with skirt steak recipe, a maple-bourbon glazed salmon recipe, all the way to what the site called handpicked crockpot roast recipes “guaranteed to make a satisfying meal every time” (Source).
Its social media outreach through Meredith’s branded sites on Facebook and Twitter, and promotion across Meredith’s digital network, claimed to reach “25 million monthly unique visitors” (Source).
One of the sections of Recipe.com was the Store Specials. It contained a coupon page that had offerings of a coupon book and coupon book articles (Source). Famous brands like Betty Crocker, Campbell’s, Fleischmann’s, French’s, Keebler, Kellogg’s, Prego, and Swanson are some of the marketing content partners that participated in the launch of Recipe.com (Source).
What Then Happened to Recipe.com?
By December 2017, Recipe.com started carrying what sounded like a farewell message: “Thank you for your support of Recipe.com throughout the years. We are proud of your enthusiasm to make great things in the kitchen.” (Source). The website urged visitors to “Check out these other great Meredith brands” and listed its other brands like EatingWell, Better Homes and Gardens, and MidwestLiving (Source).
By the end of 2019, a visit to Recipe.com returned a blank page. This was also the time when the website uploaded its last Facebook update, which came on December 3, 2019 (Source).
Sometime in mid-July 2020, the website went offline. Any attempt to reach Recipe.com now returns an error message which reads, “404 Not Found.” Meredith has not indicated what it did with the website.