From the ‘potato queen’ to domestic goddesses and money-savers, female influencers are offering unique perspectives and engaging content

Fresh from the oven, a mouth-wateringly crispy baked potato appears, oozing with garlic butter and cream cheese. It’s followed by a 30-second guide on how to make your own. It’s the kind of Instagram post that has made Poppy O’Toole – who shot to fame during lockdown – the so-called ‘potato queen’. And a worthy entrant on this list of the top female influencers.

Study after study shows that many kids today have their sights set on becoming social media influencers when they grow up. But the best contemporary food influencers are more than just young people with iPhones and a passion for cooking; they have a wealth of experience in the industry and can offer a unique proposition to their audience and the brands who partner with them.

“If there is a niche in the food space, female creators are helping lead the way with this content,” says Cody McKim, UK head of industry (CPG) global business solutions at TikTok. “We’ve seen the massive rise since the pandemic in the documenting of the busy everyday lives and trying to still eat healthy, try new food, or have a fun experience.”

Broaden that to other areas of fmcg, like homewares and cleaning supplies and you’ll find women have a near monopoly on content creation.

Food and drink influencer content is the most likely to attract the attention of its audience, according to social media management software company Sprout’s 2024 Influencer Report. Some 30% of respondents cited it as their favourite content to engage with, followed by beauty (26%) and fashion (21%). That makes YouTubers, Instagrammers, Facebookers and TikTokkers a hot commodity among brands intending to woo them and create partnerships.

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Sprout cited food & drink influencers as the most engaged in 2024

TikTok is seeing a massive chunk of this growth. From near obscurity in 2019, the platform is now racking up billions of views under hashtags like #cooking (34 billion), #GroceryHaul (61.9 million) and #TikTokRecipe (4 billion and counting).

“For a decade now, brands have realised the importance of what sort of cultural commentary, virality, and brand love can be built on these platforms,” says McKim. “They will always have to be present where those benefits thrive. And now we’re seeing that brands are using it as an ecosystem to go from discovery to purchase through TikTok shop.”

Generational divide

Generation Alpha is growing up with iPads, streaming services and algorithm-tailored content on demand. The modern abundance of screen time is forcing brands to dedicate ever more of their marketing budget and expertise towards social media platforms, in an attempt to capture their uniquely fleeting trends.

Influencers have huge sway with younger consumers, in particular. More than a quarter (27%) of Gen Z engage with influencers on TikTok, compared to 15% of people overall, according to Sprout.

Nonetheless, TikTok is quickly “becoming a platform for all ages to connect and share stories”, says Majid Bahi, global CEO of Socially Powerful. “Older demographics are adopting technology quickly, and brands are taking notice. They’re partnering with older influencers because it works. Baby boomers and Gen X represent a huge opportunity, because they hold the most purchasing power.”

“While Gen Z and Millennials were early adopters, we’re seeing a growing number of middle-aged and older women embracing social media, not just as consumers but as powerful content creators,” says Rachel Porter, influence creative strategy director at Ogilvy UK.

“These women are challenging the ageist narrative that associates influence solely with youth, and building engaged communities by sharing their expertise, passions, and life experiences, proving that influence is truly ageless.


Source: Getty Images

“If there is a niche in the food space, female creators are helping lead the way”

“What’s even more interesting is that their appeal extends across generations, resonating with younger audiences who find their content refreshing and informative. With such a wide appeal, this demographic of influencers holds the trust of consumers with significant purchasing power, making them a crucial audience for brands to engage.”

Those that haven’t bitten the bullet and downloaded TikTok aren’t left out of the loop, though. Half of baby boomers are likely to engage on Facebook, while Gen X and Millennials are almost twice as likely as Boomers to engage on Instagram. And for a significant proportion, those influencer recommendations turn into transactions.

McKinsey research shows that influencer marketing has more than doubled in value since 2019, reaching $21.1bn by 2023, while 34% of consumers claimed to have shopped on Instagram because of influencer endorsements.

But the term influencer is no longer reserved for megastars with millions of followers, a reality TV show and their own fashion line. “There’s been a rise in micro-influencers with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers who have built a strong connection with their following; they trust them,” says Megan Boyle, head of organic social at TAL Agency.

“When influencer marketing is done properly, brands can benefit in ways that traditional marketing methods just can’t offer. For younger generations, particularly Gen Z, recommendations from influencers are more important and impactful to them than those from family and friends.”

Their influence has played out in crazes like Takis, #GirlDinner – the trend that sent up the feminine urge to plate up non-traditional combinations – and Americans discovering staples of British cuisine with the hashtag #BritishFood.

“Female influencers face pay inequality compared to male counterparts”

Majid Bahi, global CEO of Socially Powerful

Authenticity is a recurring theme in the social media and AI age. Trust between an influencer and their followers is important. As is trust between brands and infliuencers in partnership.

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in the trust given by brands to creators on the platform, and for good reason.,” adds TikTok’s McKim. “The longer brands have relationships with influencers, the more creative freedom they give. It’s like they become the creative directors of their own campaigns.”

Meanwhile, some of the bigger influencers are now moving beyond brand partnerships to create their own products. Take Logan Paul and KSI’s Prime energy drink that lived and died on its social media virality, or the Sidemen, who are in the midst of a spree of food and drink launches featuring their own branding.

Hostile environment

They are the first generation to transition from generic social media clout into fmcg clout not just in marketing but in product development. Yet it’s hard not to notice that Logan Paul, KSI and the Sidemen are all, well, men.

Women clearly make up a massive segment of all areas of the food influencer community, though gender stereotypes do kick in, seeing them overrepresented when it comes to family shopping and preparing meals for kids. But it gets even more insidious. Women seen cooking on social media are often judged for the appearance of their kitchens, says Socially Powerful’s Bahi.

“Female influencers often face pay inequality compared to their male counterparts, similar to trends observed in the fashion industry,” he adds.

That’s not factoring in the online trolls who delight in tearing down online personalities. Nigella Lawson, who takes a prime position on our list, is just one personality to have openly addressed derogatory comments.

That does not, of course, mean that female food and drink influencers get anything like an easy ride. The internet is an unforgiving place for high-profile women at the best of times, so here’s our pick of those who have stayed the course and find themselves at the top of the game.

Nigella Lawson

Instagram followers: 3 million

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In 2024, you become an influencer first and release a cookbook second. Lawson did things the other way around, releasing her first recipe book in 1998 and hitting TV screens soon afterwards. Only recently has she become a sensation online, appearing often in Ocado’s TikTok and Instagram feeds. Parodies of Lawson’s style on TikTok by comedian Munya Chawawa have only made her more accessible to younger fans.


Dr Megan Rossi

Instagram followers: 532k

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Known online as @theguthealthdoctor, Rossi has been evangelising about the importance of looking after your gut on Instagram since 2016. Her main mission has been debunking nutrition-related myths, cutting through marketing ploys and educating followers at the intersection between food and health. That work culminated in her co-founding gut health-focused brand Bio&Me in 2019.


Poppy O’Toole

TikTok followers: 4.4 million

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Poppy O’Toole, known as @poppycooks on social media, is a one-woman marketing board for potatoes. In March 2020, she lost her job in a professional kitchen and became an overnight social media sensation, posting potato recipes throughout the pandemic. Her love for the tuber became her calling card, while the accessibility of her recipes and early adoption of the air fryer won her loyal followers.


Nadiya Hussain

Instagram followers: 884k

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Arguably Great British Bake Off’s most successful alum, Hussain no longer limits herself to bakery. With six cookbooks and a dozen TV cooking shows to her name, she’s cemented herself as a staple of the modern British food scene, largely thanks to her relatable social media presence. Hussain has gone on to be a partner in creating seasoning blends and recipe mixes, as well as her own homeware and cookware ranges.


Rachel Ama

YouTube subscribers: 755k

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In her decade of veganism, Rachel Ama has dedicated herself to changing the perception of plant-based whole foods. In the early days, many of her recipes focused on experimental recreations of foods from her St Lucian, Sierra Leonean and Welsh roots with vegan ingredients. Now, they’re featured in The Times. Last year, she partnered with DTC brand Allplants as its inaugural chef in residence.


Ashleigh Swan

TikTok followers: 237.5k

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Known as @ashleighmoneysaver on TikTok and Instagram, Swan has been a consumer champion for years. With a newsletter and blog detailing her latest money-saving tips and tricks, she’s translated that work into a video format for social media. In those reels, she takes viewers shopping to track down the best deals, and tests out dupes to give her verdict on whether the cheaper alternatives are any good.


Angela Hartnett

Instagram followers: 186k

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Known as @angelacooking on Instagram, Hartnett has had to be tough to rise to the level of chef director in a series of high-end eateries, as well as chef patron of her own Murano restaurants. As a venerated restaurateur and judge on Great British Menu, it would be easy to assume she was devoid of a sense of humour. But as a host of Waitrose’s Dish podcast, she’s proven she has serious comedy chops.


Jessie Ware

Instagram followers: 473k

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Podcasts have taken on a new life on social media, as Ware can attest. Primarily a singer-songwriter, she also hosts the Table Manners podcast alongside her mother Lennie Ware. The podcast has amassed some 205k followers on Instagram with a simple-yet-winning format. Each episode, the two Ware women discuss life, family and food with a new celebrity guest – all over a brunch at their kitchen table.


Grace Dent

Instagram followers: 205k

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MasterChef judge, restaurant critic, podcast host and TV personality, Dent is a fixture on the food media scene. On her Comfort Eating podcast by The Guardian, she proves chatting to celebs about their food experiences is a winning combination for downloads. Dent uses her self-described humble upbringing on beige foods to discuss the guilty pleasures of eating, and the need for food education.


Benjamina Ebuehi

Instagram followers: 204k

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A bakery blogger turned GBBO contestant and now Guardian columnist, @bakedbybenji dedicates herself to unashamedly high-end sweet treats. A food stylist to boot, her newsletter and social media feed mark her out as one of few influencers still flourishing with still media as the social media scene pivots evermore towards video content. All shots naturally stay true to her bougie aesthetic.


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We cannot deny social media is influencing what we eat. More than one in five millennials and gen Z say they’re influenced by social media when buying food, and with nearly two-thirds of gen Z using TikTok daily, exposure to food posts could be as high as 30 per day. Whether it’s the butter board trend of 2022 (causing a 7.6% year-on-year increase in sales in the US) or the cottage cheese craze of 2023 (which resulted in a 22% sales bump at Waitrose and 30% in M&S), tapping into these trends can have a huge impact on sales.

With more than three-quarters of monetised content coming from women, and data suggesting women are more likely to consume content from influencers, there is an incredible female presence in the industry. So, despite the widely publicised pitfalls of social media, it’s become a haven for talented and influential female content creators.

But with the power of influence comes responsibility. And with many influencers being home cooks or lacking a nutritional background, should they be influencing our eating? And should companies such as Meta and TikTok be playing a much larger role in tackling misinformation?

Whether it’s through direct partnership with brands or personal endorsements, the women on our list are changing how we eat, and having a direct impact on buying habits and the wider food industry – and it’s clear retailers and manufacturers are already taking note.

Jazz Swift, Director at Newton Europe