The High Cost of Low Budget Food Video Productions: A Cautionary Tale

I’m fully aware that what I’m about to share might ruffle some feathers, but it’s a perspective born from my extensive experience in the video production trenches, especially when it comes to food and beverage related content. The move towards cutting corners with low-budget, so-called on-demand video productions is a trend I’ve watched with increasing concern.

From my perspective, this strategy often leads to losses that go beyond financial—it can cost companies their connection with the consumer.

The truth is, I’ve been around the block a few times, working on everything from small-scale projects to those with budgets that are jaw-dropping. And here’s the twist: the promise of delivering gold-standard content on a shoestring budget is, more often than not, a fast track to disappointment and fiasco. The same applies to hiring production companies and directors who have never worked with food or beverages. They simply don’t know how to produce it and make the best out of it. These attempts to save upfront can lead to significant waste, not just in terms of dollars but also in lost opportunities for genuinely engaging with your audience.

Projects that never made it into the wild

Let me paint you a picture from my own playbook. I’ve been approached by a couple of them and deliberately stepped into the world of low-budget food video production a few times, as a food stylist, even agreeing to work for less than my usual rate to see how these operations run. One was for a reputable seafood brand and the second was for a high-quality silverware and kitchen utensils company. I thought both would be great additions to my portfolio if I helped the director execute the project. And guess what? Even though I put my A-game on and delivered the top-notch work I normally deliver at full rate, I’ve also never seen any of that content make it to the light of day. Zero!

All that was perhaps because the overall direction and its execution were lacking, leaving the client unimpressed and finding no sense or appeal in the final product. Some of the crew members who regularly worked with this on-demand production company (on non-food-related projects) told me they had never seen any of the projects in the wild. So, the effort and the pain everyone went through were worthless. It’s like chasing a mythical beast—exciting in theory but ultimately futile.

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Hiring a crew inexperienced in food production is like asking AI: “Create a photorealistic image of a CPG food product made for humans out of fish, with a commercial advertising feel.” This is what you are going to end up with 🤓 A mess. Fish + Cheerios. A perfect pairing.


Food and beverage is indeed a niche market that you need to understand

When showcasing your product in a video, especially if it’s related to food or beverages, you want it to appear as authentic and intuitively appealing as possible. Living in LA, a place brimming with camera-savvy, film-loving individuals, I’ve noticed many buying expensive film gear and promoting themselves as production companies, offering content production at incredibly low rates to brands. However, possessing the gear doesn’t equate to understanding the crucial role of developing food commercials. They more often than not overlook the importance of the art department and the nuances of making food and related products look authentic on camera. The prop stylist from the low-budget crew had never styled for food before and didn’t even know what a casserole baking dish was. Despite working on a project for a silverware brand, they lacked the basic knowledge of how to properly arrange silverware on a table!!! It was, to say the least, embarrassing. It seemed as though there was a complete disregard for research or care in their approach as if no one was concerned with the details.

The total creative chaos

In the two projects I’ve been involved with, a common theme emerged: total creative chaos. Nobody spent adequate time on pre-production planning, figuring out the shoot details, or understanding the importance of pairing props with food the ratio of proportions, and how it will look after its shot. When shooting food, every detail matters, even the size of the steak the food stylist brings to the set can make a huge difference depending on the prop and lens being used. It’s the sum of creative details that crafts a compelling, intuitive image that imprints on the consumer’s mind and persuades them to buy the product. If the images are poorly crafted and unconvincing, the customer will notice. They aren’t stupid. Most people buy things based on intuition. You’d be much better off hiring a vlogger from Instagram than a self-proclaimed commercial production guru from Los Angeles.

That’s been my observation across all these below-budget shoots I’ve worked on. I could see the lack of pre-planning and creative thought put into each scene; as a result, they all lack conviction and authenticity, and obviously, clients pick that up since they decided not to use the content.

The lack of expertise and cutting corners on crucial art department expenses

The core issue here is a glaring lack of expertise and skimping on important art department expenses that make or break the content. It’s as if understanding and capturing the essence of food and beverage is an afterthought for these budget on-demand production operations.

They don’t put much effort into the art department, and hiring a food stylist and planning details around food and props is an afterthought for them. They are the gear guys; they seem to be winging it, and the end product? Well, it’s not pretty. Unusable, even. It’s like they’re playing in a game without knowing the rules or the strategy that wins.

Since I’ve taken the gamble of collaborating with these outfits to get a behind-the-scenes look, I can tell you, that it’s been eye-opening in all the wrong ways. My takeaway? Steer clear of the “good deal” on-demand brigade if they can’t show you a solid portfolio that screams food and beverage expertise. Trust me on this: the disappointment of investing even $10,000 in content that ends up collecting dust is real.

So, what’s the move? Go with the professionals—people who eat, sleep, and breathe food and beverage branding. These are the folks who understand not just how to create stunning visuals but how to weave a story that captures hearts and minds. They’re the real masters who can take your concept and turn it into something that not only looks incredible but also resonates deeply with your audience. That’s where the magic happens.

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Most of these low-budget production companies that Google lists as results for on-demand video producers have never produced a real food commercial. Just look them up.


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