Food styling: then & now

Last month, we touched on the important role that photography plays in food marketing. But, let’s rewind a few steps to consider the magic that happens before food even makes it in front of a camera. What—or better yet, who—makes a dish go from ordinary to drool-worthy?

The answer: food stylists. They are the nimble problem-solvers that make food shine for the camera. From having an expert understanding of food properties and cooking techniques, to knowing where to source just the right hamburger bun, food stylists rely on an extensive knowledge base to make food camera-ready. But the job doesn’t end there. Changing photography trends and budgets have forced food stylists to continuously show their adaptability in new ways.

Authenticity, not perfection

Before the boom of food blogs and Instagram, food photography had a very different sense of style. Every element on the plate was analyzed and arranged to be “just so”, and dishes were often adorned with artful garnishes for a flawless finish. But the age of social media prompted a movement toward authenticity for the genre—food that looks more real and unaltered is not only accepted, it’s expected. Today’s food stylists are tasked with creating dishes that appear freshly-plated or “as-is”. “Gone are the days when a slice of cheesecake had razor-sharp edges and every item on the plate was meticulously placed with a tweezer,” says Minneapolis food stylist Beth Emmons. “The challenge in styling today is to create something with a little bit of mess, but not so much that it is unappetizing.”

One stylist, many hats

Despite all that food stylists already have on their plates, reduced marketing budgets are demanding additional responsibilities. We’ve seen food stylists add propping, content planning and art directing to their skill set. So, not only does the food stylist need to track down that perfect hamburger bun, they’re also charged with sourcing the props and surfaces necessary to set the scene for the hero shot. “With the increased  demand for photography for social media, combined with lower budgets, it is often up to the food stylist to fill in some gaps,” Emmons explains. “We are often the source of ideas for content, and it is also not uncommon for us to bring props from home to provide additional choices for the client.”

Whether they’re wearing just one hat or juggling between three or four, food stylists are essential for a smooth-running food photoshoot. They bring your hero shot to levels of delectable goodness that will inspire consumers. And, bonus—their expertise will increase the value of your photography investment in the process.

Looking to invest in food photography? Let’s chat.

 

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American Cheese Taste Test

In the spirit of #GrilledCheeseMonth, it is only fitting that we pay homage to our very first brand test–American cheese slices. Neither glamourous nor gourmet, and actually not a cheese at all, but a “cheese food,” rather, American cheese is a staple. Admit it, we’ve all had it at one time or another, whether it be in a grilled cheese or on a burger.

The criteria

We purchased three brands of processed cheese slices and tested them in regard to taste and melt.

The contenders

• Crystal Farms
• Kraft
• Kowalski’s

The results

• Best Taste: Kraft
• Best Melt: Crystal Farms
• Biggest Surprise: Kowalski’s

Interesting Observation

The first ingredient in Kraft was milk, the first ingredient in the Crystal Farms and Kowalski’s brand was American Cheese.

So, which brand of American Cheese will we be using in our next grilled cheese? Kraft!

 

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Cheddar Corn Waffles with Poblano Pepper Sauce

Crisp, cheesy waffles topped with eggs and just the right amount of zip in a creamy sauce. An Easter brunch show-stopper! Makes 10 waffles. 

INGREDIENTS

Poblano Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, cut into large strips
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk (warm)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (warm)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup spinach leaves

Waffles

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. double acting baking powder
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1¼ cups creamed corn
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup canola oil, plus extra for greasing the waffle iron
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-4 jalapeño peppers
  • 10 ½ oz. sharp cheddar, grated

DIRECTIONS

Poblano Sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Wrap the garlic in foil with a little bit of oil. Toss the poblano and onion with the remaining oil. Place all three items on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until very soft.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour to form a thick paste. Cook for a few minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm milk and chicken broth. If they are cold, it will be more difficult to achieve a smooth texture. Whisk/simmer until smooth and thick, 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add half of the creamy mixture to a blender or food processor with the roasted vegetables from step one. Add the spinach. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust with additional salt, pepper, or other seasoning.
  4. Transfer to the saucepan and combine with remaining creamy sauce base. Season with additional salt and pepper. Use on enchiladas, burritos, veggie bowls, quesadillas, eggs, breakfast hash, or anything else that you want. Sauce for life!

Waffles

  1. Chop the onion and peppers finely.
  2. Mix the yellow cornmeal, flour, salt baking soda and baking powder together in a large bowl.
  3. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the sour cream, creamed corn, eggs and oil.
  4. Add the chopped peppers and onion to the wet ingredients. Stir well.
  5. Fold your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients until just mixed.
  6. Now add in the grated cheddar and stir well until combined.
  7. Heat your waffle iron and brush the interior with a little oil to grease.
  8. Bake the batter according to manufacturer’s instructions, being careful not to overfill the waffle iron.

Notes

  • I like to leave mine in for a little longer after the “ready” light comes on to get crunchier edges.
  • The longer you simmer the sauce, the thicker it will get.
  • This recipe was inspired by the Rick Bayless recipe for the Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba.
  • Recipe by Stacy Rushton, Sundaysuppermovement.com

 

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(Almond) milkin’ it: is premium worth the price?

Remember when milk came from cows and the almond’s crowning glory was the Almond Joy bar? Yeah, that was 2010. Between 2011 and 2012, sales of almond milk grew by a whopping 70 percent. That’s — dare we say it — nuts! Fast forward to 2017 and we’re faced with a wall of nut-based milks at any major grocery store. Which do you choose? The cheapest of the bunch, because surely they’re all the same? Or do you pick the one with the higher price tag, because higher price = better quality, right?

Thirsty for answers, our team hit the stores on a mission: is premium almond milk worth the extra cost?

The criteria

We purchased six brands of almond milk, all unsweetened vanilla, and blindly sampled each. We then rated the brands in regards to taste, appearance and creaminess. Once each brand was revealed, we reviewed packaging and compared prices.

The contenders (priced: low to high)

 

Essential Everyday

Price: $2.79/64 fl oz = $0.04/fl oz

Taste and appearance: Cloudy, gray color; nutty aftertaste; neutral flavor.

Packaging: The first word that comes to mind when looking at Essential Everyday’s package is “generic.” Falling short on appetite appeal, the almonds are almost completely hidden in the imagery. Also, we couldn’t help but note how unnatural the milk pour looks.


Silk

Price: $2.99/64 fl oz = $0.05/fl oz

Taste and appearance: slightly nutty flavor; smooth texture; natural, off-white coloring.

Packaging: Silk’s recent brand refresh makes its package stand out among other cartons on the shelves. The logo is very prominent on the package, prioritizing brand recognition over product category. Featuring just two oversized almonds simplifies the design while clearly calling it out as a non-dairy milk. With all the nut and flavor options out there, we also appreciate the clear callout for “unsweetened”.

Simply Balanced  

Price: $2.99/64 fl oz = $0.05/fl oz

Taste and appearance: thin-looking; hint of vanilla flavor; creamy texture.

Packaging: Like Silk, Simply Balanced relies heavily on its branding to be noticed on shelves. The brand has a very modern, minimalist approach and features imagery that feels natural. With very subtle callouts for flavor and variety, the design depends on this imagery for product category and flavor recognition.

Whole Foods 365  

Price: $3.99/64 fl oz = $0.06/fl oz

Taste and appearance: Indulgent vanilla flavor; creamy texture; slightly gray color.

Packaging: Much like Essential Everyday, Whole Foods 365’s packaging also has a generic feel. The branding feels secondary, as the product category takes prominence on the carton. Though the imagery clearly reads “almond”, we’re missing the color callout for unsweetened and a visual flavor indicator for vanilla.

Califia Farms

Price: $3.99/48 fl oz = $0.08/fl oz

Taste and appearance: Gray color; strong vanilla smell; smooth, creamy texture; noticeable aftertaste.

Packaging: Califia Farms’ unique bottle design is a refreshing break from the other cartons in the category. Its simplicity and fresh typography give it a modern, premium feel. The minimalist approach makes it seem natural and fresh.

Pacific  

Price: $3.49/32 fl oz = $0.11/fl oz

Taste and appearance: pale yellow color with noticeable chunks; paper-like taste; chalky texture. NOTE: shelf-stable.

Packaging: Pacific’s package design fell flat for us. The carton’s imagery lacks appetite appeal and feels dated. We’d also like to see more clear color variation or callouts for their flavor varieties.

So, does price actually matter?

We didn’t find a clear relationship between price and taste, as our favorite brands were low-to-mid-range in cost. Among the brands tested, the three most expensive had premium packaging or were organic. One we loved (Whole Foods 365), the other two didn’t quite measure up in taste (Pacific & Califia Farms). The three least expensive brands tested almost equally in terms of flavor, all tasting good but fairly standard.

Overall Thoughts

Our Favorite

Whole Foods 365. We loved its rich, nutty taste and creamy texture. And, at $3.99 per 64 fluid ounces, it falls into the middle price-range of the brands we tested, with the added bonus of being organic.

Best Overall Value

Silk. At $2.99 for 64 fluid ounces, Silk just edged out the other budget-friendly contenders with its subtle nutty flavor and creamy texture.

Best Packaging

Califia Farms is a great example of how, in a crowded category, a brand can set itself apart with beautiful packaging. This unique bottle is a clear standout among the competition and has a significant impact on perceived valued. Regardless of actual product quality, consumers see the premium packaging and think: premium product.

Biggest Shock

Shelf-stable vs. refrigerated. We were surprised to taste a very clear difference between these categories. As the only shelf-stable brand we tested, Pacific missed the mark in flavor and appearance. Though the brand has historically performed well in our brand tests, it couldn’t compete in this almond milk head-to-head. Perhaps it would perform better among other shelf-stable varieties.

 

 

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Food photography: is it worth the investment?

Photographs and video play an important role in marketing. They are powerful, engaging communication tools when used appropriately and can deliver visual solutions, inspiration and ownable branding faster than any other medium.

The problem? Commercial photography is an investment, and with traditionally lean food marketing budgets, the ROI is often questioned and value expectations are higher than ever.

When I first entered the advertising business in 1995 as an art director, getting 4-5 beauty shots out of a day was considered aggressive. The process required viewing compositions through the camera, reviewing Polaroid proofs, selecting film brackets and sending film out for scanning and color correcting proofs. This was how great photos were achieved and the process was valued by clients. At about that same time, digital photography was starting to take off. The digital era has made the process faster and more efficient, allowing for more shots per day, with color corrections and edits made right on set.

Today, as social media and bloggers have entered the advertising mix, the need for photography and video has exponentially increased. The images surfacing from food bloggers and everyday amateurs have quickly become accepted as the “authentic” norm. Expensive, professional equipment isn’t necessary to accomplish imagery that is not only good enough, but appreciated. If you have a phone, you’re a “photographer.”

This reality has inspired many commercial photographers to evolve their businesses to accommodate the changing needs of clients—bringing more content for less money. Appetizing and impactful imagery (photos and video) is the most powerful way to share a story and inspire engagement—custom images stand out as ownable to your brand.

I value the talent and inspiration that professional photographers bring to the table and believe the investment is worth it for the right projects. There are a variety of photography/video options out there that truly can accommodate any budget. Photographers/studios are incorporating flexibility and increasing capabilities to accommodate a variety of needs. For example:

  • Pricing per shot vs. half or full day rates
  • Adding a social photographer to maximize usage for social media
  • Implementing pre-planning to maximize efficiencies and aligning on deliverables
  • Incorporating less-styled food for a more authentic, made-at-home look
  • Addding value beyond the photo deliverable

It comes down to understanding your budget, needs and desired outcome to align the project with the right photographer. You might be surprised at what’s possible today!

Looking to invest in food photography? Let’s chat.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte

serves 8

Clouds of peanut butter goodness nestled into a rich chocolate shell. Worth. Every. Calorie.

Ingredients

For crust

  • 1 package (approximately 36) Oreo Cookies, finely crushed
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For filling

  • 2 cups heavy/whipping cream
  • 1 and ½ cups powdered/confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1 and ½ cups peanut butter
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips (or chocolate chips)

For topping

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Chopped peanuts, or chopped peanut butter cups, for garnish

Directions 

Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Butter a 9-inch spring form pan, and set aside.
  2. Finely process Oreo Cookies using a food processor or by hand with a rolling pin.
  3. Pour crumbs into a small bowl, and add salt. Melt butter, and pour over crushed cookies. Stir with a fork until completely moistened. Evenly press crumb mixture into pan, on bottom and up sides. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add ½ cup of confectioners’ sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer whipped cream into a different bowl, and place in refrigerator until needed. Use the same bowl, but replace whisk with the paddle attachment.
  2. Beat together cream cheese and remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add peanut butter and milk, and beat until completely combined. Scrape sides as needed. Remove bowl from mixer. Add about ¼ of the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture. Use a spatula to fold the cream into the peanut butter to lighten the mixture. Do not stir vigorously, carefully fold the mixture so you don’t deflate the whipped cream. Add the remaining cream in two batches, using the same folding method, until all of the whipped cream is completely incorporated. Carefully add the peanut butter chips and gently stir to combine.
  3. Pour peanut butter mousse into the cookie shell, and smooth top.
  4. Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 30 minutes. Then, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate an additional 4 hours before serving.

Topping

  1. Heat cream in a glass bowl in the microwave for 60-90 seconds, until cream is steaming hot but not boiling.
  2. Using a wire whisk, stir chopped chocolate into the cream. Stir gently until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside to thicken.
  3. Once mixture is thickened, carefully spread over top of torte.
  4. Garnish with chopped peanuts or chopped peanut butter cup candies, as desired.
  5. Refrigerate a few moments more until chocolate topping begins to harden.

Enjoy!

NOTES

Total time includes 4 hours chilling time. Hands-on time is only about 40 minutes.

Recipe curtesy of Lemon-sugar.com

 

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Your Guide to 2017’s Top Food Trade Shows

 

Trade shows can be overwhelming, especially with so many to choose from. We broke down the top trade shows happening this year so you don’t have to:

FOODSERVICE

2017 Midwest Foodservice Expo

  • WHEN? March 13 – 15
  • WHERE? Milwaukee, WI
  • WHO? 7,600 buyers from over 19 states, representing restaurants, large-scale dining, bakery, catering, hotel, recreational attractions, grocery and more.
  • WHAT? This B2B event, hosted by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, is focused on connecting suppliers with high-level F&B decision makers. Kicking off with a 5k race and brewery tour on Sunday, you’ll have four packed days of new connections, speakers, and classes.
  • Sessions to check out:
    • Farm to Fork: How to Use Local Farm Ingredients Throughout the Year
    • How to Engage and Retain Millennial Customers and Employees
    • Cause Marketing Through the Eyes of Culver’s
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here.

International Pizza Expo 2017

  • WHEN? March 27 – 30
  • WHERE? Las Vegas, NV
  • WHO? 7,000 pizzeria or pizza-concept restaurant owners, operators and managers, as well as distributors and food brokers.
  • WHAT? Join the largest pizza show in the world for four days of workshops, seminars, speakers and networking. This expo, now in its 33rd year, has over 1,000 booth participants.
  • Sessions to check out:
    • Panel Discussion: Common Pizzeria Startup Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
    • Pizza Crust Boot Camp
    • Adding Pizza Styles to Your Menu: The Business Equation
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here. To sponsor, click here.

NRA Show 2017: The International Foodservice Marketplace

  • WHEN? May 20-30
  • WHERE? Chicago, IL
  • WHO? 45,000 foodservice buyers who are searching for new products and services to take their operations to the next level.
  • WHAT? Join the NRA Show for four days of everything foodservice. You’ll be able to connect with other industry professionals, taste the latest trends, learn during on-floor education sessions and more.
  • Sessions to check out:
    • Key Trends Shaping the Future of Foodservice
    • Cannabis & Culinary: The New Frontier
    • The Impact of Customer-Facing Technology on Restaurant Design
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here. To sponsor, click here.

NACUFS 2017 National Conference – National Association of College & University Food Services

  • WHEN? July 7 – 15
  • WHERE? Nashville, TN
  • WHO? 5,000 collegiate foodservice professionals from campus dining departments around the country.
  • WHAT? The NACUFS National Conference is four days of exciting, intensive education, idea sharing and networking within the collegiate foodservice industry. This year’s conference will also feature best-selling authors Chef Sean Brock and Steve Donahue.
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here. To sponsor, click here.

SNA’s Annual National Conference 2017

  • WHEN? July 9-12
  • WHERE? Atlanta, GA
  • WHO? 6,000 attendees from school nutrition, industry and allied organizations.
  • WHAT? SNA’s Annual National Conference, known as the “School Nutrition Event of the Year,” brings together school nutrition and foodservice professionals from all over the country for an event full of education and networking.
  • Sessions to check out:
    • Beyond School Lunch: Maximizing Summer, Afterschool and Breakfast
    • Food Allergy Focus: How to Approach Gluten-Free and Food Allergies
    • Incorporating Culinary Trends Into School Menus
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here.

The 2017 AHF Annual Conference

  • WHEN? August 15-18
  • WHERE? National Harbor, MD
  • WHO? Foodservice manufacturers, service providers, and consultants within the healthcare industry.
  • WHAT? This four-day conference is dedicated to foodservice within the healthcare industry. You’ll get access to the latest issues facing the industry and also be able to network with your industry peers.

NACS Show

  • WHEN? October 17-20
  • WHERE? Chicago, IL
  • WHO? 23,500 convenience and fuel-retailing professionals from around the world.
  • WHAT? The NACS Show is the place to network with convenience and fuel-retailing industry professionals. The expo, taking up 400,000 sq. ft., showcases the latest products and services for c-stores. The conference also hosts several deep-dive educational sessions.
  • To exhibit, click here.

 

RETAIL

SNAXPO 2017

  • WHEN? April 1 – 4
  • WHERE? Savannah, GA
  • WHO? 1,200 industry professionals from leading manufacturers and suppliers in all areas of the snack food industry.
  • WHAT? Find the latest equipment, technology, ingredients, products and services that will improve snack manufacturers’ operations at SNAC International’s annual trade show.
  • Sessions to check out:
    • State of Snacking – Lessons Learned From the Global Market
    • Navigating the Nutrition Facts Panel
    • New and Emerging Snacks in the Traditional and Better-For-You Categories
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here. To sponsor, click here.

2017 NCA Sweets & Snacks Expo – National Confectioners Association

  • WHEN? May 23 – 25
  • WHERE? Chicago, IL
  • WHO? 17,000 candy and snack professionals from nearly 90 countries.
  • WHAT? The National Confectioners Association is hosting the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo to dive deep into the candy, snack and specialty market. Get the chance to meet different players in this industry, from large multinational firms down to boutique, gourmet manufacturers, and learn the latest retail and shopping trends.
  • Sessions to check out:
    • It’s All About the Packaging: Candy and Snack Packaging Trends
    • What IBM is Seeing in Your Shopping Future
    • Labeling and Regulations: What You Need to Know for Candy and Snacks
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here.

63rd Summer Fancy Food Show

  • WHEN? June 25 – 27
  • WHERE? New York, NY
  • WHO? 47,000 food industry professionals who are looking for the latest innovative and exciting products on the market.
  • WHAT? The Summer Fancy Food Show, part of Specialty Food week, showcases the latest products and newest producers across specialty gourmet, ethnic, natural and organic foods, snacks and beverages.
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here.

Natural Products Expo East 2017

  • WHEN? September 13 – 16
  • WHERE? Baltimore, MD
  • WHO? 28,000 retailers, health practitioners, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers..
  • WHAT? Join Natural Products Expo East to see 2018’s biggest natural brands and products. With over 1,450 brands and 450 first-time exhibitors, you’ll be exposed to a wide variety of innovative trends in food, beverage, supplement and personal care products. You can also purchase additional passes to attend their education program.
  • To attend, click here. To exhibit, click here.

PLMA’s 2017 Private Label Tradeshow

  • WHEN? November 12-14
  • WHERE? Chicago, IL
  • WHO? Today’s supermarkets, supercenters, drug chains, mass merchandisers, convenience stores, online retailers, importers, exporters, wholesalers, discounters, and military exchanges.
  • WHAT? More than 1,300 companies from 40 companies will be exhibiting their products at this year’s Private Label Tradeshow for retailers and wholesalers who are sourcing for their private label programs. You’ll have the chance to identify interesting products and companies in advance of the show to set up one-on-one meetings.

 

Planning for a trade show? Let’s work together.

 

 

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3 reasons we’re INto the Krusteaz website

Happy Pancake Day! This comfort-food holiday had us pouring over a full-stack of pancake-related marketing goodness. In all our research, the Krusteaz foodservice website caught our attention. Here are three reasons we’re INto their website:

1. It’s responsive.

Being responsive allows the page layout to adapt to the size of a user’s screen. Here, the content stacks and the slider is removed for simplicity on mobile screens. Not only does it make for a positive viewing experience across all devices, responsiveness also contributes to SEO. Search engines will prioritize responsive sites over those that only have a desktop experience.

2. It’s easy to navigate.

With a simple navigation of just six primary sections and only four submenu items, there’s not much to this site—and that’s a good thing. Visitors can quickly find what they need and get there with just one click.

3. It’s simple.

We really like the flow and organization of the page layouts. The homepage consists of just three sections of content, and more than half of that space is devoted to photos of trending recipes.

OUR RATING

Overall, the website structure and user experience for Krusteaz Professional is in a good place. As for design, we extended our research to the Krusteaz retail site to see how the brand style translates between retail and foodservice. Foodservice websites often don’t get the “design love” that their retail counterparts do. The modern look and feel of the Krusteaz retail site has a freshness that we’re missing in their foodservice site. We understand that foodservice and retail websites have different priorities, but we could see some of these modern retail elements utilized to take their foodservice site up a notch.

Hungry for more? Contact us to learn how we can work together.

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Beyond email: 5 proven ways to engage your customers

You’ve invested in a marketing automation platform, honed your list and perfected your process for deploying emails on a regular basis. Now all you need to do is sit back and watch the sales roll in, right? Not so fast. While email is an effective way to communicate directly with your customers, it shouldn’t be the only way. As more and more marketers hit the “send” button, you may find your emails getting lost in the shuffle. Consider these proven tactics to complement your efforts:

1. Direct mail

It may seem like a step back in time, but direct mail can be a highly effective tactic—especially since so many marketers have diverted their budgets to digital efforts. In a recent foodservice campaign where we leveraged email, direct mail, and high-impact print and digital media placements, our best performer (by far) was direct mail.

2. Events

In today’s digital age, personal connections can go a long way toward building relationships. Consider hosting a lunch-and-learn to address a customer pain point, or sponsoring special events at your key industry conferences.

3. Webinars

Beyond your products, you likely have all kinds of valuable information to share with potential customers such as trend research, recipe ideas and preparation tips. Webinars are like making a virtual sales call to a highly engaged “room” of customers.

4. Social media

With the right strategy and platforms, social media can be a powerful way to connect with your customers. The key is having compelling content to drive to, such as a blog or recipe collection. But even without those, there are easy ways to dip your toes in the water and begin building a social presence. One example: follow industry leaders on Twitter and retweet content while adding your own point of view.

5. Promotions

Looking to drive trial or ramp up sales quickly? Coupons, free samples, rebates and sweepstakes are all ways that you can lower the barrier for prospective customers—and potentially convert them into long-term users.

Looking for new ways to engage your customers? We’d love to talk! Contact anita@infoodmktg.com.

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Cherry Almond Baked Alaska

This recipe may seem intimidating in length and steps. The beauty is that you can build any combination of ice cream, filling and cake for an impressive dessert. Included are the cake and filling recipes shown, however any brownie or cake can be used as the base, and the filling can be a frosting, preserve, chocolate or simply eliminated. The molds can be prepared and frozen a week ahead, leaving just the meringue step for serving day!

Makes 8 individual servings.

You will need

• 1 qt. Cedar Crest® Black Cherry Ice Cream

• 1 recipe Almond Cloud Cake

• 1 recipe Frangipane Filling

• 1 recipe Meringue

• 8 – 3” prep bowls or custard cups

• Cooking torch

Ingredients

Almond Cloud Cake

• 2¼ cups cake flour

• 1 Tbsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp salt

• 1¼ cups buttermilk

• 4 large egg whites

• 11/2 cups sugar

• 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1/2 tsp. almond extract

Frangipane filling

• 3/4 cup (about 7 ounces) almond paste (not marzipan)

• 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

• 1/4 cup granulated sugar

• 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1/4 tsp. almond extract

• 1 egg

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1/4 tsp. salt

Meringue

• 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

• 4 egg whites

• 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

Frangipane filling

Can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the almond paste until it is crumbly. Add the butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, egg, flour and salt, and continue to pulse until the mixture is combined and smooth. Cover tightly and refrigerate until needed.

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9”x13” pan parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Combine the sugar and the butter and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until very light. Beat in the extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly-mixed and well-aerated. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch. Cool completely.

Assembly

1. Line 8 – 3” prep bowls or custard cups with plastic wrap, allowing excess to hang over rim of bowl. Pack ice cream into each cup, flush and smooth to the top.

2. Using a round cutter or knife (using prep bowls or custard cup as guide), cut out 8  – 3” rounds of cake. (Note: scraps of cake can be frozen and later layered with whipped cream and fruit for an easy dessert!)

3. Spread a ¼” layer of almond filling on each cake round. Place each cake round on top of ice cream bowls, filling side to ice cream.

4. Wrap each ice cream/cake bowl in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

5. Prepare meringue: Place cream of tartar and egg whites in a large bowl; beat on medium speed of a hand mixer until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Add sugar, and beat until stiff but not dry peaks form, about 2 minutes.

6. Remove ice cream/cake cups from freezer and unmold. Place, cake side down, on a parchment lined bake pan (if using oven) or individual plates (if using torch).

7. With a spatula, cover each mold with meringue, creating peaks and swirls.

8. Torch: using a cooking torch, brown meringue.

Oven: preheat oven to 450ºF. Bake until meringue turns golden, about 5 minutes.

9. Serve immediately!

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