Click for L.U.N.C.H. 2017

To help combat child hunger this summer, IN Food Marketing & Design is proud to kick off the 7th annual Click for L.U.N.C.H! Campaign to raise awareness for Second Harvest Heartland’s Summer Food Service Program.

Last year we were able to donate 3,030 meals – this year we hope to donate 10,000. For every person that visits infoodmarketing.com/click-lunch between June 6 and 9, 5 meals will be donated to Second Harvest Heartland’s Summer Food Service Program.

Nearly 40 percent of children in Minnesota’s public schools depend on the free or reduced-cost meals they receive during the school year. As schools around the state let out for summer vacation, many food insecure kids are faced with unhealthy food options – or worse, no options at all.

We understand that not having access to a balance of healthy, nutritious food has consequences on a child’s overall health and ability to learn, which is why we are donating 5 meals for every person that visits our campaign page*

Share this page with friends and family to provide even more kids with healthy meals this summer.

*Up to 10,000 meals

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From flavored cottage cheese to spiralized veggies, here’s a look at the five new food products we’re INto.

Chowza

Chowza brings a fresh take on the childhood classic — puppy chow! With a crisp bite and indulgent flavor, this Minneapolis-based company offers flavors such as Classic Peanut Butter Chocolate, Mint Chocolate and Butterscotch. At the moment, Chowza is sold exclusively online. Image source: The Dieline

 

Veggie Noodle Co.

Veggie Noodle Co. adds a twist to pasta business, leveraging the spiralized vegetable trend. Available in four varieties: zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potato and beet. Available at Whole Foods and Target Stores nationwide. Image source: Veggie Noodle Co.

Hippeas Chickpea Puffs

Hippeas offers a line of organic puffed snacks made with chickpeas. Organic, gluten free, vegan, high in fiber and protein and with flavors like Maple Haze and Far Out Fajita, it’s hard to not love these. The perfect healthy alternative to the classic cheese puff. Available at a variety of retail locations nationwide. Image source: trndmonitor.com

Secret Squirrel Cold Brew

Ready to drink cold brew coffee is a growing trend — between 2010 and 2015 cold brew sales grew by nearly 350 percent. Secret Squirrel offers a global spin on traditional cold brew with flavors like Vietnamese Latte, Maple & Brown Sugar and New Orleans Style Chicory Latte, all made with organic ingredients. Available in select markets. Image source: Bev Industry Magazine

 

Good Culture Cottage Cheese

A high protein snack, perfect for that 3 PM slump. Good Culture brings an innovative approach to bland cottage cheese with flavors like Kalamata Olive, Pineapple and Strawberry Chia. Certified organic, we love Good Culture’s clean ingredient list. Available at Whole Foods and select retailers nationwide. Image source: Food Business News

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Ice Cream Social: 7 Things Learned From Halo Top’s Social Media Success

Founded in 2011 in Justin Woolverton’s kitchen, Halo Top is a low-calorie, high-protein ice cream made with natural ingredients. Originally available in just four flavors, Halo Top has expanded to a whopping 17 varieties. Between 2015 and 2016, the company’s sales increased 2,500 percent, or just shy of $66 million. The product was available at select Whole Foods, specialty stores and co-ops until recently, and is now sold at stores like Kroger, HyVee, Target and Walmart. Even Costco sells a bulk 4-pint case (because you can eat the entire pint in one sitting, many consumers stock up).

Until recently, Halo Top hasn’t relied on traditional means of advertising to promote its product. So, what triggered this rapid growth? Social media and influencer marketing. Here are 7 lessons learned from the company’s success.

1. Develop a solid strategy

What are your objectives? What is your goal? Once defined, all social touch points must stem from these. Halo Top’s messaging is driven by a common goal of increasing brand awareness and customer loyalty through product promotions and consumer engagement.

2. Post relevant content

Once your audience is defined, post content they care about – but keep it on strategy. Be timely, on-trend and relevant to your audience. Halo Top does a great job of utilizing hashtags and curating content around recognized social trends. They have a clear understanding of their audience’s values, which drives the company’s communication tactics.

3. Develop your brand voice

Developing a voice that is authentic, consistent and unique is crucial to social media success. Who is your audience? What is your company culture and brand personality? College-aged, professional, soccer mom, retired? They all require different brand voices. Halo Top knows its audience is younger and social media savvy, leading the brand to communicate in a fun, on-trend way.

4. Engage with consumers

Be human. Consumers want a brand that is genuine, one that they can connect with and trust. Halo Top makes an effort to respond to every post they’re mentioned in, whether it be a comment, like or retweet. The pay off? Positive product reviews, user-generated content (#halotop on Instagram has over 100,000 posts), customer loyalty and a trustworthy brand voice.

5. Make it pretty

With the help of Crier Communications and Peck & Company, Halo Top’s creative direction is something to envy. Between their package design, website and social media accounts, all elements are “Instagram-worthy,” promoting increased social media sharing.

6. Tailor the message to each channel

People use different social media channels for different purposes. Make sure to tailor your message to the right audience at the right time. Halo Top uses Twitter and Facebook to respond to customer concerns and share company news. Instagram is used for sharing trends, promoting company culture and to announce product promotions.

Need help with your business’ social media? We can help! Contact us at info@infoodmktg.com

 

Image source: theodysseyonline.com

 

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Top Dog! Which Natural-Casing, All-Beef Hot Dog is Best?

Though often shadowed by its disc-shaped rival, the hot dog is popping up on an increasing number of restaurant menus. An upgrade from the classic mustard, ketchup and relish combo, offerings such as Prairie Dog’s Micho’s Sonoran Dog and Butcher and the Boar’s Berkshire Pork & Cheddar are all the rage.

We dusted off the grill and hit the stores with one question in mind: which premium hot dog brand is best?

The criteria

We purchased four brands of natural-casing, all-beef hot dogs. Our taste testers blindly sampled each and were asked to rate the brands in regards to flavor, appearance and juiciness. Packaging was reviewed once each brand was revealed.

The contenders (price: low to high)

 

Schweigert

Price: $4.99/12 oz. = $0.42/oz.

Taste and appearance: Buttery and salty flavor; crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside.

Packaging: We like the heritage from the font and monogram of the Schweigert logo. We also noted that this was the only package to include a product photo. While we agree with their choice to do so, we think that the product in the photo doesn’t look much different from the product in the package. We’d like to see a little more juiciness in the photo for added appetite appeal.

Cher-Make Authentic Wisconsin

Price: $5.49/12 oz. = $0.46/oz.

Taste and appearance: Natural, woodsy flavor; meaty texture; pale appearance.

Packaging: We found that the brand on the Cher-Make label is difficult to determine, as “Authentic Wisconsin” is at the top of the label, and the Cher-Make logo is equal in size and side-by-side with the Wisconsin logo. This was also the only package to use black backing instead of clear, which doesn’t allow for as full of a product view as the others with clear backing.

Ambassador

Price: $5.99/13 oz. = $0.46/oz.

Taste and appearance: Sweet, smoky, complex flavor; robust red interior; less juicy.

Packaging: We like the retro feel of the Ambassador label and the playfulness of the hot dog mascot. We’d like to see the label simplified to just red, white and black to really own that retro feel.

Boar’s Head

Price: $6.99/14 oz. = $0.50/oz.

Taste and appearance: Standard, salty taste; wrinkled appearance; greasy mouthfeel.

Packaging: The font and color choices for the Boar’s Head label give it a sophisticated feel. The package stands out among the rest as appearing most “straight from the butcher” with the bundled-style wrapping. However, we noticed that it was also the most difficult to open.

So, which brand of hot dogs are we grilling up this summer?

Schweigert! We loved the meaty, juicy flavor and the golden brown color. The slightly crisp, yet tender bite was a homerun in our books!

Packaging Wrap-up

Working at a food marketing agency, we all often find packaging to be a main factor in our purchasing decisions. But aside from communicating branding and product information, this hot dog packaging becomes secondary to seeing the color and quality of the hot dogs themselves, though not completely irrelevant. The bundled-style packaging of Boar’s Head, for example, stands out from the others and lends itself to a sophisticated “straight from the butcher” feel. For the flat-style packaging, the clear backing for Schweigert and Ambassador allows the consumer to see much more of the product than the black backing on the Cher-Make hot dogs.

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Rosemary Parmesan Skillet Bread

Warm, flavorful homemade bread that’s incredibly easy to make. Bake up your own variations with fresh herbs all summer long.

YIELDS 1 LOAF

Ingredients

2 ¼ tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup Manitoba Milling Co.® Smooth Whole-Milled Flaxseed
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, reserve 2 Tbsp. for sprinkling
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for sprinkling
1 ½ tsp. fine salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast and water and sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add half the flour in and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the flax, Parmesan cheese, rosemary, salt and remaining flour and stir until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Brush 2 tablespoons olive oil over the bottom of a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the dough and your hands with flour before shaping it into a disk. Dough will be sticky, it doesn’t have to shape perfectly. Place in the skillet, cover loosely, let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Drizzle additional olive oil over the top of the bread. Slash the dough with a sharp knife to create an X shape. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle all over with the Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Adapted from Baker Bettie.

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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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