5 ingredients for a great creative brief


It’s the bane of most marketers, but generating an inspiring creative brief doesn’t need to be a painful or time-consuming process. Sure, agencies love information, but less can be more if it’s the right information. In addition to the basics like identifying your target audience and overall budget, these are the 5 things we look for:

1 • Background/objective

It seems simple, but oftentimes marketers don’t have a compelling “why” driving the campaign. Are sales declining? Is a competitor gaining ground? Is there a compelling market opportunity you’ve uncovered? The more we understand why we’re developing the campaign and what we’re trying to achieve, the better our work will be.

2 • Singular key message

This may be the most challenging of all, but the most effective creative comes down to communicating one message — and doing it really well. Think about it this way, if you had only five seconds to explain your product to a prospective customer, what would you say? The message can also drive the medium, so it’s best if the tactics aren’t predetermined prior to the briefing.

3 • Message hierarchy

Outside of a digital banner ad, there’s usually space for supporting messages. Understanding the priority of those messages helps us craft the most effective copy.  

4 • Creative mandatories

If you need 12 brand logos, 6 ingredient decks and 4 nutritional labels, we can make it happen! It will just be a lot less painful for both of us if we can plan for it up front (and that holds true even if it’s just one of each).

5 • Desired outcome

What do you want the creative to do? Build awareness, drive click-through, encourage trial or all of the above? By beginning with the end in mind, we can develop creative solutions that are much more effective. For example, if we know the entire goal of a campaign is to generate trial, that will shape everything — from the message to the medium.

ONE FINAL TIP • Some of our most effective briefing sessions have been a collaborative effort with our clients, so don’t think you need to go it alone. Just contact anita@infoodmktg.com and we’d be happy to help.

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Which gravy are we inviting over for Thanksgiving dinner?

Between the turkey, the stuffing and the green bean casserole, who has time to fuss with gravy? Sometimes you need a shortcut. In our recent blind taste test, we tried three store-bought gravies on a mission to find our favorite.



Taste and appearance: Heinz offered a robust, herbal flavor. The light color was appealing, but the chunks of turkey were a bit questionable. Overall thoughts? Decent, but not great.

Packaging: While the red label feels warm and homey, the photography is generic and unappetizing we would like to see Heinz take a more modern approach to their photography for a fresher appeal.

Price: $0.18/oz.



Taste and appearance: Of the three, Swanson was well-seasoned and had the best turkey flavor. Its light, smooth texture looked the most authentic and appetizing.

Packaging: We love the fresh photography and bold typeface that Swanson uses to set itself apart from the competition. The simple white background allows the product to take center stage. We’re also in favor of the easy-to-store box design.

Price: $0.15/oz.swanson2

Our Family

Taste and appearance: Our Family’s artificial taste and lack of saltiness did not sit well with our testers. The dark color and chunks were also a turnoff.

Packaging: Our Family’s packaging fell as flat as the product inside. The overall dark tones of the label and photography paired with dated fonts gives this a very “you get what you pay for” vibe – and not in a good way.

Price: $0.11/oz.



 So, who gets the invite?

Swanson! The fresh, real-turkey flavor gives it a taste that competes with homemade. The texture is light and creamy and doesn’t have the polarizing meat pieces that we found in the competitions’. Go ahead and throw it in the cart this holiday season – we won’t tell.


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Food shows: 5 tips for success


If you’re like many food companies, trade shows are an important part of your marketing mix. Make sure you’re getting the maximum value for your investment with these 5 easy tips:

1. Plan for success

Trade shows are a marketing tactic, no different from an email or ad campaign. Yet many marketers are vigilant about setting objectives and success metrics for other tactics, but invest thousands of dollars in trade shows with no specific goals or follow-up plan. Prior to the show, determine what outcomes you’re hoping to achieve, and make sure to align your resources accordingly.

2. Less is more messaging

On average, you have about 3 seconds to capture an attendee’s interest. Be concise with your messaging to ensure they can quickly surmise your unique offerings and value proposition.

3. Be relevant

By adopting a “one-size-fits-all” approach to food shows, you’re missing an opportunity to tailor your messaging to each audience. For example, the needs of a K-12 operator are much different than a pizzeria owner. Demonstrate that you understand their challenges by engaging them with channel-specific language.

4. Make food appetizing

If you’re sampling food or using it as part of your display, make sure it’s delicious and appetizing. Attendees have the opportunity to taste a lot of items at food shows – and they’re judicious about which ones to choose. Make sure they don’t pass yours by.

5. Be approachable

Your booth staff is representing your brand to attendees, so make sure you’re choosing your most friendly, engaging team members. Avoid overstaffing your booth to ensure attendees feel welcomed but not ambushed.

What have been your tips for success at food shows? We’d love to hear from you. If you need help with your next trade show, contact anita@infoodmktg.com.

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S’more Brownie Cheesecake Skillets


There’s something about these adorable mini cast iron skillets that make for impressive individual desserts.

With brownie as a base, you can create endless ooey, gooey combinations. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

  • Chunks of creamy cheesecake, strawberry sauce and a dollop of fresh whipped cream
  • A scoop of coffee gelato, drizzled with sea salt caramel sauce and sprinkled with cashews
  • Dark cherry ice cream, fudge sauce and pistachios

Share your favorite idea with us! Let us know on Twitter or Instagram @INFoodMktg.

S’more Brownie Cheesecake Skillets

Yield: 6 (3.5”) skillets


1 cup graham crackers, crushed

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or toffee bits

1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided use

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt


Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (cubed) recipe follows

Hot fudge sauce

Graham cracker crumbs

Marshmallow crème

Alternate Topping Ideas:

Turtle Brownie Skillet

Caramel Sauce

Hot Fudge Sauce

Toasted Pecans, chopped


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup melted butter.

Place a heaping tablespoon of crumbs in each skillet and loosely spread out.

In a large bowl over simmering water, melt butter, 4 oz. of chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate until smooth. Set aside and let cool for about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until well combined. In a medium bowl, sift together 1/4 cup of flour, baking powder and salt and add to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined.

In a medium bowl, toss together the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips or toffee bits and 1 tbsp. of flour and fold them into the chocolate mixture. Divide batter into twelve 3-1/2 inch cast iron skillets and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, taking care not to over bake.

Top with Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (recipe follows) chunks. Drizzle with hot fudge. Sprinkle with remaining graham cracker crumbs. Garnish with a dollop of marshmallow crème. For a toasty finish, torch the marshmallow crème!

Note: Cheesecake can be substituted with ice cream.

Basic Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (crust-less)

Yield: 1 – 8”x8” pan


2 (8 oz.) packs Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened

1 (14 oz.) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/8 cup flour

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Line 8”x8” cake pan with aluminum foil, so that batter will not leak through.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add vanilla and flour, mix well. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated, do not over mix.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until center is set. Remove from oven. Allow to cool and then refrigerate. Once chilled, cheesecake can be placed in freezer for a few hours to make cutting easier. Lift foil and cheesecake out of pan. Cut into 1/2” cubes.

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Which popcorn is Netflix binge-worthy?


Recently, there has been a resurgence in popularity of movie-viewers’ favorite snack. With sales nearly doubling between 2014 and 2015 (expected to reach $12 billion by 2020), and new products seeming to “pop” up everyday, popcorn is more cinematic than ever. Keeping in mind that not all kernels are created equal, we set out on a mission to find the brands with the most pep to their pop in our latest blind taste test. Whatever your preference, surely there’s a popcorn for you!


Pop Secret White Popping Corn


  • Crunchiness – With fewer hulls, we found Pop Secret to have a chewy texture rather than a crunchy, crisp bite. More hulls = more crunch.
  • Packaging/Branding – Pop Secret’s branding received high marks. The identity is simple, yet classic and recognizable – a definite plus. We also appreciate the functionality of the packaging. A lid that doubles as a measuring cup is smart design.
  • Appetite Appeal  The bright white kernels of this white corn variety fell flat for some testers. In addition to looking bland, the popped kernels lacked the fluffiness we were looking for.
  • Price – $4.20/32 oz

Tiny But Mighty Popcorn


  • Crunchiness – Our testers noted the crispiness of the smaller kernels and a balanced puff-to-hull ratio.
  • Packaging/Branding – We liked the distinctive black packaging, which exudes “specialty brand”. The package is also resealable, making for convenient storage.
  • Appetite Appeal – It’s all in the name – these kernels are TINY! Though an advantage for some, most of our testers much prefer “meatier” kernels. Size-shaming aside, the earthy, nutty nature of this popcorn is definitely mighty!
  • Price – $5.79/20 oz

Jack’s Superior


  • Crunchiness –  Remember: more hulls = more crunch. We found Jack’s Superior to be crisp and crunchy. The yellow popcorn delivers a nutty flavor. Yum!
  • Packaging/Branding – We found there to be a disconnect between the premium price and the generic packaging. Also, the package does not reseal, making it hard to store.
  • Appetite Appeal – Jack’s Superior received many positive remarks for its soft yellow kernels. However, we would have liked to see a little more fluffiness in its pop.
  • Price – $8.00/32 oz

Pop Crazy Gourmet Popcorn


  • Crunchiness – Scoring high in the “crunch” factor, Pop Crazy is the most light and airy of all brands tested, but continues to hold a crisp bite.
  • Packaging/Branding – The cube-like container makes for easy storage, a plus among our testers. The red and yellow color palette says “movie theater popcorn,” but its branding lacks the own-able personality we expect in a gourmet product.
  • Appetite Appeal  The light, fluffly appearance of these yellow kernels was drool-worthy for our testers – everything we’re looking for in popcorn!
  • Price – $5.99/28 oz



*reviews based on a 5-kernel scale


Try adding these flavor mix-ins to butter for an extra special movie treat:

  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Sriracha
  • Truffle oil
  • Sea salt
  • Cardamon and clove sugar
  • Parsley and parmasean
  • Powdered Ranch
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Cumin
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Packaging we’re INto

There’s nothing we love more than a great packaging redesign, especially when it’s a redesign of a food product! We had the privilege of working with E&C’s Snacks, a Minneapolis-based cookie company, recently designing their logo, packaging design and tagline.

Here are three recent package redesigns that we love.

Blue Bunny


The bunny is back, baby! We love the modern, sleek look of Blue Bunny’s new logo. The choice of font and emphasis on clean-cut imagery makes for an attractive package.

Agency: pearlfisher

Market Pantry


Market Pantry, one of Target’s many private labels, is turning heads with their recent packaging redesign. We’re a fan of the fresh-looking logo, large typeface and bold imagery. Market Pantry’s bright red and white color scheme is synonymous with Target, and bringing that center stage was a smart move. The previous design system lacked personality and appeared rather bland, typical of generic brands. But now Market Pantry redefines “private label” with this exciting redesign.

Agency: pearlfisher

Swedish Fish


Swedish Fish gets a face-lift! The popular candy brand’s iconic red fish is now featured in the center of the package. The font, once retro and seemingly dull, is now modernized and fun. The classic yellow and light blue color scheme remains, but is given life with a playful wave.

Agency: Bulletproof

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Chocolate and stout…that’s what love is about!


As a nod to our North Loop neighbor, Fulton Brewery, we chose their Worthy Adversary Stout for this recipe.

Chocolate Stout Truffles


Creamy Centers

1/4 cup Nutella spread
6 oz. milk chocolate, coarsely chopped


Truffle Filling

1 1/2 cups (1 bottle) Fulton Worthy Adversary Stout beer
12 oz. good quality chocolate (60% cocoa content), chopped



8 oz. good quality chocolate (from a shiny bar, this means it has previously been tempered) can be milk, dark or white chocolate


Creamy Centers

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat milk chocolate and Nutella in microwave for 30 seconds or until just melted. Stir until completely combined. With a teaspon portion 36 1/2” dollops on parchment. Leave in the freezer for 1 hour, until frozen.


Truffle Filling

Add the beer to a pot over high heat. Reduce by half (about 3/4 cup remaining), stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and add the chocolate. Stir until smooth and melted.
Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
Use a melon baller to scoop out a small amount of chocolate. Remove centers from freezer. Sandwich one dollop in the middle of the truffle mixture and roll into a ball with your hands. Chill for 20 minutes to an hour.



Heat chocolate in double boiler, on low. Stir until the chocolate is just melted.
Remove from heat. Roll each truffle ball in melted chocolate until coated.
Place on parchment paper, sprinkle with desired topping. Chill until ready to serve.


Topping Ideas

Cocoa powder
Coconut shavings
Chopped nuts
Crumbled bacon
Crushed pretzels
Crushed candy cane
Crushed toffee
Caramel drizzle
Sea salt


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Build food sales in 45 seconds or less.

With over 600,000 restaurants in the U.S., it’s virtually impossible for a food manufacturer to call on more than a small fraction – even with a robust direct or broker sales force. And with a typical sales call costing around $400, it’s imperative to find cost-effective ways to reach highly profitable independent operators. That’s where video can come into play. Here are just a few stats to show the power of video in your B2B marketing mix:

  • More than 70% of B2B buyers view video product demonstrations before making a purchase.1
  • A video on a B2B landing page can increase conversion by 80%2
  • 48% of B2B buyers use their smartphone to watch video3

Whether you’re using video to introduce a new product (such as our Yoplait® SmoothiePro example below), or using it to show new uses for a mature product category (such as our Marzetti® Dressing example), it can be a powerful way to extend the reach of your salesforce.

A single video can be leveraged in multiple ways to drive engagement and sales — from paid and social media, to your website, tradeshows, e-mails and blog posts.

Introducing Smoothie Pro


Interested in exploring videos for your business? Contact anita@infoodmktg.com


1 IT Business Edge

2 Demand Metric B2B Video Marketing Benchmark and Best Practices Report, 2014

3 EMarketer, 2014

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Tomato, tomahto…which boxed soup gets our vote?

What’s a grilled cheese sandwich without its best sidekick: a steaming bowl of creamy tomato soup? With so many great boxed brands to choose from, we set out to find the one that gets our INdorsement.


The Contestants:

Trader Joe’s Organic Creamy Tomato Soup

Cost: $0.08/oz.

Appearance and taste: This soup had a lighter orange color but was relatively watery. It had a sweet taste that was polarizing to our group. A few people likened it to Campbell’s tomato soup.

Pacific Organic Creamy Tomato Soup

Cost: $0.12/oz.

Appearance and taste: This soup had a rich, orange color and a true tomato taste. Most of our team really sparked to the flavor of this one. One person even called it “life changing.”

Imagine Organic Creamy Tomato Soup

Cost: $0.12/oz.

Appearance and taste: This soup was much darker than the other two. The appearance was appealing to us, however the taste wasn’t as great as we were hoping. It had a slightly off-putting aftertaste that lingered a little too long.

The Analysis:


Our consensus? Pacific Organic Creamy Tomato Soup had the creamy texture and clean tomato flavor perfect for pairing with our grilled cheese sandwiches. Additionally, its packaging trumped the other 2 brands.


The Trader Joe’s package felt very generic and un-designed with its font choice and dark tones. We didn’t find the pinkish hues of the Imagine packaging to work well, and thought the “organic” got lost at the top. We liked Pacific’s color palette and use of fresh tomatoes for flavor cues. The color of the soup also seemed true, unlike the unnatural darkness of the other two.

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Cheesecake Baked Apples

If you enjoy creating in the kitchen, here’s a festive and impressive way to serve apple cheesecake.
Simply hollow out apples for shells, fill with your favorite cheesecake batter and bake!
Apple shells:
8 large apples (I used Honeycrisp)
Lemon juice

Chunky applesauce:
Apple flesh removed from shells
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Cheesecake batter:
2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese (softened)
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. apple brandy
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
2 eggs
1/2 c. chunky applesauce* (recipe below or use prepared apple sauce)
1/8 c. whipping cream
Optional finishes:
Caramel sauce
Pecans, chopped
Maple leaf cookies (recipe below)
1) Apple shells:
Chop the tops of the apples off and scoop out the insides, leaving approximately 1/4” thick shell. Use removed apple flesh to make chunky applesauce for the cheesecake. Discard the core and seeds. Brush apple rims with lemon juice to reduce browning.
2) *Chunky applesauce:
Place scooped out apple flesh in small saucepan with 2 Tbsp. water, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. sugar. and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Cook on low/medium heat until apples are tender but still chunky.
3) Cheesecake batter:
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add brandy, cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom. Blend well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined. Stir in applesauce and cream until just incorporated.
Portion batter into hollowed apples (fill to top). Place filled apples on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes until cheesecake filling is set. Transfer to a plate and place in the fridge until completely cooled.
Serve apples at room temperature or chilled. If desired, top with caramel sauce and chopped pecans.
For an extra special finishing touch, garnish with maple leaf cookies (recipe follows).
Maple Cookies:
Adapted from Gourmet and Martha Stewart
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 egg yolk
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp salt
1 egg white, beaten
Beat together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.  With the mixer running, add in the egg yolk and slowly pour in the maple syrup.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom and salt.  Add to butter mixture until just combined.  The dough will be pretty clumpy.  Press together lightly and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat®. Roll out the cookie dough to about 1/8” thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and repeat with remaining dough.
Brush with beaten egg white. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until edges are lightly golden.
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