Beef & Mushroom Burger

The secret to a juicy summertime burger? Fresh mushrooms mixed into the beef. It’s grill perfection!



  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. finely minced cremini mushrooms
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup finely diced white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 lbs. ground beef


Finely dice mushrooms or gently pulse in food processor.

Heat oil in a saucepan. When hot, add the minced mushrooms. Sautée for two minutes and add fresh thyme. Continue cooking until moisture evaporates. Lightly season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Whisk egg in a metal mixing bowl. Add mushroom/thyme mixture, mustard, Worcestershire, onion, garlic, salt and black pepper. Whisk again.

Mix in ground beef. Try to avoid overworking during this process as this will make the burgers tough. Form 6-8 balls and shape into burger patties. Press a small dimple in the center of each patty so they don’t puff up while cooking. Place on parchment-lined baking tray and chill in refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

Cook on heated cast iron skillet (coated with a thin layer of canola oil) or cook on the grill to desired doneness.


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IN Food donates almost 5000 meals through Click for L.U.N.C.H.

We are thrilled to announce that our 7th annual Click for L.U.N.C.H campaign was a success. We received enough clicks to donate 4,830 meals to Second Harvest Heartland’s Summer Food Service Program — that’s 1,800 more meals than last year! A huge thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s campaign.

During the school year, more than 40% of K-12 kids in Minnesota are eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. However, when the school year ends for the summer, these children may not have access to the nutritious meals they need. The Summer Food Service Program provides free meals to children 18 and under to fill this gap.

Here at IN we are all passionate about food, and are glad we were able to help make sure fewer children live at risk of hunger this summer. Our partnership with Second Harvest Heartland has been an incredible experience. You can find information about donating to or volunteering with this great organization at

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Lobster Mac & Cheese

Succulent chunks of lobster give this creamy mac and cheese a sweet taste of Maine.



1 lb bag of large pasta (we used ziti)
3 Tbsp. butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup mascarpone
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. brandy
12 oz. Wood River Alpha’s Morning Sun cheese (white cheddar/gruyere blend), grated
6 oz. fontina cheese, grated
Salt & pepper, to taste
2-3 cooked lobster tails
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped


1 cup panko crumbs
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain in colander and return to stockpot. Melt butter over medium heat in large saucepan. Once melted, add shallots and sauté until soft.
Add flour and stir for 1 minute until combined. Whisk in milk. Bring to a slight boil, whisking constantly. Add cream, mascarpone, Dijon, brandy, both cheeses, salt, and pepper. Remove pan from heat. Stir together until all cheese is melted. Mix in pasta and lobster. Pour into a large baking dish.


Mix together panko crumbs, butter, chives and salt and pepper. Sprinkle topping over pasta. Bake until golden. This will take about 20–25 minutes.

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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 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 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:

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


Image source:


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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)



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.


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.



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


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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