(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.


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.


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.


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



  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.


  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.


  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.



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:


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.


  • 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.




  • 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.


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


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


• 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

• 4 egg whites

• 1/2 cup sugar


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.


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.


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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Raising the (chocolate) bar. Which brand are we sweet on?

Chocolate: It’s a Valentine’s Day must! But which brand you gift your sweetheart is crucial. In our latest blind taste test, we tried four brands of dark chocolate, all hovering around 70 percent cocoa.

The Criteria

  • 70-72% cocoa
  • Between $3.00 and $4.00
  • 3-3.5 oz.


Taste and appearance

We all agreed that Ghirardelli had an intense chocolatey flavor but was the most bitter of the brands we tested. The bar didn’t melt quite as smoothly as we’d like, some noting an almost grainy texture.


Ghirardelli’s stately package design paired with a matte-finish wrapper and subtle use of gold foil give it a premium feel. We like the large, bold callout of the cacao percentage for easy shopping. The recognizable blue logo really pops off the dark chocolate background for clear brand recognition.


$3.29 (3.5 oz) = $0.94/oz


Taste and appearance

Of the bars tested, Chocolove 70% was the darkest in color and had the most shine. Our testers noted the more rich, complex flavor, a nice compliment to the smooth texture.


The all-black wrapper clearly identifies this chocolate as dark. We are fans of the very youthful “love letter” vibe we get from the stamp and foil seal motif. We only question the typewriter font Chocolove chose for its flavor callout. Though the typewriter style feels postal, we don’t love the distressed details of this particular font.


$2.99 (3.2 oz) = $0.93/oz


Taste and appearance

Expecting the typical bold chocolate flavor, we were pleasantly surprised by the addition of nutty notes in Godiva. The texture, however, didn’t have quite as smooth of a melt as we expected—some described it as almost waxy.


Godiva recently underwent a major package re-design, and we approve of the results. Most notably, we love the drool-worthy swoosh of chocolate running across the wrapper. With this bold element of taste-appeal and overall simple design, Godiva moved from classic to a much more modern, casual look.


$2.99 (3.1 oz) = $0.96/oz


Taste and appearance

The lightest in color and mildest in flavor of the brands we tested, Lindt received high marks from our milk chocolate lovers. Though the subtle flavor wasn’t off-putting, we would have liked a deeper flavor. But the velvety texture was favored all-around.


Lindt’s package design is clearly going for a very classic European feel. We like this direction for Lindt, but we’re getting a bit of a dated vibe here with the lighting effects in the imagery. Though the use of gold foil feels premium, we don’t get any sense of that high-quality taste-appeal in the chocolate representation.


$3.69 (3.5 oz) = $1.05/oz

The Results

So what dark chocolate will we be pairing with our wine this Valentine’s Day? Our overall consensus is that you couldn’t go wrong with any of these brands. But, if we had to pick just one, we’d go for the Chocolove. The specialty feel of the packaging is matched by the rich, smooth chocolate inside—a very giftable combination.

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12 Days of Holiday Food Packaging

As a food marketing agency, it’s hard for us not to ooh and ahh over some of the festive packages we see hit the shelves this time of year. Join us as we find and discuss the packaging for 12 food products dressed in holiday style.

Day 12: Land O’Lakes Eggnog

Our Notes

We couldn’t wrap up our series on holiday food packaging without taking a look at this seasonal eggnog from Land O’Lakes. Most of this carton has taken on a creamy tan background with a very subtle speckled texture. A simple red and green illustration of a wreath encompasses the product name and decidedly brands the package for Christmas.

Overall Thoughts

Like a few other products we’ve looked at for this holiday series, Land O’Lakes took a very simple approach with their eggnog packaging. There’s no product photography on the front. But, the creamy, speckled background hints at the beverage inside that’s traditionally sprinkled with nutmeg. As the singular element of Christmas on the package, the wreath appears stylistically retro, a nod to the nostalgia associated with this holiday party drink. The simple package design may not have a major “wow” factor, but it sure got us in the holiday spirit.

Day 11: Angie’s Frosted Sugar Cookie Boom Chicka Pop

Our Notes

Here at IN, we have a soft spot for Angie’s, both for their popcorn and for their branding. Looking at just the layout of this holiday-edition bag, not much has changed from the standard packaging. Snowflakes have been added in a simple line at the top of the bag, and the logo has been transformed into a Christmas ornament. Known for their brightly-colored bags, Angie’s made the switch to metallic for their Holidrizzle packaging.

Overall Thoughts

Our eyes lit up like kids at Christmas when we saw the display of Angie’s Holidrizzle Boom Chicka Pop. Though the layout of this holiday-edition bag hasn’t changed much from the standard packaging, Angie’s has certainly made a festive impact with a simple switch to metallic for their Holidrizzle bags. Not only does this make the bags eye-catching among the other snacks on the shelves, but the metallic finish feels premium and special, a perfect fit for the  Frosted Sugar Cookie Kettle Corn inside.

Day 10: Coffeemate Peppermint Mocha Creamer

Our Notes

The seasonal line of Coffeemate creamer received a wintry packaging makeover with a flurry of snowflakes falling in the background. For this Peppermint Mocha variety, a candy cane striped mug topped with decadent chocolate frosting and peppermint candy rests in the snowy white landscape to indicate the flavor inside.

Overall Thoughts

Though this packaging doesn’t scream “Christmas” or even “holiday”, its seasonal look can’t be missed in the snow and decadent drink displayed on the label. With this subtle approach, Coffeemate proves that not all limited-edition packaging needs to have an excess of bells and whistles to exude holiday spirit. Instead, their approach to seasonal packaging leverages their signature look to maintain brand recognition with just a taste of winter wonderland.

Day 9: Hershey’s Candy Cane Bar

Our Notes

Hershey’s didn’t stray too far from its iconic simple packaging with their holiday edition Candy Cane bar. The wrapper features a clean, white design with candy cane stripes on both ends to indicate the bar’s peppermint flavor.

Overall Thoughts

Peppermint-flavored everything is everywhere during the holiday season. How is a brand supposed to stand out in all of that minty madness? Hershey’s took the “don’t reinvent the wheel” approach, and we think they made the right choice. By retaining their classic look with the simple addition of candy cane stripes, Hershey’s leveraged the strength of its brand to plow through the clutter.

Day 8: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Joe Joes

Our Notes

We couldn’t stay away from this seasonal treat from Trader Joe’s after hearing rave reviews from a couple of our team members. The box says “Christmas” at first glance with its 2-tone red striped design. It’s dressed up like a gift, as the design features a gold ribbon wrapping around the box. The badge-style logo even acts like a gift tag in a festive, ornamental shape.

Overall Thoughts

First thing’s first, we had to see if these cookies could live up to all of the hype. They definitely do, which posed a bit of a problem. The design has a holiday feel, but it doesn’t reflect the premium quality of the cookies inside. We think a gift-worthy product should have a gift-worthy presentation. Perhaps a cleaner, white design would better highlight the peppermint-y goodness of these decadent, yet refreshing cookies.

Day 7: Old Dutch Tiny Twists Holiday Pretzels

Our Notes

Nothing on this holiday packaging for Old Dutch Pretzels resembles the standard bag. The original blue and yellow design has been replaced by a cheery red and green argyle pattern, complete with snowflakes, and the once blue logo is now red to match. For a finishing touch, the square window has been exchanged for a wreath of holly and berries.

Overall Thoughts

Whether used for dipping in chocolate or stirring into snack mix, pretzels are a holiday snacking staple. So, adopting a festive package design for the season makes sense. But did Old Dutch go too far in this makeover? Though the Old Dutch logo is still recognizable and prominent, we see a fair amount of risk in the drastic departure from their standard bags. Until this holiday design becomes a brand standard in consumers’ minds, Old Dutch could be running the risk of getting lost in the snack aisle.

Day 6: Goldfish Grahams S’mores

Our Notes

This bag of Goldfish Grahams S’mores underwent the biggest holiday makeover of the packages we’ve seen so far. The background has changed to a blend of red to red-orange, and Finn the Goldfish’s camping hat has been replaced by a Santa hat. The blue that normally covers the package is now confined to just 2 ornaments in a snowy landscape. Though we didn’t notice it until we got back to the office, a third (very subtle) red ornament displays the Goldfish logo.

Overall Thoughts

We love to see changes to food packaging for the holidays, and it’s safe to say that kids do too. Perhaps that’s just enough reason to make this seasonal edition worthwhile. Our only complaint here is that the Grahams branding gets lost in all of the holiday cheer. Reducing the amount of blue on the bag makes it difficult to distinguish it amongst the rest of the Goldfish lineup.

Day 5: Trader Joe’s Decked Out Brittle

Our Notes

Another Trader Joe’s find, this Decked Out Brittle is a bit more seasonably dressed than the hot chocolate we found a few days ago. The packaging features some familiar brand assets with an elegant holiday twist. Plus, designed as a hinged-top style box, the product feels giftable. We also noted the “punny” name is an accurate description for this festive brittle filled with nuts, seeds and berries.

Overall Thoughts

The exterior design of this package is simple and elegant—a good amount of holiday style. When we opened up the box we were a little disappointed by the rest of the product experience. Don’t get us wrong—the product itself is tasty. But the box feels very standard, and the interior packaging is just a lack-luster, heavy-duty plastic bag of brittle. We think Trader Joe’s could have decked this packaging out more to align with the perceived value of the product inside. Since this seasonal treat is made with high-quality ingredients, presenting it in a heavier weighted, more substantial box with a tray instead of a bag would be a better fit.

Day 4: Milano Cookies

Our Notes

The festive packaging for Milano cookies couldn’t be ignored as we wandered down the snack aisle. The cookies inside the bag are familiar, but Christmas red replaces the standard purple top of the bag, and trees made of snowflakes line the now-snowy horizon. Snowflakes also fall down the side of the package to continue the seasonal feel.

Overall Thoughts

It’s safe to say cookies are the unofficial dessert of Christmas as they seem to show up in droves throughout the season. To make sure their cookies aren’t forgotten behind grandma’s gingerbread, Pepperidge Farm dressed up its Milanos in holiday cheer. The change makes an already elegant cookie feel more special and jump right into the shopping cart. Santa won’t mind a Milano or 2 mixed into that plate of sugar cookies, right?

Day 3: Trader Joes Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Our Notes

We found this tin of Peppermint Hot Chocolate hiding amongst other holiday goodies in one of the many seasonal displays at Trader Joe’s. Though the design doesn’t exactly exude holiday spirit, the badge-style logo combined with the tin container feels very giftable. Plus, its contents definitely give it a limited-time status.

Overall Thoughts

This product didn’t pop off the shelf for being decked out in candy canes or Christmas trees. Rather, it stood out for its simplicity. The badge-style logo and tin packaging elevate it to feel special, perfect for a little stocking stuffer. Maybe it will even make an appearance at this year’s IN Secret Santa gift exchange.

Day 2: Kemps Skim Milk

Our Notes

While browsing the dairy aisle for the traditional eggnog and festive creamers, we were surprised to stumble upon Christmas packaging in the milk section. Milk is such a staple item that you might not even notice the label change if you’re not looking for it. Here, the grassy fields are replaced by snow, and the Kemps cow is adorned in Santa garb and holding a sign that reads, “Official milk of Santa”.

Overall Thoughts

Because shoppers are accustomed to milk’s color-coding system, a jug of milk has very little flexibility to dress up for Christmas. Kemps had a small window of opportunity and really milked it for all it’s worth by taking ownership as the official milk of Santa. Adding Santa may not have a big impact on holiday sales for this staple grocery item, but it does succeed in making a relevant connection with shoppers.

Day 1: Ritz Crackers


Our Notes

At a quick glance, Ritz doesn’t stand out for its limited edition seasonal packaging. Instead, a snowflake-themed box maintains the iconic Ritz Red that we see year-round. We also noted that snowflakes read as “seasonal” rather than “holiday” or “Christmas”.

Overall Thoughts

Retaining the Ritz Red as the core asset ensures familiarity with brand loyalists. Buyers know what they can expect with the bonus of a festive-shaped, entertaining-worthy cracker. Plus, choosing snowflakes versus Santa extends the life of the packaging past Christmas and New Year’s, especially here in MinneSNOWta.

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Ditch-the-Can Green Bean Casserole


A fresh take on a holiday classic sure to impress the foodies at your table.



1/4 lb. bacon
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea Salt
Ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. corn starch
1 cup Mountain High™ plain yogurt
1/2 cup whole milk
1tsp. honey
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and blanched or frozen, thawed

Crunchy topping:

1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
Bacon (from above)

Fried shallots:

3 medium shallots, sliced and separated into thin rounds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour or corn meal
Vegetable oil, for shallow frying


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Fry bacon to crispy in skillet on medium heat. Discard excess fat.
  3. Add the butter and oil to the pan. When butter is melted, add the mushrooms, onion and shallots. Cook so the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and garlic, and continue cooking the mushrooms until brown on the edges. Season with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Cook 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Dust the mushrooms with the flour. Whisk to incorporate the flour and gradually add in the chicken stock.
  5. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and add the yogurt and milk. Stir gently and cook over low heat until gravy thickens, 5 to 6 minutes.
  6. Add the cheddar cheese and 1/8 cup of the Parmesan, stir until melted.
  7. Add the blanched green beans to the pan and fold together so everything is mixed well.
  8. Spread out evenly in a greased baking dish. Finish with crunchy topping (below).

Crunchy topping:

  1. Mix together crumbled bacon, remaining Parmesan cheese, panko crumbs and thyme. Season with salt & pepper.
  2. Bake until the casserole is bubbly throughout, about 20-25 minutes.

Fried shallots:

  1. While the beans are baking, pour the vegetable oil into a deep skillet and heat to 350°F.
  2. Pour the flour or corn meal into a Ziploc bag and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the shallot rounds in the seasoned flour, and shake off any excess.
  3. Fry the shallots in the hot oil in small batches until golden brown, 2-4 minutes.
  4. Drain on paper towels and season with salt while still hot. Top the green bean casserole with the fried shallots and serve.

Recipe inspired by Guy Fieri

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