Digital Marketing

Hard Cider in Hudson Valley – An Empire State of Mind

I don’t know about other New Yorkers City dwellers but I often like to escape this urban jungle. An easy escape is New York’s Hudson Valley, where I was lucky enough to be raised for the better part of my childhood. The region consists of 10 counties and extends into an area of 150 miles. It begins just minutes after leaving the tip of Manhattan by car or train, over and alongside the river, named after Henry Hudson, who explored the famous Valley over 400 years ago. The area has a myriad of natural beauty, history and tradition, hence why it is designated as a National Heritage Area. Aside from quaint towns, breathtaking hiking trails and shopping malls, there’s also plenty for food lovers to cheer about, like renowned farm-to-table restaurants  and bakeries, The Culinary Institute of America, bountiful farms, wineries and distilleries. Fact: Hudson Valley is actually the oldest wine producing region in the United States, and  in addition to all this enticement and charm, it was also devotedly named as the nation’s “apple belt”. The Empire State is the second largest producer of apples in the USA, producing nearly 30 million bushels of this pomaceous fruit annually…

PR Industry Trends

Surf, Turf and BLURF: Three Creatures Responsible People Should Be … Eating??

Foodies, be advised: the entrées of tomorrow might have a few more legs and spines than you were expecting.

In a Buzz Bin post last summer, I included insects on a list of “formerly vilified” foods, noting how they were slowly starting to crawl their way toward acceptability – at least for early adopters – in Western food culture. Well, in the past 12 months, some of those critters have picked up the pace and are now downright hopping and flying onto ingredient lists of experimental products at natural food stores. In particular, crickets.bb1

Freeze-dried and ground into indistinguishable “flour,” crickets are adding protein to energy bars marketed by Exo, Chapul and Bitty Foods, among others. (When you Google “cricket flour,” currently more than 672,000 results pop up!) The thought is that the homogenized particles will hide well amongst other familiar, palatable ingredients and lend sustenance without adding any unusual flavor or texture, thereby increasing acceptance and adoption. For these very new kinds of snacks, however, there remains an age-old culinary challenge: are they actually yummy?

A recent NPR story observed that:

“Policymakers and the media have…

Branding

The Achilles Heel of U.S. Wine Marketing

I started my career in wine & spirits PR after leaving Europe to chase an American I fell for in my senior year of college. Luckily, both worked out fine – I love my job in the U.S., and I am happily married to the man I left Austria for.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been back in three years, but as I am visiting home this week, I can’t help but notice an undeniable advantage that European wines have over wines from the U.S.:  they are made in a cultural context of “easy living” that seeps into every bottle and lies at the core of European wine marketing campaigns worldwide. That’s the Achilles heel of U.S. wines and their respective marketing. The American way of life doesn’t have the same appeal as Europeans’ philosophy of living, and living well.

Photo credit: Werner Schandor

Take France, Austria and Spain for example. Each a major wine-producing region, the concept of “easy living” is deeply ingrained in their culture to the point where each language has a special term for it. The French call is “laissez-faire,” which can be translated as “let it be.” In Austria,…

Branding

Sweet Surprise Dinner

aOne of the biggest challenges in public relations is to continue to capture and increase interest among our audiences – one of the hardest audiences being media. So how do you host a media dinner in the center of a major global media hub filled with influential writers who are constantly invited to multiple dinners a night?

With this challenge in mind, the NC Sweet Potato Team decided to add an element of surprise. On behalf of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission (NCSP), we partnered with Dinner Lab, a social dining experiment uniting undiscovered chefs with adventurous diners. Our team reached out to local media with a lone promise: enjoy a delicious, one-of-a-kind dining experience. What was our selling point? The air of mystery – mystery chef, mystery pop-up venue, mystery menu (with sweet potatoes of course).

Turns out, suspense wins! Held in a vacant factory penthouse lit up by skylight windows, the dinner was attended by more food editors and bloggers than we expected (fortunately no one had to sacrifice a seat).  Dinner Lab sold out tickets to consumers who exclaimed the dinner was “one of the best…

Branding

In Defense of Origin and Geographic Branding – It’s the Where that Counts

the-real-deal3This week in Geneva, Switzerland, over 75 nations are debating why the ‘where’ is as powerful as the ‘what’ in branding premium products, from Champagne to Prosciutto di Parma.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Diplomatic Conference is laboring to update the existing 1958 agreement protecting appellations of origin on a global level, hoping this updated language will encourage additional countries to join. Let’s say, the Unites States, for example.

Having formed a career around defending the value of origin in wine and food, I can sincerely appreciate the importance of courting the U.S. and other countries to help protect the geographic identity of products made with passion and integrity for hundreds of years in a specific location.

After all, would you pay a premium for a jug of “Hearty Burgundy,” a chunk of domestic parmesan cheese, or a generic balsamic vinegar? All of these products have capitalized on the name of real deal products by using their geographic brand to label and sell less expensive products. In many cases, they are displayed side by side at retail, leaving it up to consumers to make the distinction.

But wait, there’s more!

Wine, Food & Nutrition

What’s the deal with the Dietary Guidelines?

supermarket-confusionThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Guidelines are reviewed and revised every five years by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is comprised of scientists and experts in nutrition from all over the country.  A lot of the controversy surrounding the guidelines stems from these committee members allegedly basing their decisions not on scientific evidence, but on their financial ties to the food industry.

Based on my experience, consumers don’t think their daily eating is swayed by the dietary guidelines.  But they are extremely important because they influence food policy across several sectors that affect millions. This includes food assistance programs such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and WIC, and the massive National School Lunch Program.

While the new guidelines are not expected to be published until closer to the end of the year, the scientific summary was recently released and provides a glimpse of what we might see. Below is a very brief glimpse of the recommendations that were included in the summary:

The Booze Bin

Dear Blogger…#ILoveYou

pay-it-forwardIt was one of those weeks where you wake up staring at strange, fancy furniture and forget what city you’re in. Where you take the elevator downstairs and unconsciously sit at the same corner table each morning for good people watching and some sense of familiarity. One where you sleep just enough to maintain the ability to form full sentences, but not enough to completely shed that bleary, red-eyed look that will be forever captured in recap reports. And stay there for long enough to start calling this odd, yet cushy place “home” when you describe where you are headed in the evening.

Full disclosure, these weeks are decidedly harder when there are sweet munchkins waiting for you with hugs and cheers at your real home.

I spent the week with my incredible Wines from Rioja team organizing a series of events that make up Rioja Week in Chicago – from a ~2,000-person wine and tapas festival with endless opportunities to pair tasty wines with cured pork and beyond, to an intimate winemaker luncheon with the sweetest bodegas principals in the world, to endless media interviews in a speed dating…

Wine, Food & Nutrition

Vegetables Take Center Stage/Plate

corn“The next culinary macro-trend will be ‘veg-centric’ dining,” stated Chef Gerry Ludwig, while speaking at the annual Research Chefs Association’s annual conference. I participated in the concept Wednesday night at Root & Bone, a New York City restaurant revered for its fried chicken, but also serving up some delicious veg-centric dishes. On this particular night, we were focused on sweet corn (a client), which is just coming into peak season in the chef’s home state of Florida. I witnessed this trend taken to an entirely different level at Dirt Candy, where acclaimed chef Amanda Cohen is delivering amazingly flavorful and filling fare to vegetarian crowds, and that rising group of flexitarians embracing going meatless for a meal or day.

Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise in the U.S. with 1 million of the latter as part of an overall group that totals 8.3 million. This wasn’t exactly what Chef Ludwig was addressing, however. Certainly the number of people abstaining from any animal products has increased, but he was really talking about how vegetables are moving from an interchangeable role player to the protein to a starring role.

Meat isn’t…

Branding

From Your Cup to the Global Stage: 5 Reasons Why Coffee’s Future is Brighter than Ever

This month, I attended the most buzz-worthy conference of the year. No, it wasn’t SXSW (although the crowd in attendance was probably equally stimulated) – it was the National Coffee Association’s Annual Convention. And, yes, it was just as delicious as it sounds.

Between sipping samples from vendors around the globe, I absorbed a lot about coffee’s past, present and future. My lessons began with the legend of Kaldi the goat herder, who first discovered Coffea Arabica when his flock became unusually frisky after ingesting some bright red berries while grazing in the Ethiopian hills, and progressed to philosophical discussions on the increasingly dynamic, venture capital-backed Third Wave movement.

While coffee’s trajectory thus far is a fascinating one, the key insight I left with is that the industry’s future is exceptionally bright.

Here’s why:

1-      Health Halo in the Making. Coffee has a myriad of health benefits that are backed by sound science, but are not yet widely acknowledged by consumers. Dr. Alan Leviton, of Harvard University Medical School, shared data showing that regular coffee consumption (3-5 cups/day) is associated with decreased risk of Type 2  Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer or malignancies. Basically, the more coffee people drink…

Wine, Food & Nutrition

From Styled to Wild: The Shift in Food Photography

Okay, so wild may not be the best word, but 10 years ago, stray herbs or seeds outside a perfectly plated dish would be considered messy. A licked spoon sitting on the rim of a plate would have called for a re-shoot. As a trend I hoped would continue into this year, beautifully imperfect content is here to stay and brands are rethinking how they produce content.

Just look at the two pumpkin tortellini examples below. The first is perfectly styled, but when you look at the next photo by the Berlin-based photographers, Krautkopf, it captures more of narrative. Like a Joseph Cornell box, it calls upon the viewer to spend time with it. One should inspect all the intricacies and subtle accents.

RAVIOLIS

Before, perfectly styled

 

more raviolis

Now, Photo by Krautkopf

 

Luckily, there are a select number of food photographers – true artists – whose blogs are changing the industry. They are even prompting brands to not only reconsider how they shoot their products, but now partner with these bloggers to…