Fasten Your Seatbelts, Eaters…The Speed of Change in Food is Accelerating

There’s never been a more exciting time to work in the food world. Once relegated to recipes featured in the Wednesday newspaper food pages and women’s magazines, the discussion about food has deepened and broadened exponentially in the last decade. What hit me smack between the eyes this month is the feeling that the pace of this change is now in hyper-drive. Two recent events stand out: Ketchum’s January 12th publication of its newest Food 2020 consumer research and a visit to the San Francisco Fancy Food Show six days later.

Koda Farms Logo

Koda Farms Logo

 

18 Rabbits Logo

18 Rabbits Logo

Ketchum’s fourth global Food 2020 study found that an influential group of what we call Food eVangelists may be emerging as the new core food consumer. Food eVangelists are a small but globally powerful group who want to impact the way food is raised, packaged and sold. This cohort engages in conversation and share their opinions about food online or in person multiple times each week. First identified by Ketchum Food 2020 in 2013, this group has grown 10 percent in just two years and now accounts for 24 percent of the general population. That’s a tremendous rate of change and because of their influence, Food eVangelists are now in charge and food producers are rapidly responding.

Jelly Belly Logo

Jelly Belly Logo

 

Purely Elizabeth

Purely Elizabeth

This massive change in priorities of consumers is resulting in an explosion of small- to mid-sized businesses who have engulfed the specialty food industry with organic, local, non-GMO and sustainable foods. Big food is also heeding the call and opting in to the movement by cleaning labels of favorite foods and purchasing purpose-driven brands when they are ready for mass distribution. I’m thrilled by all of these developments because they show that consumers really can affect change. It feels darn right democratic!

Georgia Grinders Logo

Georgia Grinders Logo

If you don’t believe me, you should have walked the halls of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center last week for the 41st Winter Fancy Food Show. You would have been flooded by a mixture of USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified B Corporation, 1% for the Planet labels on everything from oatmeal and granola to nut butters, tuna fish and rice. Even Jelly Belly jellybeans  are in on the game.  The word ‘sustainable’ was ubiquitous and ‘heirloom’ is coming on strong. Cricket flour  created far more buzz than cupcake sprinkles in this venue. Gone are the days when the Fancy Food Show specialized mostly in gorgeous chocolates and phenomenal cheeses, although thankfully you’ll still find plenty of these to enjoy!

 

Safe Catch Logo

Safe Catch Logo

If you’re reading this @ppetite post, it’s highly like that you are a Food eVangelist yourself or that you know one, or that you have attended either the Winter Fancy Food Show in SF or the Summer version in New York City. I’m so glad you are here and look forward to hearing your thoughts. Do you see this acceleration of change? If so, how and where?

Bitty Foods Logo

Bitty Foods Logo

Promote vs. Protect: Why Global Integration is a Two-Way Street

For decades, we have collectively praised the notion of global integration but few have achieved nirvana where all activities are seamlessly threaded without borders or boundaries. There are many reasons why this doesn‘t happen. I would offer that in the food and beverage industry it shouldn‘t happen. Rather, we should take a different strategic approach. I‘m going to state the obvious here. The food and beverage sector is still very much focused on local brands that speak to varying cultures and lifestyles – and rightly so. Building relevant market strategies to promote brands requires exceptional insights about local mindsets, behaviors and trends. The marketing tools and tactics that resonate in one area may well fail in another. What is less obvious – and may even seem counter-intuitive to local brand-building best practices – is the necessity of taking a global approach to issues and crisis management. Situations affecting brands and business rarely start in or stay contained to a geography. The majority of issues impacting the industry today are a set of common negative forces affecting nearly every brand and corporation in every market in the world. They may play out to varying degrees in each market but they are typically the same core issues.

These issues are fuelled by a shift in power to the people enabled by democratized social and digital platforms, which have removed the ability to control, isolate and starve out simmering issues and activists. In an instant, like-minded consumers can aggregate and agitate for change online. Who are these people? And can they be reached? Our Ketchum Food 2020 global research identified a new consumer influencer segment we have dubbed the Food eVangelist. They are self-appointed agents of change who are neither activists nor affiliated with groups or each other. They view themselves as serving a higher purpose to warn and protect others from food-related risk by way of sharing and questioning the status quo. They are not the extreme, small percentage of the population that can never be reached or satisfied. To the contrary, our research shows Food eVangelists are and can be the moveable middle on many issues. What’s more, data shows that they exist in every country, and we have learned that the drumbeat heard around the world from Food eVangelists is remarkably similar and consistent. Conversely, we know that if dismissed or dissatisfied they will congregate and collectively agitate for change on a massive and public scale. The borderless and fluid ability of these groups to ignite and fuel escalation is expanding exponentially. Command and control strategies no longer work. In fact, we‘ve seen evidence that they actually backfire, accelerating the issue. The drain on local resources to fight each brush fire is overwhelming and, frankly, this approach is ineffective. In any business, there is a time to sell and a time to tell. There are also very different strategies for promoting versus protecting your brands and business and confusing or integrating the two can have serious negative consequences. Waiting until you see fires burning can be even worse. Concerned Food eVangelists are continually urging everyday consumers to pay attention and take action. Bonfires become a raging forest firestorm all too quickly.

At Ketchum, we advocate building a two-way approach to global communications in the food industry. Promoting from the inside out locally in parallel with PROTECTING from the outside in regionally and globally is the new paradigm. By adopting relationship-building, reputation-enhancing communication initiatives between Food eVangelists who share common concerns and expectations, it is possible to build a base of support, and acceptance that will surround, strengthen and shield local marketing strategies. A skilled firm that is steeped in food and agricultural work should have separate teams working on these two paths at all times – one regionally focused on protecting while the other is locally focused on promoting. It is crucial they be aligned but each requires deliberately different messages, channels and strategies. We’ve all seen that bad things happen to good people – and to good brands. When a crisis hits that disrupts business or threatens the brand materially, you need a plan, a protocol and a firm that can instantly mobilize and align across multiple borders. Our global crisis team runs simulations on a regular basis to ensure our clients are prepared from the inside out. Broad-reaching technologies like our mobile crisis app called Mobile RepProtect allow our clients to have their crisis plans available to them instantly via their smartphones as well as to instantly contact the main crisis manager on breaking situations via email or a phone call within the app. This technology allows all our necessary parties within Ketchum and the client organization to quickly activate across the world. Global integration is and will remain an important aspect of business. But, at Ketchum, we believe the food industry requires global and regional reputation-building and crisis management infrastructures that align and work in parallel with local marketing programs. Protecting and promoting is, we believe, a two-way street.

Food Meets Creativity: An Interview with Ketchum Creative Director, Petra Sammer

Creative directors are commonplace in the advertising industry. However, they are still quite unusual in the public relations sector. An interview conducted by Diana Dorenbeck with Ketchum’s Perta Sammer, a highly respected and tenured colleague based in Munich, Germany, gives some some insight on her role and why it’s so important to the agency’s robust Food & Beverage practice.

What does creativity mean in PR? What do creative directors do?

There are a few PR agencies that have creative directors and specialised creative teams like Ketchum – which takes its lead from advertising agencies. However, in PR we generally have a different approach. We don’t see “creativity” as a task for a small, elite team. Instead, we ask everyone in the agency to come up with ideas. This “democratised” approach differentiates us from other agencies.

However, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this past June, you could hear that more and more agencies are starting to think in the same way. The reasons for this are very complex. In part, solutions for a multi-screen, hyper-connected and engaging media world can’t be found by a small group of “creativity gurus” acting alone. Today, you need to connect experts from many disciplines such as journalists, IT specialists, film-makers, researchers, artists and many more. An idea can come from anywhere, so our view is that there is little need for an autocratic creative director who is the “wise guy” and supposedly knows it all. However, we do need a new type of creative director that can facilitate creativity and connect different specialists.

How is creativity different in relation to the food industry?

Food is and always has been an industry that demands creativity which appeals to all the senses – from sight and smell to touch. Whenever you work for food products, you have to keep in mind that eating and drinking are two of the most intense, sensitive and emotional things we do every day and that we experience food with so many senses. Communication has to reflect this.

We often hear you talk abotuteh  importance of storytelling. What does a food company have to take into account if it chooses a storytelling approach for communication?

At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, several food companies such as Chipotle and Honey Maid won with creative and highly visual storytelling campaigns. The key to their success was their ability to find their core belief. Every good story has a reason to be told, so food companies need to know what their reason is. I don’t mean the vision or mission of a company or a brand. I mean that a compelling story needs to dig deeper and come up with what Simon Sinek calls the “Why” behind a story.

Finally, one question regarding the future: what trends can you identify in the field of creativity – maybe with regard to food?

As you know, it’s not easy to predict the future and there are several ways to answer this question. One can either go totally sci-fi and bring up ideas which are completely out of the blue and which sound somehow outstanding, fascinating … but also a bit unbelievable and questionable. Or one can look at the past, and the present, and expand on what’s already there. To answer your question, I will choose the second option. In my opinion, we will see more #live-communications in the future. By this, I mean “real-time” communication where brands comment on real-time events, jumping in quickly on running conversations and sparking conversations in real time. I know that is challenging for many companies and brands – and also for agencies – as this needs new resources, new listening and new conversation skills. But if it is done right it’s a powerful tool to engage with fans and consumers on topics which are relevant to them. I also strongly believe in gamification. The health care industry is currently testing therapy games to support healing with mental and psychological motivation. Journalists are testing news games to get complex information across. HR departments are testing serious games to motivate employees and help them to work more effectively through a playful environment. And finally, the internet of things, wearable electronics and the self-tracking trend will give us plenty of big data to play with.

Making Every Berry Count

The skin and flesh of colourful fruit such as cranberries, blackberries and the superfood açai berries is rich in vitamin C as well as in natural compounds called anthocyanins. The juice extracted from these berries is brightly coloured, has a distinct flavour profile and potent antioxidant properties. The global juice market is complex. Whilst products able to make specific health claims or offer unusual flavour or nutrient profiles have continued to do well, consumers have grown sceptical of the intrinsic health benefits of more traditional products like orange juice, which contain a substantial amount of sugar. Recent UK consumer media coverage has criticised  household-brand orange juices for their high sugar content and there have even been recommendations that fruit juice should not count towards a person’s “five a day.” There is a clear opportunity for beverage manufacturers to leverage the rich colour and health benefits of berries to create 100% juices that both taste great and support a balanced diet. In fact, the beverage sector has already seen an increase in consumer demand for antioxidant-rich açai, goji and aronia berry drinks.

cranberries

Meeting consumer brand demand: more high-quality functional ingredients needed
Taste and health-giving properties are not the only attributes that consumers look for when reaching for fruit juice. Convenience has become an increasingly important consideration when buying food products. Given that 80% of British adults admit to struggling to keep up with the recommended “five a day”, the attraction of a high-quality fruit juice or smoothie that counts as one or two portions is clear. Market research confirms this, indicating that, while sales of fruit juice remain static at a high level throughout Europe and North America, in Asia, South America and North Africa they are going from strength to strength. Low-acid and not-from-concentrate juices have recorded the highest growth rates in these regions, with a shift towards highquality products with antioxidants and other functional ingredients similar to that previously seen in Europe and North America.

Enzymes: add a little, do a lot
Given these market conditions, it is no surprise that there is an increase in the number of consumers wanting fresh, healthy juice made from blue and red berries. However, unknown to most people, when berries are squeezed, only some of the antioxidants and juices are released. So a special enzyme designed to break down the skin and tissues of these delicate fruits is needed to extract more from them. Manufacturers using these enzymes can actually double the level of antioxidants made available in the juice, compared to not using enzymes. Also, if coloured berry juice was produced in Europe and North America without the help of enzymes, the cost of producing the juice concentrate would be about 20% higher, potentially making it less accessible to consumers seeking the health-giving properties and great taste of berry-based juices. That would be a real shame for families already contending with the rising cost of living.

A Conversation with the Author of ‘Long Island Food’

An interview with Ketchum’s own Tom Barritt, Managing Director of the Communications Training Network and author of Long Island Food: A History From Family Farms & Oysters to Craft Spirits. Published by History Press, the book is part of their series, American Palate, which seeks out hometown writers to chronicle their local food culture.

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

Tom Barritt was not setting out to write an academic history of the food of Long Island, New York. Rather, the journey was a suburban boy’s search for his hometown food culture. Long Island Food provides a fascinating account of one of the nation’s most diverse, and perhaps least understood culinary regions. Tom hopes that his stories of local pioneers and modern day food artisans will offer a unique, single narrative of Long Island’s culinary past, present and future.

Tom grew up in the 1960’s on meatloaf and TV dinners, not realizing the edible delights hiding just off the Long Island Expressway. While his friends raved about niche areas like Napa and the Hudson Valley, Tom explored close to home and after many weekends researching and talking to locals, he began to discover the deep history of the region and learned that the food culture of today is very much rooted in the past. Throughout, he found that at the heart of Long Island food were stories about people.

“If you just write about ingredients, you’ll find something is missing. You need the personal element,” Tom said. “Food tells us a lot about traditions, but there is always a person at the heart of a food story bringing it all together.”

Exploring the Agricultural and Seafood Bounty

Farming and seafood were two major sources of food that sustained Native Americans and European settlers and still remain an integral part of Long Island’s food culture today. Tom focused on stories of individuals advancing Long Island’s food traditions in new ways. The Terry family has cultivated land on Orient Point at the tip of Long Island’s North Fork since the 1600s. But, in recent years, they found that their business model of wholesale produce was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain. They decided to take their produce directly to the public and started a network of more than 15 farmers markets on Long Island, none of which had existed before. The Terry family changed the way Long Islanders shop for produce and revitalized their historic family farm.

Barritt photo_farm market

Tom also investigated the Long Island oyster industry which harkens back to 1900 and was one of the most prominent oyster centers in the world. As is often seen in the fishing industry, the waters were overfished and the supply depleted. The industry went through significant decline. The Blue Island Oyster Company is an example of a business that is revitalizing oyster production in the Great South Bay.

Wine and Spirits

It’s only in the past couple of decades that Long Island has become known for fine wines. While a new sector for the region – now represented by dozens of wineries – it is built on Long Island’s early family farming foundations. Long Island’s very first winery was started 40 years ago by a couple interested in cultivating European-style grapes. Hargrave Vineyards was simply a farm supporting a single family, started on the site of an old potato field. The family had no idea their personal passion for wine would pave the way for the burgeoning wine industry that exists today. Now, diverse vintners and distillers have flocked to the region. There is a sparkling wine house on the East End. The company, Long Island Spirits distills vodka from the iconic Long Island potato and also produces Rough Rider Bourbon, a local product named in honor of Long Island resident, Teddy Roosevelt.

 

Image featuring Rough Rider Bourbon from The Winebow Group

Image featuring Rough Rider Bourbon from The Winebow Group

Tom said Long Island’s modern artisans are advancing the food history of the region through their passion and enthusiasm. “There is a real personal imprint food artisans are putting on their product today that reflects where Long Island has been in the past but also where it may go in the future.”

 

Long Island Food was published by History Press and is on sale on September 14, 2015. It is part of their series, American Palate, which seeks locals to write about native food culture. Tom was discovered by the publishing company through his blog, Culinary Types. Culinary Types is a food blog Tom started nine years ago. He will be speaking about Long Island food at local venues throughout autumn, including a speaking event at the Suffolk County Historical Society, on October 24.

Surprise Tasting in the Darndest Place!

There we were on a beautiful inland lake for our “Up North” summer vacation. Up North is anywhere towards Canada from Milwaukee for those not privileged to be raised in Wisconsin.

And as many Cheeseheads know, the only thing predictable about weather in America’s Dairyland is that it is frequently bad – in any season. This was early August – with temps “soaring” into the – uh 60’s, rain showers, howling wind and leaden gray skies. Typical! So rather than slathering on sun block, cruising the lake on a party boat, water skiing or stand-up paddling, we were looking for distraction.

Chapman Blog2

Not only did we find a great way to get in out of the rain, we made an unusual, unexpected and delicious discovery – American Yeoman vodka.

It turns out that about ten miles away on County Highway B, is the Perlick Distillery, where young entrepreneur distiller Scott Perlick is fashioning bespoke vodka made from the wheat and other grains grown all around him on his family’s farm. It is a storybook Midwestern farm – with a big red barn and outbuildings, silos and crop fields radiating in all directions – home to five generations of Perlicks. Inside the distillery’s beautifully built-out tasting room, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. We were greeted by Scott’s sister Tanya, with shot glasses filled to the brim with ice-cold Yeoman vodka. We sat down at one of only four or five tables, chatted with Scott’s dad who does all the farming, and made our selections from the drinks menu. Our crew chose a combo of Moscow mules in copper mugs, bright pink Cosmo’s, the urbane dirty martini, and my personal fave – the Pomegranate!

Chapman blog_drink photo

In between rounds – it was still raining, so what the heck – and with drinks in hand, Scott took us downstairs to the Yeoman distillery room where he explained his process and his dedication to quality – in ingredients and painstaking small batch process. The tour and Scott’s enthusiasm put our tasting in a whole new light. Scott and his family are incredibly passionate about what they are doing – and distilling delicious vodka.

So the next time you happen to be Up North, be sure to check out Scott Perlick and American Yeoman vodka. It is a perfect way to while away a rainy day. In fact, we might be praying for rain on our next visit. In the meantime, check it out: http://www.perlickdistillery.com/

Swelter No More: Sans-Oven Recipes

Extremely steamy temps—like those blanketing much of the U.S. right now—deflate my desire for everyday activities: exercising, anything involving the outdoors and especially cooking. Like many New Yorkers, I live in a “cozy” (aka shoebox-sized) abode, so using the oven at all during summer basically transforms the entire place into a sauna. With the mercury predicted to climb even higher in the coming days, I’ve turned to my online arsenal of food blogs for summery, sans-oven recipes. The goal? Create healthy and tasty home-cooked meals without cooking myself in the process. Here, two recent successes. Enjoy and stay cool, my fellow foodies!

This Chopped Chickpea Greek Salad, courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen, is light, refreshing and just plain pretty. I pulled it together as a post-work meal in less than ten minutes. It’s also surprisingly filling, thanks to the fibrous chickpeas and water-laden veggies (i.e. cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers). Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I added a few leaves of fresh basil for additional flavor.

Mccoy photo

I’m a longtime lover of lettuce wraps (they’re healthy yet hearty; crispy and customizable), and this meatless Mexican quinoa version via Minimalist Baker is especially light and flavorful. Instead of roasting the sweet potato in the oven, I simply pricked it with a fork, microwaved it on high for eight minutes and then chopped and sprinkled it with olive oil, cinnamon, cumin and sea salt. Another inside tip: the recipe yields leftover cilantro lime dressing, which tastes just as delightfully creamy on salad the next day.

Courtesy of Minimalist Baker

Courtesy of Minimalist Baker

Recipes
Chopped Chickpea Greek Salad (courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 15 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled or cut into 1/2 inch cubes

For the dressing:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Place all salad ingredients into a large bowl and toss to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Pour onto salad and toss again to well combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as you’d like.
  3. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour to marinate, or serve immediately. Salad is best enjoyed within 2-3 days after making. Serves 4 for a meal, or 6 as a side salad.

Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing (via Minimalist Baker)
Ingredients:

  • 2 heads small, artisan lettuce (any variety that will form cups/wraps nicely – or sub corn tortillas)
  • 1 15-ounce can unsalted black beans (Note: If your beans are salted, omit additional sea salt)
  • 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed, rinsed and cubed
  • ~1/2 tsp each cumin, cinnamon and sea salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup dry white or red quinoa, rinsed in a fine mesh strainer
  • Olive oil

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 small ripe avocado
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3-4 small limes, juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive or grape seed oil
  • 1/4 tsp each sea salt and cumin
  • 1 Tbsp sweetener of choice (such as cane sugar or honey if not vegan)
  • Water to thin

For full instructions, check out the original recipe via Minimalist Baker.

DC Food Blogger’s Summer Soirée

Imagine reading an unexpected email inviting you to a Summer Soirée to indulge in “a tasty array of unique spreads using fresh produce and local ingredients inspired by the summer season!” Umm…can you say music to my ears?

When I was invited to Heirloom DC’s invite-only event called DC Food Blogger’s Summer Soirée, my mouth watered just entering the exciting event into my calendar. This was the first time that Heirloom Catering & Event Design has ever hosted this event, intended to bring together the top DC Food bloggers in the community to celebrate the summer over delicious bites and drinks in the beautiful Wonder Bread Factory.

Upon walking in, my fellow food bloggers and I were in awe at the tablescape and breathtaking array of appetizers and treats engulfing a gorgeously designed area. Heirloom partnered with various local artisans including Bazaar Spices, Buttercream Bakeshop, Deep Eddy Vodka, Fruitcycle, Misfit Juicery, Something Vintage & Urban Stems to make for simply an unforgettable evening for all involved.

settable

We kicked off the Soirée at the refreshing cocktail bar in which we all savored the perfect spike of Deep Eddy Vodka in our choice of either a Peach Lemon Tea Punch or a Thai Basil Limeade Punch to make for some delightful cocktails among lovely discussion.

drinkpour

Oh, but I almost forgot! What would a cocktail be without these Berry Lemon Ice Cubes…genius right? Pure genius.

icecubes

Our friends of Heirloom, Vicky Theodorou and Sadie Cornelius, could not get over the lengthy amount of time we spent simply taking photos of the gorgeous setup and food. But, in a room full of about 15 food bloggers…could one expect anything less?

Next, we were served a refreshing gazpacho appetizer, which was delicious and full of seasonal vegetables and herbs.

vegherbs

The array of options to choose from was beyond words. This is just a sampling of love at first sight…I mean, bite…

samples

Here we have the “Land of Cheese” also known as Heaven. From Amish Butter Cheese, to Herb-Infused Blue Cheese to Smoked Gouda Cheese and my favorite (but not pictured), Blueberry Goat Cheese…one could not even attempt to pick just one so you had to have a tasting of each. And pictured behind the cheese you will see the Deviled Maryland Crab Egg served in Roasted Corn on the Cobs. What a unique idea for a summer get-together!

cheese

Oh, and have no fear, folks. There was quite the bread variety to accompany the signature tapenades and antipasto. From Pancetta & Cheddar Cornbread Muffins to Garden Herb Flatbread…the options were endless. My favorite were these Ricotta Spinach Pastries:

pastries

I could stop overflowing you with photos that are likely making you drool as you read this…but that would take away all my fun. Thus, I shall continue. You are welcome.

Summer salads are always my favorite as they can be so versatile, flavorful and unique depending on what one mixes into them. When Chef Donnie Dennis came out to greet us, I could not help but ask him about all his ingredients and hear his stories behind growing his own herbs, fruits and vegetables that make up Heirloom’s seasonal menus! He uses organic techniques to create savory cured meats and he truly prides himself in his array of fresh and flavorful berries and vegetables infusing all his dishes.

fruits

My favorite salads were the Farro & Quinoa Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables and the Fingerling Potato/White & Purple Bean/ Fava Bean Salad, both pictured below.

beansalad

salad

We finally decided to dish up our plates (and then a few more…) with a sampling of antipasto, tapenades, breads, and summer salads. But we could not forget the protein selection! First, Vicky brought around Spicy Mediterranean Little Ribs with a Cucumber Sauce, which simply hit the spot and paired well with just about any side you chose. Next, we had Scallops with Minted Pea Puree & Pancetta, my favorite out of them all and beautifully presented to say the least.

ribs

With a full plate of every flavor imaginable, Bex sunk into a state of delight along with new friends beside her.

platedrink

Oh, wait! You thought the night was over? Oh, no. Dessert time! Here we have Buttercream BakeShop’s Blueberry Icebox Pies:

bakeshop

You could top your own with whipped lemon cream, whipped cream, white chocolate shavings or candied almonds for an added spark to these fresh delights! And if the fun didn’t end there…just throw in the best macaroon I’ve ever had in my entire life…

bakeshop2

Amazing food and great people in my favorite city made for a night that I will never forget. Cheers to Vicky, Sadie, Donnie and all those at Heirloom who worked together to host such a wonderful event!

event

Snack on This. 50+ is a Huge Opportunity for Food Brands

Did you hear the one about the 54-year-old who stopped snacking and eating candy? Yeah, neither have I. In fact, on any given day, if you look into my pantry, you’ll find a variety of these items — crackers, nuts, snack bars and a bar or two (or three) of dark chocolate. And I buy these EVERY TIME I GO TO THE STORE.

Apparently, I am not alone. According to IRI Worldwide, Boomers like myself are spending twice as much as Millennials on these items – in fact, it’s a whopping $24.5 billion vs. $12.3 billion for snacks and confections combined. What’s more, this well-heeled target market, numbering 109 million Americans according to AARP, is on the receiving end of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. They represent about 50 percent of the $6.4 trillion spent by U.S. households annually (Consumer Expenditure Survey, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sept. 2013).

So if you’re in the business of marketing food, don’t forget about me and my 50+ counterparts, or you’ll miss an important business opportunity. Oh, and are you going to eat that last piece of licorice?

For more information on how to market to 50+, contact andrea.barish@ketchum.com.

Declaring Winter is Over with Spring Cakes

IMG_4173If you lived through New York City this winter, it’s safe to say your heart may have sunk when spring rolled in with yet another snow fall followed by weeks of cold damp.It’s not that snow isn’t a beautiful marvel of Mother Nature. It is. Just not after a terribly slushy, sleet-filled winter.

So to Mother Nature, I offer you one spring-inspired coconut cake. Having worked at a bakery all through high school, switching out our cake cases became a hallmark of the change in seasons. Harvest-filled flavors transformed into vibrant, bright-flavored desserts.

Plucked by my dad from a leisurely Sunday read of the New York Times, this coconut layer cake has definitely become an Easter tradition in my family. Though it can be made anytime, I can’t help but think of warmer, pastel-filled climates when indulging. If you are in the New York City area, you can sample the cake yourself on the lunch menu at the well-known restaurant Telepan on the Upper West Side. And while this is a great option for those who are not culinary-inclined, it doesn’t allow for the opportunity to toast your own coconut flakes and make them “snow” onto a velvety landscape of cream cheese frosting. That beats real snow to me, any day!

Adapted from Larissa Raphael, Telepan, New York

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks/226 grams unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups/265 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon/3 grams fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons/10 grams baking powder
  • 3/4 cup/140 grams granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated, plus 3 whites
  • 1 1/2 cups/355 milliliters cream of coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups/295 milliliters unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters coconut or dark rum
  • 7 tablespoons/104 milliliters freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 cups/370 grams unsweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 2 sticks/226 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups/454 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons/10 milliliters vanilla extract
  • 7 1/4 cups/2 pounds/907 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups/340 grams unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut, toasted

Preparation

Make the cake:

  1. Grease 3 8-inch cake pans and dust with flour. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and reserve. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl with spatula. Lower speed and gradually add flour mixture. Batter will be thick and pasty.
  3. Whisk together cream of coconut, coconut milk, rum and orange juice.
    Alternately add shredded coconut and the orange juice mixture to the batter.
  4. In the clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 6 egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Cool
    in pans on wire rack. Unmold cakes once cool.

Make the frosting:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla extract. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix until combined and fluffy.
  2. Spread 1/4-inch-thick layer of frosting on top of the first layer of cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Place next cake layer on top and repeat with frosting and coconut. Repeat with the third layer, spreading frosting on top and around sides of cake. Hold cake steadily in one hand and use other hand to pat remaining coconut onto edges of cake.