The Future of the Virtual Foodie Community:

What is a community? Wikipedia tells us that it is a group of interacting people in some proximity (time, space, relationship etc) that often share common values and social cohesion.  Often in life we will be a part of several communities perhaps the Girl Scouts, Your hometown, or religious affiliation. We have spent the last few months exploring the foodie community.  Paul Levy and Ann Bar coined the term Foodie as someone who considers themselves an “aficionado of food” and/or drink.  If we put the two definitions together we get a community of food loving people. I for one think as long as humans have the basic needs to belong and consume sustenance, Foodie communities will stand the test of time! The future will consist of developed communities reaching out in more advanced ways.

Technology has been the driving force of the virtual foodie community. Long before the microwave our ancestors were hunting and gathering food and preparing meals for consumption. Long before the internet we were communicating with others and forming strong communal bonds. Technology has enabled these two daily activities to integrate and streamline. We now have the ability to share that love for food with people in a meaningful way almost instantly.

As technology enhances and flourishes so too will virtual foodie communities. For example, as phone technology has improved we now have the ability to use phone applications to connect with fellow foodies. I recently traveled to Asheville and was able to instantly review The Chocolate Lounge after sampling some of their fare.  Twenty years ago I may have had to spread the news face-to-face but now I can connect with others instantaneously with the click of a button.

I have a very personal interaction with a foodie community (follow me on yelp). For the past three years I have been a Yelp Elite. This basically means I am very active within the community. I take a personal interest in growing the site and making connections. Many of the people I interact with through the site I have met in person. I have noticed the community growing and branching out from strictly virtual to people’s daily lives.  This evolution has been fueled by several of the above factors 1) a love for food 2) a love for communication and 3) New Technology.

Here are some other less known foodie communities. Take a look at the sites and perhaps you will find one that is right for you:

Living-Foods is  a food community focusing on the living and raw food movement. Here you’ll find raw food life style information, member archives, event calendars, classifieds and the list goes on!

Flavorwise is a food community focusing on flavor-likes and dislikes. For example, if you like very spicy foods you can build and share menus based on those flavor-profiles.

And

Food Service is an online food community for professionals in the Food Service industry.  This site has chat rooms, job opportunities, professional resources, and  market reports that focus on this particular industry.

 

Are you currently active in  any food-centric virtual communities? If so which ones?

Sources:

(2008) Top Ten Trends: Foodie 2.0. In The Food Channel. Retrieved February 25, 2012 from http://www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/top-ten-trends-foodie-20/

Barr, Ann, & Levy, Paul. & Dale, David,  1985  The official foodie handbook / Ann Barr & Paul Levy ; adapted for Australia by David Dale  Doubleday, Sydney :

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Hamburger Helper… is not bringing sexy back!

I would like to perform an experiment. Close your eyes, get comfy, clear your mind and really think about what I am about to ask you.

What words come to mind when I say Godiva Chocolat and Ciroq Vodka…perhaps sexy? Intriguing?

How about skittles or Oreo’s …fun? Maybe even young?

Ok, here’s the last one, what comes to mind when you think of Hamburger Helper? If you weren’t thinking fun and sexy  you’re not alone! This has been one major issue plaguing the company and many others that might lack some of the excitement of the aforementioned brands I listed earlier. This un-sexy problem is one that inhibited their social media growth. You see, people tend to interact with companies and brands that they find exciting, sexy, fun, or intriguing. Hamburger Helper has an image problem when it comes to Facebook the brand often goes ignored. Hamburger Helper never meant to be a sexy brand. In fact, marketers work hard to present it as a high-quality, wholesome, and a trustworthy brand. They did not anticipate that their online presence would be negatively affected by their (to put it bluntly) boring image that they themselves facilitated.

As technology has advanced the world of advertising and marketing has expanded from print media to include online platforms. According to Nielsen, consumers spend one-quarter of their online time on social media sites, Facebook accounting for a whopping 16 percent ( Sobieski, 2011). The problem is that consumers aren’t interacting with all brands only those that are appealing.  For example, Skittles has 20,831,623 fans and has several off-shoot fan pages whereas Hamburger Helper only has 9,087 with no fan pages. The company has risked putting time and money into their social media campaigns without being recognized because of their un-sexy image.

As of yet, the company has not found a way to solve this problem. Kevin Sobieski mentions one suggestion and that is to join the Superbowl advertising frenzy. It is predicted that those commercials will be watched 500 million times on the web alone generating a huge social media buzz. Of course with the expense involved this is not a feasible solution for all of the un-sexy brands out there.  Companies and brands need to find ways to connect with their consumer. For example, offering coupons and discounts are a great way to generate buzz for any brand. This is how companies like Einstein bagel have created some buzz despite their not-so-sexy reputation.

Check out the brands you follow. Are you a follower of sexy or fun brands mainly or are you the exception and interact with brand that may be considered boring?

Source:

K. Sobieski. (2011). Social Media is Taking Over. What’s a Boring Brand to do? In The Online Economy Strategy and Entrepreneurship. Retrieved February 21, 2012, from http://www.onlineeconomy.org/social-media-is-taking-over-what%E2%80%99s-a-boring-brand-to-do

Hungry? There’s an app for that!

How many times have you been in an unfamiliar neighborhood and stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant and thought to yourself man, what luck! ?Or traveled down a stretch of highway wishing there was something else besides the bevy of Golden Arches and Purple Bells? Or ate your way through a meal you later wished you hadn’t? These situations occur across the world every day and now cell phone applications are making foodies everywhere very happy! You see, finding that to-die-for place or avoiding that not so delicious dining experience just got a lot easier!  I am going to explore two of my favorite iphone apps  that are both highly rated (4 stars or more on itunes). They also happen to be on this awesome list covering the top 10 iphone food apps.

1)      Urbanspoon is one of the oldest applications on the list and it is also one of the most popular! It has been downloaded well over 10 million times on iphone alone! The application is modeled after a slot machine. On the first column the user has the option of locking which neighborhood they would like to dine in, the second column narrows the type of cuisine (Italian, burgers, Chinese etc.), and the last offers a price range lock-in option. The lock-in I am referring to gives the user the ability to specify their preferences exactly (i.e an expensive steak house in Midtown or a Cheap Vietnamese restaurant in Southend).

2)      280 Million of users have downloaded Opentable’s application making it quite a success! It is a great app for the holiday traveler and foodie alike. What do I mean by that? Say you’re traveling on Christmas Eve night, or Easter morning, or Valentine’s Day it might be difficult to snag a reservation and you might not even know where to go while on the road. Opentable allows you to search from restaurants in your GPS enabled area and reports back the type of cuisine, price range, and available reservation times. You can narrow your search criteria and browse menus. The best part, you can actually make your reservation straight from the application without making any calls! If you use the app frequently or even their website be sure to sign up for the rewards program to earn gift cards redeemable at one of their 25,000 OpenTable restaurants!

Have you used either of these apps before? Please share if you found a great  foodie gem using an application on your cell phone!

and…

If you’re in Charlotte two of my favorite gems include Good Food on Montford and Le’s Sandwiches (get the #6)!

Sources:

Strickland, J & Fenlon, W. 2012. Top 10 iphone Food Apps. How Stuff Works. Retrieved from http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone-apps/5-iphone-food-apps5.htm

2012.Retrieved from http://www.opentable.com/

Ken.2010.Urbanspoon Celebrates 10 Million iphone App Downloads. Urban Spoon. Retrieved from http://www.urbanspoon.com/blog/48/Urbanspoon-Celebrates-10-Million-iPhone-App-Downloads.html

Souper Good Soups!

Ok, I know what you’re thinking how cheesy can one girl get? Well I can get this cheesy folks…

Mmm doesn’t that look good? Try Brown Eyed Baker’s Cheddar and Ale Soup with potato and bacon goodness for those of you who aren’t watching your waistbands! It is nothing short of a cheesy indulgence so eat sparingly but happily!

Anyway, I promised I would post some of my absolute favorite soups (and chili) recipes so I will give you my top three all in order of healthfulness the prior being the most unhealthy.  But do not fret they are in no particular order in terms of taste as all are delicious!

The second soup is actually a chili and is very healthy despite being from Paula Deen. She makes a spectacular white bean chicken chili! I know what you’re thinking Paula Deen AND healthy? Yes! Just sub out the little bit of butter for organic evoo and you have a scrumptious hearty meal…that isn’t a caloric mess!  I did think the color was a bit blah so I put my own little twist on it – I added a homemade salsa fresco to the top when serving ( 1 diced avocado, 1 diced tomato, fresh squeezed lime juice of one lime, salt, & pepper).  The salsa had a wonderful zing to it and it tasted great (albeit spicy FYI).  This is also a great idea for a tailgate or a game night!

The  third and healthiest recipe is Oh She Glows Holiday Soup for the Soul.I made it last weekend and wow is it tasty …and vegan! Don’t be afraid by the sweet flavors of cinnamon, curry, and nutmeg as they are rather subtle. Also, red quinoa is a bit pricey ($6 for a box at Harris Teeter). It is worth it to buy this particular variety because it tastes a bit different and trust me you can make this soup about 5 times before you run out of the quinoa! I didn’t add the saffron as $18 is where I draw the line for vegetable soup, but I can imagine it would be delicious. I made a whole pot and packed it away for a week’s worth of lunches, served it with nice whole wheat crusty bread and it was ever so satisfying!

Now it’s your turn, send me your soups! Let me know why your favorite soup is special to you…bonus points if it’s healthy to boot!

Get the Skinny on the Consumer Goods Industry

You may have heard the term CPG before, but what is it? It stands for Consumer Packaged Goods industry and it comprises of every good that is consumed every day by the average consumer! Think along the lines of that pair of Steve Madden’s you purchased last week, the new tires on your car, and that candy bar from the vending machine.  You may be thinking that sounds like a big industry and you’re right it is! CPG is one of the largest industries in North America valued at approximately $2 trillion US Dollars!

Clearly such a big industry is involved with Social Media and in many different applications. I have some great examples here:

Coca-Cola’s Facebook – While Coke is a huge brand on a global scale, their Facebook page allows them to connect one-on-one with consumers. A quick visit to their page shows some interesting interactions. For example, they ask their profile viewers to rate their superbowl commercial that aired last night. They get great feedback directly from viewers using Facebook.

CPG News has a great Twitter Feed people in the industry can follow in order to stay current on topics such as trends and even job openings. On the consumer end of things companies like Luna Bar use twitter to make announcements such as introducing new flavors, garnering feedback on how users stay motivated to eat well, and reaching out to communities for non-profit endeavors.

Linkedin allows me to stay connected to my co-workers in the CPG industry. I can update my profile and network in order to find current co-workers or new people in my industry. There are a lot of great connections to the CPG industry via this site. For example, I can follow companies like Clorox to see what types of positions might be in my area or even get great advice through groups I follow such as the CPG Supergroup!

Youtube is a great social media site for the CPG industry to harness. For example, Kraft foods has their own Youtube channel where consumers can learn to make different recipes featuring their products.

Even though CPG is such a large industry we can see that Social Media allows consumers to be more connected to their favorite brands than ever before! Do you follow any of your favorite CPG companies on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube?

Source: 2012. Consumer Packaged Goods -CPG. Investopedia. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cpg.asp#axzz1l2rRct1d