Many of you are starting to see the value of influencer marketing as a viable resource to reach your target audiences, but there’s another important group of influencers that may or may not be an integral part of your marketing strategy: chefs and foodservice professionals! In fact, the most-followed food influencers on Instagram happen to be chefs, not just food bloggers.
PMA has even shared that diners continue to become more knowledgeable about food and they have come to expect menu options that provide more context around production, sourcing and preparation of their food. This means that foodservice companies and restaurateurs have to understand more about where the food comes from as well, and as a result, chefs are actively seeking information about the products you grow and sell. Are you giving it to them?
According to the NRA’s What’s Hot in 2017 survey of 1,300 professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation, local, hyper-local, natural ingredients, clean menus, and environmental sustainability are some of the top trends influencing U.S. consumers’ food choices when dining out. As a fresh produce marketer, you have the unique opportunity to talk to chefs about how fresh food is grown and to educate them and help shape the narrative around their use of buzz terms like “locally sourced” for their businesses. For example, you can help them understand when and how to play up the seasonality of an item versus “local” in a way that excites their diners.
Even if you are a grower without significant foodservice business, you should still consider how you can use chefs as influencers to inspire people to eat more of the products you grow and sell at the retail level. For example, if you grow microgreens, you can employ a public relations strategy targeting chefs to inspire them to experiment with microgreens on their menus. As a result, if more chefs add menu items featuring these greens, more people will become familiar with this ingredient and become inspired to purchase them to use in their own kitchen. Chefs can position your product as a trending item in the eyes of the consumer, which will get your retail buyers’ attention, too.
Avocados from Mexico provides a shining example of how produce brands could directly engage foodservice audiences with helpful tools and resources that will lead to more avocados on menus. The “Back of House Resources” page is a brilliant way to provide professional kitchens with insight to better store and plate your product.
California Giant also recently announced their deeper investment in engaging chefs and foodservice suppliers with their inaugural Chef Invitational. In addition, they’re providing chefs with resources and helpful information about new ways to use berries on their menus. Talk about a smart strategy leading up to the annual PMA Foodservice Expo in July.
Foodservice opens a whole new realm of possibilities for fresh produce marketers to produce exciting and helpful content that can ultimately drive more demand for their products. Our Semi-Annual Fall/Winter 2018 Food Trends Guide offers a great starting point for on-trend content you can create to reach this audience. If you’d like support creating a strategy to delight chefs leading up to PMA Foodservice, now is the time! Connect with us to discuss the possibilities, from tradeshow strategy to PR outreach and more.