Is IACP for Food Bloggers?
As part of my ongoing effort to support food bloggers, from time to time I write about issues that directly impact the viability of the food blogging community. You can read two of my most popular posts here and here.
I recently had the pleasure of attending my first IACP conference in Austin, TX. My day to day work with Kitchen PLAY and Eat Write Retreat (and projects beyond) puts me in touch with people from all corners of the food industry, and a five-day event bringing together a similar cross-section of professionals made sense in my business model. Plus, it sounded like an amazing, food-centric event.
While in Austin, I ran into a good number of food bloggers, both folks that I’ve worked with and those I simply know through Twitter. Curious about their experiences at the conference, I made a point of asking them, individually, why they decided to attend and whether they were gleaning from the event all they had hoped. After all, the price tag for the IACP annual conference is steep for a food blogger who might only make a few hundred dollars a year in ad revenue. Though their responses were very positive in tone, these exchanges left me with the realization that food bloggers at all levels may still not know whether IACP is a good investment of their time and money. Even more importantly, they may not know how to make it a good investment. With that in mind, I’m writing about my experience to help you decide if IACP fits into your business model.
In any professionally-focused event, there are at least two distinct benefits to attending; networking and education. The networking at IACP was outstanding and ever-present. In fact, it was impossible to distinguish networking opportunities as separate from programming as the swapping of business cards was always taking place: on the bus to a barbecue tasting, riding the elevator to the lobby, even in the restrooms (or so I am told).
As you might imagine, the success of one’s networking at an event like IACP is directly proportional to the effort and focus one puts into it (not to mention the follow-up). It is also important to be able to distinguish relevant business leads from the larger pool of general industry contacts you’ll make, as those “hot” prospects are the ones on which you’ll want to spend the most energy after you return home.
What may not be readily apparent is that the value of the programming–or education–provided during IACP sessions and panels carries the same qualification. Only if you know what to do with all of the information disseminated will you, as a food blogger, be able to get the most out of the experience. Let me share a few nuggets I picked up at IACP and I’ll use those to illustrate.
- The price of chicken dropped 1% in Q1 of 2011. The price of beef increased by 11%.
- The Asian population is an under-marketed demographic.
- The rate of absorption of liquid added to flour has little to do with humidity and much more to do with the protein content in the flour.
As a food blogger, the last of those bullet points may be the one to grab your attention the quickest. Of the three, it is probably the one that you immediately understand as impactful to your work, especially if you are a baker. It is directly connected to recipe development and trouble shooting for your readers.
However, if you make the considerable investment to attend the conference, I encourage you to be prepared to integrate more of the expert insight (ie chicken prices and Asian demographic) into your work. After all, not all of the sessions will speak to writing, food photography or recipe development (the holy trinity of food blogging). The good news is that if you take the time to look at the information you receive at IACP through your food blogging lens, you will end up with ideas that are actionable, marketable and ultimately profitable.
Let’s start with chicken. What does it mean that chicken prices have dropped, while beef prices have increased? First it means that home cooks and restaurants alike are going to be looking for more ways to incorporate chicken into their menus. Does this mean you should feature more chicken recipes on your food blog? Absolutely, provided that this fits your blog’s focus. Give your audience what it is looking for!
It also means that cooks across the country are quickly going to tire of chicken, so they’ll be seeking recipe innovation, new flavor combinations and unique cooking techniques. Sound like something you can provide?
Finally, when they just can’t stomach another chicken cutlet (and possibly well before), those same cooks will want an economical way to sneak a little beef onto their plates. Whether it’s a juicy–and wallet-friendly–burger on a grill or a savory hit of flavor using a small but succulent morsel of tenderloin, think about how your recipes can meet the needs of consumers facing these kinds of budget realities.
Beyond the ramifications to your content, the drop in chicken prices can also spark inspiration for partnerships in the corporate community. Armed with the knowledge that we covered in the preceding paragraphs, think about projects or themes that might appeal to brands looking to capitalize on food trends. For instance, approach a spice company with a 12-month promotion featuring a new chicken recipe inspired by a different spice each month. Mention the drop in the price of chicken in your pitch, and that a partnership with you will help the spice company move product in conjunction with the increased demand for both chicken and innovative chicken recipes. (On the flip side, the same approach could be used to pitch a series focusing on the affordability of certain cuts of beef and different preparations to bring flavor to those cuts.) The key is to be able to synthesize the information (chicken prices have dropped while beef prices have increased) into a solution for a brand or product (increased sales of spices) utilizing your strengths (delicious and innovative recipes and unique techniques).
“IACP” stands for “International Association of Culinary Professionals.” As a food blogger you are a culinary professional; I am simply trying to highlight the “professional” side of that title. Yes, there will be topics at the annual conference that speak directly to the work you do everyday, but my guess is you probably don’t need to look far or hard to find programming on writing and photography. Further, the other sessions at IACP’s conference may be the ones that spark you to take your brand and business to a new place (hopefully one that includes a revenue stream!).
Now that you have a better idea of how food bloggers can integrate insights from the IACP conference into their recipes, posts and business models, I’m curious to hear your ideas on the third bullet point above: Asians are an under-marketed demographic. Let’s continue the conversation about the business side of blogging by sharing ideas openly and working together to gain a foothold on the mountain of opportunity that awaits food bloggers. In the process we’ll prove that, indeed, IACP is for food bloggers.