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Home » BYO, Features, news

Is IACP for Food Bloggers?

Submitted by on June 27, 2011 – 9:51 am24 Comments

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.

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24 Comments »

  • Caneel says:

    Casey, you made some excellent points! I enjoyed meeting you at IACP and some of the points you’ve made are ones I’ve considered.

    Because I have family in Austin, I was able to stay with them and just attended two days of the conference, which made it much more affordable for me as a food blogger. I thought it was a valuable experience, and I think as a first-timer the amount of time I spent there was worth it. I was a little timid to pass out my business card like candy, but I wish I had done it more. At the end, I felt more comfortable doing so.

    As for your last point, perhaps we need to be incorporating more Asian food into our blogs. I know I love to eat it, and prepare it some, but I often back off from posting it because I feel like my versions aren’t authentic enough to compare to those of the experts. Maybe I need to rethink that.

    Thanks for your summary of the convention!
    Caneel
    Caneel´s last [type] ..Product Highlight: Chebe Cinnamon Rolls

  • Casey says:

    Hi Caneel,

    Great suggestion for making the conference more affordable: look into attending only a portion of the event at a reduced cost. Also, avoiding hotel charges removes another large chunk of the expense.

    As a first-timer myself, I agree that networking became easier and easier as the event progressed. My “elevator” pitch evolved from a few sentences to, finally, this: “I work in food PR.” After that, I found I could expand into an overview of my projects and my colleagues had a clearer grasp of the foundation of what I am doing.

    As for marketing to Asians, I think your idea is a good one. However, be sure to stay true to your own voice and goals for your blog. If you don’t normally post Asian-influenced recipes, there’s no need to start (nor is it advisable, unless you are looking to change the direction of your blog). I think the issue of Asians being an under-marketed demographic may speak more toward food bloggers who already have a solid Asian readership. Let’s see what other readers have to say!

  • Jenn says:

    This really sounded like a great conference, I would have loved to have attended, thanks for posting about it! Unfortunately it will be a rather long time before I am eligible to be a member of IACP…so I will have to live vicariously through everyone else’s experiences for the moment :)
    Jenn´s last [type] ..Market Fresh Pea, Radish and Carrot Salad

  • Casey says:

    Hi Jenn,

    Thanks for chiming in! I’m curious about why you think you’re not eligible right now for membership to IACP? After all, it is the “International” Association of Culinary Professionals. Also, there is no requirement about the “professional” part…your food blog qualifies you. And finally, there is an “Emerging Member” level which is very affordable ($85/year) if you are just starting out in the culinary field. Which you are, right? ;-)

  • Jenn says:

    Interesting to know, thanks! What I read considering eligibility, there was a professional requirement based on what I interpreted from their application page – maybe I misinterpreted…
    Jenn´s last [type] ..Market Fresh Pea, Radish and Carrot Salad

  • Andrea says:

    This post was extremely helpful! Like Jenn, I didn’t think as a food blogger, I would qualify for IACP membership. I definitely thought that it was strictly for those working in restaurant or some other professional capacity. I had no idea that bloggers could even attend the event in Austin!

    As food bloggers I think we can benefit greatly by expanding our horizons and attending different kinds of conferences. The info gathered and the people one will meet will vary with each conference, which can prove to be highly valuable. Thanks for the post!
    Andrea´s last [type] ..Dash for Donation 2011

  • Adam says:

    Really interesting post, and very thought-provoking. I was glad to see that you shared this info, as I think it does show that serious thought needs to go into what anyone (food blogger or otherwise) gets out of a conference such as IACP. And where an off-hand comment about the price of chicken may not seem to affect anyone who’s not in food service, it clearly can and does. I found this to be a fascinating read and love your take on how to get the most out of an event like this. Thanks for sharing!

    Adam

  • Excellent post about the benefits of IACP. Casey, all you say is true, from networking to education. One of the best, simplest tips I picked up was about lighting a photo. Walk around the object and take the picture from all angles to see how the shadows and highlights work the best. I struggle with light for my food photos for my blog, and this has made life better.
    The networking is amazing because you will meet people from ALL corners of the culinary world: test kitchen pros, nutritionists, photographers, publishers, editors, PR… you name it.

    Jenn, I’m curious, what gave you pause on the application? It sounds like an emerging professional status would be good for you. This is from the application: “An individual who has taken on a culinary-related position (or changed his/ her current position to have a culinary focus) for the first time within the past two years.”

    You have a new fan of your blog!
    Judith Klinger´s last [type] ..Do New Yorkers love to eat and talk about it?

  • cheryl says:

    Casey, this IACP conference was my 6th, but your insight into how to use the sessions’ factual content in such practical ways was both eye-opening and inspiring.

    I often return home with notebooks filled with detailed information, only to file them away months later untouched. Thanks for encouraging new and seasoned writers alike to milk the value of their conference registration by applying *all* the knowledge they glean while onsite.
    cheryl´s last [type] ..And if you’d been born in…?

  • Casey, what an interesting review of the IACP! I’ve always been curious what happens when the famous meet the even more famous. That said, your insights are very valuable. I’m particularly intriqued by the Asian demographic mentioned.That’s a long topic for another day, another post.Thanks for sharing!
    Betty Ann of AsianinAmericamag´s last [type] ..LOVING LONDON: Best Eats in 7 Days

  • Casey says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Well said! Whether IACP or any of the myriad conferences out there, food bloggers should definitely consider stepping out of their safety zones and getting to know their colleagues in real life! Even a local blogger meet-up can be a great way to re-energize and share thoughts on topics that concern us all. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Casey says:

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for your kind words! You and I are both interested in the future of food blogging, so I’m glad this post spoke to you. I’m hoping that little by little we can all share ideas that will guide the larger discussion on the subject. If nothing else, I want to encourage food bloggers to at least jointhe discussion!

  • Casey says:

    Hi Judith,

    Thanks so much for joining the discussion. Love to hear that one simple insight can reap such reward! (My photography skills are best left unspoken…) I agree about meeting people from all corners of the culinary world; it was quite a treat! Hope to see you at a future event.

  • Casey says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    Thank you so much for stopping by! Yes, I have the same overflowing notebooks and have more ideas to share and to weave into my own work. Hoping to bring some of them to fruition before the next IACP conference! For now, though, I’m happy to know that you’ve found what I’ve written useful. Means a lot!

  • Casey says:

    Hi Betty Ann,

    Thanks so much. I hope that at the end of the day, what I’ve written here will help food bloggers find a new way to look at the work they’re doing, and ultimately find a way to get paid for it! I was thinking of you and your blog when I prompted readers to chime in on the Asian demographic angle. Knowing that your recipes are authentic family heirlooms, I wonder what your readership demographic is? If you find that you have a large Asian readership, that may be an angle for approaching brands that want to get their products in front of that segment of the buying/cooking population. (If not integrated into your actual content, perhaps in banner advertising opportunities.) Just a thought!

  • JulieD says:

    Casey,

    This is a great article! Virginia Willis shared it in her post today/yesterday and that’s how I hopped over. You make some great points about networking. All of the events have attended this year have been great for networking as well as making friends. Your point about chicken is very interesting because my posts on chicken recipes have been very popular this year. Your point on Asians being undermarketed is very, very interesting to me! You’re awesome and thanks for all that you do!!
    JulieD´s last [type] ..Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Celery and Blue Cheese

  • admin says:

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks for your kindness and support! I enjoy sharing what I know with all of you food bloggers and hope that it will help more of you connect in a profitable way with the food industry at large. Keep me posted on what you’re doing, as I know you’ve got a lot of energy channeled toward that very goal too!

  • Sierra says:

    Hi Casey.

    I am sure you have learned alot from the conference you have attended. I guess it is worth it. The added knowledge can really help you be a competent blogger. Not only for the taste but the prices of the ingredients involved in a dish. haha You have very good insights too Casey. This blog makes me hungry everytime I visit. Please… stop that. haha just kidding.
    Sierra´s last [type] ..Crescendo Music Notation Editor: Music Notation and Composition Software

  • Adrianna says:

    thanks for the great tips i find it very The networking is amazing because you will meet people.Very much interesting article I think the issue of Asians being an under-marketed demographic may speak more toward food bloggers who already have a solid Asian readership.
    Adrianna´s last [type] ..Choosing Friends Wisely

  • Casey says:

    Hi Adrianna,

    Thanks for your input. And yes, I agree with you. Food bloggers with a strong Asian readership would be smart to pitch brands who are looking to reach that demographic (focusing on the fact that Asians are currently undermarketed). Thanks for picking up on that!

    Best,
    Casey

  • sckemen says:

    By just mere reading you and all those comments, I sound much of a newbie to baking and cooking. I’d rather be silent. You guys really know your craft. I am just a simple kitchen mom. Anyways, I just love blogs about food.
    sckemen´s last [type] ..Where Can I Find Reliable Reviews of Antivirus Software?

  • Katrinna says:

    I am newbie and i am very much thankful that i found this post,it is very interesting and i may use this in my future task.
    Katrinna´s last [type] ..angry birds flash

  • Kate says:

    Sounds like a great conference! How I wish I could attend one. I like reading food blogs, too!
    Kate´s last [type] ..anti aging skin care

  • Tess says:

    Hi! Just found this blog and wanted to submit, but wont let me register? Any help would be appreciated!
    Tess´s last [type] ..Pain au Chocolat Recipe-The Bakery 1

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