Top 4 Food Trends, Austin Style

If you saw my previous blog post, you’ll know I spent the majority of last week enjoying the food, sun and most of all Whole Foods Market in Austin, TX. PR professionals from across the country gathered around breakfast tacos on behalf of Whole Foods Market to share best practices, company updates, and learn from some of the best minds in the industry, including a panel discussion with Max Goldberg of Living Maxwell and Alison Roman from Bon Appetit Magazine.

I learned a lot about PR, a lot about Whole Foods Market, and even more about food. To shed some light on my experience while visiting the Whole Foods Market headquarters, here are my top 4 takeaways on some of the latest food trends:

1. Teff is the new black.  It wasn’t too long ago that I didn’t even know what teff was. But, this nutrient-packed seed is quickly becoming all the rage as consumers look for new ways to add texture to their food. According to both Max and Alison, we’ll be seeing a lot more of teff in the months to come.

2. Paleo is prolific. Roughly 1 out of 10 people stick to a paleo diet. For those in the food industry, that means a greater focus on grass-fed and/or specialized menus appealing to this audience will be vital in attracting consumers.

3. It’s about the whole plant. Sections of fruit and vegetables that used to be instantly discarded, such as melon seeds, are now being saved and used for other recipes. Finding unique ways to consume the whole plant has turned into a delicious and creative outlet. Check out this Melon Seed Agua Fresca recipe from Whole Foods Market for example.

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(Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market)

4. Austin has amazing food. Okay, so maybe this trend is a little less scientific. But, it’s based on my research from eating at some pretty amazing restaurants during my trip. To top the list of favorites was The Winflo Osteria. We sampled melt-in-your-mouth cheeses, learned how to make our own tonic, and drooled over flourless chocolate tortes. Check them out at @Winfloaustin.

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After a successful trip, I’m more impressed with Whole Foods Market than ever – with the bright minds behind the business, the company’s mission and values, and how they are leading the industry in so many ways. Looking forward to uncovering more food and PR trends to come! 

Trading Raincoats for Tank Tops

This weekend I’ll be heading off to Austin, TX for Whole Foods Market’s annual PR Summit. I’m struggling to decide what I’m most excited about – the fact that I’ll be able to see the sun again and enjoy some 80-degree weather? Or, that I’ll finally have the chance to see the original Whole Foods Market? I get giddy just thinking about it! But, ultimately what I’m most excited about is the opportunity to learn best practices, insight on how to tackle PR challenges, and immerse myself even more into the Whole Foods Market brand. This is what the PR Summit is all about and is a chance for PR and marketing professionals from all different regions learn from one another.

In preparation for the Summit, we also had the opportunity to highlight some of our best campaigns from this past year. It was incredibly insightful to get a glimpse into the successes others had across the U.S. But, we were also proud to share some of our own work (see WillVoteforFood.com) to support the recent vote on Initiative 522 here in Washington State.

If you want to learn more about the campaign, check out our case study here for some of the highlights.

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I’ll be sharing key learnings from the PR Summit in next month’s post. But, if you want to check in on my Austin journey along the way, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram @CuratorPR.

Sold on Seattle

photo[1] When I first moved down to L.A., I swore I would never again be a Washington resident. Six years later I broke that promise and moved back to Seattle. Returning in time for summer was a perfect transition, and I was convinced it was a great decision to come back. It also helped that I began working at Curator, and unlike most of my L.A. friends, was able to say that I loved my job.

Fall was equally as beautiful as the summer months, but then we set the clocks back and the dark coldness that is Pacific Northwest winter set in. I can handle the rain, and even the cold given the right down jacket of course, but the light is what I missed most. Those were some tough months, but thanks to the crazy holiday retail season, I kept too busy to really agonize over my lack of vitamin D.

What also helped was using the bad weather as an excuse to explore new parts of the city, checking out various restaurants, concert venues and even revisiting some of the tourist spots that I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. I realized that even though I’m “from here” I really had to relearn the city, and once I started doing that it felt like I was actually in a whole new place rather than moving “back home.” I’m now one of Seattle’s biggest fans and am slowly turning every visitor I host into one, too. It will be two years back this June, and I still feel like there’s so much I haven’t done and seen, but here are some of the things I’ve come to love about being a Seattleite:

St. Lucia at Sasquatch! Launch Party

 

The Music. An avid concertgoer, being in a music hub has been incredible. It’s been such an amazing surprise to find so many people here that share this passion and are always up for a random midweek show at some hole-in-the-wall venue. Because there are always so many shows happening around the city, I’ve found myself not just waiting to see my favorite artists, but rather exploring local bands and music genres I might have never thought to check out before.

The Food. I never knew Seattle was such a foodie city until I started eating my way through town. I thought LA had good sushi, but I’ve got to say Seattle might have them beat. I could eat at Umi in Belltown and Moshi Moshi in Ballard everyday. And holy pretzels! I don’t think I will ever get tired of enjoying a cold beer accompanied by a fresh pretzel and of course the amazing array of dipping sauces (the best part) at Brave Horse Tavern or Von Trapps. Hungry just thinking about it.

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The Drinks. I’ve always been a big brunch fan, but these days it feels like I’m more of a happy hour person. Megan wrote a couple weeks ago about the great new app, Sosh, and let me vouch for it again; this is a killer resource for finding the best happy hour spots (and more) around town. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the best perks of being a Washingtonian: the wine. I frequent Woodinville to go wine tasting more than I should admit, but how can you not take advantage of all the incredible wineries that are right at our fingertips! And did I mention most of them are dog friendly?

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The Seahawks. It wouldn’t be right to make this list without including our Super Bowl champs! I forgot how much I love professional football. Living in L.A., I settled for college football (Go Trojans!) and really only paid attention to playoff games and of course the Super Bowl. But being able to go to the games and even just be in the city during the season is such a fun experience. While I miss basketball and hockey, I have to say that football season in Seattle takes the cake.

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The Art. I’ve always loved street art. That was one of my favorite things about living so close to Venice Beach. There was something so cool about discovering new aerosol art around the city. But the more I look around Seattle, the more I see that here, too. I was just at Pike Place Market over the weekend and realized that every time I’m there I find something new.

The People. It really is true that people here have a friendliness about them that’s I think, pretty rare. At first I had some moments of road rage when someone would signal and take their sweet time to get over in traffic, and maybe still do sometimes, but I’d take that any day over the always hurried pace of other cities (traffic-related and in general). I think Seattle is unique in that as a whole the people are hardworking, but they also know how to enjoy. They enjoy their work and play, and I think that’s what makes the character of the city so kind. It’s refreshing to be around, and everyone that has visited me has commented on this so I know it’s not just me who’s noticed.

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The Landscape. I’m not going to lie; I do really miss the beach. And I know technically Washington has beaches too, but nothing beats driving up the PCH from Manhattan Beach to Malibu. You just can’t. That said, I love that Seattle is surrounded by water. Growing up on the lake and then living by the beach has definitely cemented my need to always live near a body of water. There’s something so beautiful about it no matter the season. On top of that, being able to drive 20 minutes and find yourself on a hiking path up a mountain is amazing. Few cities provide the option to live in urban bliss, but offer that rural escape within minutes.

Got any Seattle must-do, must-see, must-try recommendations? Please send them my way at @c_allodi.

How Whole Foods Ruined Me

wfmblogpost1 It's not often that working on a client's business can completely shift your perspective on life. I mean completely shift how you make decisions on a day to day basis. I've worked on behalf of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Montinore Estate wineries, and yet I still just drink beer. I've created countless campaigns for Microsoft, but every screen I surround myself with originated in Cupertino.

So, my advice to any creative that finds themselves with an opportunity to work with Whole Foods Market is to re-watch that scene in the Matrix where Mr. Fishburne offers up the red pill or the blue pill. Albeit a nerdy metaphor, do spend time with that choice. Because it will affect more than just you.

If you choose to bypass the blissful ignorance of what you put into your mouth everyday, you'll find yourself saying words like sodium tripolyphosphate around a perfectly delightful shrimp cocktail. People's brows will furrow, they'll stop their dipping and laughing, and you'll remember those words aren't much for small talk at parties.

Your mother-in-law will have to make special trips to the grocery store when you visit because you muttered some off-handed comment about rBGH the last time you visited. As if you really needed to seek out another reason to frustrate her? Of course not, she never decided to come shadow you at work now did she?

Your wife will grow tired of hearing about TBHQ after she realizes it has nothing to do with frozen yogurt. And it'll get even better when you have to drive by those classic golden arches because of that word. Effectively kicking out the last leg on the stool of sanity you both just want to sit on during those long car trips with your hostage 3 year old. An American classic that you've always known to be unhealthy, but have never realized the exact makeup of why, will become a mere mirage in the distance to you - but not to those little eyes in the car seat.

Or, you could just choose to eat blissfully unaware. Learning about how the food you eat gets produced will be complicated, messy, and certainly not as tasty as those chicken nuggets. So, keep trusting labels that tout "whole grain" or "all natural" to be as meaningful as they're designed to appear. And I wouldn't take that job working for Whole Foods, and certainly don't Google any of the words I mentioned earlier.

Because you can't turn back once you've been ruined.

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Want to learn more? Check out Eat As Promised, a natural foods campaign we helped Whole Foods build. And if you want to go even deeper to see what's in your food, visit http://www.fooducate.com/ and http://www.purefoodkids.org/

What This Client Needs is More Bacon

Credit: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

Credit: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

 

People love bacon. Ok, maybe not all people, but the ones who like bacon…they really like bacon. My 9 year old is one of those people. Last year I asked him what he wanted to bring to school for a birthday treat. I told him he could bring anything. He picked bacon. Serious bacon love.

Enthusiasm for the tasty pork product sparked a full-blown marketing frenzy. There are the famous bacon donuts, candied bacon martinis, and if your food isn’t flavorful enough, just sprinkle it with Bacon Salt. With such popularity, there was bound to be a bacon backlash.

But backlash or not, there’s a heck of a lot of bacon conversation out there.

At Curator, we talk with our clients about the importance of creating an experience that stands up to the conversation in the marketplace. We look for opportunities to help brands curate and participate in the right conversations, wherever they exist. Sometimes, it's difficult for a brand to uncover those conversations and takes time to earn a seat at the table. In other cases, these conversations are happening right in front of you, just waiting for you to add your voice. The team at Curator loves working with our clients to navigate either of these situations.

Recently, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, introduced its 2014 uniform lineup. A microsite at www.smellthechange.com showed off five new looks, including a bacon-themed ensemble for Saturday home games. As the site explains, this uniform has “a bacon strip logo on the cap, a fresh ‘Pigs’ jersey design emblazoned across the chest as well as the first-of-its-kind bacon-style piping down both legs of the pants.” Fans can purchase swag, including a scratch and sniff t-shirt that lasts up to 15 washes.

Over the past week, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and their new uniforms, have received cheers and jeers – and a huge amount of coverage -- from the sports world and Peter King’s MMQB to foodies at Huffington Post Taste.

Frankly, I love what the Iron Pigs’ marketing team did. They recognized a wacky cultural phenomenon that was relevant to their brand and jumped into the fun with both feet. At the end of the day, Minor League Baseball promotions are about capturing attention, getting butts in seats, and providing people with entertainment.

Curious to see how they’re standing up to the bacon conversation? Search “@ironpigs” on Twitter. Here's a snapshot of the humorous, bacon-fueled Twitter war raging between the famous Durham Bulls and the Iron Pigs. And the #smellthechange hashtag is slowly gaining steam.

I had never heard of the Iron Pigs before last week. Will I become a long-term fan? Not likely, but I’m following them on Twitter and just forked over $28 for a bacon-themed ball cap for a soon-to-be 10 year old. Want your own? Go here.

Three MiLB-related Twitter Accounts to Watch:

@IronPigs – Follow along and see if the Iron Pigs can live up to the hype.

@durhambulls – “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains.” Plus, the team does a great job engaging with its fans.

@bensbiz – Seek inspiration from the quirky world of minor league promotions teams.

Disclosure statement: I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and a bacon purist.

Productivity Sans Coffee

I love to see people’s reactions when I have to explain that I don’t drink coffee. First comes the look of shock, judgment and confusion, followed by a variation of questions like, “Why? How? Are you human? What’s wrong with you? I don’t understand.” The truth is, I’ve never actually tried coffee, but if around it too long I get a headache from the smell and it's just never been too appealing to me. This year I did challenge myself to order a mocha from Starbucks, which to me tasted like a ruined cup of hot chocolate, so I here I am back to my non-coffee drinking ways. For anyone trying to drink less coffee, or give it up completely, I thought I’d share some of my tips for getting through the day without it.

Yogi Tea

Heat It Up

I read somewhere years ago that having a hot beverage in the morning helps with productivity. Holding something hot in your hands and feeling the steam hit you when you take a sip aids with alertness. Especially here in Seattle, when the mornings are cold and often wet, it just feels right to drink something warm. I used to hate tea, but after a summer working in London, my coworkers converted me.  I love black tea with a little milk and sugar, or my recent go-to: any of the Yogi Teas. My personal favorites are Detox and Green Tea Ginger. The Yogi Teas are great because they taste awesome on their own, plus each bag has a cute fortune on the tag!

H20 FTW

Water is your best friend. We all know that we should be drinking eight glasses a day, but if you’re like me, sometimes it’s easier said than done. I do better using a smaller glass because I finish it faster and have to refill more, versus using a big daunting mug and eyeing it on my desk all day. Bonus, more refills means more trips to the water supply also helping you get up and walk around a bit.

Juice

Juice and Smoothies

I love starting my morning with a fresh juice. I try to use my juicer at home or make a smoothie before I leave, but when I’m crunched for time, I usually hit up the trusty Starbucks across the street. I love the Evolution Fresh juices. If you’re a picky juice consumer, I recommend Super Greens or Defense Up – they’re much sweeter and don’t taste like the Earth, like the Essential Greens does. Another favorite from Starbucks is their smoothie. I get the orange mango smoothie and ask them to add Green Tea Matcha powder. This makes the smoothie green, but doesn't affect the taste at all. Sometimes I even add Chia Seeds when I’m back in the office for extra energy. If you’re unfamiliar with the Chia Seed craze, it’s a super food that you can mix in things like yogurt, smoothies, or anything wet because they turn gelatinous, and helps with hydration and energy.

Photo Credit: Brookside Chocolates

 

Snacky Snacks

It’s been reported that having snacks throughout the day helps with productivity and can give you the boost you need to finish the day as strong as you started. Eating something citrusy, like an orange will help with that afternoon crash. Smelling it alone will perk you up a bit. Other great snacks for a little energy boost are apples (ask Paul how he eats an apple, it will blow your mind!), dried fruits and nuts, popcorn, hummus, more juice or a smoothie, yogurt and dark chocolate. For more healthy snack ideas, check out this great list. And if you love something sweet in the afternoon, I am obsessed with the Brookside dark chocolate covered berries. My favorites are Açai and Goji Berry.

Take a Lap

It may be surprising, but sitting all day is a total energy suck. I never noticed how sedentary my days could be until I really started tracking my daily movement with our awesome Jawbone UP bands. I’ve set mine to buzz me if I haven’t taken any steps in over an hour. This is a super helpful reminder and gets me to be more conscious of my activity during the day. Even if it’s to go outside for a few minutes for some fresh air, the act of taking a physical break helps tremendously. This is also something I learned while in London, because I was forced to take a lunch and to go take a break and walk around outside. At first it felt weird because I was so used to the days of putting my head down, working through lunch and never really noticing that hours would pass before I ever left my desk. It’s easy to fall into this habit, we all do, so whether you have something to monitor your physical activity, or you set a little calendar reminder, I strongly suggest finding a way to remind yourself to get up, move around and get that blood flowing for that natural energy. Your body will thank you.

I’d love to hear any suggestions you have for coffee substitutes, or ways to get through the day without that dreaded afternoon crash! Find me on Twitter @c_allodi and let me know your best tip!

Why You Need To Be Using Sosh

I recently moved from the Eastside to downtown Seattle. And, lucky for me, I live with two really adventurous out-of-state roommates, which means I get to re-discover Seattle, block by block. I'm seeing the city through new eyes. Recently, some fellow Curators told me about Sosh. It's actually both an app and website for discovering everything from your new favorite happy hour or corner cafe, to local events curated around your specific tastes. Currently operating for San Francisco, New York and Seattle (with more cities coming soon), Sosh serves you up a perfectly planned social calendar, and you only have to do the things you want, and have time for. Let's face it. We're all busy, but in our free time we deserve to spend it doing something we truly enjoy. The picture below shows a sample calendar of activities Sosh thinks I'd be interested in (and for the most part, I am. See how that works?)

Tulip arrangement class? Sign me up!

The best thing about Sosh is it's so intuitive. It's addicting, and uber useful. Have friends coming in town? Don't stress. Need a place to meet an old friends after work? Sosh it. It's easy to use, too. Just create an account (I signed in with Facebook so I can connect with other friends using the service), then, click on the categories, activities and neighborhoods you're interested in (brunch, nature appreciation, food trucks & pop ups, concerts, theaters & shows; Greenlake, Eastlake, Queen Anne, Ballard, Capitol Hill.) As you browse the suggestions you can bookmark activities or add a tip for other users.

Soon you'll have a suggested social calendar, brimming with ideas. I'm loving the Sosh Concierge. For example, one of my suggestions was to try out the new Nacho Borracho in Capitol Hill. The Sosh Concierge tells me,

"Nacho: a delicious, cheesy, perfect-for-late-night snack. Borracho: the Spanish word for "drunk". From the owners of Montana comes a hotspot where boozy slushies (think frozen avocado margaritas), tequila cocktails, and a "Wa-Mex" menu create the perfect storm to take on Broadway's bar scene."

Plus, there's the Sosh Insider, which gives you tips on the "Must Try" menu item. It's like having that friend who always knows the under-the-radar hot spot and the one thing you can't miss there.

I could go on and on about this brilliant service, but instead, just log on to Sosh and try it for yourself. Maybe I'll see you at the next Dim Sum cooking class or Beecher's wine and cheese happy hour!

Curating The Best V-day Ever

In case you don’t have a calendar, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the universal holiday for love. Whether you’re in a relationship or taking time to focus on yourself, we have seven tips to make it your best Valentine’s Day yet. Tip #1: You only live once, lick the bowl.

Single or taken, everyone deserves extra bit of sweetness on February 14th. Here’s a quick list where two or more are better than one:

-Best Rolled Sugar cookies where heart cutouts are practically mandatory. -Smaller bites come in the form of easy chocolate truffles. -If you don't like to share then His and Her cocktails are for you. -They might be named Sweetheart Cupcakes but pretty sure our office would like to call them Coworker Cupcakes. -Lastly, nothing says love like sharing a few strawberry shooters during girl's night.

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Tip #2: Good things come to those who plan

You don’t know what moments might be in-store for your special day so to be camera ready, Brow Arc located in Northgate Mall is offering 2 for $20 eyebrow threading, and go into the mall's Gene Juarez and receieve a "love note," which can be redeemed for a surprise gift from a $5 retail coupon to free products.

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that put the power in the hands of the receiver. Columbia Center in the Tri-Cities is having a Simon gift card promotion, where shoppers who purchase a $75 gift card will receive complimentary Valentine’s Day packaging.

Tip #3: Show them your love is sustainable

What makes Whole Foods Market Whole Trade roses different? Whole Trade ensures better wages and working conditions for workers! For an amazing price of 20 for $20, it’s an easy way to have your "I love you" also say "you care about workers and environment in the developing world".

Agrogana: Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Tip #4: Anyone can be a valentine

Make a special card for your Valentine, and also make a Valentine for a Veteran with the help of the AmeriCorps Red Cross. Create a cool craft and try out our loveable Valentine’s Day game and one lucky member will win a super sweet treat from Candy Tyme at Tacoma Mall! The event is on February 14th from 2-4pm.

Tip #5: Fall in love with yourself

There may be a few singles out there that don't want to mix and mingle with all those lovey-dovey couple on Valentines, so they can take advantage of the Domino's app and purchase their pepperoni pizza with extra toppings all for themselves via their mobile device. The app also includes a pizza tracker, which allows you to know precisely when you expect your delivery. That will give you just enough time to know when to slip on your bunny slippers. Also, medium 2-topping pizzas are $7.99 so treat yo’self!

Tip #6: Treat them like you love your Vitamix

If you’re looking for experts in the romance field, Whole Foods Market isn’t your first choice, but they sure know how to do a romantic dinner for two. Starting Thursday, February 13th through Valentine’s Day buy one dry-aged steak and receive a lobster tail for free! Whole Foods Market’s butchers hang steaks for 30 days to tenderize and better allow natural flavors to come out when cooked. If you really want to come off as a pro, throw those lobster tails in ice water immediately after cooking to help them pull away from the shell. Now that’s a trick to secure your next date!

Tip #7: Travel does the heart good  

Looking for a special way to surprise your love for Valentine’s Day? Don’t miss out on Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto’s special Valentine’s Day deal with a 4-day, 3—night vacation in a gorgeous deluxe Ocean View room, a couple’s massage at Sabila Spa, a five-course Valentine’s Day dinner at Danzante fine-dining restaurant, and the most romantic setting, when you book now and travel during February with the promo code LOVE14! E-mail reservaciones.vdpl@vgloreto.com for more info!

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