“I don't think anything is recession-proof, but I do think that gourmet has a better position than some in the marketplace,” explains Michelle Moran, editor-in-chief of The Gourmet Retailer. “The impact you are seeing is at high-end restaurants, but people still do want to cook and eat well at home.”
Judith Lederman, president of JSL Publicity & Marketing, says that some gourmet print outlets are producing fewer editorial pages. However, a lack of editorial space doesn't have much of an impact on gourmet PR, partially because gourmet coverage is stretching into the blogosphere.
“The reporters we primarily target are the general food editors, and they tend to be always interested in what's going on at the high end,” she explains. “There's also an entire network of gourmet foodies out there who are now blogging. The big challenge for us is to get products in their hands.”
A key for agencies pitching food-related story ideas is sampling, Moran adds.
“We have something called ‘editors' choice,' where we taste and evaluate new products,” she says. “Beginning next year, we'll actually be adding to that by sending some of those products to retailers to have them evaluate the viability
of [offering] those products in their stores.”
However, Sue Yannello, PR specialist at 919 Marketing, stresses that gourmet reporters are increasingly looking for more than just good taste or an ingredients list.
Yannello, who represents food entrepreneur Sue Rice, has helped her get national attention in USA Today and on the Associated Press wire for her efforts to turn North Carolina farmlands into “Napa Valley for truffles.”
“Gourmet food writers have different twists – some look at food from an agricultural approach, some from a chef's approach,” she says. “But they all want... a good story.”
Freelance food writer Mary Luz Mejia concurs, adding that whenever possible, she prefers to speak directly to the gourmet food maker or visit the location where the product is being grown or produced.
“You're seeing a lot more experiential coverage because readers want to know what you saw, smelled, or heard,” says Mejia, who has contributed to Saveur and Asian Gourmet, and is a food trends expert for online magazine group Suite101.com. “I want to bypass the gatekeeping and learn from the producer how they came up with a product and [if] they've had it tested or endorsed.”
- Sampling is just the start of any gourmet food media strategy. Make sure to emphasize the back story on how the product is made or grown
- The Food Network plays a key role in educating people about gourmet cooking, so study programming for trends in cookware, methods, or ingredients and then position your client's product into those trends
- The economic turmoil isn't impacting gourmet food consumption in homes, but it is driving more media interest in high-end comfort food, so highlight that angle in pitches