Crossing the Digital Divide: Challenges & Opportunities for Artisanal Brands
Just ten years ago, artisanal food brands didn’t need to take the digital landscape into consideration in their marketing efforts. They were effective in reaching prospective customers through traditional means: retail stores, mail catalogues, advertisement in luxury lifestyle publications, and word of mouth.
Even as early as 2010, traditional outreach methods for artisanal brands remained sufficient. Though social media websites like Facebook and Twitter were beginning to grow by that time, few could have predicted that these services would, by 2017, serve a little over 2.1 billion active monthly users. Nor could they have predicted that reaching customers over such channels would no longer be a faint possibility, but a necessity.
Add to this a dramatically increased world of connectivity via smartphones—at least 68 percent of adults in the United States own one at this time—and a slew of other highly active digital services with which consumers of all descriptions are engaged, and it isn’t hard to recognize the overwhelming evidence that today’s communications world is much different.
While catalogs, full-page advertisements and a retail presence offered the full range of traditional artisanal food marketing at one time, in 2017, it is clear that this is no longer the case. New traditions have emerged, and have created a new breed of consumers.
Millennials—here described as people between the ages of 22 and 35 years old—have now come into their buying power. This highly scrutinized generation is officially driving market trends and becoming “tastemakers” in every corner of the food industry. This challenges previous mentalities that millennials were “cheap” or unrefined in taste. It is becoming clear that millennials are eager to spend good money on food… with the caveat that brands must meet them halfway; engaging with them via social networks and keeping in mind their priorities and values.
New challenges have emerged in our digitized, millennial-run world. But brands must adapt, as the media landscape is unlikely to go back as millennials are followed by their younger, “digitally native” Gen Z counterparts and as technologists work to bridge the literacy gap for previous generations.
Fortunately, with these new challenges come new tools, and artisanal brands would be wise to invest in their use.
Tools like the ad platforms offered by Facebook and Instagram (a subsidiary of Facebook, Inc.) provide brands new formats and opportunities to easily reach consumers with owned and paid media, and to monitor engagements with all media closely. This gives brands an opportunity to paint a data-rich, information-rich picture of customer preferences. Digitally managed multi-channel loyalty programs, which are catching on with fast-casual and fine-dining restaurants, offer another possible pathway to creating a strong, insight-driven presence for artisanal brands, and Whole Foods brands are just starting to experiment with this possibility.
Artisanal brands should also consider becoming early-adopters of an opportunity that is still in its early stages: online food retailing. While it’s no secret that millennials are incredibly fond of e-commerce, both retailers and consumers alike have been slower to warm up to online food purchase and delivery… until recently.
A 2016 Mintel study published in partnership with the Specialty Food Association indicates that more consumers than ever before are interested in purchasing foods—including specialty items in particular—through online channels. The “I-want-it-now” mentality, fueled by digital channels creating convenience, is forcing artisanal brands to provide consumers with their direct wants and needs. This is evidenced in part by the increasing relevance of brands like Blue Apron, in part by the continued industry growth of gourmet food subscription boxes, and in part by a reported increase in purchase of specialty goods by mid-level income groups.
As the market undergoes massive demographic and practical change, brands are advised to make flexibility, learning and adaptation key priorities going forward—especially artisanal brands with a sense of legacy. A flexible, growth-oriented practice will help brands to cross the digital divide and build strategies that meet the needs of the modern customer. Change and adaptation is critical to brands, and artisanal brands should embrace this opportunity to breathe new life into the pillars of business that made them great in the first place.
Praline Meringue Crunch
1 cup praline paste (we like Valrhona)
1 cup cookie crumbs
1/4 cup milk chocolate
1/4 cup brown butter*
Melt the butter into the milk chocolate. Stir in the praline paste, mix in the cookie crumbs, and let set in the refrigerator. Scoop or form into small balls (this is easily done if the mixture is cold). *To make brown butter, melt butter in a saucepan, and stir until the butter foams up and the milk solids just begin to turn brown. In order to yield 1/4c, you will have to start out with more – about 1/2 cup.
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg white
Whip egg white until it holds soft peaks; slowly add sugar, and whip until it is no longer grainy. Pipe onto the outside of the domes, and toast the meringue using a torch (or put it ever so briefly under the broiler).
3 1/4 cup Semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1 envelope granulated gelatin, bloomed
2 cups cream
Melt the chocolate; set aside. Whisk the yolk, sugar, milk, and first cream together over very low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the bloomed gelatin, and strain over the melted chocolate. Stir until the whole mixture is glossy, and let cool to room temperature. While the chocolate is cooling, whip the remaining cream to soft peaks. Fold the cream into the chocolate, and pour into half-dome molds, nestling a scoop of the praline mix and a Donsuemor Financier into the mousse.
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup cold water 3 egg whites
Grease and flour one 9-inch and one 6-inch cake pans and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter or margarine. Gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Once creamed, beat in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking powder. Add 1/3 of the dry mixture to the cream followed by 1/3 of the water; alternate and beat after each addition until smooth. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold into batter. Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rest in pans 10 minutes and turn out on racks until completely cool.
Frosting 1/3 cup butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (plus extra for desired dark color)
1/3 cup milk (cold)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 16 oz confectioners’ sugar (1 standard package)
Beat butter and 1/4 cup cocoa powder together in a bowl with an electric mixer on low until consistently light and fluffy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup cocoa powder including extra to achieve preferred color, and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Beat confectioners’ sugar into the mixture 2 tablespoons at a time. Add in milk one teaspoon at a time until the desired smooth, rich consistency is reached
This recipe can be used throughout the year but adds beautiful elegance to your Thanksgiving table. You can make individual glasses of the tiramisu or make it in an 8×8 inch pan and serve as wedges. Garnish with whipped cream flavored with sugar and a dash of cinnamon.
2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 cups organic canned pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
30 Donsuemor Traditional Madeleines
1/4 cup rum
In a mixer with fitted with a chilled metal bowl and beater attached, beat whipping cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Add the cheese, pumpkin and spices, beating until smooth.
Line bottom of an 8 x 8 inch dish with the Madeleines, overlapping and crowding to fit. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons rum. Spread half of filling over Madeleines.
Repeat with the remaining Madeleines, remaining 2 tablespoons rum, and remaining filling. Smooth. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then foil.
Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
To serve, run a knife around the sides of the pan. Cut into wedges and serve with a sweetened cream.
Pulse the French Almond Cakes in a food processor. Pulse until they resemble bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse again.
Use an ice cream scoop and add the almond cake mixture to the mason jar. Use the back of a spoon and press the crumbs down. Put the jars in a 9×13 baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 8 minutes.
Add the cream cheese and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Run until smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom and run again. Add the egg, lemon, sour cream, vanilla, almond extract and salt.
Pour the cheesecake batter over the baked crust. Boil a kettle of water. Take one of the jars out, and pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the jars. Add the jar back to the pan, this helps not get water into the cheesecakes.
Bake the cheesecakes for 25 to 30 minutes. The edges should be set, but still have a little jiggle.
Cool completely and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Garnish with whipped cream, a single raspberry, and sliced almonds.
Cut the top part of the Madeleines and set the Madeleines in oven for 10 to 15 minutes. They need to dry a little, but be careful not to brown them.
In the meantime, prepare the cream in a bowl. Mix the Dulce de Leche and almond butter.
Once the madeleines are dried, spread the cream over each madeleine. A set of two madeleines will be used for one shortcake.
Add approximately 7-8 raspberries on one of the cream-covered madeleines, sprinkle a few lemon drops, and cover with the other madeleine. It is best to let the madeleines absorb some of the cream for a couple of hours before serving.
12 Donsuemor French Almond Cakes (financiers)
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
For Pastry Cream:
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
In a medium sized saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until it is well combined and thick. Continue to whisk while you pour in 1/4 cup of the hot milk (you are tempering the eggs).
Pour in the remainder of the milk while constantly whisking. Place the pan over medium heat, and continue to whisk while the mixture comes to a boil. Continue at a boil while still whisking for another 1 to 2 minutes and then remove from heat.
Whisk in the vanilla extract or paste and let the cream sit for about 5 minutes before whisking in the bits of butter. Stir until the butter bits are fully incorporated and the cream is shiny and smooth.
Transfer the cream to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Place in refrigerator until the cream has completely cooled.
Cut stems off of strawberries. With the cut side down, cut a deep ‘x’ into the tip of the strawberry, being careful not to cut all the way through the strawberry. Spread the end slightly.
Using a pastry bag with any type of medium sized start tip, pipe pastry cream around the top of the financier in a circle. Place a strawberry on top of the pastry cream, then place the tip of the pastry bag inside of the strawberry and fill with pastry cream.
For best appearance, serve as soon as they are prepared, but they can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine heavy cream, milk, and vanilla. Bring to a low boil and turn off heat. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolk and 1/2 cup sugar for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar is well incorporated into the eggs and the mixture is thick.
Add the liqueur to the heated milk and stir to combine.
Slowly, add 1 cup of the milk mixture to the egg mixture and stir. Repeat until all of the milk mixture is mixed into the egg and sugar.
Here is where you have options. Crème Brûlée is traditionally served in shallow Crème Brûlée dish but I’m feeling far from traditional today and for this purpose using a variety of oven proof dishes, including espresso cups, for the fun of it. This recipe will allow for 4 servings of crème that measure 1/2 cup each.
If you are using a traditional shallow crème brûlée dish, slice 1 Donsuemor Madeleine in half and press hard into the bottom of the dish forming a crust. If you are using a ramekin or any other oven safe dish, prop a Donsuemor Madeleine against the side of the ramekin. You may also slice it in half but I found it makes a nicer presentation if left whole.
Ladle the crème into the ramekins and fill until about 1/2 inch from the top.
Place the ramekins on an oven safe dish. I line mine with a tea towel to prevent the ramekins from slipping. Pour hot water into the dish until the water reaches halfway up the ramekins. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the crème is set. It will appear a little jiggly. Remove from the oven and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. This can be done up to one day ahead of serving.
Remove from the refrigerator and allow to set at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar onto the top of the crème. With a kitchen torch, gently caramelize the sugar until it browns and bubbles. Serve when the bubbles subside, about 1 to 2 minutes.
If you don’t have a torch you can use your broiler. For broiler caramelization: preheat the broiler. Place the ramekins on a baking dish with ice. Place the dish under the broiler and stand guard. It might take minutes or seconds for the sugar to caramelize. Remove when the sugar has browned.
Beat whipping cream in a large bowl with a hand or a stand mixer. While mixing, add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until whipped cream forms.
Line the bottom of an 8×8” pan with 12 madeleines. Top with half the whipped cream. Add half the strawberries and the other 12 madeleines. Top with the rest of the whipped cream and the rest of the strawberries. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving. Best eaten the day it’s made.
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