Cookbooks are still popular and no serious cooks would willingly give up their stacks of bound culinary guides. But the invention of virtual recipe boxes and online food blogs has added on-the-spot gastronomic resources for anyone who makes food.
It makes sense that grocery stores are well positioned to help its customers plan meals through food blogs and social media. But we wanted to know, “Who is creating all those great recipes and making all of that food?” So we took a behind-the-scenes look at how local grocers Lunds & Byerlys and Jerry’s Foods bring recipes to digital life.
Lunds & Byerlys
Lunds & Byerlys understands people are busier than ever. Families are on the move but also aren’t willing to sacrifice quality ingredients. The purpose behind Lunds & Byerlys’ Good Taste blog is to extend the company’s in-store expertise and hospitality into the kitchens and digital neighborhoods of their customers.
“We make sure when a customer is connecting with us they get the essence of who we are whenever and wherever they are connecting with us,” says Aaron Sorenson, Lunds & Byerlys communications manager.
The company’s in-house marketing team drives the overall vision of the Good Taste blog. Collaboration takes place across departments, peer groups and vendors. Among other factors considered, they strategize content choices based on new products, what’s on sale, promotional opportunities, seasonality of ingredients and holidays—all with a goal of publishing a minimum of three to four posts per week.
Greg Mack, Lunds & Byerlys director of marketing, shares insight into the blog’s editorial strategy. “It is to focus on how we take the inspiration we provide our customers in stores, which we have a long history and reputation of doing, and creating meal solutions which can range from easy with limited ingredients to recipes that are a little more involved. But we really try to keep in that sort of middle lane of fairly easy to do,” says Mack. Recipes range from store classics and customer favorites like wild rice soup to newly developed recipes from Lunds & Byerlys chefs and internal experts.
The company is tuned in to what people are reacting to and the type of content capturing their attention. A recent addition to static recipes and photos on Good Taste includes more video, with the most popular how-to video being wild rice soup. “We’re continuing to look for things that are really going to work well in video because video has higher engagement and we like that,” says Mack.
To help execute Lunds & Byerlys’ vision for Good Taste, the company partners with Ingredient, a Minneapolis food marketing agency, for photography, copywriting, videography, blog distribution, social media and impact analysis.
Once the content is determined and locked in on Lunds & Byerlys’ editorial calendar, Ingredient works, on average, six weeks out on a scheduled blog post. “The beginning of the process is the content planning piece that we partner with the Lunds team on,” says Lindsey Doyle, Ingredient account director. “Next, we have a huge test kitchen and photography facility where we have a team of people that make the recipes and photographers and videographers that photograph the recipes and create the final product that we put on the blog and in the social space,” Doyle says.
The Ingredient team members who help create Good Taste’s editorial content and analyze its online metrics are also responsible for making the food from Lunds & Byerlys recipes as well as food styling and photography in the firm’s 6,000-square-foot studio designed with natural lighting.
“What’s great about our process is that with everything we’re making and shooting, there’s no tricks—we don’t do anything crazy to the food, or make ice cream out of butter or anything like that,” says Emily Tritabaugh, Ingredient content director. “Everything we’re shooting is completely edible and is exactly as a customer would make it. That’s how we want to shoot it—same ingredients, same process, same technique as they would be consuming it at home.”
A photographer takes four–six photos of each finished recipe using neutral elements for props and positioning them to draw the eye to the food. Any video length is dictated by content. The how-to videos focusing more on tips and tricks are typically shorter while recipe videos requiring step-by-step instructions are longer. Overall, the videos are less than two minutes.
Lunds & Byerlys taps into a local blogger who brings fun and locality to Good Taste’s posts a few times per month. Taylor Ellingson, publisher of her Greens & Chocolate blog, creates recipes featuring seasonal produce that are fun and unique yet accessible to the everyday cook.
“I enjoy writing posts for [Lunds & Byerlys] blog because my audience is mainly Minnesotans, which means I can talk about things like our cold weather and refer to casseroles as hot dishes!” says Ellingson.
Wild Rice with Ham Soup Recipe
This soup recipe originated in the early 1980s in the St. Paul Byerlys’ deli. It was originally produced in small batches and packaged in mason jars. This is one of the first signature recipe videos Lunds & Byerlys published specifically for social media. It continues to be the top viewed recipe video on their website.
- 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
- 2 Tbsp dry sherry (optional)
- ½ Cup flour
- 3 Cups chicken broth
- 2 Cups cooked wild rice (One-half cup uncooked wild rice equals 1½ to 2 cups, cooked)
- ½ Cup finely grated carrots
- ⅓ Cup minced ham
- 3 Tbsp chopped slivered almonds
- ½ Tsp salt
- 1 Cup half-and-half
- 1 Tbsp minced onion
- Fresh parsley or chives
- In large saucepan, melt margarine; sauté onion until tender. Blend in flour; gradually add broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil and stir one minute.
- Stir in rice, carrots, ham, almonds and salt; simmer about five minutes. Blend in half-and-half and sherry; heat to serving temperature. Garnish with snipped parsley or chives.
Every Saturday night, Jerry’s Foods sends email subscribers a Meals in Minutes recipe and appetizing food photo, along with a link to its weekly sales ad starting the next day. On Monday, the recipe is the first post on its Facebook page. Each Meals in Minutes recipe includes three main ingredients and three sides or toppings on sale that week. “The real purpose is just having an easy, hearty meal for the week to feed the family,” says Elizabeth Kriel, Jerry’s Foods digital marketing and promotional manager.
The magic behind the scenes happens when Kriel goes home on the weekends with a few bags of groceries and the sale ad. She personally prepares and photographs the company’s weekly Meals in Minutes. For two years, this busy mom-on-the-go of a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old has been creating recipes for Jerry’s customers right in her own kitchen.
“I have the sale ad about two weeks in advance so I work ahead. I develop the recipe, prepare the recipe, photograph the recipe and then I send it to our designer for our email template,” says Kriel. For inspiration, she browses other recipes on social media platforms like Pinterest, in cookbooks and from meals she’s made before. Then Kriel creates new recipes in conjunction with the ad and seasonal ingredients.
“I’m first and foremost looking at what items are in the ad. I start with the main ingredient like meat or produce, then for big nugget items I think that may be popular or seasonal. If I can gear the recipe around whatever holiday or time of year is coming up then I do,” she says.
Not a trained chef, this mom and marketing professional gears Meals in Minutes recipes toward people like herself. “We really are trying to gear these meals toward busy people and there’s no one busier than me. I think to myself, ‘If I can figure it out and I can prepare it and I can feed it to my family and they enjoy it, then anybody, anybody can do it,’” she says.
There’s no fancy photography studio here. Kriel takes advantage of a food photographer’s best friend—natural daylight—to snap 20 or so pictures of each recipe as they come out of the oven, or off the stove or grill. Some of the meals are conducive to cutting and then plating. Some look best right in the casserole dish. She tries to mix it up each week. She says, “I’ll shoot some in the dish the meal was prepared in and then transfer a portion of it to a plate and take a beauty shot. My favorite time to do this is when I’m cooking in a cast iron skillet. There’s just something about that pan that makes everything look good!”
Working with everyday pots, pans and plates from her own kitchen cupboards, Jerry’s marketing manager isn’t subbing in butter for ice cream or brushing on oil to make things shiny. This food is edible, sit-at-the-table ready because her hungry kids are in kitchen with forks in hand saying, “Are you cooking your Jerry’s recipe?” Once meal preparation is complete and the photographs are taken, Kriel’s family sits down to taste test each recipe.
Although the ingredients that inspire the recipes are only on sale for one week, the recipes are archived on the store’s website. With more than 200 recipes and growing, Jerry’s Foods is revamping its website and will soon launch an even more robust and mobile friendly online recipe section.
Easter Brunch Chicken Ramekins Recipe
This recipe was posted to Jerry's Foods Facebook page as an Easter brunch idea and it became super popular!
- 8 slices deli chicken
- ½ cup green onions, diced
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, cooked
- 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded and divided, salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 350 F
- Spray four ramekins with cooking spray and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix rotisserie chicken, basil, onion, salt/pepper and half shredded cheese
- Arrange 2 slice of deli chicken in each ramekin covering the bottom and the sides.
- Crack an egg into each ramekin. Top with chicken mixture, cherry tomatoes and other half of cheese.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until eggs are cooked, serve hot. Serves four.