The National Restaurant Association predicts restaurant industry sales will surpass $709 billion in 2015. With American dollars spent on dining out continuing to expand, placing food products in the hands of trendsetting chefs and onto restaurant menus becomes an increasingly impactful way to grow consumer demand.
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council applied this strategy to two high-profile events this spring, both of which challenged the nation’s food elite to use blueberries to enhance the flavor, nutrition and intrigue of various dishes.
Challenge Inspires Chefs and Home Cooks
The Blueberry Council hosted a star-studded affair featuring eight of Los Angeles’ top chefs and food celebrities, including “The Biggest Loser” host Alison Sweeney, who competed in teams to come up with the most creative and easy-to-replicate blueberry dish. The event drew attention from media including DineLA, FOODBEAST and Food GPS and reached 1.5 million consumers following along on social media.
“The ripple effect of an event like this is astounding,” said Chef Andrew Hunter the Lifetime competition series “Supermarket Superstar,” who emceed the challenge. “In one afternoon, we opened the eyes of a dozen food influencers and more than a million consumers to the endless culinary possibilities blueberries offer. Expect to see more creative blueberry dishes show up on restaurant and home menus as a result.”
Blueberry Boot Camp Instructs Foodservice Power Players
Total blueberry immersion was the name of the game for 16 of the foodservice industry’s heavy hitters who joined the Blueberry Council at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in the Napa Valley, March 7-9.
Executive chefs from Panera Bread, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, Hilton, IHOP, Disneyland and Google, among others, experienced three days of education and experimentation with blueberries, learning how adding them to menus is a little change with big benefits. Meanwhile, four renowned food bloggers carried the learning to approximately 1.7 million consumers via social media, building blueberry awareness and interest headed into the spring season.
From the Kitchen to the Store
So, will the Blueberry Council continue to tap Kitchen Stars to appeal to consumers and drive demand? You bet.
“Chefs and blueberries have a win-win relationship,” said Mark Villata, executive director of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. “By working with chefs to elevate the blueberry’s profile, we impact high-volume purchases and send more consumers into stores to buy. And by incorporating more blueberries into their menus, chefs profit while reminding customers there are ways to make healthier choices without compromising on taste.”
The Kitchen Challenge and Boot Camp programs are just two of dozens the Blueberry Council implements each year to encourage blueberry purchases. For more information on the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s research and promotion efforts, visit littlebluedynamos.com and ridethebluewave.com.