Commission enlists food bloggers as strawberry envoys

03/18/2014 01:19:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Whether in Southern California, Oxnard, Santa Maria or Watsonville, crews are harvesting California strawberries somewhere in the state 12 months a year.

The Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission is playing up the crop’s year-round availability and versatility with this year’s consumer campaign, “Just Add California Strawberries,” said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing.

The effort relies on both social and traditional media and will feature four big public relations pushes: National Nutrition Month, March; National Strawberry Month, May; summer entertaining, July; and National Diabetes Month, November.

The campaign includes 12 well-known food bloggers — one for each month — who will share their recipes that include strawberries. The goal is to expand consumers’ use of the fruit beyond just a fruit salad or short cake ingredient.

The commission also is hoping the bloggers will help reach a younger audience — between 20 and 40 — as well as English- and Spanish-speaking consumers.

Before the digital age, groups like the strawberry association hired professional recipe developers to craft new ideas for their commodity.

But today food bloggers do it all — develop and test recipes, shoot images and YouTube-type videos, and promote the recipes to their followers on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, Christian said.

“It’s a really good, cost-effective thing for the commission,” she said. “This way we can get more recipe development and get more fresh ideas.”

Because the recipes are posted on the commission’s social media outlets as well as those of the bloggers, it benefits from the bloggers’ additional social media followers, Christian said.

Tied into each month will be consumer recipe contests and giveaways promoted on the commission’s social media sites.

This year, the commission also will host two special blogger events, where about 20 of the most influential national writers will be invited to tour a strawberry farm, participate in a question-and-answer session with the grower, and taste different strawberry dishes prepared by local chefs. The June event in San Diego County will feature food truck fare, she said.

Throughout the tour, bloggers will update their followers through tweets, posts, videos or pins all using the same hashtag.

Hashtags allow followers to search and view posts on a particular title or subject regardless of author.

“It’s a very highly interactive event,” Christian said. “It’s real time. People around the country who follow these bloggers have never been to a field. This way they can hear and learn. It’s a great way to get people more engaged with the food they eat.”

The commission also works with three registered dietitian bloggers: David Grotto, Sylvia Melendez Klinger and Mitzi Dulan.

They contribute throughout the year, not only with informational articles but also with recipes they’ve helped develop.

Pairing with nutrition educators makes sense, since strawberries play well into healthful eating plans as well as diets for diabetics or weight management, Christian said.

“Strawberries have some of the lowest sugars of all fruit,” she said, citing American Diabetes Association data. “It’s one of the top superfruits with only 7 grams of sugar per serving, so it’s quite a bit lower than other fruits.”

Research conducted on behalf of the commission also found that consuming the red berries helps improve insulin resistance.

Because these benefits are not as widely known as the commission would like, Christian said it’s conducting an outreach campaign to health professionals, especially diabetes educators, as well as consumers.

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