Taste Alberta: Sharing the Alberta Food Story (PCN Fall 2015) OCT 1 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Carrie Selin, Taste Alberta Manager
Farmers and ranchers have an important story to tell about how food is grown, raised, processed and prepared in Alberta. In order to tell the story successfully, the Alberta food industry and media has formed an innovative partnership, Taste Alberta, to communicate and engage with consumers. The key to Taste Alberta’s success is building relationships with consumers, finding out what they value and following up with messages about the food industry in a real, relevant and targeted manner.
There is an increasing cultural and social divide between urban and rural populations. As agriculture becomes more scientific, progressive and change-oriented, we find consumers know less about their food. Taste Alberta uses a variety of ways to reach consumers, including traditional media such as editorials and ads, digital media such as websites and social networks, and experiential activities such as farm tours and festivals.
From fitness apps to online banking, consumers are using digital tools in their everyday life. As their digital life evolves, Taste Alberta adapts its strategies to continue to reach and engage consumers.
Gastropost is a good example of strategies implemented to engage food communities that use social media. Gastropost was originally developed by Postmedia Labs for Toronto’s food lovers, and then launched in Alberta with investment from SaveOn-Foods, Alberta producer associations and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency. Gastropost sends its membership of food lovers on weekly “food missions” and in Alberta a Taste Alberta Inspiration is also communicated that encourages consumers to use locally-produced foods. Missions and Inspirations are shared through emails to their members, in social media posts and through the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald newspapers.
The following is an example of an Alberta-focused inspiration from 2014:
Rachel Peterson of the Alberta Pulse Growers says autumn is a perfect time of the year to include beans in your meals. Fifty-two thousand acres of beans have been harvested in Alberta this year, including pinto, black, red, and Great Northern beans. If you’re making chili with some Alberta beans and local meat, or perhaps combining Alberta beans with Alberta bacon, Rachel says: “Canned beans should be rinsed to remove sodium, and many recipes recommend soaking dried beans before you add them to other ingredients.” She throws black beans onto salad for a boost of protein and iron. “Black bean brownies are one of my favourites — you’d never know they have beans in them.”
Taste Alberta provides a platform to reach a significant consumer audience. Gastropost has a community of about 5,500 members, over 13,000 website and social media followers, and a broader network estimated at over three million. The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald have a weekday readership of 586,700 (NADbank 2013). Tastealberta.ca has approximately 650 new visitors each month, and reaches another 2,000 consumers through social media. Although difficult to measure cumulatively, Taste Alberta has engaged consumers, and is a recognized brand for credible information about the food industry.
Taste Alberta manages the Alberta food conversation by listening and learning about consumer thoughts and desires. Traditional and social media sentiment and mentions are monitored, consumer focus group discussions are held, and readership and partner surveys are conducted. More subjectively, evaluation also includes conversations with consumers at events and festivals and input from advisory committees and local influencers. Listening and learning is a continuous process, and Taste Alberta channels this information to tell a compelling story, to build relationships and to engage consumers in meaningful conversations about Alberta food.