You turn on the TV: children's cooking contest in prime time. Other channels: a reality restaurant, celebrities trying to spherify a pepper and a chef who announces insurance. Gastronomy has invaded us. We spend more time looking at photos of dishes on Instagram than cooking them. We give tasting menus, cookbooks and gourmet packages. The passion for cooking is omnipresent.
15 years of the cover of Ferran Adrià in the NY Times Magazine that in 2003 placed Catalan cuisine at the international forefront and initiated a gastronomic revolution still underway. In this decade and a half things have changed a lot, especially in communication, and before the suffix goes down, gastromarketing professionals take stock of their potential. Roser Torras is a reference in this universe: 25 years at the helm of GSR, gastronomic production and communication agency.
In this quarter of a century he has lived through the changes in the chef's figure: “before he was locked in the kitchen and today he is a soccer star,” he says. They themselves have learned to communicate, to explain themselves and to sell themselves. The Roca or Carles Abellan brothers are often cited as an example of strategy, conceptualization and transmission of brand values.
“Some chefs have the instinct to create brands in the orbit of their work, but others still have prejudices about the world of marketing,” says Ramon Ollé, founding partner of the JAZZ agency. "If we manage to bring together the enormous power of chefs and the product, with the strategic talent of marketing, the global projection explodes," he says.
It is not enough to be the best cook
Unfortunately, there is not always a direct correlation between quality and international impact. “France, Italy or the United States, they know how to sell much better. Our chefs are the best, but at the brand level we still can't compete with a Jamie Oliver, or a Mario Batali, ”says Ollé. And that despite having such powerful concepts as the Mediterranean diet or olive oil.
Joan Gurguí, a marketing professional and also a chef in charge of La Bikinería says in this regard: “You have to decide if you want to make money in the short term or want to take care of a brand. If we want to sell the oil to be sold as Italian oil or we want to let the world know what our oil is. We must defend the heritage, and fight so that if something is not a paella, they cannot call it paella, for example. Perhaps we should work more with the designations of origin, as is done with wines or peppers of Padrón or piquillo … ”, he reflects.
Something as simple as a coordinated strategy for certain social media tags helps make the cuisine of the territory visible.
"Something as simple as a coordinated strategy to use social media tags can contribute to international visibility," says Anna Riera, a journalist specializing in gastronomy. She cites as an example the hashtag #catalanfood used by the Catalan export promoter Prodeca, promoted by the Generalitat. And although the first trench of communication is networks, there are other ways to grow: conferences, classes, television programs, interviews, sponsorships, good reviews, alliances with brands and products …
“Sometimes the one who pulls the product and makes innovation is not the agencies but the big brands that use gastronomy as a communication platform: from Estrella Damm to El Corte Inglés through Repsol, they are giants who, using gastronomy to sell, are doing a lot for the sector ”.
Professionalizing communication and marketing is often complicated for small businesses. Nicola Polinelli, director of the Lifestlyle section of the Ulled agency explains that in this sense “you must define the territories and be creative with the strategies, take the product to other fields such as fashion, skateboarding, art … Gastronomy dialogues very well with other disciplines ”.
The importance of the story in gastronomy and the world of wine
The director of the wine and gastronomy area of the Mahala agency, Montse Alonso, explains that more than any other product, “gastronomy is ephemeral and experiential by nature, we want to be able to share the experience”. Hence the importance of stories and history when communicating: “The difference between a wine of one euro and one of six is the grape, the elaboration, the origin. But sometimes the difference between a wine of ten euros and one of thirty can be the heritage, the story, ”he says.