I’ve been photographing and writing about food for just about 20 years now, the majority of that time in the produce industry. It’s beyond trendy these days to pull out your iPhone and take a shot of your plate when you’re out to dinner, but back when I started as a local restaurant reviewer, it was seen as a bit outrageous, if not downright rude. I’d pack my Canon in a large purse (remember, no sleek iPhones then) and try to get my shot quickly before people noticed and started asking questions or giving me dirty looks. Now when I dine out, I usually have to wait for everyone at the table to get their shot before I can dig in.
My point is that a lot has changed in the world of food marketing. Years ago, a positive review in your local paper or if you were really lucky, The New York Times meant you were golden…but now with Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, and food bloggers trending across the globe, many restaurant customers may not even notice the professionally written newspaper or magazine reviews.
To make it in the more democratic food world of today, businesses have to stand out for one thing and one thing only: quality. The customer has gained much more control (rightly so) of what goes on the plate, so foodservice operations must pay close attention to what they are saying and how they can deliver. Gone (or almost gone) are the days of having a glossy, expensive advertising campaign yet terrible, thoughtless food. Now if you try to serve inferior products, the whole internet is going to know it in about ten seconds. The world has gotten so much smaller that we can communicate our likes and dislikes with just the click of a button—a here-to-stay trend that will ultimately help shape the menus of tomorrow.
Thankfully, those of us in this industry are way ahead of the game. Fresh produce? Healthy fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a whole host of other goodies that doctors are just beginning to discover—these factors made my job easy from the start. Ever try to photograph a steak? Or a whole turkey? How about a pork loin? Dark brown, light brown, and beige...these products can really try a photographer’s soul. But bright orange carrots, deep red tomatoes, the purples and blues of berries, and the deep green of spinach…their beauty is pure and has no need of journalistic manipulation.
Quick—what’s the biggest trend of 2013? If you guessed vegetables as the center of the plate, you are right. The world has grown wiser—but sadly, fatter, so diners are demanding higher quality, fewer calories, and less processed/more natural products on their plates. And for that, fresh produce is the answer. When I write about fresh produce, I don’t have to use tricky words to steer around potentially bad aspects like other industries because there simply aren’t any in produce. What’s bad about fresh fruits and vegetables? Nothing—they’re good for you, gorgeous, and delicious—and Markon sells the best of the best. My bet is that menu items featuring Markon First Crop and Ready-Set-Serve products will generate more interest for Instagram photos, Facebook shares, Tweets, and Yelp reviews—and for restaurant operators, this is the best kind of authentic, word-of-mouth advertising you can get.