Food52's Wholesome Means to Branding Success
Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs and Elisabeth Brier

In an age where foods fads like veganism and kale based anything have become almost hostile, Food52 serves as an oasis from the mania.

Though this digital food community advocates for things like home cooking and wholesome ingredients, Food52’s sensibility is a clear deviation from the snobbery and near belligerent attitude of many clean eating crusaders.

Promoting a relatable, thoughtful and comprehensive means to good eating, Food52 has gained a loyal following and grown rapidly since its inception.

The company’s founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs chatted with TechDay to discuss the impetus behind their platform, how they’ve been able to develop their brand, and what other entrepreneurs can do to achieve the same.

Combining content with commerce, for many companies, is an almost unachievable feat. How has Food52 been able to not only do it, but do it so successfully?

Two key reasons for our success:

-Food52 was imagined from the start as a resource for our users, not just a revenue appendage.

-Our authentic approach. The two of us personally review all the products with our buying team and have a clear prism from which we judge if products are meant for Food52. Because of this, our shop has never seemed far afield from our editorial.

Does Food52's content function as its primary marketing mechanism or are other strategies used more prominently to attain new users and visibility?

The way we think about it is that we want to be where our readers and shoppers are -- who, while yes our content serves as marketing for our brand, it's important that it's appearing in the right place at the right time. This might mean content on our social channels, our cookbooks, our podcast "Burnt Toast," on our thriving social channels, and also at our events. We also have focused marketing strategies to let people know specifically about our shop. Our goal is for readers to become shoppers and for our shoppers to become readers.

What were the premier steps in building your audience and attaining a loyal following? How much has this changed as Food52 has grown into a big name?

Taking no shortcuts and protecting our brand has been key. There are faster routes to growing an audience by jumping on every traffic bandwagon (rainbow bagels!), but we've always stayed the course of who we are for our audience. Everyone on our team is active on the site and on social, and this is how we stay personal and genuine. We're very present all the time. We spend a lot of time thinking about our community, and developing relationships with them through on-site comments, our Hotline, our social channels, and even Customer Care.

To what extent does Food52's social presence function to grow and foster the brand?

Social is huge for us. It allows us to show different facets of our personality on different channels, and serve people in different ways. We're always thinking about what's next. For example, we started a Cookbook Club on Facebook that allows us to cook together with our community.

Where do content creators pull inspiration from and what steps are taken to assure both content and all merchandise remains consistent with the Food52 brand?

In the early days it used to be that you just "knew" Food52 when you saw it. As we've expanded so quickly, we've codified some things -- for instance, we have a style book and of course, the two of us, as well as our Creative Director (our first hire), Kristen Miglore, are always keeping an eye on things. But it's also important that our brand continues to evolve. Static brands become stale. We make sure new writers and new buyers have freedom to try out new things, and let our audience be the judge. We get it wrong sometimes, but that's also part of our brand. We own our mistakes, and keep looking forward.

What advice could you offer entrepreneurs aiming to spur a thriving content blog that perhaps, could have the potential for commerce down the line?

-Our first piece of advice is to introduce the concept of a shop asap and make it part of your everyday.

-Your content needs to align with your commerce. You have to have credibility on both the content and the commerce fronts. Seems easy but some early companies did not do this.

-Your content needs to align with your commerce. You have to have credibility on both the content and the commerce fronts. Seems easy but some early companies did not do this.

Are there any new innovations we can expect to see from Food52 in the near future?

You can expect to see us experimenting with more pop-ups as we think about a retail strategy, and ways that will allow shopping for pantry replenishables easier.