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Issue 008
Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Pull Apart Bread
Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Pull Apart Bread, courtesy Adventures of a Nurse

Welcome back to another issue full of ideas and trends for food bloggers.

2020 is almost here – and it sounds so very futuristic!

We're excited for all our readers to have a great future – and we hope the information we provide each week helps in that regard.

Okay, thanks for bearing with our end-of-the-year musings. Now let's get right into it.

Pink and green leaves

Fake Meat Fight Back

You don’t have to pay much attention to know that fake meat is a huge trend! Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat have both been in the news quite a bit as more restaurants include them on their menus.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the world of fake meat. Meat alternatives are receiving push back from (of course) cattle ranchers.

This is hardly surprising. Revenues for fake meat purveyors are up 8% in the past twelve months. Real meat is down half a percent. And the preceding twelve months saw nearly the same trend.

     A Roast By Any Other Name

One tack the ranchers are trying focuses on terminology. That is, beef ranchers do not want fake meat labeled as beef or as meat. (We reported last week how bread manufacturers and bakers are battling in the UK over the term “sourdough.”) Ranchers have petitioned the USDA to forbid the use meat terms for products lacking meat.

     The Meat Of The Matter

While fake meat only accounts for 1% of the total meat market, ranchers see the writing on the wall. Indeed, there is a clear comparison with the “alt milk” market. Soy, oat, almond and other “milks” now represent 10% of all milk sold.

Ranchers’ fears may be well-founded. Look on the Mission page for Impossible Foods, and you’ll see they are open about wanting to end livestock as food. “Using animals to make meat is a prehistoric and destructive technology. We’re making meat from plants so that we never have to use animals again.”

Impossible Foods is not exactly mincing words there.

Meat producers have also pointed out that “fake meat” is highly processed – a description that is sure to turn away consumers seeking natural foods. Further, meat industry groups have engaged scientists to find potential health risks associated with faux meat.

Of course, legal wrangling – in the courts and state legislatures – has ensued. Some midwestern states have passed laws protecting beef producers.

As an example, a Missouri law passed earlier this year calls for fines and/or imprisonment for manufacturers or advertisers using the term "meat" on anything other than actual cattle or poultry.

One thing is for sure: the plant-based meat trend is not slowing down at all. It’s still heating up. And so this fight will continue…

How can food bloggers benefit from this information?   A few thoughts: People continue to be interested in fake meat. You could of course create recipes that either replicate meats and meaty textures – or that feature existing meat alternatives. Alternately, you could offer recipes that provide a lot of protein – as meats do – but that are vegetarian. You could create recipes for traditional meat dishes that (somehow!) offer a lot of taste and texture, but use less meat.

Hummus plate

More Middle Eastern Flavors

     Gonzo for Garbanzos

Hummus has been growing steadily in popularity over recent years, and we don’t see that trend flagging. Indeed, we expect fondness for hummus to continue to climb.

According to Market Report, sales of chickpeas – the main ingredient in hummus, increased by 6.5% in recent years. Further, experts are predicting Middle Eastern flavors climbing in popularity next year.

What this means for food bloggers:   People have been pretty playful with hummus in recent years. You’ve probably seen sweet or dessert hummus. Chocolate hummus! There are also many different ingredients blended into hummus. We’ve seen tomato hummus, spicy hummus (just at Trader Joes!) We’ve seen cilantro hummus.

Obvious there is an opportunity for food bloggers to get creative with this concept. We truly believe there is a chance to invent a new hummus that becomes a huge hit. We just don’t know . . . what that will be!

Snacks for kids, refrigerated snacks and healthy snacks are all trending up. Surely an innovative new hummus could play a big role in those.

Zaatar Trend line

     Bonanza of Za'atar

Za'atar (pronounced zah-tar) is a fragrant mix of savory dried herbs. It's a centuries-old staple of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Often used as a rub for beef, chicken, lamb and fish, it combines oregano, marjoram, thyme, cumin and cilantro, with sesame seeds, salt, and what some say is the most essential and distinctive ingredient: sumac.

Many industry watchers (including Whole Foods market) cite ingredients from the Middle East, and particularly zaatar, as a trend that is expected to continue into 2020.

What this means for food bloggers:   You could experiment with za’atar, of course, and incorporate it into recipes.

Healthy Seasonal Recipes, for example, shares a recipe for Za’atar Chicken Burgers.

You could share your za’atar recipe, as Feasting at Home does.

You could also use za’atar as a jumping off point – and create your own spice blends.

Colorful Spoons

Low Spoon Meals

How much energy do you have right now? How much did you have when you woke up?

Common answers to these questions include: “a lot”, “a little,” or the extremely vague “some.”

It is inherently difficult to communicate the amount of energy we as humans feel.

This led to disability activist Christine Miserandino inventing the concept of “spoons” as a way of evaluating one’s energy.

Ms. Miserandino talks about the amount of “spoons” of energy that everyone starts their days with — and how the demands of modern life can deplete those spoons. Further, people with chronic or mental health issues can start with fewer spoons – or expend them more quickly.

Frankly, as you will surely agree, we’ve all felt “low on spoons” (Ms. Miserandino’s term) at the end of the day.

This concept has caught on. Indeed, spoons have become a symbol for people living with chronic illness. Some celebrities have got tattoos of them in recent years

Charlie Davies, proprietor of the Fibro Food Fairy website, explains, “Spoon theory has been really helpful to me personally as it allows me to explain to other people what it’s like living with a chronic health condition, like Fibromyalgia.”

When people are exhausted, it’s hard for them to even think about spending time making dinner. What then? Well, they can spend money getting food delivered, but that’s expensive and can lead to financial stress – which in turn can lead to more feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm. People can instead turn to frozen food – which is often unhealthy – and to junk food . . . and the spiral continues.

Unfortunately, many people have a hard time in life. Chronic illness and depression are all-too real challenges.

Low spoon recipes enable people to make food that is easy, nutritious and affordable. Low spoon recipes are meant to help people with challenges break the negative cycle.

“Low spoon” recipes aim to provide healthy meals with minimal effort – and we see them trending in 2020.

What this means for food bloggers:   You may not choose to make all your future recipes necessitate only a few steps. Indeed, if that’s not your thing, we don’t think you should. However, the “low spoons” concept is an interesting one, and it’s worth keeping this trend in mind.

Further, if quick and easy recipes aren’t exciting to you, you can still give your readers recipes that could tie into this trend. Comfort food recipes could be very popular. People do seek comfort from food – and they seek to share that comfort with others, namely their families.

Another idea: Charlie Davies (of the Fibro Food Fairy website mentioned above) ranks recipes by one-, two-, or three-spoons, depending on how much energy and effort they require. You could categorize your recipes in a similar way.

As Charlie says, “I want my recipes to be as fibro friendly as possible. On some days we may have more capacity than others. By giving each of my recipes a spoon rating based on how much effort they require, fellow spoonies can choose something that is appropriate for them. The spoon rating keeps the required energy in the forefront of my mind when writing my recipes.”

assorted emojis

The power of Emojis  😊

    Emojis help subject lines  👍

How do you get your subscribers to open your messages?

Our whole newsletter is obviously email-based, so we at Eats Index know the challenges associated with getting messages to subscribers and keeping them engaged.

We can’t really explain it, but putting emojis in subject lines definitely increases open rates. Researchers and number crunchers back that intuition up: they’ve found that emojis in email subject lines result in a 56 percent higher open rate than regular old text subject lines.

Researchers have gone a step further and determined which emojis lead to higher open rates: the smiley face, the kissy face, the heart, etc. We’re not going to dive into that level of detail here – all you need to know is that emojis are effective in increasing open rates.

Relevancy of the emoji may play a role here. As a somewhat self-evident example, if you are sharing a holiday recipe, a Christmas tree emoji would be appropriate in your subject line.

Food bloggers kind of get an easy pass in this category, because there’s an emoji for over 100 different food items — and on the off chance that there isn’t an emoji that fits your dish exactly, you can always play it safe with the “licking lips” emoji, or the empty dinner plate.

Oh, one other thing worth mentioning: researchers found that emojis in subject lines also increased response rate. That is, emailers who used emojis in their subject lines got more people responding to them. This just underscores that emojis increase engagement across the board.

Keep in mind that some browsers your subscribers use won’t support all emojis. (Internet Explorer, we’re looking at you).

A good rule of thumb is to use more common emojis rather than exotic ones.

And from the Extremely Obvious Department: you should absolutely test emojis in subject lines, so that you achieve the success you’re looking for, and don’t send a subject line that looks like a bunch of techno gobbledy gook.

If you don’t use emojis in your subject lines, you should give them a shot! 👏

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