republica 2015:
Foodblogs 2.0

Outside the Box

17206215479_65b286524b_z© re:publica/Gregor Fischer

[This article was originally written in German]

A crush of people in front of stage 11, not a seat empty. People are sitting around the edges on the floor. Extra chairs are being rushed in. On stage: a basket full of bread, sausage and beer. What more could one want for lunch? For the guests of this discussion at #Food Blogs 2.0 – Outside the Box, however, it’s about more than yummy food.

The participants include: Hendrik Haase, online handle Wurstsack, who goes beyond the facade of the food industry; Malin Elmlid, who travels the world with her project, Bread Exchange, exchanging her homemade bread for all kinds of things, except money. And from the industry sector, Carmen Hillebrand, Social Media & Content Manager at Metro.

What are discussions about food blogs and their bloggers about? How large is their influence and what does this mean for the food industry? Nothing less is at stake than the “fight for good food,” Haase states right off the bat. That’s why hardly anybody knows why it’s impossible to get a good loaf of bread for €2. “Bloggers become important in this discourse because they stand for something and write about what they think is important,” as Haase puts it. This goes beyond posting nice recipes. Bloggers expose and inform. They aren’t in the business of mass advertisingand get right in the food industry’s face. This is how the heavy-handed marketing strategies of food manufacturers were exposed and the name “dishstorm” was coined (the food blogger’s shitstorm.) The target was the Italian company, Bertolli, which drew attention to their own products with advertising links in their food blog comments. This outraged the food blogosphere, which then retaliated with its own recipes.

photo3© Lisa Jansen

Carmen Hillebrand of Metro explained that to a certain extent bloggers write a “counter-history” by lending the subject of eating and food an alternative perspective to that of industry interests. Hillebrand sees this as posing a challenge to companies: What’s the best way to deal with these bloggers? This is a struggle for many companies, especially in the world of social media. They do not react properly and fail to address the really important issues, according to Haase – for example, a sausage manufacturer failing to address the issue of antibiotics.

Ultimately, what waves can a food blog make? Haase, who also deals with politicians, admits that there are few returns from politics, although he is definitely visible and his tweets are being read. That is the first step in the right direction, as this is what counteracts a “loss of knowledge.”

17387280172_5c2399564a_z© re:publica/Jan Zappner

For the consumer the effect of the informative work many food blogs do cannot be underestimated. The food industry must face up to critical consumers.

Is it utopian to think that bloggers and industry can find common ground? At the end of the discussion, moderator Eva Schlulz asks a final question: What would a cooperation between Metro and Malin Elmlid have to look like for her to be able to present herself and her homemade bread? Elmlid smirks. She finds no response. There is still much work to be done.

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