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3 Hot Takes: A Viral (Foods) Report, an ‘Ugly’ Content Gift, and an Email Treat

This week, Instacart hits the content jackpot with a fresh annual report. Adobe helps subscribers get ugly. And a small chocolate shop curates a newsletter that delivers a sweet treat.

Instacart delivers food trend data – and explores what the numbers mean about 2021

Do viral food trends leap from social media platforms into the kitchens of viewers?

According to Instacart’s 2021 Year in Groceries, they do. Forty-four percent of U.S. adults who responded to an Instacart survey (conducted by The Harris Poll) said they’d tried cooking up a social media food trend this year. And more than one in three (36%) said social media has changed how they approach cooking at home.

But Instacart didn’t just take their word for it. The grocery delivery service went into its first-party data to see if people shopped for the ingredients used in trending social media food content. The answer? Yes. When baked feta pasta was a viral TikTok hit in February, orders for the recipe’s main ingredients jumped 107%. Orders for salmon rice bowl ingredients increased 97% in October, while orders for the ingredients in nature’s cereal jumped 94% in March.

2021 Top Social Media Food Trends chart from Instagram showing the increase in orders for ingredients in recipes for baked feta pasta, salmon rice bowl, and nature’s cereal during the months each recipe went viral. The Instacart report also lists hot (and not) grocery items across the country. Gemelli pasta, cereal bars, prepared sandwiches and wraps, frozen French toast, and energy drinks are on the rise. Wax-covered cheese, yeast, hand sanitizer, all-purpose flour, and disinfecting wipes are on the decline. An interactive tool lets readers explore the hot items in cities and delivery areas around the country – and download social-friendly cards to share those stats (#2021Delivered).

Instacart #2021Delivered chart showing which products rose and fell in popularity in 2021.

Another section of the report looks at the return to something close to “normal” by studying the trend line of pre-packaged snacks (for eating on the go) throughout the pandemic. The Pudding Pack Index charts aggregated sales across 10 snack categories – pudding, fruit bars, fruit snack cups, gelatin snacks, granola bars, gummy fruit snacks, pre-cut fruits, snack bars, variety snack packs, and yogurt pouches.

Instacart Pudding Pack Index showing aggregate sales of prepackaged snack categories throughout the pandemic.

WHY IT’S HOT: Instacart’s 2021 Year in Groceries shines in a galaxy of dull or predictable year-end reports and articles, showcasing how to tell great stories using your first-party customer data. And it highlights how to combine original research (the survey conducted with Harris) with customer data to tell stronger narratives.

Hot take: @Instacart 2021 Year in Groceries shines in a galaxy of dull and predictable year-end #ContentMarketing. (via @CMIcontent) Click To Tweet

Adobe decks its newsletter with creative gifts

Adobe Creative wants to help its customers get ugly this year. So it sent subscribers a newsletter (subject line: Free creative kits for winter holidays) offering “Ugly Christmas sweaters in a few clicks with a free Photoshop action.”

The action lets Photoshop customers turn any image into a digital sweater in a few clicks (including choosing from a range of knit sizes and pressing play). The feature comes from Pixelbudda, a design studio from Volgograd, Russia.

Image showing Adobe ugly sweater Photoshop action turning half of a reindeer image into an ugly sweater-style pattern.

If an ugly sweater isn’t someone’s cup of tea, Photoshop also offers templates for cozy winter cards that can be sent digitally or printed and mailed.

The Adobe Creative newsletter also includes non-holiday options, including how to make a risograph-style print in Photoshop.

Adobe risograph-style print template gif

WHY IT’S HOT: Adobe Creative makes a smart content play. Its newsletter offers specifics on how to create using the brand’s tools. And audiences always love free things, so templates and images make wonderful gifts. Bonus points for the attention to detail – notice the pun in the CTA button for the sweater activity: I wool try it.

Hot take: Audiences love free things – templates, tools, and images make great #content and great #email subscriber gifts. See examples from the @AdobeCreate newsletter (via @CMIContent) Click To Tweet

Sweet Designs crafts emails worth every character

Sweet Designs, a chocolate shop near Cleveland, Ohio, delivers Truffles to its fans’ inboxes every month. While it doesn’t contain any chocolate, the newsletter does contain delectable content.

A Behind the Counter section in each issue comes from a Q&A with an employee. In December, customer service associate Sam Sweeney tells of her nearly lifelong love for chocolate, her world travels, and her work at the shop. (The newsletter links to a longer version of the interview on the company website.)

And this month’s Bet You Didn’t Know feature revealed that Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian for humanitarian reasons – and shared an image of the Mona Lisa holding a package of vegan chocolates.

Bet You Didn't Know section of Sweet Designs' Truffles newsletter showing the Mona Lisa holding a package of vegan chocolates.

Truffles subscribers get the chance to win prizes by taking a quiz. This month, a multiple-choice question asked readers to guess the most purchased wine at the company’s Lakewood retail location. Prizes included a $25 Sweet Designs gift card, the Katie Couric memoir Going There, and a Sweet Designs beanie.

And it always concludes with a funny cartoon in a section called Last Laugh.

WHY IT’S HOT: The Truffles email newsletter from Sweet Designs shows how well this small business understands that newsletters shouldn’t be all promotions and sales focused. Instead, this chocolate shop’s newsletter with their customers on many levels – sharing details of employees’ interests and background, relevant trivia, and even a good laugh.

Hot take: Truffles, a monthly #email newsletter from Cleveland-based small business Sweet Designs, shows how to take #content beyond promotions to connect with heart (via @CMIcontent) Click To Tweet

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute