The Ultimate Influencer Marketing Guide For Food Brands

May 7, 2024
15 mins
Rochi Zalani
Content Writer, Modash
Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing at Feedfeed
... and
more expert contributors

Ever read a generic influencer marketing guide and wished for advice that’s more tailored to your industry? I hear you.

For this article, I spoke to the seasoned pro Anna Fatlowitz, Director of Influencer Marketing at Feedfeed. The purpose? Digging deep into the food influencer marketing industry to create the best guide on the topic. We covered questions like:

  • Which are the best types of collaborations for food brands?
  • How does food influencer marketing differ from creator partnerships in other industries?
  • What are some mistakes influencer marketers in the food niche should avoid?
  • …And more.

Let’s go!

10 influencer marketing tips & tactics for food brands

1: Expand your influencer pool beyond the “food” niche

There are many reasons why you should think about hiring creators beyond the food niche:

  • The truly amazing (and large) creators might be out of budget
  • There might be a ton of audience overlap among food influencers
  • Your competitors have already found food influencers, too

By staying in the food lane, you shrink the size of potential creator partners. And the most obvious niches aren’t necessarily the best. Travel company Tourlane shared travel creators aren’t their best performers. Similarly, the crypto trading platform Bitpanda told us crypto influencers aren’t getting the best results.

Instead of thinking about food as a niche, think of your ideal buyers’ demographics and interests. Take the food brand, Metabolic Meals. They sell healthy, pre-prepped meals. Instead of thinking:

❌  “My company sells healthy meals, so we need to work with food influencers focusing on nutrition and wellness.”

They thought…

✅  “My company sells healthy meals to women in the U.S. between the ages of 25 – 45*. Which influencers are catering to those people?”

In the above example, the ideal influencer partner can be a food creator and a mom influencer. Both types of demographics can benefit from the service:

  • Food creators want healthy recipes
  • Busy mom influencers also want healthy meals for their family

Metabolic Meals partnered with both kinds of creators — an athlete influencer (Allison) and a mom influencer (Sharon).

Similarly, Feedfeed shares daily inspiration on what to cook, bake, eat, and drink. The majority of their creator partners are food influencers, but they’ve also worked with lifestyle, beauty, fitness/wellness, and outdoor/adventure creators. Anna says:

Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing, Feedfeed
These [adjacent niche] creators had some food posts, so it was still authentic for them to promote food. We opted to reach out because certain food brands are more so about the lifestyle vs. pure recipe creation.

When analyzing which influencers to partner with, be open to experimenting with new niche creators who cater to your target demographic.

💡 Read this guide to learn more about identifying and testing new niches for your influencer program.

2: Balance audience & creative fatigue by having both short and long-term influencer partnerships

According to Anna, long-term influencer partnerships are trending downward in the food space. Here’s why:

  • Audience fatigue: if a creator is continuously promoting your products for many months, there’s a good chance you’ll exhaust their audience sooner or later. Their followers are already aware of your product. The ones who wanted to buy from you likely already have.
  • Creator fatigue: an influencer’s excitement of working with a new brand waxes and wanes if it’s not tended to. Anna says she notices creator fatigue settle in after around three months. It’s hard to develop new ideas for the creator consistently and for you to give feedback, keep up the enthusiasm, and incentivize long-term creator partners. In Anna’s words:
Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing, Feedfeed
We’ve noticed the longer a program goes on, the harder it is to keep that excitement about working with a brand. At times, we see underperformance in content or sloppier work on the creator’s side. It also seems like a chore for the creator to come up with new and great ideas consistently.

Audience and creator fatigue also work in a loop. The creator’s content becomes stale, and the audience loses interest. Since the audience isn't responding well, the creator's motivation dwindles. Creators can also feel pressured if they had a viral collab post with you once but couldn’t double down on the performance.

There are multiple things in your control to avoid this:

  • Invest time in providing helpful content feedback so creators get more ideas & stay excited
  • Choose fast-growing influencers to continually expose your brand to new audiences
  • If you can, add incentives outside of flat fees to motivate influencers

We're not saying that you should never do long-term partnerships for food brands. There are advantages to them, and it doesn’t have to be either/or.

But, mix in some short partnerships to keep reaching new audiences. Capitalize on the long-term partners whose performance and content quality aren’t declining and bring in new creators to keep things fresh.

At Feedfeed, Anna recommends her clients to section their partnerships into shorter terms instead of signing year-long influencer contracts. Although this is more work, Anna’s confident the influencer content will perform better and be fresher.

But, to reiterate, it’s always a balance: Anna has a healthy mixture of long-term and one-off influencer partnerships. Some of her clients’ content is mapped out months in advance, while others have quick turnarounds. Other factors — such as product launches, sales, etc. — also affect her approach.

💡 Read more about how the pros practice long-term influencer partnerships.

3: Negotiate with influencers using commissions, long-term partnerships, quick payments, and data

How do you negotiate with food influencers? Here are three ways Anna recommends:

  • Free products and commissions: in Anna’s experience, these incentives work better with nano and micro influencers who are still new to brand partnerships. But commissions are a heavy lift for veterans in the food creator economy since the creators have to make the content for a smaller amount than they could’ve made in a paid partnership.
  • Long-term partnerships: influencers don’t have a fixed paycheck. Signing a long-term retainer agreement helps grease the wheels with creators since it guarantees some income coming in every month for the influencer. Feedfeed’s influencer programs typically span 10 months to a year, with two or four posts per influencer.
  • Pay quickly: being an influencer is a hard job. Being a recipe creator with organic product mentions is harder still. Instead of 60 or 90 day invoices, try to pay creators as quickly as possible. Anna says they pay all their creators net 30, but pay as soon as the metrics are in and the invoice is approved — which is fairly immediate. It goes a long way in building strong influencer relationships, too.

For macro-influencers, Anna suggests the best incentive is higher pay. But she also says that only partnering with big creators is a mistake:

Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing, Feedfeed
Only wanting to work with the huge, well-known creators isn’t always the right move. There are a lot of great nano and micro influencers who have gorgeous content that performs well. We love building relationships with these smaller creators and it gives them an opportunity to get paid for their hard work.

Another way you can negotiate is by using an influencer’s data. For example, let’s say a food influencer has a large follower count but:

  • Only 50% of their audience resides in your target market
  • And/or they have 20% fake followers in their audience
  • A lower engagement rate on video content

Knowing these numbers, you can negotiate influencer fees confidently without being unfair.

How do you get such in-depth influencer data, though? You can ask the creator for screenshots or use an influencer analysis tool like Modash. It gives you in-depth data on a creator’s audience, content performance, reachability, etc.

4: Have one clear goal for your influencer marketing campaigns

Trying to do everything is a disastrous way to achieve nothing. Having one clear goal for your influencer marketing campaigns means focus and clarity for you and the influencer.

For food brands, Anna says brand awareness should be the main goal:

Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing, Feedfeed
Awareness will always and should be at the forefront for food brands. Unless the food brand is readily available online, especially Amazon, audiences need more reminders of the brand, especially at the grocery store. There is typically a larger barrier to purchase for food brands compared to lifestyle brands that are easily accessible to purchase on social platforms and online.

Food brands should also focus on awareness to build trust. Unlike other industries like fashion or beauty, consumers aren’t purchasing food products casually. They’re more vigilant to stick to their budget and ensure what they’re buying is healthy, according to Anna.

Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing, Feedfeed
There is less impulsive shopping with food brands and shoppers are more careful about their weekly grocery budget vs. shopping for fun. The rise in wellness influencers also makes people think more about what they're eating vs. other industries, though beauty is also seeing a rise in brands that are vegan/cruelty free and ‘clean’.

Which type of influencer collaborations should food brands do to achieve this goal? Anna says it depends:

  • Smaller brands without much brand awareness and a tight budget will benefit the most from product seeding. It has no strings attached and it is cost effective.
  • If you have some room in your budget though, Anna says paid partnerships with an affiliate add-on work best for food brands. Why paid partnerships? The work of a food creator — creating cooking directions, testing ingredients, developing new recipes, etc. — requires a lot more work & expertise than standard influencer content. You want to pay creators who are skilled at this fairly.
  • For shopper marketing programs, Anna looks for influencers with high engagement on Instagram Stories. They look for creators who get a lot of views on their Stories, are camera-friendly, and frequently do grocery hauls. Anna often pairs this with a pure recipe post in the feed to maximize engagement.

5: Avoid overselling your product

Anna says the biggest mistake she sees food brands make is overselling their product via influencer marketing.

Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing, Feedfeed
A major pet peeve is product packaging throughout the entire video. Yes, we want to sell a product, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be in every single shot. This usually tanks engagement on an organic post. We recommend incorporating packaging/the product naturally in the recipe process and not in the first 3 seconds of a video.

This is an important pointer because consumers today can recognize PR speak easily. They know when an influencer collaboration is authentic (the creator actually loves the product, uses it themselves, and isn’t sugarcoating) versus when they’re only acting as the company’s teleprompter.

A good example of how to do this right is Megan Pham’s partnership with San-J. She incorporated the product organically into the caption and voiceover. The addition feels authentic and natural rather than forced and salesy.

No wonder the video hit over 2M+ organic views.

(Sidenote: anyone hungry just looking at that? Cuz, same.)

A good solution for this is discarding overly restrictive influencer briefs. Share detailed information about your product, company, and value proposition. But offer creative license when it comes to the presentation. An influencer will come up with a script and video/image that’s organic, resonates with their audience, and isn’t salesy.

Striking that balance is hard, but remember this formula: you can tell the what, leave the how on the creator.

6: Keep up to date on social media trends and algorithmic changes

Social media is the foundation of influencer marketing. And social media platforms constantly upgrade their algorithms, introduce new features, and promote new trends.

As an influencer marketer, you must keep your ear to the ground and stay up-to-date on the various social and food trends. This will help your influencer partners, too. According to a study by URLgenius, 88% of influencers’ top concern is navigating the various changes in social media algorithms. How do you stay informed of the latest shenanigans?

  • Use social listening tools
  • Spend some time on social networks every day
  • Follow the newsroom updates of Meta, TikTok, and YouTube
  • Subscribe to newsletters like Return on Influence that summarize trends, updates, news, and do the legwork for you

A great example of how collab posts can capitalize on trends is the partnership between Lauren Sephton and Red Gold Tomatoes. Garnering over 1M+ views, the creator created a trending recipe (high protein) that was also timely for March Madness.

At Feedfeed, Anna uses her and her team’s expertise to coach creators on content. For instance, they have a “Video Best Practices guide” to help all their influencer partners with hooks. Here’s an example of a tip inside this playbook:

Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing, Feedfeed
The first 3 seconds are the most important part of the video. Think about how you’re going to draw the viewer in. Is it with an ooey gooey bite shot and a voiceover that really intrigues you? It could even just be ASMR.

7: Automate and templatize any repetitive tasks (unless they’re relationship-building activities)

Templatizing everything possible (except relationship-building activities) is the one activity Anna wishes she had started sooner.

When you think about it, so much of your influencer marketing workflow contains more or less repeatable tasks:

  1. Influencer discovery
  2. Influencer outreach
  3. Influencer onboarding
  4. Influencer tracking
  5. Influencer payment

This will look more or less complicated, depending on your strategy. But it’s ultimately replicable work. Use influencer marketing tools or project management software to templatize and automate whatever possible.

At Feedfeed, Anna uses:

  • An influencer marketing software to store all her campaign details, store influencer content, and provide approvals
  • Asana to manage internal and external approvals and keep track of everything (contracts, briefs, etc.) in one place
  • Google Sheet formulas to automate their metrics tracker and make influencer marketing reporting easier
  • Mixmax to store email templates and track open rates

Write down all the tasks you carry out in a single influencer partnership. Now spot:

  • Which tasks can you automate?
  • Which things can be done more efficiently with a template?
  • Which processes can benefit from a replicable workflow so you don’t have to start from scratch?

But don’t automate tasks that help you build or strengthen your influencer relationships. If the task has a human element, don’t introduce tech into it, or your creator collabs risk being purely transactional. Here are some examples of what you can automate and what you shouldn’t:

👍 Automate 👎 Don't automate
Sending onboarding docs, brand guidelines, deliverable deadlines Customizing the brief to meet the campaign’s requirements and the influencer’s strengths
Tracking live influencer content and its performance Providing individually tailored feedback to help the creator grow
Outreach follow-ups Your collaboration offer

Influencer marketing is ultimately a relationship business. Don’t let scaling and efficiency come at the cost of your creator connections.

💡 Learn more about influencer marketing tasks you should & shouldn’t automate.

8: Ensure your workflows and feedback are a collaborative process

Influencers are A+ team players and invaluable industry experts. They know what’s trending, what your target audience finds relatable, and what sells. Instead of making your partnerships an echo chamber, keep an open dialogue to benefit from their hard-earned knowledge.

At Feedfeed, for instance, Anna asks influencers to fill post-campaign surveys and get feedback on their working process. She asks influencers:

  • if their overall experience on the campaign was positive
  • if they felt the brief was comprehensive enough
  • if they felt supported and valued by their team
  • if they’d work with them and the client again
  • if the partnership was creatively flexible
  • open-ended feedback

An important point to note is that Feedfeed gives influencers the option to remain anonymous. This creates a safe space for creators to offer constructive feedback and speak their minds. Plus, it builds your company’s reputation as a creator-invested brand.

9: Don’t let influencer marketing exist in a silo

Influencer marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To be a cross-functional marketer, the best thing you can do is make user-generated content accessible across the company.

  • At Feedfeed, Anna’s team often swaps notes and content from the social team
  • You can also repurpose influencer content (with permission) for paid advertising
  • Some UGC can also enhance your landing pages to “show” your product in action

And it goes both ways: you can use insights from other teams to understand what’s working on social media, keep up with trends, and which CTAs are resonating best.

10: Use a partially templated influencer outreach email

Mass outreach is an efficient method to scale influencer outreach, but it’s not the right choice for most brands. It starts off the influencer relationship on the wrong foot, reduces the scope for negotiation, and gets lower response rates.

But writing a fully personalized email is extremely time-consuming and nearly impossible to scale unless you have a large team with a lot of bandwidth. The solution? A partially-templated email. 55% of 51 marketers in our influencer outreach survey said they use this approach.

Personalize the details related to the creator — a genuine compliment, why they’re a good fit for the brand, etc. and templatize the stuff about your brand & campaign. Here’s a good example:

A partially templated outreach email helps you scale your efforts without compromising the personal touch.

💡 Learn more about how to contact influencers in our influencer outreach guide.

How to find food influencers

Finding relevant, best-fit creators is arguably the most important step of any influencer marketing campaign. Your success hinges on making the right choice of influencer partners.

At Feedfeed, Anna finds food influencers using two methods:

1. Influencer marketing platform: Anna sources 75% of their creator partners using an influencer search tool. It has search filters, and a feature to find lookalike influencers. It also has a social listening tool that Anna uses to find influencers already working with a specific product or ingredient. So, if Anna knows a particular ingredient is trending right now, she can pinpoint her search for food creators already using it in their recipes.

2. Native search on Instagram and TikTok: Anna finds the remaining 25% of influencers via the native search on Instagram and TikTok. The Feedfeed team searches for keywords related to a product or ingredient within a recipe, like “queso recipes” or “pasta recipes” for a tomato brand, and searches for those directly within the platform. Search results usually show creators who are using those keywords and getting good engagement.

Note: Instagram’s search bar is significantly better on the mobile app than on the desktop.

Now, when should you use free methods like native search, and when should you add a paid influencer discovery software to the mix?

It really depends on the scale you're working at. How many influencers you're recruiting, your budget, your team size, and so on.

One of the most impactful ways that software adds efficiency is by moving the outreach step further down the recruitment funnel.

  • If you’re finding creators without software, you have to ask them for their audience data, vet their numbers, etc. This means you’re spending valuable time on outreach without even knowing if the creator is a good fit.
  • If you’re using software to hunt for influencers, you’re filtering for audience fit upfront. You’re spending time filtering and searching so you can dedicate all your outreach time to influencers who you surely want to convert.

Do you need an influencer marketing software from day 1? Not really. But once you’re recruiting 5–10 or more influencers per month, using software for efficiency quickly becomes a no-brainer.

When you are ready to upgrade, Modash is one of your options. It’s not a vetted database on arbitrary criteria that’d include some creators and not others. Modash consists of every creator on the planet with over 1k+ followers. That’s over 250M+ influencers. Here's an example of how it works.

Let’s say you’re finding Instagram influencers who live in the U.S. and have followers between 10k – 30k. You can simply apply all these criteria in Modash’s influencer filters and get a list of 670k+ influencers who match this requirement.

To narrow it down further, you can use bio, keywords, and hashtag filters, too. Let’s say you want to search for creators who are making chocolate desserts. You can enter “#chocolaterecipes” hashtag and “chocolate recipes” in the keyword filter.

Next, use audience filters to target your ideal customers’ demographics. For example, you can find influencers with at least 50% of their followers in the U.S.

There are many other filters, such as growth rates, ways to identify the niche (words in bio, hashtags used, etc.), minimum engagement rates, and more.

After running your search, you can analyze an influencer’s profile — including their content, audience, and more — without reaching out to them.

Your perfect influencer partners are present in Modash. That’s for sure. All you have to do is do a bit of trial & error to find them. Give Modash a spin at $0 for 14 days.

3 Food influencer marketing examples

1: Mallory Austin x Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner

Mallory is a creator at Feedfeed who creates mouth-watering, cozy recipes. She partnered with ‘Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner’ to spread awareness about beef and promote purchasing it.

🎉 Campaign results:

  • Over 6.2M+ views
  • 161k+ likes
  • 615 commentators drooling over the recipe

💡 Key takeaways:

  • Partner with your best-fit creator partners. Mallory primarily shares comfort food, and in this case beef recipes. The board was the right fit for her as well as the them.
  • Give creators creative freedom. Anna shared how they were pretty flexible with the recipe apart from the legal requirements.

2: Summer Shores x SToK Cold Brew

The partnership between Summer Shores and SToK Cold Brew is the perfect example of shopper marketing done right. Anna highlighted how the creator smoothly mixed in-store shopping with an easy ingredient formula.

🎉 Campaign results:

  • Over 58k+ views and 4k+ likes
  • Nearly 50 positive comments on the recipe

💡 Key takeaways:

  • Choose creators who are skilled at ‘showing’ in-store shopping experiences, if that’s your goal. Summer very swiftly highlighted her visit and the recipe in a short video.
  • Hire creators who can engage their audience with top-notch food presentations. Summer laid down the recipe and the drinks in an aesthetically pleasing way — stopping the scroll.

3: Justine Doiron  x Cypress Grove

Justine’s collab with Cypress Grove screams authentic. She naturally weaved in the product, was open about the sponsorship, and felt truly connected to the recipe & product.

🎉 Campaign results:

  • 490k+ views
  • Over 16k+ likes and 290+ comments

💡 Key takeaways:

  • Use a strong hook to draw people in. Anna highlighted that Justine uses a decadent opener with ASMR which immediately gets the audience’s attention.
  • Find creators who genuinely love the product. You could see Justine genuinely loved the product in the video. That enthusiasm is infectious and what pushes the audience to buy.

Turning delicious food into a revenue-generating channel

Food influencer marketing is competitive. But by starting today, you can make influencer marketing one of your top revenue-generating channels in a year or so. It’s a long game, but one that’s worth the ROI.

And when you’re ready to scale up influencer recruitment, try Modash. It has everything you need:

  • Influencer partners that fit like a glove (and their emails!)
  • Audience & performance data of your creators
  • Tracking live influencer content
  • …And more

Try it for free today — no credit card required.

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Contributors to this article

Anna Fatlowitz
Director of Influencer Marketing at Feedfeed
With 10+ years in social media & influencer marketing, Anna leads the influencer marketing team at feedfeed. To date, she's managed 1,600+ influencers, and $6M+ total influencer spend.

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