THE NIBBLE FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE NIBBLE?
- THE NIBBLE is the only consumer magazine that focuses on specialty foods.* Its editorial mission is to seek out and review “the best of the best” foods and beverages: products that readers might not come across on their own, or might discover but lack enough information to make an informed decision at the point of sale. We taste more than 3,000 products a year, and review the exceptional.
*Other types of periodicals are issued periodically by trade associations and trade commissions, promoting the products of their particular franchises.
- We also encourage readers to use more specialty foods by showing them how to easily incorporate the products into everyday meals, entertaining and for gift-giving.
- We integrate relevant products like tabletop and gourmet housewares, and topics like food and wine travel.
WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
Our audience includes anyone who loves fine food.
- Our readers range from very sophisticated and affluent connoisseurs to students and others just beginning to learn about the world of fine food.
WHAT ARE SPECIALTY FOODS?
As defined by the NASFT, the trade association that represents specialty food manufacturers, specialty foods are “smaller production items that tend to be of a higher quality ingredients than traditional, mass-market foods.” In addition, many are made using time-honored artisanal techniques.
- Specialty foods exist in every category. Most are foods you eat every day: jam, olive oil, vinegar, coffee, tea, meat and poultry, cookies, bread and even butter. Specialty just means better: made with better ingredients and/or artisan techniques. The majority of specialty foods are all natural, made without preservatives.
- Higher quality does not necessarily equate to high cost. Most specialty food items do not cost that much more than their mass-production counterparts.
WHAT ARE GOURMET FOODS?
Gourmet foods are a subset of specialty foods. There is no hard-and-fast definition.
- A dictionary definition of gourmet foods might be “foods of the highest quality and flavor, prepared well and presented in an artful manner.” But by that definition, a beautifully presented bowl of steel-cut oatmeal or a piece of grilled tuna, artistically displayed, would be “gourmet.”
- Our point of view is that gourmet food must be defined by complexity and nuance, not by rarity and expense. It is the challenge to the palate and the degree of connoisseurship required to appreciate it that defines “gourmet,” whether it is Roquefort ice cream, affordable by almost anyone, or golden asetra caviar, accessible to few.
- No one would call steak a gourmet food. But is ultra-tender Kobe beef a gourmet product because of its rarity and expense? And few would call a $5 bottle of supermarket balsamic vinegar a gourmet item, but what about the $150 bottle, aged 20 years? If the category itself is not gourmet, does rarity make it so? Logic would say not, just as a limited-edition, costly track suit made by a famous clothing designer does not make running pants and a hoodie couture clothing.
WHAT IS A FOODIE?*
Here, too, there is no one universal, simple definition, but here is ours:
- A foodie can be defined as someone who has a passion for high-quality food and pursues it with zeal. Foodies are interested in all foods, including everyday and casual foods like breads and potato chips, as long as they are the finest quality.
- A foodie has a different psychographic from a gourmet. A gourmet is considered to be a person who has sophisticated tastes in food and wine. Foodies can be gourmets, but many foodies are not gourmets: they just prefer the best of the basics. By the same token, some gourmets are not foodies: they prefer their rarified experiences, and are not excited, e.g., by the thought of searching Chinatown for the best scallion pancakes, or finding a truly amazing old-fashioned jelly doughnut.
- Discussion: As a society, over the past 30 years we have become much more knowledgeable about food and wine.
- The classic French restaurants that traditional gourmets used to call home are rapidly disappearing, replaced by restaurants with “international” menus and fusion cuisines that are accessible to more people. Thanks to our first celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, droves of college-level talent have raised the position of chef from blue-collar artisan to admired artist and business owner. The level of culinary professionalism in America is at an all-time high, and the trickle-down enables many more people to enjoy fine cuisine, beautifully presented.
- In an October 2005 Simmons Research survey, one in five responders considered himself or herself to be a gourmet. The results indicate that a significant percentage of Americans have aspirations to being knowledgeable about food. We also know that in the bottom half of the top twenty markets, it can be a challenge to buy such seemingly commonplace ingredients as mascarpone or pancetta...so “gourmet” for many of those foodies is by circumstance aspirational.
- So, if everyone has access to high-quality preparations, what is a gourmet today? We would argue that today’s gourmet is a broader-perspective fine-food enthusiast who pursues the complex and sophisticated flavors in the major world cuisines; and that there is still a dividing line between what is accessible and enjoyable to many people and what is more rarified and of interest to those whose palates and noses seek higher levels of nuance and challenge (i.e., the gourmets).
- A simplistic example might be the difference between the enjoyment of a fine Brie, appreciated by a large number of people; and an Epoisses, which is much more demanding of the nose and taste buds and can be thrilling or off-putting, depending on which side of the line you stand on.
- THE NIBBLE finds great foods for all kinds of foodies and gourmets, from those looking for the best everyday foods to those in search of the most sumptuous.
*The term “foodie” was coined in 1984 by authors Ann Barr and Paul Levy, in The Official Foodie Handbook, a tongue-in-cheek observation of passionate food-lovers (including Levy) who would wax poetic about radicchio and have enraptured conversations about their food discoveries. The phenomenon was first recognized and described in the book by the duo, a magazine editor (Barr) and American-born journalist (Levy), both based in London.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE PRODUCTS YOU REVIEW?
- We taste more than 3,000 products a year, the majority at food shows but also by finding them on the shelf, in catalogs, online and through recommendations. Products also arrive “over the transom.” Over the years, we have developed an excellent perspective of what is good and what is great in each food and beverage category.
- THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review or receive fees from manufacturers for promoting them. Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion after comparing so many products over time.
- We only review products we like. There isn’t enough time to make the public aware of all the products that deserve attention. We don’t expend effort on those we don’t like. We are also aware that products we don’t care for have a lot of fans (for example, we don’t like fast food and mass-marketed beer and soft drinks), including people who also look for specialty foods in THE NIBBLE. In addition, in years of tasting we’ve learned to keep an open mind. If we don’t like it today, we taste it again in 6 months. We may like it then. (It works the other way around, too.)
HOW DOES THE NIBBLE DIFFER FROM OTHER FOOD MEDIA?
Our niche is that we are the only consumer media resource to focus exclusively on specialty food. Of course, many consumer magazines, newspapers, television and radio shows cover the specialty food space, but it is incidental and/or sporadic coverage in a much broader editorial focus. THE NIBBLE combines a keen analytic approach with an enormous knowledge of the history and applications of food, and an intimate knowledge of the specialty food space, to create truly unique lifestyle content. It has been described by readers as the nexus of Consumer Reports, Cooks Illustrated, Saveur and Food and Wine—but this is coincidental. We simply set out to serve an unmet consumer need for information.
Why is this important?
- It is difficult for most consumers to make sense of what’s on the shelves. Few specialty food companies advertise, and most products are “pigs in a poke”: You don’t know what you’ve bought until you get it home.
- With thousands of new specialty foods hitting the market each year, THE NIBBLE seeks out the “best of the best” to save readers time and money.
The trade has three principal resources for specialty food:
- The NASFT website, daily newsletter and monthly Specialty Food magazine
- Gourmet Retailer monthly magazine and daily newsletter
- Fancy Food & Culinary Products monthly magazine
With THE NIBBLE, consumers (and our significant base of trade readers) have:
- A monthly online magazine with a full editorial calendar and online archived content
- The Top Pick Of The Week newsletter, emailed to opt-in subscribers
- The Gourmet News & Views, product news and industry trends, available via RSS e-mail and Twitter
- A Food Tip of the Day on the home page of TheNibble.com.
WHY IS THE NIBBLE FOCUSING ON THE INTERNET?
The Internet is the best milieu for our goals and objectives.
- An important part of our mission is to inform and educate, and to introduce as many people as possible to the world of specialty foods. To do this we need to be accessible to everyone. We do not want subscription fees to be a stumbling block.
- As a corollary, we want to do everything we can to help artisanal producers and to introduce them to a wider audience. The Internet will ultimately connect many more people than a print publication can.
- Finally, many artisanal products are not available locally, but can be purchased online. Readers can click through and immediately buy the products; they don’t have to wait to get to a store. We chose the online magazine format as the most reader-friendly and supportive of producers. (The products we review are chosen purely for editorial reasons. We receive no fees from the manufacturers of products we review, and our decisions are not guided by any reason other than the superiority and availability of the product.)
We do recognize that there are other benefits and opportunities afforded by a print publication, and look forward to investigating down the road how a print version of THE NIBBLE can serve our readers.
WHAT ARE THE CREDENTIALS OF THE REVIEWERS?
We have a small group of reviewers with deep expertise in their areas. Peter Rot is a reviewer for SeventyPercent.com, one of the leading international chocolate connoisseur websites, and acknowledged by industry professionals to have a phenomenal grasp of the category. Kris Prasad is similarly well-regarded in professional wine circles. Michael Mascha is a leading national expert in fine bottled waters. Stephanie Zonis is a food writer and professional recipe developer who came to THE NIBBLE™ from StarChefs.com. Rowann Gilman has spent her career as an editor of major magazines including food magazines, and is very experienced as a professional cookbook and recipe editor. Karen Hochman is a wine collector who has been writing about food for more than 20 years. Karen, Kris and Rowann are very experienced home cooks who translate their personal knowledge to recommendations for readers.
In terms of the acceptance of our recommendations by experts: THE NIBBLE newsletter has been read by a list of very knowledgeable and demanding food and wine connoisseurs since 2004. In a survey we took after our first year, more than 80% of readers had purchased items we recommended and more than 95% were satisfied with them.
The launch of THE NIBBLE online magazine is analogous to Robert Parker’s establishment of The Wine Advocate. Robert was an attorney who had been sharing his knowledge on an informal basis and decided to turn it into a full-time pursuit. He saw a need to share information that was not currently out there. We hope for as enthusiastic an audience in our own niche!
WHAT IS YOUR EDITORIAL STYLE?
While some publications reflect the particular interests of one tastemaker, we review foods across a broad spectrum of taste preferences and category interests. We seek the best of the best in any category of food our readers might buy, and in any flavor profile that might interest them.
For example, some people prefer milk chocolate to semisweet chocolate, some prefer subtle flavors to flavor-forward profiles. While connoisseurs might have a point of view on both of these issues and thus say, e.g., that a product with more finesse is the more superior, we don’t claim that one style is right and one is wrong. We say, “If you like finesse, then this chocolate is one of the finest examples of it.”
We prefer articles that are comprehensive and informative. Most of our reviews are not a “quick read,” although since 2006 we have included a summary statement at the top. Our background articles are similarly very thorough. If consumers want a one-paragraph explanation of green tea, for example, there are hundreds of sources that provide one. We want to supply enough knowledge to empower our readers to make buying decisions and to increase their enjoyment of particular foods. We don’t aim for scholarly treatises but for as much knowledge as most people need to get a meaningful grounding.
HOW LARGE IS YOUR READERSHIP?
Our n umbers are ramping up consistently. We hesitate to put numbers here because by the time you read this, they will be out of date; however, as of this revision, there are 500,000 monthly visitors.
WHAT IS YOUR REVENUE MODEL?
THE NIBBLE accepts advertising, and we are building an e-commerce section for manufacturers, retailers and others. We do not accept paid placements, and advertising has no influence on the products we review.
WHO OWNS THE NIBBLE?
THE NIBBLE is owned by Lifestyle Direct, Inc., a privately held corporation.
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