Savory – Interview with Ragnhild Bajema
The professional journal Printmatters interviewed Ragnhild Bajema, International Commercial Director for Ahold at MPG., about Savory, Ahold’s cross media cooking and inspiration platform in the United States.
Interestingly: it’s a content platform with Dutch roots that won the famous Gold Plate Award in the US just a few months after it was launched. This is Savory, the American version of the content platform Allerhande. How do you explain this success?
Albert Heijn has been publishing Allerhande in the Netherlands since 1954. First in newspaper form, then from 1983 as a monthly magazine, and in 2013 it became an omnichannel content platform. The magazine is still a very important part of that platform, when you consider its current circulation of over 2 million and the fact that it is one of the best read magazines in the Netherlands. Ragnhild Bajema, International Commercial Director for Ahold at MPG., the company that helped launch Savory and which manages the content strategy and production: “Ahold USA saw the success of Allerhande and felt that such a platform could really work for the US to help customers prepare healthy meals and to encourage loyalty between people and their supermarkets. Furthermore, there wasn’t such a thing as a free recipe magazine in America. Until recently, there were only cooking & food magazines which cost money, like Bon Appetit and Taste of Home Magazine.”
MPG. (formerly MediaPartners Group) was commissioned by Ahold USA to develop the American version of Allerhande. For decades MPG. has taken care of the complete editing and editorial content of Allerhande. In 2013, this led to the relaunch of the magazine as a food platform. This concept forms the basis for the American platform, which has been called Savory.’
Launch In June 2015, Savory – with a circulation of 1.2 million and a cover on which 58 star-spangled recipes are mentioned – was introduced in all the supermarkets of Ahold USA, including Stop & Shop, Giant Carlisle, Giant Landover and MARTIN’S. In total 800 branches. The magazine is free for customers with a bonus card. A magazine app was also immediately launched for the iPad and for Android and Kindle tablets, and went live at the same time as the Savory website. On the app you can find all the recipes from the magazine and cooking videos.
Helping people “Just like Allerhande, Savory focuses on a wide audience,” says Ragnhild Bajema. “Both platforms want to help people to do more cooking themselves. In America, people cook even less at home than in the Netherlands, but it is considered very important to spend a moment at the table with the family over a meal. Savory therefore offers easier and simpler recipes than Allerhande. Within the wide target group, both platforms mainly focus on families with children. That’s where we find the problem of: “What should I make for dinner tonight?” and “What do the kids like for lunch?” Another focus group includes one and two person households.
Office in New York Within a very short space of time, the Allerhande editing team in the Netherlands developed and implemented the concept for the American content platform. This was an amazing feat, particularly because it involved a different culture and time zone. “We had to change our mindset very quickly,” says Ragnhild Bajema. “We developed the concept and immediately presented it in America. They then quickly approved it and we set to work. To support us, we opened an office in New York, MPG. Concepts Inc. The office is manned by two people with a solid culinary background and a great deal of knowledge of the American market and how Americans eat. They provide input for the magazine and also test all the recipes with American ingredients. They also check whether a recipe is in keeping with American culture.”
Culture-determined food Bajema has already discovered that the Dutch recipe is often easier to use than you’d initially expect. “A lot of the content from Allerhande, around sixty percent, is reused. For example, the cover of the first Savory edition is exactly the same as the cover of the July edition Allerhande in 2014. But just as in other countries, in the United States you have culturally-determined food. For example, you have special days or holidays that we don’t have in the Netherlands. Many Americans eat very specific meals on those days. For example, during the Super Bowl (American football final) in February, lots of chicken wings and spareribs are on the menu. We develop special recipes for these occasions. Also, in the first edition of Savory, that appeared a couple of weeks before the Fourth of July (Independence Day), we developed specific content for this holiday, like Double-decker Caprese Burgers, shrimp rolls and Mississippi Mud Pie. All dishes which are easy to take on a picnic, because that’s what most Americans do on that day.”