06
Feb
2011
ALLISON BOOMER

FOUNDER, ECO-CONSCIOUS FOOD MARKETING

Although we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Allison in person, we already know that she is a woman driven by taste.  It may seem like a cliche that someone interested in food would follow their mouth to happiness, yet Allison’s path is unique.  We are struck by how patient she was in letting the journey lead her to the destination.  She waited more than two decades to reach the perfect combination of skills and duties that turned her into a food entrepreneur. Her story is a good reminder that the job you choose fresh out of college may not be the one that employs you down the road – and that’s an exciting prospect.

What attracted you to a good food job?

I’ve been interested in food all my life. As a nine-year-old forager, I’d walk down my street with a stainless steel bowl to a magical field overflowing with dewberries (Texas blackberries). I’d gather a bowlful of the juicy gems, return home, sprinkle with sugar, drown them in milk, and then polish off the whole thing.

I’m in my third good food job incarnation now. I began my career learning the science of food and nutrition. I have an undergraduate degree in community nutrition and a master’s in public health nutrition. For ten years, I worked as nutrition researcher and health educator for a large medical center. My academic position was interesting, but I decided I wanted to work directly with food – touch it, eat it. And, at the time, you couldn’t get a decent loaf of bread or bottle of extra virgin olive oil in my town.

So, with the help of my husband, I opened an artisanal food store in my community. Operating a retail food business is not for the faint-hearted, but I am a very determined person and kept the store going for 10 years. A friend of mine compared it to putting on a theatrical production everyday: doors open, lights on, stage set, and most importantly, engage customers.

The real boon of being a shopkeeper was what I learned about the remarkable artisanal food community and the superb food I ate. Delivered to my doorstep were dozens of seasonal olive oils, barrel-aged vinegars, handmade cheeses, fresh-baked breads and estate chocolates. What an incredible taste education! I will never forget the sensation of cracking open and sampling my very own wheels of cheese.

After closing my store and relocating with my family to the west coast, I started Eco-Conscious Food Marketing in 2006. I adore what I do: helping launch and support small artisan food companies. Developing products, recipes, health messages, website design, online marketing and food photography are the services my company provides.

How did you get your current good food job?

Contacts and a break: the owner of a specialty food distribution company I knew (I sold his products at my store) recommended me to a French vinegar company. I created three new vinegar flavors for them which were a success. And the ball started rolling; I had the confidence to start calling more companies whose products I had sold at my store. Approaching a company for work with first-hand knowledge and experience of their products helped open the door for me.

How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?

I bring an immense passion and unique and valuable skill set to my work as a marketing professional. I draw on my expertise as a trained nutritionist (we all want our food to not only taste great, but to also be good for us), years of direct experience with the world’s finest food artisans, and knowledge of what drives consumer sales.

I am always learning (hint: QR codes on product labels) about how I can help my customers succeed. I’ve also worked hard at becoming a better writer. I write for the Boston Globe and for clients websites. Being a proficient writer is one of the most valuable talents you can possess. In today’s marketing reality, content rules, especially online.

What advice do you have for others in search of a good food job?

Be open to learning and new intellectual challenges – do your homework and educate yourself about what you need to know to be successful. Take the best good food employment opportunity that presents itself and go overboard doing a great job. You’ll impress everyone around you and that will lead to an even better job.

Networking is key, both offline and on: Linked-in and Facebook are invaluable for meeting up with your tribe.

If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?

Room and board at an olive oil estate – plain and simple!