Cloudinary Blog

Observations From the Digital Food and Beverage Conference 2019

Observations From the Digital Food and Beverage Conference 2019

Approximately 250 attendees, mostly from the food-and-beverage sector, attended the Digital Food & Beverage 2019 conference in Austin, Texas on July 15-17. Brands abounded among the participating companies, including Kraft Heinz, Brown-Forman, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch InBev, PespiCo, and Nature’s Bakery. Besides representing Cloudinary at the booth, my three teammates—Alexa, Dave, and Roseann—and I joined numerous interesting meetings and demos, sharing many enlightening conversations with the sponsors, speakers, and attendees.

Most of the sessions at the conference focused on brands, their portfolios, and the related omnichannel eCommerce strategies, which are primarily executed through digital channels: Amazon, Walmart, Walmart Grocery, Krogers, Target, Instacart. Direct to consumer (DTC) sales through eCommerce are much rarer for food and beverages than other industries, such as apparel.

Because of the importance of digital-channel sales, companies devote a significant amount of resources to promote their products through visuals, a key phrase in their parlance being how to capture a share of the “digital shelf”.

5 Visual Engagement Tactics That Convert Online Buyers

Noteworthy Trends and Directions

Well worth a recap are a few trends and directions I picked up from the conference.

The Importance of Cogent Visual Storytelling

An outstanding talk by OneSpace CEO Stephanie Leffler touched on ways on how to make merchandise on eCommerce product pages eye-catching. “Images are the new bullets,” she asserted, adding that—

  • Visuals must summarize product attributes much faster than text.
  • Companies must learn and follow their digital channels’ layout and imagery requirements.

Cloudinary’s robust capabilities in storing, manipulating, optimizing, and delivering digital media can do wonders for the second must-do above.

Direct to Store Or Direct to Consumers

Beer industry brands such as Anheuser Busch sell beer through bottlers to stores, not directly to consumers through eCommerce. However, wine vendors, such as Mondavi, Gallo, and Constellation Brands, can legally sell to both. Cloudinary would be a tremendous help for the direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing effort.

Social-Media Platforms

Both Bazaar Voice and Infuenster were conference sponsors for social-media platforms with user-generated content (UGC). A top priority for those two companies is to establish an authentic connection and, ultimately, a community with the social-media audience. Toward that end, UGC images and videos are an important medium, optimizing which being a Cloudinary specialty.

The slides below from some of the sessions deftly summarize the benefits of social media-based communities for eCommerce.

“Engaging Engaging Customers Customer Feedback Customer Feedback “Customer Customer Journey

Trendy and Traditional Technologies

Coca-Cola’s group director of digital platforms Ellen Duncan talked about the importance of creating coherent physical and digital messages—“phygitals,” as she called them. Augmented reality (AR) is now heavily trending at Coca-Cola. Perhaps we could look forward to an AR- enhanced polar-bear commercial this holiday season?

Also, artificial intelligence (AI), a key buzz word in these days, is being leveraged in the most creative ways. A case in point is the creation of an AI-powered “guacamologist” for the Avocados From Mexico site spearheaded by the company’s head of digital marketing.

Note, however, that many companies are still using traditional, effective tools for measuring brand awareness, such as survey instruments, commonly called brand trackers. Relatedly, the panel for Buzzfeed, which owns Tasty, emphasized at the conference that top-down recipe videos and lifestyle farm-to- fork and wellness videos are extremely popular. In fact, Tasty recently partnered with McCormick in promoting through videos the latter’s spices, which became the #1 bestseller on Amazon’s Prime Day on July 15. Impressive!

Observations From My Demos

Cloudinary Demo

Altogether, I did over a dozen detailed demos at our booth by uploading to Cloudinary’s Media Library images from brand representatives who dropped by and then showcasing how to manipulate those images with upload transformations, AI tagging, and preset transformations for automated delivery to digital channels. Those capabilities impressed the crowd more than the ones that optimize images and that reduce page load-times. Why? Because brands care much more about their eCommerce product catalog reaching their digital channels in ship shape and in compliance with those channels’ requirements—Amazon’s specs differ from Walmart’s, for example—than their own sites.

My demo featured an eight-minute recipe video I’d downloaded from Martha Stewart’s site. The awesome effects of applying on-the-fly, deep-learning g_auto to automatically create vertical-optimized videos and various aspect ratios for Instagram and Facebook, or even a circle-thumbnail crop, always elicited a wow, as did content-aware cropping, subject and object, and background removal. Above all, most of the audience loved the magic and usefulness of AI-powered auto-tagging.

Below are snapshots from my demo environment:

“Online Online Store Demo “MyStyle AI for Vertical Video “Customer Content-Aware Cropping Video

For the visitors who already had an existing digital asset management (DAM) system in place, I showed them our dynamic capabilities that automatically create visual media for multiple channels, in particular Cloudinary’s APIs and their integrations, also the feature-rich Media Library. All those tools promise to intelligently complement existing DAM, product-information management (PIM), customer-relationship management (CRM), and ecommerce-cloud strategies. The appreciation from the attentive audience was very discernible.

Stray Thoughts

Finally, a few stray thoughts vis-a-vis Austin: The BBQ is good but perhaps too hyped? So many other impressive cuisines and restaurants are there, including farm-to-fork at Swift’s Attic, fried chicken and amazing wines at Max’s Wine Dive, and new-world tapas at Emmer & Rye. Also—dare I say it?—Armadillo racing is simply weird and, when done indoors in a convention, not all that cool perhaps? Gospel Brunch is a thing in Austin, and definitely something to experience during your stay. And yeah, Sixth Street is dubbed Dirty Sixth for good reason.

Not least: Great job, my dynamite teammates, Alexa, Dave, and Roseann!

Team booth

Further Reading on Dynamic Media

Recent Blog Posts

New Learning Pathways From the Cloudinary Academy

In December 2019, Cloudinary launched its customer education platform, the Cloudinary Academy, replete with courses taught by the company’s experts on developer-oriented products and digital asset management (DAM) solution. The courses comprise interactive lessons and hands-on assignments, a proven way of familiarizing the audience with the course material and illustrating it with live examples.

Read more
Maya Shavin: How I Built My Website

Besides working as a senior front-end developer at Cloudinary, I'm also a content creator, a blogger, and an open-source developer. Follow me at @mayashavin and on

In the beginning, my website,, was mainly for showcasing the status of my development projects and keeping me organized with my speaking schedule. Initially, I built it with Vue.js, later on switching to Nuxt.js (aka Nuxt) for a higher SEO score, and deployed it with Netlify. After some time, I added a blog section with Netlify CMS as the content management system (CMS). Everything was fine until I added more content and features, which led to a significant decline in the site’s performance. Also, the site design needed a modern look. So, I gave the site a makeover.

Read more
Automation Frees Up PetRescue’s Staff to Help Pets Find Their Forever Homes

As we spend more time at home, many of us are adopting pets for the joy, companionship and a surprising range of health benefits. In Australia, where our nonprofit customer PetRescue is located, there’s a shortage of pets to adopt. Last August, the Guardian reported that dog shelters in Australia emptied and adoption fees for puppies were running as high as $AUS1800.

Read more
Cloudinary and Contentful Make Modern Content Management Easier

I am pleased to share that Cloudinary and Contentful have joined forces to further streamline the creation, processing, and delivery of online content through Cloudinary’s digital asset management (DAM) solution and advanced transformation and delivery capabilities for images and video. What’s more, the partnership delivers a headless approach to DAM. By leveraging APIs for media management tasks, marketers and developers alike benefit from an integrated stack of optimized assets for optimization and automation. As a result, page loads are fast and beautiful, and at scale—with less overhead and effort.

Read more
Introducing Cloudinary's Nuxt Module

Since its initial release in October 2016 by the Chopin brothers as a server-side framework that runs on top of Vue.js, Nuxt (aka Nuxt.js) has gained prominence in both intuitiveness and performance. The framework offers numerous built-in features based on a modular architecture, bringing ease and simplicity to web development. Not surprisingly, Nuxt.js has seen remarkable growth in adoption by the developer community along with accolades galore. At this writing, Nuxt has earned over 30K stars on GitHub and 96 active modules with over a million downloads per month. And the upward trend is ongoing.

Read more