Beautiful Foodie Mag Sift Is Actually Brand Content For The Hardcore Baker

Why the brand decided print was the best way to engage its baking-obsessed audience.

Some of the most compelling brand content of recent times has been in the form of web series and “social films”, elaborate native ads on new sites, films, and apps. But 225-year-old, Vermont-based King Arthur Flour recently leaned into its heritage and launched a decidedly old-school project.


On the shelves at Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, or Costco, Sift sits among its premium food publishing brethren and wouldn’t stand out from those other titles until you started to flip through it and notice there’s no advertising at all. Of course this is what tips you off that it’s the magazine itself that is the advertising. But aside from one article about the benefits of being a B Corp, which King Arthur Flour is, the rest of the magazine is full of the kind of beautiful photos, tasty recipes, and articles (on things like Vermont maple syrup making and a profile of L.A.’s Homeboy Bakery) that make up a magazine from a traditional publisher.

Launched in February by King Arthur and agency HZDG, the magazine had an initial 100,000 print run and sold for $12.95. According to the brand, Costco reported it as one of its top-five-selling titles in March, its distributor said the issue exceeded sales projections by 50%, and Sift is the best-selling product on King Arthur’s website.

The brand’s previous experience in print was a subscription-only baking tips and recipe sheet, but the company wanted to find a way to attract new customers while also getting the King Arthur story front and center.

HZDG senior vice president and creative director Tamara Dowd says the brand has a robust online community and passionate fans whom they wanted to engage with in a bigger way.

“There is a real trend around passion publications and some magazines have become these objects of desire, statement pieces on your coffee table, a way to identify yourself and what you’re interested in,” says Dowd. “This is an employee-owned company and their lives revolve around baking, the way it connects people, and how it’s a social activity, so we started thinking about King Arthur as a lifestyle brand, and this is a baker lifestyle publication.”

Sift‘s masthead is split 50/50 between brand and agency staff and the content strategy is to use baking as just the starting point. “Being a passionate baker touches on the types of gardens you plant, your kitchen, and how you travel,” says Dowd. “It’s something that colors or guides your view of the world. Similar to how other hobbies do, like running or biking. So we thought we could do that for baking–sharing articles about the company, their personalities, but also lifestyle features and recipes.”


For content, it may be print but the magazine taps into the online foodie and baker community, with names like Joy the Baker‘s Joy Wilson gracing its pages. “In the first issue we had a sandwich city tour of four cities and tapped into the best food bloggers in each city to be our correspondent,” says Dowd. “So we’re trying to blend the print and online experiences.”

Two more issues are due out in 2015, with its fall issue landing in August, and a holiday issue in October.


About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.