Appetite for print: How Delish is satisfying a hunger for food magazines

From Chef Mickey’s Sugar Cookies to a Star Wars Ronto Wrap, the cuisine at Disney theme parks is every bit as popular as the rides. It’s a hunger for House of Mouse grub that’s prompted Delish to bring out Delish Loves Disney – a recipe book crammed with fairground treats people can recreate at home. The collaboration with Disney is one of a series of successful glossy magazines from Hearst’s digital-native food brand that shows just how important print publications are to home chefs.

“There is something about the food medium that looks particular wonderful on the page,” says Joanna Saltz, the Editorial Director of Delish. “When you see a big beautiful picture of food in print, nothing can really replicate that.

“In terms of following a recipe, there is a huge appetite out there for holding something in your hands. People love the idea that you get to flick through something and save it for later. It feels more permanent in ways that digital just can’t replicate.”

Sold through Amazon.com, Delish Loves Disney, which features 96 pages of recipes drawn up by the culinary masters at Disney Parks and Resorts, follows in the wake of a seasonal quarterly magazine Delish launched in March, while the brand is also about to bring out a new kids cookbook and a vegan cookbook.

“Around 37,000 people signed up to the quarterly magazine when it first launched [the total paid print circulation has now grown to over 70,000] because everybody wants that same experience and loves having something to hold onto,” adds Saltz. “And I’m sure recipe books will remain popular among future generations as well.”

Joanna Saltz


Magical meals

The beautifully produced Delish Loves Disney illustrates the care and attention that goes into Delish’s print products. Putting the magazine together was a painstaking process that started with a trip to the House of Mouse to see if the company would share its theme park recipes.

“When we first started Delish six years ago we saw that, whenever we did a story about Disney food, the audience went crazy,” says Saltz.  “Over the past few years we’ve done copycat recipes or hacks. We also brought out a YouTube series called Iconic Eats where one of our editors goes to various theme parks around the country. The episodes she shot at Disney World and Disneyland were always the top viewed ones.

“So we started thinking how can we bring this to life in a really dynamic way. I went to Disney and said: ‘Would you guys be willing to give us access to your recipes?’ And they were totally on board. Seeing our audience’s passion for their content was really exciting for them.

“What I loved about this partnership is that Disney has allowed people to bring that magical recipes into their homes, which has been particularly important in a Covid universe where you couldn’t get out.”

Image: Delish

According to Saltz the magazine arrives at a time when the food at Disney parks has become a bigger drawcard than ever before. “When I went to pitch the magazine, Disney was talking about how visitors were really prioritising food, making reservations at all these restaurants,” she says.

“The trend was leaning towards people wanting to go to theme parks for the food. The rides are always going to be there, but if you are a little bit older and your kids are maybe a bit more grown up, food does become a huge piece of the experience.”

The right ingredients

When narrowing down the scores of Disney-themed recipes from campuses around the world, Delish made sure they included dishes that were new and exciting as well as some longstanding favourites, and worked closely with Disney to get the balance right.

“We had the shortlist of the things we know our audience loved – like candy apples and the Dole Whip,” says Saltz. “The people at Disney were really excited about all these new plant-based options their parks are offering so they thought the magazine was a great opportunity to showcase that. And we love to show that range.

“We were very excited to be able to offer healthy options because not everything has to be an Icecream sundae – sometimes you have to eat a vegetable. So in Delish Loves Disney, you have this vegetable curry that’s ridiculously delicious.”

Above all, the team at Delish wanted to ensure that every dish in the magazine was fun to make. “Delish has always been a place where we wanted people to feel comfortable in the kitchen, we wanted people to make a good meal, but not stress about it if it didn’t come out perfectly,” adds Saltz. “It’s about the experience of being in the kitchen, it’s not about perfection.

“So we wanted to walk that line between what looks fun and really celebrates the magic of Disney but also looks like something you can make in your house. At the end of the day, this is fun food.”

The fact that people can make Disney dishes at home does not mean it lessens their appetite for going back to the theme parks, says Saltz. In fact, the opposite is true.

“My daughter is obsessed with a dish called The Grey Stuff, which is a reference to Beauty and the Beast,” adds Saltz.  “For that you have to use a piping bag but we just improvised and used a ziplock bag. She was so delighted and enchanted by making the dish. And it made her excited to get back to Disneyworld. It didn’t put a dampener on that experience at all.”

Image: Delish


Eye appeal

To ensure recipes were easy to follow, Delish stuck to a golden rule used across all its cookbooks. “All the recipes have to sit on one page because I don’t want someone to turn a page while they are mid recipe,” Saltz points out.

“The recipes are easy to follow because they are written really well and have been tested a million times – but they are long. If you were on a phone or a computer screen you’d be scrolling. What makes the print experience so nice for recipes is that you can see the whole thing on the page. Disney food looks magical and you want to see it in that whole bleed experience and in that beautiful colour.”

To enhance the reader’s experience, Delish has created a landing page on its website with links to stories and videos contributors have done on Disney food in the past.

“A lot of things that are doing well online informed the magazine,” says Saltz. “Whenever we did something on Dole Whip, for instance, the audience goes crazy, so that had to have special pride of place in the magazine. The two mediums inform each other in a really nice way.”

Keeping print in the mix

With Delish having just struck up a new partnership with Netflix, the brand is eyeing up some exciting projects. Whatever lies ahead, print will continue to play a big role, says Saltz, who is also the editorial director of interior decorating magazine House Beautiful.

Image: Delish

“I think Hearst is doing an amazing job pushing print forward,” she says. When you look at a magazine like House Beautiful, homes are similar to food in that interiors do not look any better than they look on a page.

“You can look at homes on Instagram or Pinterest and it’s fantastic for idea aggregating but, at the end of the day, a full bleed of an interior is incredible and can’t be replicated. I feel like the tactile experience of holding something in your hand, saving it and coming back to it is here to stay.

“We get great scale and amazing size of audience with digital but we are really able to connect through print and that is something I really want to foster.”

A key part of the success of the Delish titles and House Beautiful has been it high production values and its focus on a specific topic.

“The paper quality makes a huge difference and the colour needs to be rich and saturated,” says Saltz. “And we have also had a lot of success with creating something with a specific point of view.

“That is why the Disney magazine made so much sense to us because it was really speaking to a very specific audience. These sort of deep dives into one specific topic creates this need and this desire to keep it forever. It’s something that connects with the audience that is different to something that is broad-reaching.

“With the quarterly magazine we made sure they were super specific because we wanted to speak directly to people with a passion for those sorts of things. That’s what makes you indispensable. We take the approach that nothing in the magazine can be throwaway, everything needs to feel like something you have to hold on to for a long time.”

About Joanna Saltz

Joanna Saltz is the editorial director of Delish. As site director of Delish, Saltz successfully relaunched the brand with a fresh editorial point-of-view geared toward food lovers – not food elitists. In addition to baking a mean a banana bread, Saltz oversees all content for the brand, including features, recipe development, social media presence, video production and the brand’s three cookbooks, with a fourth kids’ cookbook soon to be released later this Summer. She and her team also produce a quarterly print version of Delish, which is available on newsstands and by subscribing to the Delish Unlimited All Access membership program. Prior to Delish, Saltz was executive editor of Food Network Magazine from 2012 through 2015 and was at Seventeen in the same capacity for eight years before that. Saltz is a graduate of The College of New Jersey and lives in New Jersey with her husband Scott, her two sons Spencer and Teddy, and her daughter Everett.

About UPM and this article

UPM Communication Papers is a long-standing strategic partner of FIPP and the worldwide media industry. As an innovation and sustainability partner, UPM supports a range of FIPP activities including this article as part of an ongoing series on the current role of print in media.

While FIPP and UPM coordinate on the production of articles in this series, the editorial content is directed by FIPP. Learn more about UPM Communication Papers here and check-out their LinkedIn page for more paper inspiration.

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