The Cayman Islands feels its new meal-kit campaign is new and exciting, and in many ways it is. It's refreshing to see a tourism board take a novel approach to reaching consumers and there will be a lot to learn in how consumers will respond.
When many U.S. travelers think of the Cayman Islands, they likely think of wealthy offshore bank accounts, beaches, and luxurious resorts.
But the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism says the destination also has some of the Caribbean’s best restaurants and most delicious recipes — something it’s capitalizing on in a new marketing campaign that’s sending meal kits to U.S. travelers.
Last week, the destination launched a partnership with Los Angeles-based meal kit delivery company Chef’d that lets U.S. travelers order meal kits containing ingredients of Cayman Island recipes.
This is one of the first examples of a tourism board working with a meal delivery service as part of a marketing campaign. “Unless you try something, you don’t know how successful it’ll be,” said Rosa Harris, director of tourism for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. “We were more specifically concentrated on a luxury, millennial, young professional clientele who is cooking at home and open to different kinds of cuisines.”
Chef’d said its customer base skews slightly female but ranges from ages 18 to 65 and older. Consumers don’t need a subscription or membership to order from Chef’d and can place a one-time order for a meal kit, for example.
The meal kits are available through September 15. The Cayman Islands is trying to leverage Chef’d’s west coast footholds to help it reach more travelers from large markets such as California.
Texas and northeast U.S. markets such as New York, which are already large source markets for the Cayman Islands, are also targets for the campaign.
The tourism board worked with four Cayman Islands-based chefs to develop the five meal-kit recipes for selections such as pina colada chicken or chocolate bread pudding. Chef’d sources all ingredients in the promotion in the United States and will ship the kits from either its headquarters in Los Angeles or from a shipping facility in Brooklyn, New York, depending on a consumer’s location.
The Cayman Islands’ food scene also attracts plenty of star power that many travelers probably weren’t aware of. World-renowned chefs and food personalities such as Eric Ripert, Daniel Humm, Anthony Bourdain and Emeril Lagrasse descend on the Cayman Islands regularly for the Cayman Cookout.
For a small island country in the western Caribbean, Cayman Islands boasts more than 230 restaurants such as Ripert’s Blue, the Caribbean’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant.
“We’ve been promoting ourselves as a culinary capital of the Caribbean for quite some time,” said Harris. “Outside of other Caribbean destinations where you have a property that’s all-inclusive, our country offers the option of dining out and having a different kind of experience.”
But while the islands have earned awards and distinctions for its dining scene, it’s a challenge to translate that to meal kits thousands of miles away through packaging and shipping facilities before they reach consumers’ kitchens. There are concerns therefore about quality and freshness with the meal kits.
The meal kits range from $13 to $16 each and take between 40 to 90 minutes to prepare and cook.
Since the Cayman Islands hopes to reach many consumers who have never visited the destination, first impressions will come through the meal kits and destination-infused recipes.
Chef’d will handle the logistics while the Cayman Islands provides the inspiration for the recipes, said Harris. “We liked Chef’d’s approach to screening our recipes and they tested well in their kitchens,” she said. “We felt the authenticity of our recipes would be upheld through ingredient sourcing, delivery method and portioning.”
Harris said the tourism board doesn’t have any preconceived expectations for how the campaign will perform. “The recipes were testing well in the kitchen but how they perform for the consumer is yet to be determined,” she said. “Only then will we learn, should we have added more dessert options, for example?”
“With Chef’d leading the end-user experience, we’ll be able to get the feedback,” she said.
The Cayman Islands is trying to break away from traditional kinds of marketing campaigns that do more telling than showing. With the meal kits, consumers can directly engage with island recipes — albeit, possibly from thousands of miles away and out of the context of island life.
Many destinations are marketing their food and beverage offerings but are also struggling with how best to do it. A recent United Nations World Tourism Organization survey found that more than 65 percent of tourism boards feel their food tourism marketing efforts have been insufficient, for example.
“We’d definitely like to have another food type festival or event,” said Harris. “We also know that our product has to grow and we just welcomed the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa and Margaritaville Resort this past year. As we get more rooms online, we’ll strategically choose how much additional food marketing we’ll have.”
The question remains whether consumers will be inspired to actually book travel after enjoying a meal kit recipe. Still, tapping into food delivery gives the Cayman Islands a leg up in its U.S. marketing efforts in a region as intensely competitive as the Caribbean.
Photo credit: The Cayman Islands has partnered with meal delivery service Chef'd to promote its food and beverage offerings to U.S. travelers. Pictured is the curried chicken recipe from a prepared meal kit. Chef'd