Talking Brands: Pokémon, Seinfeld and Minecraft have cookbooks… Which other IP could thrive in this area?

WildBrain CPLG’s Michael Ogunseitan, GOSH Children’s Charity’s Etta Saunders Bingham, Kimm & Miller’s Rob Kimm and The Zeros’ Scott Ham share the brands they feel are a recipe for success in the cookbook sector.

One area of brand extension that’s interesting to keep an eye is cookbooks – and this year has seen plenty of innovative launches in this space.

By and large, most licensed cookbooks put authenticity at the heart at their recipes and work hard to capture the tone of each brand. Everything from font to photography are key tools in ensuring the content feel on-brand, regardless of whether dishes are recreations of iconic moments or ‘inspired by’ recipes.

This feels especially integral considering the volume of ‘unofficial’ cookbooks out there. Quality photography, official artwork and creative integrations of characters, moments and brand history can all help the licensed books cut through.

Some licensed launches from the past 12 months have been grounded, naturally, in food and drink IP. Ebury kicked off a multi-book partnership with Heinz earlier this year with The Heinz Cookbook, featuring a collection of recipes that use Heinz products. The launch is soon to be followed by the first ever official Ketchup, HP Sauce, Beanz and Lea & Perrins cookbooks.

Talking Brands, cookbooks, Publishing

Other notable launches with food IP this year includes The Official Guinness Cookbook from Insight Editions, The Giggling Squid Cookbook from Ebury and The Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cookbook from HarperCollins.

Talking Brands, cookbooks, PublishingAway from food brands, we’ve seen more film and TV brands embrace recipe books this year. Especially prolific in this area is Insight Editions, home to recent official cookbooks for brands like Seinfeld, Pokémon, Ghostbusters, Emily in Paris, Halo, Jurassic World, Black Panther and John Wayne.

Talking Brands, cookbooks, PublishingSeinfeld: The Official Cookbook brings moments from the show to life through recipes like Long Wait Lo Mein and Black-and-White Cookies, while Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook contains over 70 African cuisine-inspired recipes.

Elsewhere, Ghostbusters: The Official Cookbook profiles character-based recipes like Dana’s Demon Eggs and Podcast’s Marshmallow Fondue, alongside brand-relevant activities like ‘How to Make An Edible Mini-Puft’. Characters also provide introductions to each recipe.

Talking Brands, cookbooks, Publishing

Also doing a good job at bringing a brand into cookbooks is Insight Editions’ Rick and Morty: The Official Cookbook. Alongside inventive dishes inspired by moments and dimensions seen in the series – like Mr Beauregard’s Memory Marmalade, Froopyland Waffles and Pickle Rick’s Transformation Brine – the cookbook does a good job of capturing the tone of the show.

For example, the Morty’s Face Breakfast Sandwich comes with an intro from Rick… “Look Morty, Grandpa made a recipe just for your dumb family cookbook project. It’s your dumb face. As as a sandwich.’

Talking Brands, cookbooks, Publishing

Elsewhere, other notable licensed launches from this year includes The Official Peaky Blinders Cookbook from White Lion Publishing, as well as official cookbooks for The Princess Bride and Parks & Recreation from Smart Pop.

The sector shows no signs of slowing down either, with confirmed future cookbooks on the way for IP like CATAN, Ticket to Ride, The Witcher, Hocus Pocus, Call the Midwife and Minecraft.

Minecraft: Gather, Cook, Eat! launches in April 2023 from Insight Editions and looks set to be another smart example of how gaming brands can embrace this sector, with plenty of recipes for in-game dishes – like Suspicious Stew –  present.

Talking Brands, cookbooks, Publishing

With this in mind, we asked figures in the industry for their picks as to which brands would work well as cookbooks…

Below are the picks from WildBrain CPLG’s Michael Ogunseitan, GOSH Children’s Charity’s Etta Saunders Bingham, Kimm & Miller’s Rob Kimm and The Zeros’ Scott Ham.

Michael Ogunseitan, WildBrain CPLGMichael Ogunseitan, Creative Services Director, WildBrain CPLG
With the festive season upon us, I think it’s about time for a Dr. Seuss ‘How the Grinch Served Christmas’ recipe book, inspired by the main man himself.

Who-ville is such a colourful world, with vibrant language that would really lend itself well to food and illustration, and I think fans the world over could really enjoy participating in the story through its food. Christmas is such a food-orientated time of year, and the themes around feasting and the ‘let’s all come together’ message at the heart of the story are a perfect match.

From a creative point of view, the Grinch’s world has a really vivid and iconic landscape. The colours and texture of red, white and green lend themselves well to the trend for green eating (literally) and could provide a real opportunity to tap into the current trend for plant-based eating, with some fun with puns and language along the way. As a partner of Dr. Seuss, we’ve found the inspiration we can take from the character of the Grinch knows no bounds, and with the Dr. Seuss back-catalogue, there would also be ample opportunity to extend the brand’s universe even further with a plethora of themed food.

I think that if the Grinch was hosting a dinner party, he would put together the ultimate menu for all those in Who-ville to enjoy, both tall and small. For starters, there would be Popcorn and Plum, an odd couple but a magical pairing if you’re daring. Moving on, the star of the show would be Who-Roast-Beast-Casserole, which the Grinch would proudly carve himself and serve with a side of Who Hash, garnished with a crumb too small for a mouse…if the Grinch is inviting you to eat, you’re in for a feast, feast, feast, feast!

Last but not least, the feast would conclude with a pudding of Who-ville Matcha Green Tea Soufflé, served in heart-shaped ramekins two sizes too small. All is not lost for this tiny dessert, for once you join in and discover what Christmas is truly about, this magical dish will grow three sizes – just like the Grinch’s heart.

For a Boxing Day brunch idea, I think you couldn’t get better than a recipe for Green Eggs and Ham – the ultimate icon of the Dr. Seuss brand and a perfect way to enjoy the festive season.

Etta Saunders Bingham, GOSH Children’s CharityEtta Saunders Bingham, Senior Brand Licensing Manager, GOSH Children’s Charity
A Stranger Things – Upside Down Dinners recipe book would work well. Quirky food and retro meals played a significant part in this supernatural sensation and added integrity to recreating the atmosphere of 1980s life in small town Indiana. There are foodie moments galore that would be fun to replicate, such as Mike Wheeler’s breakfast in the first ever episode… Mrs Butterworth’s maple syrup on eggs – yuk!

Some of the more palatable offerings would be a family dinner of chicken, mixed veg and tater tots or meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The iconic Eggo waffle is not to be overlooked… That could be a whole chapter featuring various delicious toppings – especially the “triple-decker Eggo extravaganza,” which is an Eggo waffle desert with layers of cream and various candy treats sprinkled on top. If Eleven had had her way, she would have begun every meal with an Eggo waffle – regardless of Jim Hopper’s insistence that it should be “Dinner first, then dessert. Always.” Even if that is just a TV dinner in a foil dish!

There are numerous classic American snacks that feature in many episodes, and recipes for these could include pepperoni pizza, turkey sandwiches, hotdogs on a stick and, of course, hamburger and fries. There’s lots of scope for puddings as well, with strawberry ice-cream, butterscotch sundae, iced donuts and anything to do with peanut butter appearing regularly as firm favourites.

Of course, there’s always the question of what a Demogorgon might eat – when there’s no human flesh available, of course. It would be fun to cook up a few spooky recipes with mystery ingredients and unexpected combinations, perfect for Halloween treats.

I expect there’d also be an appetite from Stranger Things fans to see character profiles alongside the recipes, exploring their favourite foods and featuring atmospheric stills of epicurious moments that would help conjure up these wholesome retro dishes for us to enjoy all over again in kitchens everywhere.

Talking Brands, cookbooks, Publishing

Scott Ham, The ZerosScott Ham, Co-Founder, The Zeros
I feel the brands I know that could do a cookbook, have already done a cookbook! It’s a great way to immerse a fan further into a brand they know and appreciate, and I really love that it’s something you can do with like-minded people and fans.

The approach I haven’t seen ­– although it could be out there – is a follow-up cookbook to immerse people deeper into a brand. Something that feels authentic to the storyline of a series or film with multiple chapters.

My go-to for this would be Bob’s Burgers. After buying The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book, trying out the recipes with friends and still keeping up to date on new episodes, I saw that Bob had an appreciation for all things food, restaurateurs, and high-end chefs. He is constantly learning and trying to be a better chef. So why not follow up the cookbook with a twist?

I would love to see a Bob’s Burgers Cookbook 2.0 where Bob and Skip Marooch collaborate on a high-end cookbook. Although Skip was his direct competitor in Best Burger competition and he beats Bob in the end, they became friends and cross paths in more foodie ways. The cookbook could be a fusion between their recipes and skills, while also covering lots of cuisine and dishes.

Taking inspiration from both of their backgrounds and combining a mixture of the new exotic spices Skip has gathered from his travels, throw in some of Bob’s infamous puns, and this would be for the hardcore fans and hardcore fine diners of the show.

Another chapter to the cookbook could be focused around Bob and his family’s visit to the Lolla-Pa-Foods-A-Festival, where they end up starting an all-out riot with the other food truck vendors. Using burger meat, some sort of bread, toppings and condiments, how many items could Bob – and Skip – recreate from the other food stands with their own twist. Burgerittos? Burgzone? I will leave the wordplay to the pros!

Talking Brands, cookbooks, Publishing

Rob Kimm, Kimm & MillerRob Kimm, Managing Director, Kimm & Miller
The Stranger Things brand would work brilliantly as a cookbook, with multigenerational appeal across the US and UK. Throughout the series there’s a real emphasis on the comfort value of your favourite foods, showcasing guilty pleasures and childhood favourites such as processed foods, authentic diner fare and countless sweet treats.

Many of the characters bond over food, from friends enjoying Scoops Ahoy ice cream cones, to the Wheeler family’s mealtimes, and Hopper and Eleven’s ready meal dinners – with the requisite Eggo waffle for dessert. During the show’s key plotlines and much of the series’ action, food plays a significant role – such as Hopper devouring a jar of Jif peanut butter after months of imprisonment and Eleven piggybacking to fight Vecna inside a Surfer Boy Pizza fridge.

Moreover, the strong sense of time and place within Stranger Things’ 1980s fictional setting of Hawkins, Indiana, adds a layer of realism to the supernatural sci-fi show. Capturing this Eighties nostalgia alongside the show’s fantastical elements within a cookbook would give fans a fun and truly unique home dining experience.

Stranger Things’ fictional food brands and locations such as The Starcourt Mall, Scoops Ahoy, Surfer Boy Pizza and so on lent a strong sense of location to the fictional town of Hawkins. Including references to these fictional brands within the cookbook would add authenticity.

A Stranger Things recipe book could encompass all of the above elements, reimagining American dinner and dessert classic recipes as well as fan favourite moments from the show. The book could feature recipes such as Hopper’s PB&J French toast, Scoops Ahoy sundaes and desserts, Family Video movie night popcorn and candy recipes – or even a Surfer Boy Pizza special with ‘demogorgon-zola’ cheese!

All in all, a cookbook would make a perfect brand extension for Stranger Things, feeding into the huge demand for the brand that peaks around the traditional gifting seasons and, of course, new streaming dates. With the final, fifth season still to come in 2024, a cookbook would be sure to appeal to the show’s dedicated fanbase, proving an ideal addition to the gifting market and offering fans a truly authentic piece of merchandise filled with humorous, fantastical and – of course – delicious recipes inspired by the show.

Talking Brands, cookbooks, Publishing

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