Food That Fits the Brand
How Nomad Food & Design uses catering to enhance corporate identities.
By Monica Khemsurov

(Business 2.0) – CORPORATE EVENTS SHOULD BE MORE THAN AN EXCUSE TO ENJOY A meal on someone else's dime. At least that's the belief of Paris-based catering firm Nomad Food & Design, which has carved out a niche by cooking up showstopping fare that explicitly communicates the virtues of a client's brand. Charging as much as $270 a head, Nomad dissects the character of each product or campaign being celebrated and then painstakingly translates it into custom-made recipes, cocktails, decor, even lighting. It's a price that image-obsessed companies like Apple and Louis Vuitton are more than willing to pay in order to watch jaws drop. "We force people to consider why they're at an event, aside from the free food and drinks," explains Claire Rosser, Nomad's director of marketing. So far, the branding-through-food strategy seems to be hitting the spot: The six-year-old operation recently opened a new office in London and expects sales to hit $4.1 million in 2006, up more than 20 percent from last year. Here are four case studies showing how Nomad gets its clients to eat out of pipettes, test tubes, and the palm of its hand.


Oversize props are typically the domain of bar mitzvahs and birthday parties, but for the 2004 debut of Absolut Peppar in France, a 10-foot vodka bottle proved the ideal centerpiece to captivate adults. Riffing on the chili-flavored drink's aim to corner the Bloody Mary market, Nomad covered an Absolut-shaped structure in skewered cherry tomatoes injected with Worcestershire sauce and the spicy vodka. Guests could pick off the booze bombs throughout the night or, in a twist on Absolut's "Fire and Ice" marketing campaign, sip custom cocktails from ice-block glasses.


For the introduction of the sneaker company's edgy Rbk logo, Nomad had a tough assignment: Reinforce Reebok's street cred by reflecting both its old-school roots and its relevance to today's scene. Drawing from words like "urban" and "transformation" used to describe the brand, Nomad created a marriage of old and new by taking over--and defacing--a tony 19th-century French mansion. "We made fake walls and graffitied them all," Rosser recalls. "When people walked in, they were completely shocked." The brightly hued food, naturally, matched the graffiti.


Since the debut of its client's summer fragrance D'été fell in January, Nomad cheated Mother Nature by funneling guests through a dark hall into a sunny room infused with the smell of freshly cut grass. Jasmine, vanilla, and other scents were picked up in exotic appetizers such as Earl Grey crème brûlée. The fare was all served on leaf-shaped trays that matched D'été's bottle.


For the launch of a new spherical bottle in France, the whiskey maker tapped Nomad to help it banish what Rosser calls its "old man association." The trendy, circular-shaped cuisine--which included sushi, "soup shots," and foie gras--invoked the brand's futuristic packaging, as did the acrylic balls, pipettes, and bulbous scientific flasks used to serve the food. Even the vases filled with rose-colored water and yellow orchids gave a modern slant to J&B's corporate colors.

Monica Khemsurov is an associate editor at I.D. magazine.