Food in the Air

Lobster roll in Martha's Vineyard featured on Food in the Air. Courtesy of Food in the Air.
Instagram post featured on Food in the Air.
Courtesy of Food in the Air.

By Elizabeth McKinney

The concept is very simple, and millennials, being self-proclaimed “foodies” love it. Food in the air, is the simple act of photographing mouthwatering food while holding it in the air to capture  a scenic background. That’s the ideology behind what started the popular the social media account Food in the Air, LLC. It began in August 2013

It all started on a 5-hour road trip to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Four sisters, Charlotte, Patty, Meg and Carolyn Niemann, all close in age and full of wit, were traveling to their annual family vacation retreat, when the sisters felt inspired by the scenic drive while perusing various food Instagram accounts.  They discussed, how photos of food and people’s meals had become a trending topic on various social media platforms, in particularly Instagram. The Niemann sisters agreed that people were indulging in posting photos of their food.

“Why just take a boring bird’s-eye photograph of your food on a plate, when you can capture your delicious meals with your fun setting, by photographing your food in the air,” said Charlotte Niemann.

From that very road trip and onward, the Niemann sisters’ food account hit Instagram by storm and practically went viral. Word of their account began to quickly spread, solely by word of mouth through friends of friends. “Through a very pure and organic process,” said Charlotte Niemann. The account took off and practically “spread like wildfire,” said Patty Niemann.

Within a year the account accumulated a fan base of over 10,000 followers. Fast forward to today, and the account has accumulated around 359,000 followers and counting. Food in the Air is considered to be one of the top 15 food Instagram accounts, ranked as no. 3 by Cosmopolitan Magazine.

The sisters receive hundreds of photo submissions daily through multiple media outlets. The photos posted on Food in the Air are a compilation of submissions from its followers, the Niemann sisters and partnerships. Photos vary in content and range in food, but every post consists of some sort of delicacy paired with a postcard worthy backdrop. Each photo is paired with witty caption.

“It’s a combination of basically everyone’s two favorite things: food and travel,” said Charlotte Niemann.

What started as a hobby, has turned into a major business opportunity for the sisters.

Niemann said that her sisters and she had a reality check that their account had the potential to be more than just a little hobby, after Anheuser-Busch approached them about  partnering on a marketing campaign. It was then that the sisters realized their account had financial potential.

“We really started it as kind of a fun joke for us to do, and then all of our friends heard about it and just sort of caught on,” said Meg Niemann. “And then it just turned into this ridiculous, sister business!”

Since then, they have partnered with different corporations in the restaurant industry and have had the opportunity to explore the rapidly, growing industry of food and social media. Partnerships have become extremely diverse for Food in the Air, ranging from teaming up with nonprofit Unilever to curb world hunger, to working with McDonald’s, the mecca of the fast food industry, Food in the Air has evolved into something more than just a leisure account for the sisters. From being invited to McDonald’s headquarters and meeting the CEO of McDonald’s, to being flown to Mt. Rushmore to take a FITA (food in the air) by Giovanni Rana Pasta, an Italian food brand, the opportunities for Food in the Air and the Niemann sister have become limitless.

“As social media influencers, we have learned how much of a value and asset we can be to companies and its products,” said Charlotte Niemann. “Social media is such a valuable asset, for it allows you to put your own voice behind their product, which targets our demographic of followers.”

Managing a successful food account certainly has its perks. Last spring two of the sisters attended the Miami Food and Wine Festival where they had the opportunity to chat and meet with celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli, as well as many other big names in the food industry.

In addition the four of them live in three of the country’s biggest food hubs: New York City, San Francisco, and Charleston. The sister’s inboxes are flooded with invites to restaurant openings and tastings.

Working and managing their account from three cities and two different time-zones, certainly has not been the easiest task, Patty Niemann shares. But communication is key in any business, and the need for it between one and another has not only strengthened their business, but has also impacted their relationships as sisters. Patty Niemann jokingly explained, whether they want to talk to each other or not that day, they have to put differences behind and go on with business.

“We were definitely a close family to begin with, growing up close so close in age and being sisters, but you can’t doubt it definitely has strengthened our family even more,” said Niemann.  “Whether it’s about FITA or not, relationships have definitely strengthened.”

The success of Food in the Air  has significantly shaped the future plans for some of the sisters. Charlotte Niemann, a senior at the College of Charleston, has made her concentration entrepreneurship because of  Food in the Air. Meg Niemann, a former photo editor for Lord and Taylor, has been able to combine her passion for photography with Food in the Air as well.

“The fact that it’s possible for me to potentially have this as a job is really crazy,” said Charlotte Niemann, “but I think as millennials, we are really creative and I think it’s awesome that we can do things like this.”


Elizabeth McKinney is a public relations senior