Pesto pasta in a gondola in Venice. A pretzel at Oktoberfest. A beer at the Running of the Bulls in Spain. Pizza at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Doughnuts on the Great Wall of China.
To the Niemann sisters, it’s all @foodintheair. The Instagram account founded in summer 2013 by Carolyn, Meg, Patty and Charlotte Niemann – born and raised Durhamites – and their friend George Broadbin now has 190,000+ followers. And that number is growing exponentially.
“The idea just came to us randomly on a road trip up to the mountains,” Meg says. “We were all in the car and were perusing Instagram when we thought, ‘Hey, you know what would be funny? An account where people hold their food in the air instead of taking pictures of food on the table. That way the food relates to its surroundings. Food with destination in mind!’”
And it snowballed from there. “We always had a pretty steady stream of followers, but when we reached 10,000 followers 11 months in, it doubled a month later,” Meg shares. “We began gaining 10,000 new followers each month or more. January was a big month for us – we gained around 25,000 followers.”
The founders contribute their own images as often as possible but also receive thousands of submissions. You can send your own pictures through email, hashtag #foodintheair, tag @foodintheair, mention the account in your caption or direct message the account. (Hint: Direct messaging is the best way to get your picture noticed.) So, what constitutes a good Food in the Air shot? Creativity and composition. “We receive so many photos each day, so choosing is always the hard part,” Meg says. “The most important part is to have the food in focus while keeping the background slightly blurred; a great background makes for a stand-out FITA!”
It wouldn’t be surprising to see a familiar Durham meal right after that PB&J sandwich in front of the largest glacier in Iceland. Though the sisters are spread from New York City to San Francisco to Charleston, S.C. – where all four attended College of Charleston – their roots here have led to morsels in front of Duke basketball games and sandwiches held aloft at Bull Street Gourmet and Market, which their parents, Anne and Tom Niemann, run. “Seeing how hard our parents work has always been a huge influence on us and has shaped our FITA work ethic as sisters,” Meg says.