Manuela Caldas / Contributing writer
FIU alumnus Nicolas Norena has come a long way from eating breezeway cookies in the Modesto A. Maidique campus cafeteria. By leveraging social media and a slew of cleverly crafted promotions, Norena has managed to transform his food blog, Succulent Bite, into a marketing empire.
Born in Chicago, Norena grew up in Spain and has lived in Miami for 12 years. He learned the basics of cooking from his grandmother and remembers having a sophisticated palate at a young age.
“I used to order curried mussels at one of my great grand-father’s favorite restaurants in Paris when I was just six years old,” Norena said.
Today, some of his favorite foods include sushi and tacos.
In 2015, three years into his bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, Norena decided he wanted to share his passion for photography and food.
Norena was mentored by FIU business professor Dr.Rauseo and marketing professor Rafael Soltero who both specialize in customer relationship and sales management.
With their guidance, Norena says he gained the skills necessary to grow his passion project.
“FIU’s business school has allowed me to exponentially grow and strategize in the development of the Succulent Bite as a brand,” Norena said.
A year later, he graduated from FIU and his blog received its first media dine-in invitation. Norena said this experience jump started it all and it allowed him to picture his future in the food blogging industry.
“This helped me understand a couple of things,” he said. “The first was the entry-level opportunities that came with having the blog. The second, and most important, was how my blog could turn into a substantial media outlet with time.”
With this realization and his continued work ethic, Norena says he was able to connect with his audience and understood what worked best.
“Originally people loved to see videos of scooping ice cream, slicing cakes, etc. featuring this initially helped me start growing my page,” he said. “With time, I incorporated more storytelling which people reacted to as well.”
In 2017, The Succulent Bite Instagram account reached 10K followers, in just one year it totaled 100K. Today it’s holding close to a million followers.
An increase in followers drew the eyes of various restaurants and companies. As a result, Norena has been able to partner with restaurants to create signature dishes and with large companies to endorse their products.
“I’ve had the privilege of partnering and working in campaigns with several companies, including M&M’s, McDonald’s, Snickers, Burger King, discovery+, Popeyes, Toyota, Papa John’s,” he said.
Recently, Norena partnered with a local Wynwood restaurant called Omakai, which serves traditional sushi and handrolls. This partnership entailed creating an exclusive desert.
Norena also created a signature cookies & cream dessert layered in marshmallow fluff called “S’mores Paleta” for the ice cream shop, Morelia Gourmet Paletas.
Although inspired by his Miami roots and Latin heritage, Norena has gone on to cover the foodie scene in cities as far afield as Cancun, Mexico and Copenhagen, Denmark’s largest city.
Even in the midst of this global pandemic, Norena has been able to provide fresh and exciting content, including his cook-at-home series. The series focuses on creating simple and delicious recipes that can be cooked at home by anyone.
“During the pandemic I added recipe creation to my content strategy to give my viewers something they could try out at home that was easy and simple,” he said.
When asked what he has cooking up next, Norena said he has lots in store for his followers.
“Lots of surprises and special projects coming up, but you’ll have to wait and see for those,” he said.