At our November 9 Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network Innovation Breakfast, 90+ industry attendees learned about this new tool: ‘corporate venturing’. Companies like Tyson Foods and The Kellogg Company started their own funds to explore innovation externally. This creates an opportunity for food and beverage start-ups to bring their innovation and work directly with large food and beverage companies.
Many in the audience wondered, why would these large companies invest in outside companies? The Tyson and Kellogg panelists told us that food disruption will continue and that sometimes larger corporations like theirs cannot see food trends as quickly as smaller companies. That’s why these funds were created.
“For example, it’s a fact that we need 60-70% more protein to feed the world by 2050. That’s why we just made a deal with Beyond Meat, an alternative animal protein,” says Tyson Ventures’ Justin Whitmore. Tyson launched its $150M venture fund in April 2017. “We will have more deals by this time next year, ones that fit our mission to grow our focus areas of sustainability, less food waste, and the internet of foods.”
And for both companies, it’s not just about the money they can bring to the table. “We want to know what Kellogg can bring to the party. Does the startup just need funding? Or are they seeking product experts, marketing, or procurement experts,” said Simon Burton from The Kellogg Company’s venture fund, Eighteen94. “We want to help these start-ups unleash all of their talent by using our talent.” Kellogg’s fund is 18-months old and is worth $100M, Simon adds, “For now it’s $100M. We may increase the amount. It’s all so new.”
Also on the panel, Michael Schopin. A partner at Zenfinity Capital, he works with food start ups. Being from Chicago he’s seen a lot of change in our region’s food & beverage landscape. “In Chicago we have a lot of early businesses that need seed money. And on the flip side we have a lot of huge companies. We have very few $10M-$50M food and beverage companies here.” Schopin adds, “My fund seeks out wise entrepreneurs with a good work ethic, specifically one that wants to grow their $10M company into a $50M company.”
The event’s hour-long discussion also touched on how research and development helps these teams find new ventures to invest in, as well as the power of networking early.
All three did agree that every startup needs to go with the best partner, not the most money. “What are you looking for in a partner? Is your new partner as excited as you are about your product? Having these internal conversations is key,” adds Whitmore.
CHICAGO – Nov. 6, 2017 – Freeborn & Peters LLP is pleased to announce that Partner John Shapiro is the recipient of the 2017 Leadership Excellence in the Law Award bestowed by the National Diversity Council and the Illinois Diversity Council. He received the award at the Councils’ 4th Annual Illinois Leadership Conference, held October 31. As part of the recognition, Mr. Shapiro also participated in a discussion on building high-performance teams.
“I am grateful for this recognition,” Mr. Shapiro said. “I plan to continue to invest my time in work that improves the lives of those from diverse populations, focusing particularly on the underserved and others in need.”
The Leadership Excellence in the Law Award recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves through their leadership, resolve, and outstanding achievements for the benefit of their clients and their communities. Among other criteria by which the councils evaluate nominees for the award, the attorney must receive a high degree of peer recognition for leadership excellence and professional knowledge; exemplify a noteworthy commitment to fairness, equity and justice in client representations and professional collaborations; maintain a superior level of integrity and dignity across the full spectrum of legal dealings and responsibilities; and demonstrate commitment to pro bono and community service.
Mr. Shapiro is a Partner in Freeborn’s Complex Litigation Practice Group and is Co-Chair of the firm’s Food Industry Team. He also serves as Chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee and as a member of its Diversity and Inclusion Committee and its Professional Review Committee. In addition, Mr. Shapiro serves as general counsel of Inspiration Corporation, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps people who are affected by homelessness and poverty to improve their lives and self-sufficiency through the provision of employment training and placement, housing and other social services. In his most recent role, Mr. Shapiro is a member of the Board of Directors of Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network, a new non-profit focused on creating a collaborative working environment for food and beverage manufacturers to, among other initiatives, drive inclusive economic growth and workforce development in Chicago area communities in need. Chicagoland Food’s mission is to turn the Chicago into the Silicon Valley of the food and beverage industry in a way that benefits community members through career development and employment opportunities and bolsters communities through economic development.
The National Diversity Council is the first non-profit organization to bring together the private, public and non-profit sectors to discuss the many dimensions and benefits of a multicultural environment. For more information about the 4th Annual Illinois Leadership Conference, visit http://www.illeadershipconference.com/2017/.
ABOUT FREEBORN & PETERS Freeborn & Peters LLP is a full-service law firm, headquartered in Chicago, with international capabilities and offices in Springfield, Ill.; Richmond, Va.; New York City; and Tampa, Fla. Freeborn is always looking ahead and seeking to find better ways to serve its clients. It takes a proactive approach to ensure its clients are more informed, prepared and able to achieve greater success – not just now, but also in the future. While the firm serves clients across a very broad range of sectors, it has also pioneered an interdisciplinary approach that serves the specific needs of targeted industries.
Freeborn is a firm that genuinely lives up to its core values of integrity, effectiveness, teamwork, caring and commitment, and embodies them through high standards of client service and responsive action. Its lawyers build close and lasting relationships with clients and are driven to help them achieve their legal and business objectives.
For more information, please visit www.freeborn.com.
Some people dream of owning their own food business. Making it big. But the reality is, very few make it that far.
During our 100-member Innovation Breakfast event on Oct. 12, we heard from three Chicago-based industry leaders. Each went from startup to booming food business. The founders of PRE Brands, Farmer’s Fridge and Grow Forward provided insight on creating an idea, developing a business plan, implementing a business model, and growing a network (no pun intended).
Lenny Lebovich, founder and CEO of PRE Brands (www.pre-brands.com), credits his economic education background. This is what helped him recognize the importance of planning. The first step, he says, “is convincing investors to believe in your idea and care about it as much as you do.”
Luke Saunders, founder and CEO of Farmer’s Fridge (www.farmersfridge.com), stated that his past career experience helped him grow the business, specifically when recruiting employees. He said, “Identifying a clear mission and developing a company culture enticed people to come work for us. Chicago has an incredible talent pool. We’re able to find workers that share our core beliefs. We’ve been growing ever since.”
Jim Murphy, founder of Grow Forward (www.growfwd.com), drove home this one point: generating revenue is the basis of any business. Generating profits continually helps businesses grow. Whether it’s adding more employees or acquiring a business for vertical integration, investors want to see that their investment is growing.
The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is helping connect food businesses across the industry. “We have all the pieces right here -- talent, packaging, marketing, transportation and more,” says Jeremy Anderson, Chicasgoland Food & Beverage Network Board member, Innovation Breakfast host and co-founder of Fifty Gazelles. “The future will be built by how these pieces are put together, and it starts with who we are connected with.”
Each panelist told of different times where relationships helped grow their business. A perfect example is from Luke Saunders. He buys tomatoes from Jim Murphy for his Farmer’s Fridge salads. More of these collaborations from food and beverage companies will only help grow our local economy. This specific tomato-salad collaboration proves that Chicago is the place to be for starting and developing a food business.
In the end, all three food entrepreneurs agreed: Chicago has the resources needed to start and build up a food business. It’s a massive hub in the national food and beverage industry with over 4,500 companies and employing more than 135,000 people.
Join us at our next event, Sowing The Seeds: Chicago’s Leadership In Food & Agriculture Education on November 6. We will hear from a panel of Chicago government and food leaders, education leaders and food entrepreneurs. How can we funnel more local students into working in the food and beverage industry? Register and find out.
2017 is nearly over. And industry eyes are setting their sights on 2018. What new trends will the food & beverage industry bring us in just a few months?
During our 150-member event at Kendall College on October 4, we heard from two leading industry seers. Food Minds and Technomic did their crystal ball gazing, giving us their findings.
David Henkes, Senior Principal at Technomic (www.technomic.com) embraces these massive transformations within the industry. He notes that the food & beverage industry has changed dramatically in such a short amount of time. In addition, it’s consumers who are driving much of this change.
Grant Prentice, SVP and Director of Insights for FoodMinds (www.foodminds.com) added, “Price, taste, and convenience used to account for the majority of the food & beverage marketing equation. Now we see consumers making purchase decisions based on different food values.”
Consumers are demanding more product transparency, more local food options and more specialty food options. This trend will only continue on in 2018.
While consumers are driving this change, the industry is correcting course. Especially the national distribution model. National is the opposite of local. The major question is, how can more companies utilize local product more in the making of their national brands?
Specialty foods and specialization is a multi-faceted issue. In 2018 more than ever, food and beverage companies will realize they cannot be all things to all people. In return, the specialization of industry products will work better for all players. Henkes says, “Having one amazing product done well, is more beneficial than having 8-10 mediocre products.” In addition lines are blurring within the industry. We are seeing more grocery stores building in-store restaurants. Restaurants are minimizing and specializing menu offerings (do less items and do them better). Consumers are responding positively to these non-traditional food trends.
Embracing non-traditional food trends will be beneficial for consumers and industry players.
Joins us at our next event, our Innovation Breakfast on October 12. We will hear from a panel of food entrepreneurs. Just how hard is it to bring a new food to market? Register and find out.
The topic of food industry disruption has never as relevant as it is today.
From recent extreme weather events to Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods - it’s hard to talk about food innovation without discussing the disruption.
Disruption is a topic Stacie Sopinka of U.S. Foods tackled during our Innovation Breakfast series on September 14. As Vice President of Innovation & Product Development, Sopinka and her team spends their days working on products clients will hopefully buy three or four years from now. Sopinka says all new product development must take into account potential pitfalls. She recognizes these three food disruptors heavily impacting consumer demands today:
Sopinka was full of real-world answers to many audience questions. You too can join us at our next Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network Innovation Breakfast on October 12. The discussion: Food entrepreneurs,start up investments, and Food 2.0.
Product Innovation. For some, this is an easier term to type than to accomplish. Knowing this, we invited the VP of Innovation & Product Development at U.S. Foods to tell our members her best practices.
Stacie Sopinka, the keynote speaker at our monthly Innovation Series Breakfast on September 14, successfully extended U.S. Foods' innovation footprint into new channels. She and her team have also increased awareness of sustainably sourced foods within the market.
How did she do it?
Sopinka shared several insightful strategies, successes and lessons. She left our sold out crowd with these ten-ways to succeed through product innovation:
1. Create a long-term strategy. Identify key drivers.
What’s most important -- beyond the corporate strategy -- is having a development plan. Know exactly what you are trying to accomplish.
2. Form Strategic Partnerships. Build trust.
You never know where a new partnership will start. Meet with different people as much as you can. As you form relationships, you’re going to hit hurdles. In the end, it’s about building trust and having the tough talks about what works and what doesn’t.
3. Determine your target market. Know when to jump on a trend.
Do your research to help you find trends and whether or not they are on the way ‘in’ or ‘out’. You don’t want to jump on too early or too late.
4. Take calculated risks.
Having diverse perspectives at the table is essential to the development process. Look at each opportunity and/or risk through various lenses. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope.
5. Move quickly or get left behind.
It’s a concept that many of us struggle with, but it’s so important. Trend cycles move quickly. If you take too much time, your product will be redundant when it finally hits the market.
6. Engage key stakeholders in the process. Remain open to feedback.
Feedback is a gift. Partnering with people offering different perspectives can positively impact the development process.
7. Avoid ‘Design by Committee’.
While feedback is a gift, there must be a clear vision of what the product stands for and what problem it’s solving. You’ll lose your way if there are too many voices. Stay flexible, but only when receiving new information.
8. Identify the problem you are solving for your customer.
Start with a scope. Understand why you’re developing your product. You must figure out first what place this product has in the ecosystem.
9. Tell people about the product’s provenance.
Telling the product’s story is a great way to engage customers. Tell your product story in any way you can: like when training your sales team or when talking to marketing. These departments will creatively pass these stories onto customers.
10. Be prepared for Murphy’s Law.
Product development is full of pitfalls. You use your thick skin to sell your ideas, now you need that thick skin when things go wrong. Because things willgo wrong. Be resilient and keep moving.
by Maya Norris, Managing Editor
Original content can be found at: https://www.profoodworld.com/articles/forefront-innovation
Industry vet Barry Calpino of Conagra Brands shares his tips for innovation in the food and beverage industry.
Achieving innovation in the crowded and competitive food and beverage industry is no easy feat. Barry Calpino, vice president of innovation at Conagra Brands, knows this first hand. The industry vet has spent his career developing innovative products and leading innovation initiatives at some of the largest food companies in the country, including the Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. At a recent breakfast event hosted by the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, Calpino shared his tips and insights on how food and beverage companies can create innovative products and a culture of innovation that will transform their organizations.
Calpino cut his teeth at SC Johnson, where he learned his first lesson in innovation: Be agile, nimble and first to market with trend-forward ideas. At SC Johnson, Calpino managed the Ziploc brand. When he discovered that competitor Glad was going to launch plastic food containers, he knew Ziploc had to develop its own food containers to stay competitive. But he had to convince the leadership team at SC Johnson that this would be a groundbreaking, game-changing category. He also had to persuade them to forgo the usual three-year development timeline in order to launch the product in five months and beat Glad to the marketplace. SC Johnson launched the Ziploc food containers just prior to Thanksgiving of 1998 — and it’s still a successful product for the company today.
“I told everybody that if we don’t do these containers, we’re dead. Everybody thought I was completely out of mind. I fought and fought and fought. And at some point, everybody agreed to it,” Calpino said. “If I hadn’t done this, today somebody would be talking about how Glad killed Ziploc.”
Compressing the timeframe for product development is a tactic Calpino uses today at Conagra. “A company committed to really being current and forward-thinking can’t spend two years testing,” he said. “By the time you launch, the trend is already gone.”
Anticipating trends before they take hold is also key to innovation, according to Calpino. When he worked at Kellogg, he helped develop the Special K protein line, which incorporated protein into cereals and snacks. His supervisor believed that consumers would want protein-fortified products to accommodate their healthy lifestyles and weight loss. The company has since expanded this protein line with items such as bottled water, meal-replacement bars and cracker chips.
“I hope all of you have the chance to work with a boss who sees things before they happen,” he said. “I had a boss at Kellogg who was absolutely convinced that protein was going to become this big mainstream concept in 2004. Everybody thought he was crazy.”
To create truly innovative products as well as a culture of innovation at a company, Calpino recommended focusing on developing a few products rather than hundreds of product launches a year. That kind of prioritization brings energy, intention and creativity to the team developing the product and gets ingrained into the culture, Calpino said.
“As an innovator, part of what makes you tick is you always have tons of ideas, and you want to do a thousand things,” Calpino said. “But there’s power to doing less and doing it really well.”
He employed this method at Kraft. When he first joined the company, Kraft launched about 150 products a year. He ended up reducing the number of new product launches significantly. “Our goal was to gain $100 milllion in new platforms instead of 150 new products,” Calpino said. “We said, ‘Let’s talk about platforms, not products.’”
As a result, Kraft created eight products over a three-year period that won the Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Awards, which honors new product launches that maintain sustained growth for at least two years. Those products included Gevalia premium coffee, Belvita breakfast biscuits, Lunchables Uploaded and Velveeta Cheesy Skillets.
For food and beverage companies based in Chicago, Calpino urged them to immerse themselves in the city’s diverse and vibrant food culture. From iconic steakhouses to classic deep-dish pizza to inventive vegetarian cuisine to ethnic spins on fried chicken, Chicago’s flourishing restaurant scene can provide inspiration for a food and beverage company’s next great product. In addition, collaborate with the chefs and entrepreneurs behind these restaurants, Calpino said.
Conagra did just that when it purchased Frontera Foods from renowned chef Rick Bayless as part of its strategy to develop a brand portfolio filled with premium, higher quality products. The Frontera line includes skillet meals and frozen single-serve bowls.
“Chicago is filled with entrepreneurs and creative people who are doing amazing things with food. And for all of us in the room, that means opportunities,” Calpino said. “It’s full of people to work with and talk to. Partners who can inspire you. Partners to prototype with. Partners to show you new ways of thinking. Take advantage of it.”
By Debra Schug, Editor-in-Chief
Fresh has been the buzzword in the food and beverage industry for the past few years. With the retail landscape changing and more companies drawing attention to their offerings located in the perimeter of the store, consumer packaged goods are facing a number of challenges.
“The center of the store is under threat,” says Barry Calpino, vice president of innovation for Conagra Brands, addressing an audience of approximately 75 people from food and beverage companies attending the first installment of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network’s Innovation Breakfast Series.
Right now, as more consumers are doing more grocery shopping online, CPG companies are learning how to adapt to technology that enables product delivery in under an hour. However, Calpino says the real challenge for companies like Conagra is to make interesting, engaging and exciting products.
“We have to make our center-store products so good that you’re going to buy them online or in the store,” he says. “Believe it or not, the center store doesn’t just sit there all day empty. People do buy products from the center of the store.”
He says there is a lot of opportunity in that spot of the store, but it requires creativity. However, food retailers are very happy to discuss new ideas for CPG.
“The center store is pretty valuable real estate,” he says. “The flip side of that is for a food company, you have to be really relevant for all the new shopping.”
Under innovation trends, he says everyone is obsessed with technology, and for good reason since it is enabling diverse food experiences. However, he warns not to forget the chefs when you’re focused on artificial intelligence.
“If you only focus on the technology changing the food industry, you’re going to miss the actual food itself,” he says. “Because 20 years from now, I predict humans will still eat.”
To work in food innovation, Calpino says there should be many different sources of inspiration. This is why Conagra has chosen to work with and support new food and beverage startups. Conagra is one of two large food companies that donated money to build a new 67,000 sq. ft. food and beverage incubator facility in Chicago. The Hatchery, as it is called, will be focused on helping food start-ups grow by providing access to resources and expertise.
The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is a newly launched program designed to build a collaborative platform for food and beverage companies in Chicago. For more information, visit www.chicagolandfood.org.
By Alan Reed, Executive Director of Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network
Did you know more than 4,500 food and beverage companies call Chicagoland home? This accounts for roughly 130,000 employees and $32B in annual sales.
Food and beverage companies are clearly making an investment in Chicago, but the question is, what are we investing to foster the vast amount of talent and expertise that resides in the area? What are we doing to drive inclusive growth and secure Chicagoland’s spot as a global food and beverage hub?
All of these questions drove us to launch the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network in April this year. Our goal is to bring together the region’s stakeholders and make Chicagoland the “Silicon Valley of food and beverage”, based on its growth, innovation, and connectedness of industry.
We recently kicked off our Innovation Breakfast Series. On July 13 we featured Barry Calpino, Conagra Brands’ new Vice President of Innovation. Barry is the first of many Chicago leaders we are highlighting as we aim to shape the future of Chicago’s regional food and beverage industry.
One of the many insightful things Barry shared with us was the idea of focusing on a few key items in order to be great. He personally shared with us the story of Mark Parker, Nike’s CEO and chairman, as an example of this concept.
After being named CEO in 2006, Mark called one of his buddies for some sound business advice. As a fellow innovator and extremely respected man in the industry, Mark’s friend gave him some invaluable advice that would help him earn the title of one of the “most creative CEOs” of his time.
The friend was Steve Jobs. He simply told Mark at Nike to “just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
As innovators, this is extremely hard to do. Our minds constantly fill with new ideas. Our inherent tenacity eventually makes it difficult for us not to see each idea through.
This, unfortunately, is why many businesses fail. It’s impossible to do a ton of things really well. There’s power in just focusing on less, knocking those few things out of the park.
Barry explained how he had the pleasure of working with some amazing companies over his career where innovation was ingrained in their culture. As diverse as these companies are from industry to size, they all shared one goal. They all want the same thing: to make products that make people's lives better. Products that are worth standing in line for.
Barry and the ConAgra team is an example of some of the exciting things happening here in our city. Not only are they committed to brand product evolution, but they’re doing this in one of the best cities in the country: Chicago.
Chicago has a lot of exciting things going on in the food and beverage space. We’re the blend of two coasts and have the best of both the established and the new. This creates the perfect atmosphere for inspiration, but also an increased difficulty to solely “focus on the good stuff.”
We launched the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network with the goal of driving innovative growth by bringing together the region’s stakeholders. With more than 4,500 food and beverage companies that call Chicagoland home, the sheer size and investment in Chicago by our industry requires an investment on our part to foster the talent and expertise that resides in the area.
One of these local talents is Barry Calpino, Conagra Brands Vice President of Innovation. We had the pleasure of hearing him speak during our inaugural Innovation Breakfast Series on July 13th. Barry is the first of many Chicago leaders we will highlight as we aim to shape the future of Chicago’s regional food and beverage industry.
With the astronomical amount of growth and constant shifting occurring in our industry, Barry says it’s important for innovators in the Chicago food and beverage industry to remain focused on doing the following three things:
1. Don’t Forget the Chefs
Tech is the hot, ‘it’ word. Technology is constantly changing the way consumers shop, how they find out about products, how they rate products. However, we can’t forget the actual food. Twenty years from now everyone is still going to need and want to eat food, still bond over it. Food can fill us with emotions; it’s powerful. Let’s take the time to visit restaurants and see what they’re doing. Chicago chefs are doing innovative things - just as much as tech people are.
2. Immerse Yourself in Inspiration
Barry said ConAgra is nestled in the middle of downtown Chicago for one reason. Inspiration. From the local talent to the vast network of industry partners. “Opening our doors to inspiration is vital to fueling growth and innovation within our companies,” says Barry.
3. Be Flexible
Consumers constantly drive change in our industry. The lifeblood of any company should be adaptability. “At ConAgra for example, they’re making their center store products so interesting and engaging that consumers will buy them in the store and online. In order to remain relevant, we have to adapt to the trends of the time,” adds Barry.
As innovators, we have to become comfortable with the idea that positive outcomes are not always possible. There will be some failures along the way. And that’s okay. Each failure hopefully gets us closer to that next, big idea that will change lives for the better.
Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network
1 W Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
Tel (312) 525-9653