Since launching three years ago, the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network has sought to make the region the “the Silicon Valley of food and beverage” by cultivating the kind of collaborative culture that made the Bay Area a hotbed of tech innovation.
This year, the group upped the ante with a project that pushed companies that normally might compete for business to instead put their heads together to create a product for a good cause.
In partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, a group of nearly a dozen food companies created a low-sugar, high-protein hot chocolate, produced entirely with donated ingredients and know-how, for distribution to food pantries. Read more here.
"Crain's Notable Women in Manufacturing spotlights 34 accomplished professionals who are making a difference in the traditionally male-dominated field. Some hold senior positions at large, publicly traded companies such as Caterpillar, Federal Signal and Snap-on. Others are running small fabricators and machine shops, modernizing enterprises started by their parents or grandparents. They represent expertise in engineering and manufacturing processes as well as in logistics and global transportation, data and technology, packaging and trade.
Virtually all advocate for bringing more women into the field at a time of skilled labor shortages. Some are involved in exposing middle and high school girls to STEM fields. Others work on recruiting women to the field and training them in shop-floor skills and advancing them to managerial positions. They mentor women one-on-one and support employee resource groups and professional associations. Manufacturing, they say, is no longer a male-only domain."
Access the article here.
In Case You Missed It!
On February 26th, 2020 the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network hosted the Founders Series event in partnership with CA Fortune and Datassential. The series returned to explore data and analytics and the following guiding questions:
We gained insights from:
Thank you to everyone who attended and joined conversations and networked. For photos from the event please visit our photo gallery here.
Members can access the presentations shared in your Member Perks.
MudLrk Snacks, maker of whole food, plant-based, crunchy snacks, with compostable packaging including flavored mushroom crisps and jackfruit crisps was chosen from more than a hundred applicants from the U.S. and Canada, to participate in the 2020 PepsiCo. North American Greenhouse Accelerator.
Ten startups were chosen and each awarded $20,000 to take part in the six-month business development program, where each founder is strategically paired with two mentors across PepsiCo. to grow and optimize their business models.
At the conclusion of the program, one company will be selected to receive an additional $100,000 grant. Trace Ostergren, Founder of MudLrk Snacks is very fortunate and excited to have been asked to participate. He's especially excited to leverage the experience and expertise of his mentors to build an even stronger foundation for sustainable growth.
For the last decade, leading market research firms from Mintel and HealthFocus to Innova Market Insights, among others, have all identified the clean label movement as a top consumer and food industry trend. Over this period, this key trend has evolved. In the beginning, the focus was on replacing obviously artificial or chemical-sounding ingredients with ones that were more familiar and/or natural-sounding to consumers.
As consumer preferences change and new multifunctional and on-trend clean label ingredients emerge, the challenge to formulate more consumer-acceptable clean label products will continue. However, consumers are also widening the concept of what it means to be “clean label.” Their demands for supply chain transparency, sustainability, emphasis on plant-based foods and awareness of chemical hazards are increasing.
As a leading provider of intelligence on this fundamental trend, the 7th Annual 2020 Clean Label Conference, March 25-26, 2020 in Itasca, Ill., provides food and beverage company food scientists/product developers a compelling program.
The only real expert of a product is the consumer of that product.
Left and right you are seeing major CPG brands swapping their tried and true packaging with more sustainable alternatives. But how do they ensure consumer acceptance? The perception is that if you simply swap your packaging with something non-plastic, consumers will be all in. However, reality is, countless variables go into the success of a swap and it’s far more complex than simply picking an eco-friendly material. Once a decision has been made to reinvent your product in some way, the question posed is if the change will provide your customers with the same experience, while also feeding their social need to live in a more environmentally conscious way. But is this perception the reality of sustainability?
The only way to find this out is by connecting with your consumers. Perceptions are the insights gained only by truly understanding your consumers as they connect with and use your product in-context, in their real life.
When it comes to your consumers and their drivers of motivation for selecting to buy your product off the shelf it goes far beyond slapping on a sustainable packaging label. Digging deep and exploring the sensory functions and ergonomic characteristics of a new package launch can uncover the key attributes that are most important to drive consumers purchase intent and securing repeat purchase. People want to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves when making a purchase, as if they are contributing to the social wellbeing of their world, their environment, their community. That feeling we strive to induce, can be uncovered through insights gained around what sustainability means to them in their element. Uncovering feelings around everything from how the product looks on the shelf, to how it opens once we’ve brought it home, and how it is disposed, matters.
Is the non-plastic alternative durable enough to replicate the consumer’s current experience? “In a study recently ran by Curion, we were able to provide our clients with actionable insights around overall liking of design, ease of recyclability, product carrying comfortability, ease of purchase, and in-context package performance. Curion’s client was able to conclude that when it came to updating the packaging of their multi packaged beverages to a more sustainable option, based on in-store experience and ease of at home removal of the beverages, consumers preferred a complete redesign over a simple swap of materials ”
By including consumers in your journey, you can ensure they will be equally accepting of your product and brand, and not just following the perception of a movement to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
Join us at the next CFBN event on March 12th, where Curion’s SVP of Product and Partnership Solutions, Andrew Livermore, will share our approach into how we gain insights from your consumers with our proven methodologies.
Innovation is finding its way into the food and beverage space this year in unique ways, largely focused on solving important problems in the world and the lives of its consumers. Looking to 2020 and beyond, we see innovation continuing in 4 key areas.
A craving for customization
Consumer interest in customized solutions will continue to drive the evolution of products at a flavor, ingredient and cause level. Consumers continue to look for quality products that support causes they believe in, while also allowing them to explore flavors and ingredients that meet their needs and preferences. This demand for customization has fueled the rise of startups like Mod Pizza and Brassica, which are finding success in offering customized options for consumers interested in exploring flavors and ingredients. We believe we’ll continue to see startups with unique ideas, flavors and concepts like these thrive.
As consumers also continue to explore personalized diet concepts, opportunities to innovate will grow. Companies will continue to look for unique ingredients to create great tasting products that align with keto, paleo, gluten-free or low-glycemic diets. We are seeing companies utilize ingredients like protein-rich collagen and low-glycemic sweeteners like allulose to create unique offerings. As this trend continues, delivering novel products will be key in differentiating in the marketplace. Nurturing these groundbreaking ideas and helping startups scale and thrive is also essential.
Focusing in on flavors
When it comes to meeting consumer demand for experiencing new flavors—particularly deeply authentic one —companies can’t afford to stand still. We are seeing the breadth and depth of consumer interest in sampling new flavors only increase. This includes global cuisines, particularly those that are chef-inspired and bring deeply authentic, often very regional, tastes to a consumer base that enjoys new experiences. We believe we’ll continue to see these chef-inspired innovations drive consumer interest.
As consumer curiosity continues, it’s essential to stay connected to trends and flavors that excite and interest them. This connection will be the lifeblood of companies that thrive—doing the work to explore new restaurants, travel, work with ingredient suppliers and connect with those in the industry at incubators like The Hatchery. We know consumers are open to food and flavor exploration more than ever, particularly when dietary and cause-driven, so an essential question to remaining relevant is, “What’s the next problem to be solved for consumers?”
Connecting with cause-driven consumers
As climate change drives consumer interest in sustainability, demand for healthier, more sustainable products will continue. This new level of consumer consciousness around lowering their environmental impact means not only an interest in items that taste good, but in knowing they are doing good by consuming them. Consumers look for sustainable packaging and love the stories behind those who produce their food and drink options.
This growing interest in sustainability is driving companies to look for more efficient protein options, which means a continued explosion of interest in plant-based protein. As consumer preferences shift, plant-based meat alternatives will continue to be a focus of innovation. In fact, a UBS report predicts the plant-based market will grow from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion by 2030. We believe this estimate could be conservative if innovation and consumer awareness continue to drive more consumption. This will drive a continued interest in pioneering new and unique sources of protein as we look to meet the demand for more efficient protein options.
Plant protein production
As the world’s population grows, a key question we’re all asking is, “How are we going to supply protein?” Finding sustainable and innovative ways to produce protein remains a focus. This means leveraging ingredients—like watermelon seed, pumpkin, peas, chickpeas and numerous others—to use their unique flavors, textures and qualities to create plant-based products analogous to familiar meat-based items that consumers love. Finding new protein sources and improving flavors, textures and processing to create better products will be important. Consumers continue to respond to improved plant-based products, which means continued demand.
Success in creating plant-based alternatives to burgers, chicken, and sausages has led to further interest in developing new products—from plant-based fish to researching ways to create meat from cultivated animal cells. More than $16 billion has been invested in U.S. plant-based and cell-based meat companies in the past decade, with $13 billion of it in 2017 and 2018, according to The Good Food Institute. These investments will fuel innovation to help alleviate demand on the environment and offer more efficient ways to produce protein the world needs and wants. As new applications are developed, we’ll also see more recipe and flavor exploration as well as new and novel products that differentiate themselves in the marketplace and are tailored to appeal to a growing cause-driven consumer market.
An eye for innovation
While we certainly can make predictions regarding the food and beverage industry this year, it’s essential to keep a keen eye on the horizon for trends and innovations. Remaining connected to Chicago’s rich history of food and flavor innovation as well as its tremendous opportunities for synergy, resources and meaningful connections with one another can only help continue this legacy. Exposing ourselves to new environments, conversations and perspectives will enrich the work we all do and cultivate the possibility of pioneering new and novel ideas.
This article was submitted and written by JPG Resources.
About JPG - Whether your goal is to launch an innovative food brand or add a new revenue stream to your powerhouse CPG portfolio, JPG’s integrated end-to-end food business approach delivers go-to-market success. We believe that your final food product must work all the way through production, branding, promotion, sales, distribution and the full P&L – not just on a lab bench. Contact JPG here.
Food Business News & Sosland Publishing are looking for exciting new food and beverage start-ups to exhibit at their Food Entrepreneur Expo (August 26-27, 2020). This second annual event is a deep dive into “what’s new” and “what’s next” for the food and beverage industry. If you are interested in exhibiting as a start-up (early stage, pre-revenue, or later stage) - please contact Monic Watrous via email for application information. CFBN Member and want to attend? Visit your Member Perks area for more information and a 10% discount code off registration! Visit the full event listing here!
Since its launch almost 3 years ago, the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network has been focused on bringing together the food & beverage industry of Chicagoland. With 115 corporate members, almost 40 events in 2019, and the support and engagement of the Chicago’s amazing F&B players, CFBN has been growing quickly and filling a need for connection and innovation in the fast-changing food & beverage industry.
However, the organization has also been committed to something more – economic growth, community engagement, and inclusion across Chicagoland. In order to best serve this social impact mission, a sister organization called The Bigger Table has been formed. I’m proud to be leading this new nonprofit as its first Chairman and I believe that together we can work more effectively to have a bigger impact on the community, and better engage our employees and the communities we all serve.
Take a look at www.biggertable.org to learn more. I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am about the programs we’re building. The Collaborative Hunger Initiative is a new way to address food insecurity that taps into the power of companies collaborating in ways we’ve never seen before. The GrowChicago Seed Fund seeks to fill a gap in the funding of local women and minority food & beverage entrepreneurs. Finally, the Food & Beverage Manufacturing Workforce Development Program seeks to build a training program to connect the under- and unemployed to job opportunities in food & beverage manufacturing in the region.
It won’t be easy. But, nothing worthwhile ever is. I hope you’ll consider joining us in building a better Chicagoland. Together.
Andy Dratt, Chief Commercial Officer, Imbibe & Chairman, The Bigger Table
Corporations, businesses, and start-up brands alike are learning that “better” approaches to corporate governance – those that go beyond a singular focus and incorporate social and environmental factors - are not only important for corporations, but for our communities and improves the public’s faith and confidence in their corporate leaders.
This new focus on corporate social responsibility increases corporations’ responsibility and accountability to their stakeholders through commitments to environmental, social, or community investment. As a result, we’re seeing corporations increasingly place pressure on themselves to improve their best practices for social governance with the goal of enhancing their relationships with stakeholders – and their consumers. Ultimately, these efforts will be worthwhile, as they increase the corporation’s credibility and provide them with a competitive edge.
Join us in March to explore social governance and the impact that our companies can have on the communities we work, live, and build in. Bank of America is excited to host the first event in CFBN’s Finance Series – Investing in Your Community. Thought leaders from the food and beverage industry will join us to explore how companies are forging these new paths between business and social investment, and how your company or brand can embrace these ideas too. Bank of America is a long-time support of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, and is excited to help lead this bold conversation on the importance of the partnership between our companies, our customers, and our communities.
Susan Birnberg, Senior Vice President - Bank of America, Merrill Lynch
Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network
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