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  • 20 Apr 2023 12:00 PM | Mayra Cruz (Administrator)

    The 6th Midwest Food Matters Leadership Awards Gala on May 9th, 2023 will bring together leaders, suppliers and service providers from the many faces of the food industry for an evening of networking and to celebrate the impact, accomplishments and bright promise for the future of the food industry in the Midwest.

    Whether you're an industry member, service provider or supplier to food companies, this promises to be a memorable evening of renewing friendships and making new connections for global business opportunities.

    All net proceeds from this non-profit initiative will support the important industry-focused non-profits, including the critical mission of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the innovative food industry support and development programs of Global Midwest Alliance.

  • 14 Sep 2022 1:33 PM | Johanna Seidel

    The chain restaurant business is one of the most significant segments in foodservice. Technomic’s Top 1500 chains, for example, will deliver nearly $400B of the total $569B in restaurant and bar sales projected in 2022.*

    DMA (Distribution Market Advantage) delivers customized distribution solutions to top chains on behalf of the nation’s leading, privately-held, foodservice-focused distributors. This unique position in the industry offers a behind the scenes view of what’s happening in this highly complex supply chain.

    • In spite of inflation, consumers continue to dine out and the country’s supply chain continues to be stretched. Technomic projects Fast Casual restaurants to grow sales 2.2% and Fine Dining establishments to jump 6.9% in 2022!**
    • Manufacturers are recovering from historically low fill rates into distribution – but are still not 100%. Many have converted available production capacity to grocery items from foodservice skus as well, prolonging supply challenges in this channel.

    This leads to one of the biggest issues confronting chains today: distribution capacity.

    Physical warehouse space has filled with extra inventory to assure operators’ supply, while drivers and equipment continue to be challenging to source. The implications to chains are:

    • Increased cost to serve from distributor partners
    • Less flexibility to offer unique, proprietary menu items
    • Challenges executing limited time offers
    So what’s a chain to do? Successful chains (and independents as well) are adapting by increasing focus on (and visibility to) their Supply Chain partners:
    • Plan new items and LTOs as far in advance as possible.
    • Convene all parties – from ingredient supplier through manufacturer to the distributor.
    • Deliver analytics – visibility to timely data has never been more important.
    • Communicate constantly – collaboration to solve challenges, rather than assigning blame to failures will drive successful execution.

    2023 is projected to be a strong year for all commercial foodservice segments. What are you doing to prepare your supply chain to deliver the best solutions?

    *Technomic Top 1500 Chains Report, August 2022
    **Technomic 2022-23 Wallchart, August 2022

  • 4 May 2022 8:22 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    • With consumer price inflation reaching new heights in March (8.5% year over year), there continues to be much media and newswire discussion on the impact of inflation on buyers – particularly those on low or modest incomes. Media stories sometimes cite surveys of sentiment that show consumers are inclined to cut back in response to higher prices. 

      But people don’t always do what they say or want to do – sentiment is not the same as action. Fortunately, the hard data doesn’t support all the gloom. In short, despite clear signs of inflation, there are some good reasons to be cheerful about the economy. 

       1.     Bank of America card spending was strong in March and is looking good in April

    • Bank of America propriety data showed solid 11% YoY card spending in March. And in the very latest data we are seeing this strength continuing into April, with solid growth in card spending and even stronger growth in other payment channels.  Net: No sign of recession here.    

       2.     The labor market is stronger than it appears for low-income groups. While inflation is strong so is employment and labor income. The overall US labor market looks strong, with the unemployment rate dropping to 3.6% in March and hourly wage growth at 5.6% YoY. But beneath this already rosy picture, the story is even better at the lower end of the wage distribution.

    • 3.     Cash in the Bank.   Lower-income households appear to still have substantially higher deposit balances relative to pre-pandemic periods. When we look at savings and checking balances of households with incomes below $50K, we find they have at least $1,500 more than at the start of 2019. To put that in perspective, this figure is more than 5% of this income group’s average household spending in 2019. So, Bank of America does not find it too surprising that this group is not reacting as adversely in their card spending data to higher prices as one might assume from reading media stories.

    •  4.     Card spending shows momentum with robust consumer spending spanning all income groups. We see prices rising in key areas:  

    • a.     Spending on leisure is back. Bank of America credit and debit card spending has rebounded strongly in travel and leisure activities since the ebbing of the omicron wave. Airline spending was 91% higher YoY, while restaurant spending rose by 17%. Spending on leisure appears to be normalizing, after a long period during the pandemic when spending on goods was favored over that on services.
      b.     Card spending on gasoline was 41% higher than the same period a year earlier. The surge in global oil prices is most of the story here and, even though oil prices have dropped back of late, the ongoing war in Ukraine is keeping them high. At the end of March, weekly retail gasoline prices (all grades) had risen to $4.34 a gallon, a full 96 cents higher than where they started the year.
      c.     Food prices are rising sharply. Food price inflation has also been rising sharply, with annual inflation for food at 7.9% in February. Geopolitics is a factor here too, with soft commodity prices rising sharply on world markets this year. For example, wheat prices, where Ukraine is a major exporter, are around 30% higher than at the start of the year.

    We thank the team at Bank of America for their terrific insights and information.  For additional reading, check out the articles below. 

    *Excerpted from Bank of America Institute “Three Reasons to be Cheerful,” April 13, 2022 and  “Consumers Weathering the Storm of Higher Prices,”: April 6, 2022.

  • 18 Mar 2022 6:58 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    From Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) to curbside pickup, the e-commerce trends that many of us have come to love are a convenience that experts say are here to stay. The pandemic caused an overnight disruption to the typical retail space and evolved the way we shop. The online shopping space is no longer held solely by the giants of e-commerce, but now start-ups to mid-size food and beverage companies are finding their share of retail “space”.  

    According to Adobe Insights, groceries now comprise of 8.9% of the total e-commerce market, spending $74.7 billion in the digital grocery market and projected to spend $85 billion this year. For some customers e-commerce saves time and is more efficient while others may prefer to shop from bed or home. Regardless of the reason, our industry must take note and act fast as the F&B market space for e-commerce is projected to be the fasted growing online sales category over the next several years.

    From the vantage point of marketing, retail, and distribution to supply chain technology - our industry’s landscape is rapidly changing. It’s an exciting time to be in food and beverage, especially as consumers embrace their new digital shopping habits. Be prepared for what’s to come and ensure your company sees an increases in online sales. Join CFBN and Fifty Gazelles for our upcoming Innovation Series Event E-Commerce Has Come of Age to take a closer look at e-commerce and what it means for our industry’s future.

    We'd like to give a shoutout to a few of our Chicago-based favorites who have been showing up and rocking the e-commerce space. Think we should add a company to the list? Let us know!

  • 16 Mar 2022 10:49 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    CFBN Board Chair Andria Long sat down with our Communications Lead Anna Briggs Pirila to discuss the consumer and company trends the food and beverage industry has seen this year. This article provides a summary of the key trends that we see are impacting our industry.

    Safety continues to be a top priority for consumers. As the pandemic continues, businesses will need to continue to showcase their commitment to keeping their products and operations covid-safe. Small gestures -- such as having hand sanitizer readily available and employees wearing masks -- go a long way with consumers. Some consumers are even willing to make temporary trade-offs on sustainability benefits to ensure that products are safe: a great example is the rise of individually packaged single-use items. 

    The pandemic has driven more flexible shopping options for consumers. Brands now have to pivot as they cater to the new shopping experience. More recognizable brands will have to shift the money they spend on in-store marketing to more online efforts. However, niche brands have already been savvy about utilizing social media to highlight their products to consumers.

    The out-of-stock supply of some major brands has allowed consumers to try other options. The products that serve consumers' needs better will become the new staples in their homes. With the rising trend of being able to quickly re-order last week's grocery list, the competition to be the consumers' go-to product is fiercer than ever.

    Immediate buying options becoming more prominent in advertising. For example, a commercial might have a QR code to the product's website. On Amazon Prime Video, some ads have an option to add the displayed product directly into your Amazon shopping cart.

    A key value of CFBN during the pandemic is the sharing of best practices.  Andria Long believes that CFBN provides a forum for sharing the learnings that each company, small and large, has figured out along the way. Andria shared an example about organizations engaging in drive-up consumer tests - an innovative way to make food testing covid-safe - being an example of something she hadn't yet considered.

    Today, no business has a playbook for these unprecedented times. So, hearing about the learnings from industry leaders and innovative brands is invaluable.  Join CFBN at upcoming events (see below) to maximize the value of your membership!

  • 28 Feb 2022 6:37 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Pioneering innovative ways to address hunger by creating high quality, nutritious foods

    CHICAGO, IL. - February 28, 2022 – Nonprofit Bigger Table and eight companies throughout Chicagoland joined forces to fight food insecurity with the creation of high-fiber, high-protein almond chocolate bars. Working closely with food banks and pantries, Bigger Table develops, creates, and provides new, nutrient-rich foods to address specific needs of community partners.

    "We're grateful to partner with Bigger Table and receive these nutritious protein bars. Donated, high quality protein has been especially hard to come by during the pandemic, and our network is always looking to fill that need for our neighbors,” says Liz Gentile, Director of Food Procurement at Northern Illinois Food Bank. “Our thanks to Bigger Table for stepping up for our community."

    Bigger Table identifies opportunities within the food and beverage industry for innovative philanthropic work. Bigger Table is creating new ways to donate consumer-ready product where and when it is needed most. Distribution of the 73,000 bars will go to five Chicagoland partner organizations dedicated to reducing food insecurity in their community: Northern Illinois Food Bank, Blessings in a Backpack, Fight to Feed, Humans for Hope, and Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry.

    “I'm just happy Bigger Table exists. It is answering a need that no one else is. They are collaborating not only with these local manufacturers, but also food pantries. It is just an awesome thing," said Shannon Cameron, Executive Director of the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry.

    All protein bar ingredients, time, and labor were in-kind contributions donated by local companies that are part of Chicagoland’s food & beverage eco-system: ADM, Blommer Chocolate, Coyle Print Group, Glanbia Nutritionals, GlobalTranz, Imbibe, National Foodworks Services, ofi Cocoa, and ofi Edible Nuts. The tasty, nutrient-rich, no added sugar bars contain 18g of protein and 10g of fiber per serving.  The delicious chocolate bar satisfies both taste and nutritional needs.

    “Glanbia Nutritionals was pleased to partner with Bigger Table and the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network on this effort and donate healthy ingredients for the protein bars,” said Wilf Costello, Chief Marketing Officer of Glanbia Nutritionals. “Delivering better nutrition for every step of life’s journey is our mission and supporting food banks and groups such as Blessings in a Backpack when they are facing such an increased need, really brings that mission to life.”

    ABOUT BIGGER TABLE: Bigger Table is a nonprofit (501c3) organization founded by the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network. Bigger Table aims to bring together the area’s food & beverage industry to collaborate and deliver on a series of charitable and economic growth initiatives. By working together, Bigger Table believes it can work more effectively, have a bigger impact on the community, and better engage employees and the communities it serves. For more information about Bigger Table, please visit


    BIGGER TABLE MEDIA CONTACT:  Anna Briggs Pirila,, (c) 207.602.9545

  • 7 Feb 2022 1:43 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Chicago’s flagship VC & startup conference will evolve as the city’s inaugural event focused on Chicago’s thriving food & ag innovation ecosystem

    CHICAGO –  Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined World Business Chicago (WBC) to announce the expansion of the Chicago Venture Summit series with a Future-of-Food event this May 25-26, 2022. The city’s inaugural food innovation conference will return to 167 Green in Chicago’s Fulton Market District. As the city’s flagship investor and startup conference – the Chicago Venture Summit connects local founders with VCs from across the country, invites investors and corporate leaders to explore the city’s startup & innovation ecosystem, and promotes Chicago as a global destination for founders, innovators, and investors.

    WBC is proud to announce Cleveland Avenue, Ferrero, Ingredion, JLL, JP Morgan Private Bank, P33, and Quaker Foods as presenting sponsors for the 2022 Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food event. Innovation sponsors include SRS Acquiom and Valor Equity Partners. Startup sponsors include 2112, Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, Clique Studios, Food Foundry, Supply Change Capital, The Hatchery, and TSX & TSX Venture Exchange. Venture Partners include Bluestein Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, Lofty Ventures, and Sandbox Sustainability Ventures. 

    Read more, here

  • 21 Jan 2022 9:04 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    We at CFBN are getting a quick start in 2022 with lots of new and exciting happenings. First, we are thrilled to welcome the new Chair of our Board of Directors, Andria Long. 

    Andria has driven profitable growth for both public and private family-owned companies and now leverages her operating experience from 7 Fortune 1000 companies to be a strategic advisor and Board Director. She is an asset for businesses, owners and executives seeking guidance on driving revenue and people growth by quickly identifying insights and connections and translating them into strategic growth opportunities. We look forward to working with Andria to continue our innovative work at the Network.

    We would also like to take the time to thank our outgoing Board Chair, Joel Warady. It has been quite a tumultuous two years with the pandemic in the background, but Joel's dedication and commitment to our network was unwavering. We are appreciative of the strategic leadership he offered the Network and look forward to having him stay on as a continuing member of our Board!

    As we look ahead to 2022, we have some important upgrades in store for our members -- we just offered our first successful hybrid (in person and virtual) event, we are in the midst of rolling out a brand new look for our website, and we are working from our new West Loop office space at the CoLaboratory. Keep an eye out for updates on all these exciting happenings.

  • 18 Jan 2022 6:15 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Logistics issues and a cyberattack have made cream cheese hard to come by. Add it to the list of ingredients and supplies restaurants and food makers find difficult to source right now. By Katherine Davis

    Alan Reed, executive director of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, says food shortages are the new normal.

    “When we talk about supply chain challenges, this is just an example of the kinds of things that food and beverage companies are dealing with all the time now,” Reed says. “Supply chains are just different.”

    The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network has about 500 members, which include Kraft Heinz, Kellogg and Tyson, as well as local food startups like Farmer’s Fridge and Simple Mills. Reed says he’s heard from members across size and niche that they’ve had issues sourcing several ingredients over the last several months. Besides cream cheese, other hard-to-find foods over the last year include beans, sugar and chocolate, he says.

    Reed blamed supply chain issues on labor shortages and what he called a “changing definition of work” in manufacturing industries.

    “I hear from a lot of companies that it’s really hard to get somebody to work over the weekend or work on third shift,” Reed says. “There’s both good and bad to that. There’s a shift back to making sure that workers have everything they need and a little bit of work-life balance. In some ways, that’s healthy, but we’re a culture that’s not used to that.”

    The change in work habits is forcing businesses to alter how and when they order ingredients form manufacturers. As opposed to ordering ingredients on a just-in-time schedule, procurement teams should start planning and ordering further in advance, and branching out to new suppliers, Reed says. Sourcing ingredients locally could also help businesses avoid delays, he added.

    “Every once in a while, until things adjust, we’re going to have outages,” Reed says. “The supply chains we have are quite fragile.”

    Read more, here

  • 30 Nov 2021 11:44 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

     Central Illinois Food Bank Executive Director Pam Molitoris, National Foodworks Services President Matt Dausman, ADM Technical Director Leda Strand - Examining the protein bars (photo courtesy of Central Illinois Food Bank)

    Through Bigger Table’s partnership with Feeding America and its member the Central Illinois Food Bank, 40,000 bars were recently provided to help meet food insecurity needs in Illinois’ capital region. The next round of bars is slated for Chicago-area food banks and pantries.

    Thank you to ADM for its leadership on this effort, and thanks to Blommer Chocolate, Coyle Print Group, Glanbia Nutritionals, Imbibe, Olam Cocoa, and Olam Edible Nuts for their donations and work on this project.

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