Member News & Headlines Blog

  • 7 Jul 2021 12:28 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Back in our March 2020 newsletter, I shared a quote from Pope Francis that I hoped would spur much-needed optimism.  However, as the world begins to re-opens, I find it especially appropriate to revisit:

    “Tonight before falling asleep think about when we will return to the street. When we hug again, when all the shopping together will seem like a party. Let's think about when the coffees will return to the bar, the small talk, the photos close to each other. We think about when it will be all a memory but normality will seem an unexpected and beautiful gift. We will love everything that has so far seemed futile to us. Every second will be precious. Swims at the sea, the sun until late, sunsets, toasts, laughter. We will go back to laughing together. Strength and courage."

    On this same theme, I’d also like to commend our CFBN member Mars Wrigley for their Extra Gum “When It’s Time” advertising that so perfectly captures the joy of reconnecting. If you haven’t seen it, please click and take a look at its humorous and poignant take.

    In short, as Chicagoland, the country and the world opens, I hope that we can all take a moment to appreciate the important connections between us all, and to savor re-connecting with the people and the world around us. To assist with this, CFBN will begin returning to in-person events starting this September.  We truly can’t wait to see you all!  Stay tuned as we make the necessary updates and roll out the revised calendar of events through the end of this year and into 2022. 

    As transitioning events will take some time, we will continue to keep the network connected and growing through high quality virtual events.  We hope that you’ll continue to join us – in fact, next week’s Innovation Series: Taste the Trends -- Rebuilding & Reinventing is a perfect way to celebrate what we have learned from the pandemic and chart a course forward into the future.  Click below for details and registration.  We hope you’ll join us – and we look forward to reconnecting in-person in the very near future.

    Best Regards,

    Alan Reed

    CFBN Executive Director

  • 21 Jun 2021 3:45 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    The full re-opening of restaurants, cafes, and related foodservice businesses is at the heart of our cities and communities. Learn More, here

    The food and beverage industry was directly impacted by the rapid and unexpected changes in restaurant and at-home consumption over the past year. Now, with Chicago fully re-opening and the beautiful summer weather here, people are eager to dine out and excited to try unique flavors and food trends. As our industry continues to recover and re-engage to meet consumer demands, it is more important than ever to stay connected and informed with the latest news and trends.

    To provide you with the latest trends, we are excited to feature a lineup of industry experts at our upcoming Innovation Series event Taste the Trends: 2021 - Rebuilding & Reinventing. Join us to explore how evolving tastes, changing menus, and innovation across companies will help foodservice and the larger food industry rebuild in 2021 and beyond!

     * Reserve your tasting lunchbox highlighting the savory Farmer's Fridge Red Chile Braised Pork Bowl by Chef Rick Bayless and tasty chips and guacamole. Try these innovative menu items during our exclusive Fireside Taste and Chat with Farmer's Fridge CEO and Founder Luke Saunders

  • 14 Jun 2021 3:41 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Restaurant workforce insight 

    By Jodie Jacobs - Dining Out - Eating In

    Now that states are opening up businesses to inside visits and dining, restauranteurs are concerned about sufficient staffing and some diners are saying they understand but service is not not the same as pre pandemic.

    Restaurant Business’ Bottom Line newsletter spotlights data on the challenge and Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network’s Connection Series is addressing the issues in an upcoming virtual conference.

    According to data in a recent Bottom Line, the restaurant business “accounts for one out of every 10 jobs in the U.S.” and  that federal data just released said “the industry added 186,000 jobs in May,”  adding up to “one out of every three jobs the economy.”

    A check with restauranteurs in the Chicago area showed that they still had take out and delivery orders but more guests were returning for inside dining.

    CFBN panel at previous conference. (Photo from CFBN archives)

    CFBN panel at previous conference. (Photo from CFBN archives)

    To hear industry experts on the challenges of doing better than just surviving the changing economic and social aspects of eating in and dining out check the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network’s The Workforce Shift , June 15. from 8  to 9:30 AM CT. The conference looks at new employee and consumer expectations.

    Speakers include: 

    Greg Benefield, Managing Director, National Food & Beverage Segment Leader, Marsh

    Michael Fassnacht, Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago; President & CEO, World Business Chicago

    Lisa Johnson, Managing Director, Kincannon & Reed

    Babatu Short, Vice President of Human Resources, HARIBO of America, Inc.

    Margaret Sofio, Chief People Officer, Blommer Chocolate Company

    Followed by a choice of breakout sessions.

  • 3 Jun 2021 12:03 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Recent ransomware attacks have underscored that cybersecurity is a business issue, not an IT one. Now is a good time to check that your organization is implementing the right security measures to avoid or mitigate these sophisticated attacks.

    Read CohnReznick's list of steps that can help keep your systems, data, operations, and extended enterprise safe.


    Contact: Bhavesh Vadhani, Principal, National Director, Cybersecurity, Technology Risk, and Privacy 


  • 4 May 2021 3:39 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    There’s a new contender in the chicken sandwich wars but with a refreshing twist! Shake Shack introduced a Korean Style Fried Chick’n Sandwich, and in true #foodie form, the peeps at Dempsey Food went in face-first to investigate!

    Since Dempsey Food supplies authentic gochujang, kimchi and other Korean ingredients to food manufacturers, they took it upon themselves to provide their professional opinion on the big question: How is it?!

    Pretty interesting, huh?! Learn more, here.

  • 19 Apr 2021 12:49 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Lisa Demme

    Marketing Director – Thought Leadership FONA International,

    Vice Chair, Bigger Table

    For me, and I hope for you as well, this spring holds the promise of renewal and abundance.  I am honored to share a bit about the unique and valuable partnership that FONA International has with the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network and Bigger Table.  Through these partnerships we have been able to connect in a deeper and more meaningful way with both our industry and local communities.

    FONA’s founder, Joe Slawek, chartered our Cornerstone Membership with CFBN just before its launch 4 years ago.  CFBN’s mission of “driving inclusive food and beverage growth through industry collaboration” resonated with Joe from a business perspective.  CFBN’s inclusion of both large and small companies was a powerful concept because it’s rare to have the opportunity to positively impact and nurture entrepreneurial start-ups. This spoke to Joe’s own business story and success.

    Last year, just before our worlds changed with the COVID-19 pandemic, CFBN’s charitable arm Bigger Table was born.  A core team met virtually and decided to focus on one philanthropic initiative that could deliver a BIG impact to our local communities.  Thirteen companies participated in the pilot and proved that industry members can join together for a greater cause to collectively have a tremendous impact on the community.  Through donations of ingredients, formulation expertise, packaging, manufacturing line time and general industry knowledge, high-quality nutritious products were manufactured and delivered to local food banks and pantries to help support Chicagoland neighbors during this especially challenging time.

    No one in America should have to go hungry.  That’s why in 2021, Bigger Table has set sights on growing its reach and expanding food insecurity efforts.  We believe that by focusing on increasing our impact, we have the capacity to deliver at least 1.5 million servings in 2021 and up to six million servings in 2022, with delivery well beyond the Chicagoland area.  We are actively seeking companies and individuals that want to spread their generosity, support charitable efforts, and invest in a program that feeds both body and soul.

    Bigger Table goes beyond generosity – at FONA, we would call it generative.  It’s not just about giving but about generating – about creating. Together with our colleagues we are creating goodwill, creating value for the community, and creating bonds and unity with one another. I encourage you to reach out to me or any member of CFBN or Bigger Table to talk about how you might join in this incredible organizational effort focused on strengthening our communities and helping eradicate food insecurity.

    Like FONA and our partners at CFBN and Bigger Table, you can make a difference for your community, for our industry, and for families around Chicagoland. I invite you to join us.

  • 14 Apr 2021 4:21 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Pivot Energy deployed solar energy solutions at 23 Whole Foods locations, including the Richmond CA distribution center shown above.

    The Food and Beverage industry leads on sustainability. From regenerative agriculture practices to the industry's increased transparency at the grocery aisle, Food and Beverage companies understand that sustainability isn't just good for brand perception; it is a competitive advantage. However, one critical component doesn't align with Food and Beverage companies' sustainability plans: the fossil fuels powering their facilities. With consumer demand for green products and corporate leadership, Food and Beverage companies need to think beyond the shelves to stand out.

    The Business Case for Sustainability

    Numerous consumer studies cite the rising preference among purchasers for responsibly-sourced products and their positive impact on corporate profits. A recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute notes that “79% of consumers are changing their spending habits based on social responsibility, inclusiveness, or environmental impact.” A IBM and the National Retail Federation found survey found nearly 6 in 10 consumers surveyed were willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. Additionally, companies with sustainability offerings see accelerated growth, as noted by the Harvard Business Review.

    As proven by these studies and many others, it is evident that more and more consumers care about where and what they are spending their money on, including paying a premium for brands who deliver on environmental stewardship. With this in mind, it is important to take a holistic approach when incorporating sustainability in your brand, including the very source of energy that powers your company’s facilities.

    The Movement Towards “Green” Business Operations

    Food industry giants such as Danone, General Mills, and Nestle are taking critical steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from food production, which by some estimates, accounts for roughly a third of global GHG emissions. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't slowed the green pledges, with new commitments announced by AMD, ConAgra, Cargill, and more within the last year.

    Emission reduction efforts not only make for a differentiator in the grocery aisle, i.e., "this product was made in a facility powered 100% by clean energy," but companies can also achieve strong returns on investment for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. This reality has been touted by many in the industry, from Environmental Social Governance (ESG) reports and investor updates. Just as brands are investing in resiliency in the supply chain, energy upgrades build resiliency into business operations.

    Why Solar

    Solar Energy is a powerful solution for Food and Beverage companies seeking to market their sustainability initiatives to consumers while reducing operating costs for their facilities or offices.

    Investing in solar energy allows companies to take greater control of their bottom line and turn an electric expense into an asset. Every kilowatt-hour of energy produced by a solar array equates to one less unit of energy purchased from the utility, which is heavily reliant on carbon-intensive fuel sources. In addition, solar energy procurement is eligible for federal tax credits and incentives (location dependent) which accelerates project breakeven and increases returns. System owners benefit from the 26% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which equates to a 1:1 reduction in corporate tax liability. Add to this Bonus Accelerated Bonus Depreciation, these two tax vehicles alone equate to almost half of project costs recouped via tax vehicles. Additionally, many states and utilities offer incentive income atop of these benefits. These benefits make solar more accessible and are worth exploring now before some phase down.

    There has never been a better time to explore solar energy for your facility. In addition to operating cost savings and incentives, the drastic drop in system costs has largely plateaued. Meaning any additional brands stay on the sidelines waiting to invest, risk losing out on valuable financial benefits while continuing to pay increasingly expensive electric bills. Additionally, if a capital outlay is not feasible, third-party ownership structures like a Power Purchase Agreement (in which a financier receives all the incentive benefits and provides a Day 1 utility rate lower than the current utility rate) make solar more accessible. There are even options for offsite solar subscriptions if a facility is not suitable for onsite solar.

    Solar Energy offers a compelling investment and it is certainly the sort of company evolution worth sharing with your customers and employees. From packaging promotion to internal messaging, today’s solar energy procurers are proud to share they have made the switch to clean energy.

    Getting Started with Pivot Energy

    Pivot Energy is a turnkey solar developer with over 500 commercial and industrial projects nationwide. Connecting with a qualified developer like Pivot Energy ensures you have the expertise needed to properly understand your unique energy needs and effectively navigate your portfolio. Pivot is an experienced partner of the Food & Beverage industry, helping clients unlock the many benefits of solar energy. Reach out to our team today to get started with a free consultation to see how much you can save with solar!

    Author: Gerald Espinosa

    Contact:, 888.734.3033 x 709

  • 22 Mar 2021 10:54 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Increasing consumption has been a known pattern from the beginning of our history. Only recently, however, a new type of consumer has emerged the conscious consumer. This consumer is interested in the formulation of products, what values it carries and all the information about where the product came from.

    These label-readers are shaping the future of the food and beverage industry today. Up next, we will tell you who these people are and what’s important to them, along with a few tips on how to reach today’s consumers.

    What is a conscious consumer?

    SmartBrief came up with a series of articles designing four consumer archetypes that are shaping the F&B industry. In this content, we will focus on two of them: the health-conscious consumer and the eco-conscious consumer.

    These two archetypes often match the same person, but, to quote Melissa Abbott, vice president of Hartman Retainer Services at The Hartman Group, “today’s engaged, health-conscious consumer is increasingly reaching for items that promote gut health, good digestion, reduced inflammation, good neurological function and a healthy metabolism”.

    Eco-conscious consumers “are increasingly paying attention to how their food is produced and showing support for businesses that demonstrate care for the environment. From plant-based meat alternatives to waste initiatives and new packaging technologies, restaurants, consumer packaged goods manufacturers and food retailers are all investing in new, innovative ways to give eco-conscious consumers what they’re prioritizing in their food choices”, according to Audrey Altmann, from SmartBrief.

    But why is it important to know these two archetypes and build strategies to get to them? According to Nielsen, is expected that by 2021 sustainable-minded consumers in the U.S. will spend $150 billion on sustainable products.

    How to reach today’s consumers

    Considering the amount that today's consumers are expected to spend to purchase products aligned with their values, it’s important to draw strategies to reach them.

    Where does food come from?

    That’s the question consumers ask when choosing what to take home. According to a survey by Menu Matters, consumers want nutrition information to be easy to find, as they want to know if the product is fresh and safe and if helps them eat better.

    Maeve Webster, from Menu Matters, says that: “additionally, consumers want to understand more about the food, including where it was manufactured, where the ingredients were sourced, and other more emotionally or ethically focused information like company values and practices.”

    Therefore, provide labels with relevant information for your consumers in a clear way. The same survey shows that even though labels were redesigned to make information easier to find, only 7% of manufacturers are doing an excellent job at providing that information, so there’s room for improvement.

    Get your house in order

    We know that quality assurance is responsible for monitoring the entire food production process, ensuring that technical specifications are met, as well as making contact with stakeholders and collecting, storing, and monitoring suppliers' documentation. In short, a lot of work.

    A software that helps manage vendor documentation, automating this work, can give quality assurance professionals time to bring improvements to production and be in line with what today's consumers value: information.

    Otrafy is an AI-powered supplier management system that manages and optimizes supplier quality assurance. It provides actionable insights to mitigate vendor-associated supply chain risks. Otrafy also allows users to ditch other tools, such as excel and email.

    But more than that, Otrafy helps you collect the data consumers want in a readable format with Otraforms. Otrafy does not believe in the “one form to rule them all” theory.  Thereby you have the chance to apply all sorts of personalized fields to your Otraforms. Each Otraform field is designed to maximize vendor onboarding efficiency.

    These added features mean fewer files, data centralization, and more convenience all in a single interface. It’s the perfect tool for an environment with growing regulatory requirements and more demanding consumers.

    Reach out to to know more about us and what we can do for your business.

  • 24 Feb 2021 4:21 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)


    MEDIA CONTACT:  Anna Briggs Pirila, Bigger Table, (c) 207.602.9545,


    Local Food and Beverage Leaders Collaborate to Build a Bigger Table and Healthier Community 

    CHICAGO, IL. – Thirteen companies throughout Chicagoland worked with new nonprofit Bigger Table to address food insecurity, with the creation of a low-sugar, high-protein cocoa mix. In its first year, Bigger Table has identified opportunities, within the food and beverage industry, for innovative philanthropic paths to donate consumer-ready product where and when it is needed most.

    “We have seen an unprecedented number of Chicago area residents who are facing food insecurity, in part from the difficulties brought on by the pandemic,” said Alan Reed, Director of Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network (CFBN) and Bigger Table. “Throughout this project, we aim to address food insecurity, serve our community, and provide needed warmth during this cold winter. Our partner companies have once again assembled to create a delicious, healthy, high quality cocoa, made specifically to donate to local food banks and pantries.”

    As a nonprofit organization, Bigger Table brings together industry leaders to respond to the needs of communities struggling with food insecurity, with the creation of unique, nutritional products. The hot cocoa mix is made of ingredients donated by local food and beverage companies. The tasty, nutrient-rich, no added sugar, 7g of protein and 2g of fiber per serving cocoa satisfies both taste and nutritional needs. Distribution of the 300,000 servings will go to Beyond Hunger, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Parents for Peace and Justice, and The New 26th Ward.

    All hot cocoa ingredients, time, and labor were in-kind contributions by participating organizations: ADM, Bader Rutter, CoreFX, ConnectFood, Coyle Print Group, Dairy Farmers of America, Edlong, FONA International, Imbibe, Lithotype Co., Olam Cocoa, Sweetener Supply, and Proven Partners Group which is responsible for product manufacturing. 

    “This is a groundbreaking collaboration in the food and beverage industry,” said Andy Dratt, Chairman of Bigger Table. “We’ve created a unique platform for designing and producing food products that immediately and directly address food insecurity, and we hope to dramatically expand our reach over the coming years.” On the horizon, Bigger Table is in the process of planning and creating other products including high-protein vegetable chili, macaroni and cheese, and snack bars. All products will be produced in the same collaborative effort and donated to community food banks, pantries, and partners.

    ABOUT BIGGER TABLE: Bigger Table is a nonprofit (501c3) organization founded by the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network. It 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

    ABOUT CHICAGOLAND FOOD AND BEVERAGE NETWORK: CFBN is a regional food & beverage membership organization representing a rich variety of industry leaders, from established professionals to budding entrepreneurs. CFBN boasts a vibrant and growing membership of companies interested in connecting and learning from others and building the industry in Chicagoland. It brings people together for networking opportunities, to brainstorm great ideas, to collaborate and create to grow business.


  • 28 Jan 2021 9:59 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

     Joel WaradyCFBN Chairman & President of Catalina Crunch.

    I trust the year has started out well for all of you. As is always the case with a new year, it is an opportunity to start fresh, set new and attainable goals, and put as much of last year behind us as we commence 2021.

    For those of you who know me, I’m genuinely an optimistic person. I believe that there is a solution for every problem, an answer for every question, and ultimately, we tend to overcome the obstacles that we face. I’ve never felt this more than I do now as we enter this year and it is especially true for the Food & Beverage industry.

    While we are encouraged by the fact that the vaccination process has started, we also recognize that the initiative has experienced a slow start and it is going to take us some time before 70% of the population has been vaccinated. This means that the eating at home trend will continue through Q3, and those companies that have benefited from increased meal consumption at home will continue to enjoy this uptick in revenue for the majority of 2021.

    That said, both Foodservice and Restaurants will start to see their numbers go up as more people return to the office, and we get closer to herd immunity. The back half of the year should see significant increase in away-from-home consumption, and that will include restaurants, corporate cafeterias, as well as hotels and airport stores as an increasingly larger segment of the population feels comfortable traveling.

    Another positive trend worth mentioning is the early indication that M&A as well as growth investments will continue to be made in the Food & Beverage category. In Chicago alone, we have already seen FONA Flavors successfully be acquired by McCormick, and Mondelez started the year with the acquisition of healthy startup Hu Master Holdings. Early indication is that this is the start of a very active year when it comes to Food & Beverage transactions.

    I remain extremely bullish on the food and beverage category, and it truly is a great time to be in this space, in this city, surrounded by industry experts and professionals who are members of this great organization, CFBN. Let’s all work together as we are sure to deliver a great 2021!

    Joel Warady

    CFBN Chairman

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