Member News & Headlines Blog

  • 13 Oct 2020 5:52 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)

    We have seen unimaginable transformations over the several weeks as a result of COVID-19. These changes have forced food and beverage companies to pivot, and to find innovative ways to support our communities and develop solutions to the many challenges that our industry is facing today. It is inspiring to see so many food and beverage companies exhibiting optimism and a new spirit of inventiveness to reinvent themselves and help local communities where they can.  We are pleased to be able to highlight just a few examples...

    Elise Tresley, CEO/Co-Founder of mēle stated “We decided this wasn’t a time to pull back, this was a time to step-up. Once we made sure our team was healthy and safe, we asked ourselves how we could help”. CFBN Member mēle formed a task-force to address problems they were seeing in the healthcare industry. The team at mēle was able to connect hospitals to companies in their network that were vetted COVID-19 suppliers, investigate alternatives to food service equipment shortages at hospitals, and donate their own mēle products to hospitals in various states. They launched SPONSOR A MĒLEaimed at amplifying their donation efforts to frontline workers. 

    We have also seen start-ups collaborating as an innovative COVID-19 response. TeaSquares partnered with nine other Chicago companies to launch the Stay Home Stay Healthy Snack Box. This snack box features an assortment of better-for-you snacks produced by small food brands and 100% of the profits are then donated to Northwest Community Healthcare. As a valued CFBN Member, TeaSquares truly embodies our network’s mission of collaborating and supporting the community.

    In the same fashion, we see companies like KeHE maintaining the network by transforming their 2020 KeHE Holiday Show into a digital marketplace. Typically, this trade show brings together thousands of industry professionals to connect and sample natural & organic, fresh and specialty products. KeHE pivoted this year’s Holidays of Hope virtual marketplace for retailers and suppliers to continue to negotiate and discuss promotional deals. “The platform also gives participating retailers the opportunity to discover product attributes, place orders, explore exclusive products, and access curated trend education webinars.” Furthermore, KeHE has waived the participation fees! KeHE is also encouraging suppliers to donate to KeHE Cares® where all donations will go towards supporting communities seriously impacted by COVID-19. 

    It makes the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network truly proud to be a part of an industry of innovators and change agents. As we continue to navigate this "new normal," we encourage you to stay updated on what the food and beverage community is doing to help.



  • 13 Oct 2020 4:29 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)

     

    Author: Matthew Brenn

    Corporate budgets for commercial properties include many different business expenses – from maintenance costs and the water bill to acquiring tenants and mowing grass. Amongst these expenses, one of the most important variable costs includes the monthly electricity bill.

    According to the 2012 Commercial Building Consumption Survey (a new survey is currently underway), commercial property owners spend $1.44 per square foot per year on their electricity costs. This means for a facility that is 16,400 square feet (the average size of a warehouse), the annual electricity expenses could be a whopping $23,616. What if there was a way for businesses to reduce their electricity costs and increase their marketability at the same time?

    Renewable energy, particularly on-site solar, is the way to go. Commercial on-site solar includes solar panels installed on the roof, mounted on the ground, or built as canopies over parking lots.

    Let us look at exactly how including solar in corporate budgets can benefit commercial businesses:

    Reduce Operational Costs

    Installing on-site solar can reduce the utility bill for a corporate property by capitalizing on a policy framework known as “net metering.” Net metering allows solar customers to give the excess energy they produce back to the electric grid in exchange for credits that lower their electricity bill. With the right solar energy system design, property owners and businesses can use the credit they have accumulated during the summer, when there is typically more sunlight, to use for the winter. This way, businesses can reduce their utility costs significantly during a 12-month period.

    In particular, businesses are a good fit for on-site solar and can benefit significantly from net metering policies. Extra Storage, one of the largest self storage companies in the United States, began installing solar on their units in 2010. Since then, some properties have seen as much as an 80 percent reduction in their electricity costs. In 2018, Pivot Energy announced a partnership with Extra Storage, intending to further reduce the company’s carbon footprint and costs.

    Increase Market Value and Revenue

    On-site solar can also improve the market value of commercial properties and possibly create additional revenue. This can translate to higher property and resale values for the owner if or when they should sell. Since solar energy directly impacts the building’s operational costs, this translates to a better net operating income (NOI) for the owner and a better business opportunity, hence a higher property valuation.

    The best part is that solar energy is often exempt from property tax assessments, providing the upside of an investment into your property without the downside of higher taxes. In fact, there are currently 36 states that offer property tax exemptions for solar energy.

    Federal Tax Credits

    Organizations that install commercial solar also can take advantage of the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction on corporate taxes. Even non-profit organizations, public entities, or businesses without tax liability can benefit by procuring through a power purchase agreement framework.

    The ITC amounts to 26 percent of project costs if they commence construction before the end of 2020 and falls to 22 percent next year.

    Sustainability Impact

    In addition to monetary impacts, a growing number of companies have committed to corporate sustainability measures in response to the shareholder, customer, and employee pressures. With this trend, embracing green building standards has become a market necessity. As a result, companies can differentiate themselves, increase revenue, and retain different stakeholders by including solar in their corporate budget.

    Plus, renewable energy is good for the environment. On-site solar is especially helpful because it causes a direct offset of potentially carbon-intensive grid electricity. This environmental benefit can also be monetized by earning a solar renewable energy credit (SREC) for each megawatt-hour of electricity produced from the on-site solar array. In some places, these credits can be worth hundreds of dollars and significantly reduce system costs.

    Getting Started

    All in all, solar energy provides many benefits for commercial businesses. Beyond the cost savings, it also supports corporate sustainability measures and can serve as a differentiating factor when marketing to potential customers. With the Federal ITC set to decline at the end of this year and further in the future, the time is now to consider solar for your business.

    The Pivot Energy team is ready to support your business in its energy strategy. Reach out to speak with a member of our team.


  • 13 Oct 2020 4:07 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)


    As consumer needs are evolving at a record pace, CPG companies must be able to follow suit

    2020 is year that will go down in history as the start to a new revolution, the Innovation Revolution. COVID-19 has forced every sector of life to pivot and adapt in order to survive. Large scale abstract thinking and creativity are carving out new ways of solving problems. Old processes are being replaced sooner in the development cycle as R&D optimizes to increase companies’ bottom lines. Because consumer priorities have never been more mercurial, organizations must be able and ready to pivot on a moment’s notice.

    Industrial Revolutions are a staple in our history. There have been 4 in the last 250 years. The late 1780s brought the ground-breaking hydroelectric and steam-powered mechanical production. World War 1 catalyzed mass assembly of goods using electricity, and the 1960s introduced the first automated production of electronic and IT production. In the last 25 years, the Platform Revolution normalized technology between human and machine. Businesses like Amazon, Uber and Facebook were platforms built with two-sided markets. These types of platforms have revolutionized the way we live, work and play.

    CPG companies have to stay ahead of the curve and keep a finger on the consumer’s constantly evolving perspective to survive. Yet the shift of “in-context” from the office, gym, and airport to the home has caused consumer insights to be more difficult than ever to gather, but more vital than ever. Antiquated forms of gathering remote consumer insight can lack authenticity and nuances that reflect the comprehensive data story needed for innovation. While useful, surveys are dependent on the consumer’s honesty and transparency. To provide unfiltered, genuine in-context insights to our clients, we must transform our research techniques to mold seamlessly into the lives of the Innovation Revolution consumer -- by innovating ourselves.

    To pivot at such a rapid pace, our clients need almost play-by-play insights. To accommodate this, we’ve developed a more robust and authentic strategy for extracting in-context consumer insights through a hybrid model of 70% in-person and 30% digital research. By partnering with a monthly subscription company, we circulated products to consumers to create an in-person experience and recorded reactions digitally. Recent technological advancements also provide opportunities to glean genuine insights from consumers at their homes. Partnering with tools like voice command companies such as Alexa and Siri to ask consumers questions could create more spur-of-the-moment, organic interactions. Zoom and other video-chat apps also hold the potential to generate more unscripted product insights. We’re even entertaining the idea of software that sprays scents in consumers’ homes and records their immediate reactions. Technology is a bridge to consumers the same way remote workers stay connected to their teams -- a means to an end that we will capitalize on as much as possible.

    Another interesting piece to the innovation revolution is both the opportunity and the threat it poses to companies. As 72% of consumers are open to trying new brands, 54% of consumers are on the hunt for more nutritious alternatives to their go-to products, and 28% of consumers report their snacking habits are changing daily, brands have a chance to gain new customers by aligning themselves with current needs. Companies also can’t rely on customers for brand loyalty and will need to up their game to retain consumers. The strong will survive, the strongest will use this revolution as an opportunity to become trends, and those who withstand the test of time will become legacies.

    As terrifying and uncertain as this time is, the innovation revolution presents a way for companies to re-imagine and re-create themselves to better serve the most-pandemic consumer. Change is an inevitable byproduct of revolutions. Companies have two options: to ignore the call to innovate and become obsolete, or embrace it and experience growth. As a consumer insights company, we cannot wait to continue innovating alongside our clients to provide the consumer transparency vital to emerging from this revolution stronger than ever.


  • 13 Oct 2020 1:56 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)


    The food industry has undergone significant changes over the last few decades as consumer desires and modern lifestyles have facilitated a shift in how people perceive food.

    The 2019 report, Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing, released by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, presents a collective voice of fifty-five of the largest food manufacturers and SMEs sharing their insight into the changes and challenges taking place on the plant floor. One hundred seventy-five references and sources are summarized that present the trends driving food processing and the advances in food packaging.

    As a subscriber to the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network newsletter, PMMI is offering you a free copy of this report by using passcode: 2019TRENDSADVANCES. Simply supply your email address and the passcode to receive this report free of charge (a $1,250 value).  Click here to use your PMMI Comp Code to download the full report.

    And as a companion piece, we are pleased to pass along the accompanying 2020 Automation Timeline white paper.  Advancements in automation, both machinery and software, are moving manufacturing toward a smarter factory. Technology that will enable new levels of operational excellence and production intelligence is being implemented now. 

    Interested in seeing these technologies in action?  Register for PACK EXPO Connects, a new, engaging web-based event taking place November 9-13 to witness the latest solutions from over 600 exhibitors conducting over 2,600 LIVE demos from the comfort of your home or office.  For more information and to register, please  visit  www.packexpoconnects.com

  • 12 Oct 2020 1:11 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)

     Erica T. Kuhlmann Market Executive & Managing Director, Food, Consumer and Agribusiness Group

    "The Now Normal"- I recently heard this phrase to describe where we are today.  I believe this is an apt description and more appropriate than the proverbial The New Normal.  We are all learning to adapt and change and, in some cases, transform our way of doing business.  Employees are slowly, very slowly, returning to the workplace and consumers are quickly adapting. One thing is for sure – constant change and unforeseen disruptions requiring a nimble response are here to stay.

    The food industry, however, is an essential business and employees in the industry never left the workplace.  These people are heroes– continuing to work in the face of tremendous ambiguity and uncertainty. What I have found so amazing during this time, is the ability of food manufacturers, retailers and restaurateurs to pivot and innovate to meet demand and health requirements due to the pandemic. 

    COVID has dramatically changed the way we do business and upended our business models.  More importantly, the consumer is truly at the center of all things food and beverage, like never before.  Retailers have quickly adapted to e-commerce and curbside pick up to meet consumers’ demand for safety and convenience.  Being shut-down overnight, restaurants moved to delivery and pick-up.  Food service distributors have worked to repackage and relabel product to meet retail needs and provide product to consumers. Manufacturers have had to adjust to a whole host of dramatic challenges from sourcing raw materials to forecasting through never before seen demand swings. And all these stakeholders have had to react to keep their employees safe, informed, and effective.  

    Looking ahead, manufacturers are quickly developing digital strategies and investing in technology to go direct to consumers.  The traditional model of manufacturer to wholesaler to distributor to retailer and finally to the consumer, is being upended.  The new model, direct to consumer through digital is accelerating. The food industry is transforming.

    So, what does this mean?  Having access to an industry association like the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network has never been more key.  CFBN provides a forum to exchange best practices, access industry expertise and develop new relationships.  The membership is engaging, innovative and supportive; regularly sharing ideas and contacts to help food and beverage companies grow and succeed. In short – BMO and I have found the membership to be worthwhile and I’m confident you and your organization will as well.

    And it doesn’t stop there, CFBN members give back to and invest in our community through Bigger Table, bringing together industry in a new and unique collaborations to help those in need.

    The food and beverage sector is quickly changing to adapt to a COVID world. Changes we see today in consumers’ purchasing habits are here to stay.  Join us in membership at CFBN to keep abreast of these trends and challenges and to develop new strategies for success. I’d be happy to discuss why I support CFBN and can be reached at erica.kuhlmann@bmo.com

    -Erica Kuhlmann

  • 5 Oct 2020 10:41 AM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)

    The Southland Development Authority (SDA) is a non-profit business organization designed to recover and grow the economy of the Southland. Launched in 2019 by business, civic and political leaders across the Southland, the SDA brings the resources and capacity necessary to achieve transformative and inclusive economic growth for our region

    The Southland is home to nearly 700,000 people, over 42,000 businesses and produces over $51B in economic output. It is also an area that has experienced severe disinvestment and declines in jobs and household incomes in the last several decades and that is being hit disproportionally hard by the pandemic. In response, the SDA, with its Small Business Development Center (Illinois SBDC @SSEGI), launched the Equitable Recovery Stimulus Program (“Stimulus Program”) – including two components, found here: SDA Stimulus Program Overview 9.29.20.pdf

  • 29 Sep 2020 5:07 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)

    Sustainability:  A CPG’s decision to buy new equipment or modify existing equipment depends on many factors in their drive toward more sustainable packaging. Some CPGs are looking to buy new equipment, while others are looking to make modifications or alterations to existing machines when specifically addressing sustainable packaging changes. Find out what's happening in the packaging industry by downloading PMMI's report, Packaging Sustainability:  A Changing Landscape.

    Trends in Food Packaging and Processing:  The food industry has undergone significant changes over the last few decades as consumer desires and modern lifestyles have facilitated a shift in how people perceive food.


    The Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing report, released by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, presents a collective voice of fifty-five of the largest food manufacturers and SMEs sharing their insight into the changes and challenges taking place on the plant floor. One hundred seventy-five references and sources are summarized that present the trends driving food processing and the advances in food packaging.

    As a member of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, PMMI is offering you a free copy of these reports (a $1250.00 each value).  Simply visit the Member Perks section to get your free report.

  • 28 Sep 2020 3:29 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)


    On July 22nd, FDA submitted a draft guidance entitled “Cannabidiol Enforcement Policy” to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. While the details are unknown, some in the industry have speculated that the policy will address dietary supplements only, and that additional guidance on CBD in food may come at a later time. As we’ve previously reported, in its March 5, 2020 report to Congress FDA hinted that an enforcement discretion policy was in the works. That report also focused heavily on FDA’s evaluation of CBD use in dietary supplements, with very little discussion of CBD use in food.


    This news comes as the number of states that allow hemp and CBD in both dietary supplements and food continues to grow. In the absence of clear direction from FDA, over the past year the states have become the primary regulators of CBD and hemp food products, with a variety of approaches that include labeling, testing, and registration requirements, as well as limits on product form.To date, the list of states that permit the use of CBD in dietary supplements and food includes at least twenty one states:

    • Colorado
    • Connecticut
    • Florida
    • Hawaii (certain forms of dietary supplements only; pending Governor’s approval)
    • Indiana
    • Iowa  (subject to forthcoming rules)
    • Maine (must be produced in Maine)
    • Nevada (subject to forthcoming rules)
    • New Jersey
    • New Mexico
    • Ohio
    • Oklahoma
    • Oregon
    • Rhode Island
    • Tennessee
    • Texas
    • Utah (certain forms of dietary supplements only)
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • West Virginia
    • Wisconsin (must be sourced from and produced in Wisconsin)

    While we know this is a lot to digest, the bottom line is that even if FDA’s forthcoming enforcement policy is silent on CBD use in food, we expect states will continue to enact laws permitting CBD and hemp food products. 

    One notable state missing from the list is California, but we’ve heard legislation to permit the use of hemp-derived CBD in food (provided testing and labeling requirements are met) is inching closer to approval. Similar legislation is also pending in Massachusetts and several other states, and the industry is eagerly awaiting rulemaking in New York that will clarify whether CBD can be used in food and the conditions for such use.

    As always, please reach out to, Amin Talati, if you have any questions! 

  • 24 Sep 2020 1:08 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)

    Authored by Ben Stahl, Sales Executive in Horton's Risk Advisory Solutions Department

    Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, famously said, “You have to hang experience on the latticework of models in your head.” For years, food manufacturers have had the luxury of weighing the costs and benefits of adopting new food technology, but those days may be ending as consumers demand more. Two of the largest trends currently in play — sustainability and transparency — may soon have another: safety in supply. As consumers weigh their buying decisions, factoring in organic sourcing and growth, transparent trade and sourcing, and sustainable packaging, don’t be surprised when you start to see major brands touting another asset: their safety in packaging and promotion. Some technologies and practices that were previously considered optional may soon have to become commonplace. Let’s consider a few that may become a normal way for companies to deliver on safety in supply.

    Sensors and Mobile Solutions

    Millennials currently make up the largest portion of the U.S. workforce, and their younger brothers and sisters in Generation Z aren’t far behind. This combined future majority workforce will be more technologically integrated than ever before. Mobile applications will allow employers to become more efficient with training and development while allowing food service employees to conduct an inspection, maintain temperature logs, access food code information, and manage quality assurance (QA) forms. The mobile solutions will work in tandem with a diverse group of sensors that track more traditional metrics. For example, temperature, moisture, and less common measures, known as PEGS (paper-based electrical gas sensors), detect spoilage gases like ammonia and trimethylamine in poultry, meat, and fish.

    Heat, Cold, and Pressure

    Dried foods, dairy products, and meats typically respond well to thermal processing like blanching, pasteurization, and sterilization. However, an applied heat process has its obvious downsides for produce. Enter the cold plasma. Often referred to as the “purple blow torch,” cold plasma uses the same gas that provides the glow in neon signs to inactivate microorganisms via photons, free electronics, and charged atoms and molecules. This approach is inexpensive and chemical and residue-free, and it doesn’t consume water. Another promising technique is high-pressure processing (HPP). HPP is a largely mechanical method that applies high pressure to foods and is praised for its ability to maintain the highest levels of flavor and nutrition. Additionally, HPP provides a longer shelf life. While this method is highly effective, it doesn’t require complicated and costly machinery.

    If we choose to reflect on the lessons of history, we find that consumer preferences drive manufacturing decisions. Consumers will soon be demanding “safer” food products and purchasing more of those that deliver both sustenance and peace of mind.

    The Horton Group's Food Manufacturing Practice focuses on both the insurable and uninsurable focuses on both the insurable and uninsurable risks as well as opportunities businesses are facing.

    Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your needs.


  • 21 Sep 2020 4:28 PM | Anna Pirila (Administrator)

    Plex Social Image Plex Team September 15, 2020

    High profile recalls have increased in recent years and manufacturers have paid steeply not just in money but also the impact on their reputation. Paper based records are prone to errors, difficult to manage, and may be impossible to find which means days of delays in responding to a recall.

    A clear way to reduce errors on your plant floor and to avoid a recall, is implementing a system that provides full traceability for inventory and reporting.

    It provides manufacturers the ability to:

    1. Apply Rigorous Track and Trace Methodology

      A system that uses rigorous track and trace methodology throughout governs operational behavior. Operators cannot proceed to next steps unless the previous step is validated against a digital control plan that has been designed and approved by engineering. This inherent error-proofing protects against quality failures from operators using materials that may look alike but are not. It also ensures achievement of food safety and compliance certifications, as well as inventory accuracy and limiting scrap.
    2. Documenting and Recording Each Step

      Barcode scanners and printers record and document every step from receipt to production and on to shipping. For every action on the plant floor, there is a transaction in the system. Simply tracking the receipt of raw materials and shipment of finished goods may fulfill minimum requirements, but the real value of product traceability is when every step is tied together in an end-to-end historical chain. A high-resolution trace tree illustrates the path of every part or lot of material visually and shows how it relates to every product and shipment of finished goods.
    3. Catching an Error Before It Becomes a Costly Recall

      When a particular lot of material has been flagged or quarantined as non-compliant, the system will automatically trigger the “no-go” response wherever that material is trying to be loaded. Suspect orders can be tracked down to a specific lot of material or shipment of finished goods to identify any and all affected product. This makes it much faster to trace backwards or forwards to find the responsible party or affected customer(s) to better contain the issue and minimize your exposure. Allergen management becomes easy. Without such a capability, companies typically recall whole production runs at greater expense than necessary.

    Errors end up costing your company both in actual dollars and reputation—whether it’s loss of time, loss of material, or worse, impact to customer health.

    To learn more about how food and beverage manufacturers are leveraging systems for comprehensive traceability, read how Hausebeck Pickles and Peppers gained control of its operations. By moving from paper-based processes to a cloud-based solution, Hausbeck went from 70% inventory accuracy to 99.6% while significantly improving its traceability. Hausbeck is now able to trace ingredients forward and backward from seed to store in minutes.

    For more insights on how smart technology can support the needs of food and beverage manufacturers, visit our Food and Beverage Industry page.



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