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Member News & Headlines Blog

  • 18 Nov 2021 3:27 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    As the weather turns colder, I find myself raking leaves, thinking of pumpkin pie, and watching snow flurries.  It’s also time to start thinking back on the year with gratitude.  2021 has certainly required us all to be flexible and pivot often, and to consider what is most important in our businesses and in our communities.  Personally, I continue to be grateful for all of you -- the incredible food & beverage industry of Chicagoland (and beyond!) -- and the ways that you continue to support our mission and the communities we serve.  Thank You. 

    So, as we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, we at CFBN hope you are able to take the time to slow down, appreciate, and celebrate the people around you; the people in your community, family, and workplace.

    We think there is no better way to celebrate than sharing FOOD with friends and family and breaking bread together. However, with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it can be difficult to find time to make a tasty meal. So, we found a few AMAZING local places for you to pick up your holiday dishes and treats. Whether it is for the office or the family to enjoy at home, we have you covered!  A few of my local personal favorites:

    Plus, check out these 25 additional Chicagoland options: here!

    But, however you plan to celebrate, we hope you can do it surrounded by those that mean the most to you.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

    With Gratitude,

    Alan Reed, CFBN Executive Director

  • 9 Nov 2021 11:46 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    John Shapiro

    Partner, Freeborn & Peters LLP

    Board Member, Bigger Table

    As we head toward a second set of pandemic-impacted year-end holidays, many see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  But for so many in our communities that glimmer remains elusive.  The numbers are staggering.  More than 10% of U.S. households are food insecure – at risk of going hungry or without access to nutritious foods. This equates to more than 42 million people, including 13 million children, in the US who may face food insecurity in 2021. 

    Locally, the Greater Chicago Food Depository estimates that about one in seven people in Cook County will experience food insecurity this year.  And throughout Illinois an estimated 1.4 million people – nearly half a million of whom are children – face hunger every day.  Reports indicate that COVID-19 pandemic related factors and economic consequences, such as job loss, have made it even more difficult for many to obtain nutritious food.  

    To start to address this issue, Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network (CFBN) and Bigger Table (, CFBN’s 501(c)(3) affiliate, have taken this challenge head on:

    • By reimagining the way in which ingredients can be repurposed into wholesome shelf-stable food products
    • By creating a first-of-its-kind workforce development program designed to provide jobs in the food and beverage industries   
    • By bringing food companies, service providers and others together 
    • By tapping into companies’ know-how, capabilities, culture of generosity, and willingness to share in order to accomplish more meaningful progress together

    There is incredible potential in building partnerships that bring industry, service providers and communities, along with their diverse perspectives and capabilities, together.  At Bigger Table and CFBN, we demonstrate each day that we accomplish more when we work together.  Please join us!

    For me, silver linings that have come out of the pandemic include a catalyst for collaboration, renewed spirit of community action, and an enhanced desire to assist those less fortunate.  When we work together, the potential to address hunger, food insecurity and other societal ills increases greatly.  I urge you to get involved and make a difference. 


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

    Mid-September was the time that many in the Chicagoland industry had been anxiously anticipating for a Return to Work, and a return to a sense of some normalcy. We at CFBN were especially looking forward to hosting in-person networking events again. But, as we all know, the Delta Variant came along to change everyone’s plans. And, like many others, CFBN was forced to make some changes to our schedule. 

    Yet, CFBN remains dedicated to bringing our Industry together and continuing to build the incredible food & beverage ecosystem we enjoy here in Chicagoland. We are currently planning to return to regular in-person events in early 2022.

    In the meantime, we are proud to offer additional high-quality virtual events, including our always-popular Innovation Series. As you may recall, these events started as Innovation Breakfasts originally hosted at our partner Fifty Gazelles in the West Loop.  As always, this series tackles innovation topics of interest across the industry. This time around, we are focusing on the Technology Behind the Scenes with two great panels – one on Taste & Flavor Technology, and another on Enabling Technologies that help bring our products to life. Don’t miss this unique exploration into the innovations that we sometimes forget or take for granted.

    We are also excited to welcome CFBN member Amped Kitchens to their new home in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood. Amped Kitchen’s opening is a great reminder that our local industry – and especially its entrepreneurs – continues to innovate, build their business, and change the way the world eats. Amped is dedicated to providing a better alternative for growing food companies. Each of their exclusive spaces is adaptable to evolving product lines and expanding operations. They are a welcome addition to Chicago, and we have plans to officially welcome them in style in the coming weeks. 

    Thank you for your ongoing support, engagement, and collaboration. Chicagoland’s Food & Beverage industry remains vibrant, innovative, and exciting because of you, our network of member organizations, partners, and followers. We are proud to connect you with helpful resources, information, and insights. 

    Best Regards,

    Alan Reed 

    CFBN Executive Director

    Want to learn more about becoming a Member? Visit our website for more information. Already a member? Don’t forget to take advantage of all your CFBN Member Perks.

  • 9 Nov 2021 11:34 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    CFBN Board Member Andria Long recently 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!

  • 9 Nov 2021 11:13 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    We’re Bringing Innovation to the Shelf

    Food is life, but it isn’t an easy business. Perhaps that’s why so many new packaged food products fail.

    Although there’s no silver bullet for success, food brands of all sizes can tip the scales in their favor by taking a measured and strategic approach to food innovation. In this white paper, you’ll learn what steps to take, what mistakes to avoid and which milestones to mark in your journey to transform a food or beverage idea into a satisfying product that sells.


    About JPG: We’re a diverse team of 50+ dedicated food and beverage professionals who’ve helped to successfully develop more than 2,500 products—including startups of our own. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. Food and beverage isn’t just our business, for us it’s a way of life.

  • 24 Aug 2021 11:25 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Since our founding, CFBN has been building a network of companies large and small across Chicagoland.  We continue to believe that Chicagoland is “The Silicon Valley of Food & Beverage,” the original inspiring vision behind the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network. Despite challenges, we’ve seen our local industry become more dynamic, inclusive, and  innovative, and attracting players from across the nation. It’s no wonder companies want to do business in and around Chicago.

    At CFBN we are excited to offer our members and network a new version of an industry association, one that brings together the food & beverage players in the region, from startup to large CPG, to collaborate and continually grow our industry. Our programming, events, and communication offerings - like this newsletter – aim to help our network learn more about their community and collaborate to improve their companies and our industry!

    We work hard to that ensure our offerings are always focused on the latest trends, insights, and innovations within food and beverage. And of course, none of this would be possible without the ongoing collaboration and engagement of our member organizations and support from readers like you. And for that we are grateful. THANK YOU.  

    Want to learn more about becoming an Industry Member? Visit our website for more information. Already a member? Don’t forget to take advantage of all your CFBN Member Perks.

  • 9 Aug 2021 9:17 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Sustainability has evolved from an expected part of good corporate citizenship to a driver of business strategy, like we see with our member Simple Mills, and a key decision-making consideration for consumers. Now, more than ever, consumers want to be assured that the food they are buying is more sustainable from sourcing, supply chain, human health to environmental impacts (See the work that our member Dairy Farmers of America is doing).

    The good news, according to our partners at IFT, is the financial benefits of operating sustainably can be considerable.  Benefits range from increased revenue and market value to an improved bottom line; plus a positive impact on the community and world around you.

    At CFBN we are extremely proud of the work and effort that many of our members have put into creating sustainable products and services. Our network is filled with innovators focusing on upcycling (see GoodSport and CometBio for example), creating sustainable brands, and ensuring their supply chain is green and truly leading the sustainable charge (our member KeHe comes to mind here).

    • Is your brand sustainable? We’d love to hear from you and share information (and inspiration) about your efforts with the Network.
    • Missed the CFBN virtual event: The Food & Beverage Industry - Leaders in Sustainability? Don’t stress. With your CFBN Membership perks you can access all event recordings here.

  • 30 Jul 2021 5:05 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    16 Jul 2021 --- Barry Callebaut is teaming up with vanilla supplier Prova to launch a new charter in Madagascar that will boost its vanilla sourcing credentials. The tie-up will bring 100 percent sustainability to Barry Callebaut’s North American “Better For You” chocolate portfolio.

    In addition, the Swiss chocolate giant is moving toward 100 percent sustainably sourced cacao within this product range. These developments along both supply chains are hailed as important steps toward the company’s 2025 Forever Chocolate sustainability goals.

    Barry Callebaut’s Better For You portfolio includes – but is not limited to – sugar solutions (sugar-free, reduced sugar and no sugar added), high-protein, dairy-free and organic solutions.

    The portfolio has seen high growth and innovation in recent years, the supplier highlights. “Being fully cocoa and vanilla sustainable adds to the value proposition of our products, which our customers can leverage in their product development and storytelling.”

    Barry Callebaut and Prova will fund and support local communities through social, health and education programs.

    “The cocoa and vanilla synergy is an ancient love-story that dates back to the Aztecs, thousands of years ago,” says Alessandra Ognibene-Lerouvillois, chief sustainability officer at Prova. “Witnessing this marriage in the field, helping farmers to improve their livelihoods is a big achievement.”

    Continue reading, HERE.

  • 27 Jul 2021 12:36 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    According to research by Forbes, 60% of consumers buy products and services from companies that are socially and/or environmentally responsible. This is a big deal as companies are finding out that if they are sustainable, they can attract more customers and increase their revenues.

    In our last article for Chicagoland, we talked about the new type of consumers rising in the past few years: the conscious label-reader ones. They care about sustainability, where their food comes from and eating better. 

    In this article, we are going to talk about the same subject, sustainability and traceability, but this time from a business perspective and regarding the production process. How green can your supply chain be? Do you know how to identify points of improvement and actually improve them? Keep up with us to check this out!

    Sustainability and traceability

    According to the United Nations Global Compact, traceability is: “The ability to identify and trace the history, distribution, location and application of products, parts and materials, to ensure the reliability of sustainability claims, in the areas of human rights, labour (including health and safety), the environment and anti-corruption.”

    The value of traceability in regards to sustainability comes from a traceable system and the reliable information coming along with it. Third-party certifications are able to confirm any claims being made whenever material sources and production techniques are verifiable. 

    Supply chains continue to expand their complexity, with almost all products requiring the collaboration of multiple businesses to complete the development of raw materials into final goods.

    This article by Riverlogic shows us the importance of certifications across the supply chain: “Third-party certifications add trust to an otherwise opaque system from the consumer’s view. They allow businesses and their customers to unite behind common goals and values, which in turn can significantly increase brand value. These certifications can be used to verify claims relating to all four ‘pillars’ of sustainability. You may be familiar with some, like verified organic produce, sustainably harvested timber and fair trade practices, but there are hundreds of others.”

    Is your supply chain green?

    The answer to this question is different for every company and depends on many factors, such as the source of raw materials; what the chain of producers and suppliers looks like; how much energy is consumed in the production process; among other things. The supply chain is generally made up of raw material suppliers, manufacturers and retailers – but the risks and opportunities can extend well beyond this.

    From a product point of view, when going through an analysis of the supply chain, some companies might think that theirs is too complex to have their sustainability claims verified. However, there are a few models to help you with that job:

    • Product segregation: Using this model, all verified materials are separated from those that are not, never to be mixed again. A model like this is very important for industries like the food and beverages ones, where claims regarding organic, kosher, vegan, and halal products must be strictly enforced.

    • Mass balance: The Mass Balance model focuses on the ratio of certified and uncertified materials, which can be mixed, as long as the final claims maintain the ratio/percentage of the inputs.

    • Book and Claim: This model allows sustainability certificates to be earned and sold. It is used when supply chains are too complex to reasonably maintain product verification of any form.

    By taking into account all key elements of a supply chain, businesses are able to assess their current level of performance and determine what needs to be done and when.

    How can you push it forward to improvement?

    Many brands are now adopting better managing strategies throughout their supply chain giving them transparency and traceability. Benefits of this strategy include:

    • A quick and easy way to identify and assess your environmental risks;

    • A framework for regular improvement and an easy way to benchmark other organizations in your sector. This also makes whether you are making good progress very clear 

    • Improved efficiency in your supply chain – freeing up time for more important tasks;

    • Reduced risk of regulatory sanctions or consumer boycotts over issues such as sourcing, workers’ rights, deforestation, etc. 

    Quality management software

    A software that helps you manage certificates and supplier documentation, by automating this work, can give your company time to bring improvements to production.

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

    More than that, Otrafy helps you collect the data necessary to certify that your supply chain is green in a readable format with Otraforms. 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.

  • 20 Jul 2021 11:33 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Tables bring people together. Wonderful things happen at tables; ideas are exchanged, plans are made, mouths are fed. CFBN's sister organization, Bigger Table, founded in 2020, does this on a larger scale, bringing people and organizations together to help address issues in our larger community.

    Bigger Table uncovers opportunities within our industry to deliver charitable and economic growth initiatives. With our thriving Chicagoland Food and Beverage industry and the dedicated work of community partners, we leverage a new kind of collaboration and get important things done.

    There’s never been a better time to give or get involved. All tax-deductible gifts made to Bigger Table today are matched by ADM, up to $100,000, thanks to the recent grant from ADM Cares! Join the effort, help us build a bigger table by making a gift today.

    Learn more, here:

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