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  • 17 Apr 2018 10:28 AM | Deleted user

    Food Business News by Donna Berry

    CHICAGO — “If companies stop competing for a second and start collaborating, there’s a lot we can do,” said Derk Hendriksen, vice-president and general manager of the Ekocenter project for the Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, at Tyson Foods’ Chicago office last week. Tyson hosted the monthly breakfast meeting of the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary.

    Read the entire article here

  • 16 Apr 2018 11:13 AM | Deleted user

    Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, approaching its one-year anniversary, is well on its way to creating a space (a value network, if you will) where innovative startups and established giants can connect, talk, and collaborate.

    Our Innovation Breakfast on April 12 proved that mission -- packed out with more than 200 members and event sponsors. One guest speaker summed it up perfectly with an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

    For more than 60 minutes, industry giants, Coca-Cola and Tyson, spoke of their strategies and sustainability initiatives, specifically how they pursue growth while still caring for the well-being of the community.

    Justin Whitmore, Corporate Strategy and Chief Sustainability Officer at Tyson, shared his company’s recent endeavors: investing in alternative food companies, including one that utilizes unused food; reducing greenhouse gases by 30% and establishing an initiative to preserve soils used in production. “When you bring together food companies, the communities we serve, and the environment, something special can happen,” added Whitmore. “That’s how we feel about being part of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network.”

    Coca-Cola’s Business Integration executive and EkoCenter GM, Derk Hendriksen added, “When you stop competing [with each other] for a second and start collaborating – there’s a lot you can do!” Hendriksen grew up in a socially conscious family and is influenced by it today, professionally and personally. “We can’t just create value for ourselves. We need to think: What is our role in society? Our [business] strategies have consequences,” says Hendriksen.

    Today Hendriksen is helping Coca Cola navigate sustainability opportunities, primarily in distressed parts of the world. His work focuses on three major priorities: strategic acquisitions; becoming water neutral (whatever is taken from a community, they want to give back); and empowering five million global women to start a business.

    These are no small priorities…the last two were developed with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in mind and with the knowledge they would need to work closely with NGOs, governments, and communities to make a global impact. Through the Coca-Cola EkoCenter there are 150 solar powered EkoCenter Kiosks run by women, used to sell products and services. Together, they are accelerating development of underserved communities around the world..

    Want to hear more from industry leaders? We encourage you to take advantage of the Network’s Innovation Breakfast events -- next one is May 10. Visit our events page for a full listing of offerings.     

  • 16 Apr 2018 10:33 AM | Deleted user

    16-Apr-2018 Food Navigator By Mary Ellen Shoup

    A year since launching the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, executive director Alan Reed has said the message of connecting the Chicago food community, an area with more than 4,500 companies, has spread like wildfire with major industry players joining the cause.

    Read the article and watch the video here

  • 14 Apr 2018 9:11 AM | Deleted user

    Crain's Chicago Business by Brigid Sweeney

    "Innovative startups and larger companies with enormous resources and talent are coming together here in an unprecedented way," says Alan Reed, a former executive vice president at trade association Dairy Management who now oversees the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, which links entrepreneurs with mentors and opportunities from big companies. He says Chicago's ingrained expertise—the area is already home to 4,500 food and beverage companies that employ more than 130,000 people—makes it stand out. "The coasts don't have the infrastructure and talent that we do."

    Read the article here.

  • 28 Mar 2018 3:20 PM | Deleted user

    The Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network started almost a year ago with the mission to make Chicago the ‘Silicon Valley of Food and Beverage.’ Today, it’s gearing up for new projects including a seed fund for minority entrepreneurs, and creating a database of co-packers.

    The Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network started almost a year ago with the mission to make Chicago the ‘Silicon Valley of Food and Beverage.’ Today, it’s gearing up for new projects including a seed fund for minority entrepreneurs, and creating a database of co-packers.

    Find this entire article by FoodNavigator by clicking this link:

  • 23 Mar 2018 1:34 PM | Deleted user

    The future for food and beverage brands is not about market share, it is about mindshare, says Neil Saunders from GlobalData. “If you have a strong brand that is front of mind for consumers, you have a much better chance of being successful.” 

    Click the link to read the full article by Stephen Daniells on

  • 30 Jan 2018 12:00 PM | Deleted user

    We had a great evening at The Hatchery Chicago, both networking and learning from IRI’s Executive Vice President, Larry Levin,  a recognized thought leader in new product innovation. Larry shared IRI’s thoughts and ideas surrounding the challenging and highly rewarding world of innovation sparked by small, “dark horse” brands.

     New product innovation is a cornerstone to success for any company in the consumer packaged goods space. Many companies rely on as much as 10% of their annual sales coming from new product launches. The trend of smaller companies quickly winning in today’s CPG environment has created a new mantra for “failing fast” so that time is not wasted getting new products to market. In IRI’s most recent New Product Pacesetters, 40% of new brands were from small, or “dark horse”, companies. These companies are surprising and delighting consumers across the country with new products that are “designed for me”. These small companies are breaking through with innovation and sparking a consumer innovation revolution.

    Larry's slide deck can be accessed here

  • 22 Jan 2018 12:00 PM | Deleted user

    Food Scientist: the 8th most in demand job. Why are food scientist jobs hot in Chicagoland in 2018? Crain's Chicago Business asked our Network executive director. Read his interview for the scoop!

  • 22 Jan 2018 12:00 PM | Deleted user

    A front page placement at featuring our January innovation breakfast! Debra Schug, Editor-in-chief, highlights all of the great insights from Andria Long vice president of innovation & consumer insights at Johnsonville.  Read the article here

  • 16 Jan 2018 12:00 PM | Deleted user

    “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want.” 90s pop music becomes gospel within the food and beverage innovation sector.

    Meet Johnsonville’s VP of Innovation and Consumer Insights, Andria Long. In her tenure, Long has built two Chicagoland-based innovation centers and led innovation at a nimble family-owned company. She also has the savvy ability to turn cheesy 90s lyrics into catchy ways of improving consumer products.

    Long kicked off our 2018 Innovation Breakfast Series on January 11 at Bluedog Design. And after her chat, we may call her the Casey Kasem of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network for years to come.

    Long says innovation comes from providing consumers what they want. Yes… What they really, really want. And doing so in a way that no one has done before.

    Long easily identifies three focus areas that are key drivers of innovation success:

    1. People: Having the right people on your team is critical. As innovators, we do something that makes some people uncomfortable. Innovators are all about creating change -- and some people just do not like change. To succeed,  you have to find the people who are up for the ‘change’ challenge. Seek positive people, ones able to handle rejection; especially ones comfortable with ambiguity.
    2. Capabilities: Your capabilities come from giving consumers what they want, what they really REALLY want (to call upon the Almighty Spice Girls yet again). One of the most common mistakes innovators make is thinking they must have an idea. Wrong. There are already plenty of ideas. Instead, start with the consumer -- identify their wants/needs. Then satisfy that need with ideas that deliver a benefit in an unprecedented way.
    3. Surprises (AKA WTF moments): Long has experienced a lot of surprises, good and bad. We all have. For one, it’s important to recognize and learn from the bad surprises (aka fails) so we can better approach the next challenge. Keep in mind -- it’s always better to have an ‘oops’ than a ‘what if.’

    Think about mobilizing around innovation as a team sport. Everyone needs to approach the game the same way.  (Like the Spice Girls...not as a solo artist)

    Andria was asked by an audience member why she likes doing business in Chicagoland? She boasted:

    • Talent in Chicagoland is top notch
    • Regional food and beverage community is strong
    • Access to culinary arts is second to none
    • Startup community is big here, and keeps them motivated
    • Vendor access is critical - and for Johnsonville, they’re all in Chicagoland

    Join us at our next events -- including our Wednesday, January 24 event, Industry Leadership Series: The Changing Landscape Of Successful Consumer Innovation: The Rise Of The Dark Horse. Register here.

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