Member News & Headlines Blog

  • 12 Oct 2020 1:11 PM | Anna Briggs-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

  • 5 Oct 2020 10:41 AM | Anna Briggs-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 Briggs-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 Briggs-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 Briggs-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 Briggs-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.

  • 18 Sep 2020 4:41 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)
    Trish Caddy

    Trish Caddy is a Senior Foodservice Analyst, writing reports about the UK’s eating out market. She previously worked as a restaurant cook in London.

    COVID-19 has spurred a frenzy of disruptive innovations by restaurants to keep their businesses afloat. The entrepreneurial spirit of some operators is strong and some have actively sought out change and embraced innovation amid the pandemic. Even as lockdown restrictions start to ease and foodservice operators focus on resuming dine-in services, some of these concepts are worth continuing as a means to top up earnings and cater to changing consumer needs.

    Meal kits allow restaurants to profit from home cooking boom 

    Instead of delivering cooked meals, some foodservice brands started selling meal kits and self-assemble/DIY kits (i.e. pre-packed meal kits with recipe cards) which require customers to cook from scratch or put the parts together themselves at home. This concept prevents delicate foods from falling apart in transit as individual ingredients are packed separately.

    As working from homes looks set to remain the norm for many office workers for a while longer, restaurant-branded meal kits allow customers to cook their own restaurant-quality meal at home, with The Dorchester as an example of a luxury hotel restaurant that launched its range of meal kits with recipe cards for customers to cook at home in June 2020.

    This element of personalisation bridges the gap between diners and chefs as it enables customers to appreciate the craft of preparing a meal whilst having fun making a dish that suits their personal preference.

    As with self-assemble kits, a trend in flavour of Japanese-style sushi kits emerged in June 2020, and contemporary BBQ restaurant Smokestak in East London, UK, launched a Temaki (sushi hand roll) kit for home delivery which included cartoon illustrated instructions on how to assemble each Temaki.

    Source: Hot Dinners

    Mobile catering allows brands to mobilise their business

    While restaurants’ dine-in activities ground to a halt during lockdown, some operators pivoted to mobile catering. The Dusty Knuckle, a London-based bakery shop is one example of a brand operating a mobile format in the shape of a food truck with no seating area. This option allows the bakery brand to mobilise its business whilst maintaining safe physical distancing.

    As visits to restaurants based in cities will suffer as a result of more flexible working practices and the decline in use of public transport, the continuing trend of portable kiosks and food trucks will cater to consumers who are working from homes in suburban and rural areas.

    The Dusty Knuckle Mobile Shop

    Source: Instagram, @thedustyknuckle

    Value-added set menus promote quality at a good price

    Some restaurants have simplified their menus in order to refocus their resources as a result of COVID-19. In June 2020, London’s Claude Bosi at Bibendum launched a Prix Fixe daily changing set menu that was available for pre-order and collection between Thursdays and Sundays.

    A set menu clearly has economic advantages as it allows operators to optimise ingredients resulting in less waste and spoilage. Meanwhile, a daily changing or rotating menu encourages frequent usage among diners who enjoy eating something different every day.

    As the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme officially ended on 1 September, some restaurants have extended the offer into September on their own. Instead of offering a blanket 50% discount that will squeeze margins in the longer term, some are offering a valued-added £10 set menu offer which promotes quality at a good price. For example, London’s Manteca pasta restaurant is offering a £10 set menu from Monday to Wednesday throughout September, which includes focaccia, a choice of mortadella or chicken liver parfait or white bean crostino, and a choice of pasta.

    Source: Instagram, @wetravelplanner

    Online activities help to boost e-commerce

    Social media platforms turned into a vital online community support system during this pandemic. We’ve noticed some restaurant chefs using Instagram to entertain and educate through cooking demonstrations or running live stream sessions that include making cocktails (eg. the “quarantini”) in real-time.

    UK’s Michelin-starred chef Michael O’Hare, for example, streamed live cooking demonstrations on Instagram to accompany his range of nationwide delivery meal kits/recipe boxes. Real-time cook-along shows allow customers to hone in on their cooking skills whilst strengthening customer and chef engagement.

    Read more from MINTEL, here:

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:48 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Different objectives can lead to similar success, through a holistic approach to research.

    We live in a world with an abundance of choices. Think about the last time you went to purchase yogurt. As you walked down the aisle, you likely noticed the wide range of options. For someone who doesn’t already have a preferred selection or has never purchased yogurt before, the abundance of options can be overwhelming. Each product, although all yogurt, is unique in terms of brand, quality, attributes, package design, price, target consumer, etc. The more knowledge you have of yogurt, the better equipped you are to make the best choice for your needs. In this way, choosing the right approach to research is just like choosing the right yogurt.

    When it comes to designing a study, it’s imperative to carefully evaluate every aspect to ensure that the insights gleaned are the richest, most accurate, and of course, answer the questions at hand. For this reason, Curion takes a holistic approach to research. Armed with traditional methodologies, as well as a suite of digital tools, the Curion team works closely with their clients to identify the best approach for each objective.

    Earlier this year, a prominent nutritional beverage and supplements brand was looking to gather feedback from current users and nonusers on new concepts for powdered mixes and ready to drink (RTD) products. The brand was in its earliest stages of product development and sought input from consumers to ideate their ideal product. With a thorough understanding of the client, their brand, their goals and objectives, and the market itself, the Curion team took a virtual co-creation approach leveraging capabilities from its digital toolkit.

    Since the brand was looking to get feedback from current users and nonusers, the recruit was fulfilled using a combination of Curion’s proprietary database of consumers, as well as the brand’s own database of loyalists. Over the course of two weeks, video diaries and shop-a-longs were captured showcasing everyday usage of the brand’s products and similar products on the market. Photo captures allowed for sketching ideal powders and RTD products, with self-narrated videos attached. Select consumers were pulled to participate in live 1:1 sessions with a moderator for a deeper dive.

    The study showed that consumers are focused on functional nutrition that is convenient and easy. They prefer a lighter flavor intensity and like customization but need simplified options and education on benefits. In terms of packaging, consumers are looking for a design that emphasizes functionality, sustainability and convenience. After reviewing these results, the client was able to identify and optimize the most appealing new product concepts and fine tune them before launching a product in the marketplace.

    Around this same time, another client approached the Curion team looking to resolve their customer’s biggest complaint – the curling of their baking paper. The client was a manufacturer of household packaging products and wanted feedback on four packaging prototypes designed to alleviate the curling, without changing the paper itself. The Curion team, again with a deep understanding of the brand, the product, objectives, and the market, decided that in order to get the most accurate results, they needed the most authentic look into how consumers interacted with the product. It was crucial that the client be able to observe how consumers interacted with the product and if they followed the

    instructions provided on the packaging. In order to achieve this, the team used a home use test approach in combination with capabilities from the digital toolkit.

    Leveraging a partner’s proprietary online database, the team recruited consumers who regularly used and purchased the product. This was important to ensure that the consumers participating in the study were familiar with the curling issue and would give an accurate insight into typical product usage. Selected consumers were asked to capture their experiences dispensing the product from each box. They took video diaries unwrapping and lining their baking sheets and then completed a short online questionnaire. Interviews were conducted with a portion of the participants to dig deeper into elements of each prototype using the live 1:1 interview capability.

    From this research, the client discovered that many consumers didn’t even read the instructions provided. Of the consumers that did, many still failed to properly follow them and stated there were too many steps to follow. Consumers had expected that the paper itself would be changed to prevent curling, rather than having to resolve the issue through their own usage behaviors. The problem persisted. As a result of the feedback received, the client went back to the work bench, simplified instructions and tweaked the product. New prototypes are now undergoing quantitative testing.

    Although these clients had very different products, with different objectives, recruit needs, and were in very different stages of development, they were able to use many of the same tools to achieve their research goals. In both cases, the client was seeking a closer, more personal look into consumer lifestyles and usage behaviors. While a traditional focus group could have been used to explore new product concepts for the nutritional beverage and supplements brand, biases such as group think would likely have altered the quality of results. Similarly, a traditional home use test could have given the packaging products manufacturer the insight that their prototypes failed to resolve the curling problem. However, without the ability to observe the consumers interacting with the product, it would have lacked insight into how consumers were reacting to (or completely ignoring) the provided instructions.

    Just like selecting the right yogurt, when it comes to selecting the right research partner there is an abundance of options. By choosing a research partner who took the time to understand and develop their objectives, and who had the depth of knowledge, experience, and access to the right mix of tools, both clients were able to walk away from their studies equipped with the insights needed to take proper action to further their product development. These cases exemplify the importance of taking a holistic approach to research and having the support of an experienced team of researchers who can creatively leverage a mix of tools and methods to provide the best insight.

  • 16 Sep 2020 11:30 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    There is a saying that states “May you live in interesting times.” Some believe the phrase is shared as a blessing, others purport that the phrase is meant as a curse. For the citizens of the world today, there is no doubt we find ourselves sharing the experience of living in interesting times. All 7.8 billion of us, experiencing similar challenges, trying to figure out how to manage our way through issues that most of us haven’t faced in over 100 years, and do so while maintaining a positive attitude.

    For those of us who are in the food industry and related support businesses, we have been fortunate enough, for the most part, to weather the storm. We continue to manufacture our products, maintain our supply chain, get product to our customers, and we have learned how to operate our businesses remotely, efficiently, while never missing a beat. The Chicago-area food and beverage companies continue to provide industry-wide business leadership, providing a guiding light through the fog of the pandemic.

    We should take great pride in what we do for a living; we feed the nation and in some cases the world. From the late 1800s, Chicago has been the food capital of America and has led the industry in food innovation. This leadership role continues today. There is no city in our country that is better positioned to lead in food innovation, production, and industry leadership than the city of Chicago. Having been born and raised in this great city, I could not be more proud of the work we have done in making certain that people have food on their tables; whether it be because they purchased our products in their store of choice, or were provided the food they need via a food bank or pantry. We should never take lightly our responsibility to society.

    There is no doubt that COVID-19 has been a challenge. But the blessing that has come in conjunction is the love, caring, and empathy we have shown our co-workers, our customers, our business partners, and our community. I love this industry and love the role that we play. WE FEED AMERICA!

    I wish you continued success as you diligently provide leadership and compassion to those with whom you come in contact on a daily basis. Thank-you for being a valued member of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network and for being such a great representative of our industry.

    Joel Warady

    CFBN Chairman

  • 14 Sep 2020 1:43 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila (Administrator)

    Erin Conway, Counsel, McDonald Hopkins LLC

    Nick Kurk, Member, McDonald Hopkins LLC

    The global food and beverage e-commerce market is expected to grow to $22.4 billion in 2020, possibly reaching $36.4 billion in 2023. That’s up from $14.9 billion in 2019. Food and beverage e-commerce revenue in the United States alone is projected to exceed $15.2 billion this year and $19 billion by 2022.

    It’s no surprise that much of this recent uptick is due, in large part, to the global COVID-19 pandemic. With most people now working from home and limiting in-person interactions, consumers have flocked online to purchase food, beverages and other essential goods. And it’s not only online grocery and delivery services like Instacart and Amazon Fresh that are reaping the benefits of this increased consumer demand. Many food and beverage brands themselves have also added or shifted to direct-to-consumer e-commerce offerings. Where supply chain, shipping, and payment processing, among other things, previously made direct sales logistically unattainable and unprofitable, e-commerce became one of the most powerful tools for some in the food and beverage industry to stay relevant and accessible to their customers during the pandemic.

    One of the biggest benefits, and potential pitfalls, of moving to a direct-to-consumer platform is the ability to collect and use consumer data. Data including social profiles, purchasing history, purchasing patterns, and demographics allow brands to target, tailor, and communicate with customers who are increasingly willing to purchase foods, beverages and other packaged goods online. But, as they say: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” E-commerce sites are an obvious target of cyber attacks and many of them are not sufficiently safeguarded. A breach can compromise sensitive customer data, which may lead not only to the loss of trust, sales and your brand’s reputation, but can also have serious liability consequences. Beyond that, improper use of customer data can lead to actions by both state and federal authorities.

    Whether new to e-commerce, or a seasoned veteran, here are five steps to consider taking to avoid a data privacy misstep:

    1. Be Smart with Technology

    The best way to deal with a data privacy breach is to take steps to prevent one altogether. Securing your payment gateway (by using a third-party payment processor, for example), having an up-to-date SSL certificate and HTTPS protocol, using a firewall, updating plugins and software, using multi-layer security (such as two-factor authentications), encrypting data, utilizing data classification and segmentation, using pseudonymization and anonymization techniques, and using strong passwords—company wide—are a few ways to ward off cybersecurity attacks.

    2. Be Aware of Data Privacy and Security Laws and Regulations

    While there is currently no single principal data protection legislation in the United States, there are a number of state and federal laws that serve to protect the personal data of U.S. residents. Notably, if you sell to customers in California and meet certain revenue, sales, or data handling

    thresholds, then the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) kicks in to provide certain data privacy and security rights and protections to California residents. For example, companies subject to the CCPA must implement a system to delete consumer data at the consumer’s request. Also, if you do business with customers in Europe, get familiar with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which, among other things, requires that a company justify why it needs data from its customers and how that data will be used. Obligations under this patchwork of data privacy laws will inevitably vary (and sometimes contradict), but the laws typically address how data can be collected, what type of notices need to be given, how data can be stored, how data can be transferred, and when, and under what circumstances, data must be deleted.

    If a breach occurs, the GDPR, CCPA (and similar laws in other states), and federal laws such as HIPPA and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), require that customers be notified within a certain time period. Certain state laws also levy civil penalties if notification requirements are not timely met. And for newsworthy breaches, a class action lawsuit is sure to follow.

    3. Don’t do Fishy Things with Customer Data

    While not a breach, illegitimately using or manipulating customer data, such as by selling or trading consumer information without consent or allowing targeted ads improperly, may still land a company in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or a state Attorney General. The FTC’s primary legal authority comes from Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive practices in the marketplace. The FTC also has authority to enforce a variety of sector specific consumer protection laws, including the Truth in Lending Act, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and GLBA. These actions may also lead to class action litigation.

    4. Assess Risks and Make a Plan

    Start by conducting a data privacy review and risk assessment, including vulnerability scanning and penetration testing, and identify any assets and data that need to be secured. You should evaluate your cybersecurity policy or look into cybersecurity insurance if you do not have it yet. Prepare a Written Information Security Program (WISP) and an Incident Response Plan. As part of your Incident Response Plan, create an Incident Response Team that should be composed of an interdisciplinary team including IT, a C-suite executive, and an attorney (consider having your external law firm and potentially an external forensics firm preapproved by your cyber insurance carrier).

    5. Implement Appropriate Polices and Provide Training

    All company employees need to be aware of how important it is to protect customer information. Provide ongoing data privacy and security training and awareness to your employees and vendors, including conducting a breach response workshop. Set strong password policies, and instruct that employees are never to share login credentials. Limit user and administrator privileges and control access to confidential customer information based on a “need to know” basis. Have all employees and vendors, and in some cases visitors, sign confidentiality

    agreements that specifically address customer data. Review your employee exit process to ensure that once employees leave your company, they don’t still have access to your systems. And, be sure that your vendors are maintaining appropriate security measures as well, to the extent they have access to customer information.

    Moving to an e-commerce platform can present a whole host of challenges that aren’t as obvious in a brick-and-mortar retail setting, including data privacy. With the sea change in consumer shopping patterns accelerated by COVID-19, food and beverage brands should be prepared to address data privacy and protection laws as part of their regular business.

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