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Member News & Headlines Blog

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

     Joel WaradyCFBN Chairman & President of Catalina Crunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Joel Warady

    CFBN Chairman

  • 19 Jan 2021 10:55 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    EN Automation is a trusted partner and provider of innovative and reliable automation solutions to clients in all areas of food and beverage processing and packaging including bakery, ingredients, pet food, and meat processing. Their team supports automation modernization and digital transformation initiatives through roadmap development, engineering design, system implementation, project management, and business analytics. With teams located in regional offices nationwide EN Automation is equipped to provide solutions for even the most complex challenges. When deadlines press or on-site consultation is impractical, our remote capabilities provide real-time solutions with absolute confidence.

    A full range of automation system integration and design services are offered, including PLC, HMI, SCADA, MES, drives, motion control, machine safety, ERP interfacing, database management, and industrial network services. They carry the highest levels of certifications from industry leading hardware and software providers as well as CSIA (Control Systems Integrator Association), ensuring that standards and processes meet rigorous industry requirements and that the solutions provided meet or exceed their customer’s expectations. Their client satisfaction is demonstrated by a 98% customer retention rate. EN Automation’s goal is helping clients to lead the way in the Food and Beverage Industry 4.0 revolution.

    EN Automation is a division of EN Engineering LLC, a full-service engineering, consulting and environmental firm, headquartered in Warrenville, Illinois, with over 1800 employees in over 30 offices throughout North America.


    Mark Adelmann
    Director of Business Development
    EN Automation
    180 N. Lasalle Street
    Suite 1400
    Chicago, IL 60601

  • 14 Jan 2021 3:13 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    The Food Foundry, a growth accelerator by Relish Works in partnership with Gordon Food Service and 1871 is searching for their third cohort. They are seeking seed-stage startups innovating in the middle of the food value chain. Additional details can be found  at 

    Applications are open now through February 12th.

  • 14 Jan 2021 10:01 AM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    "When we come together there is so much we can do – for others, for our community, and to make the world a better place." 

    Alan Reed, Executive Director

    It's a new year and we see 2021 as a year full of opportunity. For many of us networking is only taking place on virtual platforms. Although we hope this situation is not here to stay, we can all make the best of it! That is why CFBN has restructured our industry events and created enhanced virtual networking opportunities for our members this year.

    Additionally, we are looking for more ways to engage with YOU, our network! Do you have an event coming up, a great shout out from the local press, or cutting-edge research to share with the industry? Let us know -- we would love to share your great work with our network. 

    Ways we can engage:

    • Social Media
    • Newsletter Content for Member Newsletter
    • News Blog
    • Career Postings

    Anna Pirila, who leads CFBN’s public relations and social media efforts, is looking for new ways to highlight and incorporate members into our communications efforts. Have some interesting news to share, reach Anna at We look forward to engaging, catching-up, and finding opportunities to network with you in 2021.

  • 2 Dec 2020 1:44 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Female Strong is a 501c3 non-profit organization and a community of committed individuals that offer hands-on programs, mentorship, and experiences that build confidence in middle and high school girls. Their flagship program, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy - YEA! Chicago empowers young girls to take control of their futures in a bold and powerful way, transforming students into CEOs of their own real businesses!

    Help local students launch their own enterprises and become impassioned local leaders by being a YEA! Investor Panel judge! Judges are the who’s-who in the local business community. The Investor Panel has a significant impact on the students’ ability to launch and run their enterprises and social movements. In addition, your contribution helps to support the growth of Female Strong. Learn more, below.

  • 29 Oct 2020 12:54 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    Three years ago, Northern California was devastated by the Tubbs Fire.  It destroyed homes, businesses and lives.  One of the hardest hit industries was the Wine Industry, where millions of smoke-damaged, ruined wine-grapes were destined to be left on the vine and wasted.

    However, The Wine Rayzyn Company came to save the day with their Rescue Rayzyn initiative! Using their patented technology that dries the grape on the vine to create delicious, unique snacking, crunchy Rayzyns they saved all of these smoke-damaged grapes from the landfill and created value from millions of tons of fruit deemed “unsalvageable”.  They did all of this while having lost their own organic vineyard, The Segassia Vineyard,  their home and their pets.  Watch this short video to better understand how this all evolved.

    2020 has been a hard year for all of us, and it looks like the Rescue Rayzyn Project will be hard at work once again.  The Glass Fire of 2020 is set to be the most destructive fire to the Napa Valley region in history.  For another year, vineyards are devastated and millions of wine-grapes stand to be lost due to fire and smoke-damage. 

    Our thoughts go out to the people affected by these terrible fires and now you have the chance to experience the The Wine Rayzyn Company for yourself.  Help support this company in their noble cause! Ask your Dempsey rep for a sample and to learn more.  How might you highlight this noble cause in your own marketing?  Contact Krista Ruhnke at for a sample and literature

  • 20 Oct 2020 2:49 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    A while back, we hosted an online roundtable session with our customers who shared their practical learnings and experiences about building resilience and optimizing operations affected by COVID-19.
    A dozen manufacturing leaders from all around the world joined the discussion about the importance of workforce flexibility, knowledge accessibility and portability, supply chain agility, and much more.
    Here’s the summary of what leading manufacturers do to survive and thrive during and after a global pandemic.

    Ensuring business continuity.
    1. Workforce planning & training.

    • Standardized procedures maintain task and product quality across lines and sites;
    • Digitized standard work helps deliver knowledge in the moment of need in a portable and scalable way;
    • Train, onboard, and refresh shop floor skills by giving operators immediate access to the knowledge they need to excel at their job;
    • Prevent mistakes and keep your lines running at all times - especially when you’re short on resources;
    • Faster response time and troubleshooting errors faster with better accuracy.

    29% of manufacturing companies are now accelerating digitization projects to better adapt to the new normal once the crisis is over (McKinsey, 2020). What tools and strategies can manufacturing companies use to ensure that production keeps on running smoothly? 

    The process of managing and mitigating risks around production continuity is often focused on the workforce. Making crucial operational knowledge available across teams, lines, and sites has become increasingly important during COVID-19. Companies see an impact on the following key areas when they share standard operating procedures and work instructions - digitally - with SwipeGuide:

    Skills management is another need that has become more critical during the past six months. Companies need to focus on skills management in order to ensure that lines are always up and running by operators with the right skills for the specific task at hand. Management should also look for innovative ways to enforce and guarantee that the new ways of working are maintained. 

    To read more, click here

  • 13 Oct 2020 5:52 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    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 Briggs-Pirila


    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 Briggs-Pirila

    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.

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