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  • 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.

  • 13 Oct 2020 1:56 PM | Anna Briggs-Pirila

    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

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

     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

    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

    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.

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