Ardent Mills literally drives innovation to its customers with the Mobile Innovation Center – a fully functional bakery, culinary kitchen and meeting space designed to deliver onsite culinary and R&D creativity.

The premier flour-milling and ingredient company offered an exclusive look into its Mobile Innovation Center before the National Restaurant Association Hotel-Motel Show began. Walking up to the Ardent Mills booth, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and breathe in the smell of freshly baked bread – which was then followed by a wide-eyed reaction to the giant trailer that was parked before me.

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here. In most years, summer is a great time for relaxing with a beach novel and enjoying a good action movie.  But “Summer 2015” feels different. It marks the mid-point in a year of unprecedented activism impacting the food and drink industry. Here are a handful of things to watch as the remainder of the year unfolds.


Every five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly issue the latest iteration of the federal government’s formal guidance on healthy eating, the so-called “Nutrition Guidelines.”  The guidelines form the basis for federal food and nutrition programs and policies, including the School Lunch Program and the USDA MyPlate icon. 

One of the most anticipated four-day events of the year in the food and beverage industry was held in Chicago last month when industry leaders and world-renowned chefs came together for the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Hotel-Motel Show.

The NRA Show is one of the largest annual gatherings of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals, attracting more than 63,000 attendees and visitors from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The trade show showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues, and more growth opportunities than any other event, the NRA says. 

More than 2,000 exhibitors were ready for face-to-face interaction to take home quality leads, increase brand awareness and make better connections. “Exhibitors get back to business with an average of $1.3 million in domestic sales and $1 million international sales as a result of exhibiting,” the NRA says. 

What does your food defense strategy entail? If your eyes just glazed over from this question, I dare to say you are not alone. Although it seems we have yet to develop a clear picture of what a food defense plan should look like, industry leaders are working together to figure it out.  

Tyco Integrated Security, a company specializing in electronic security products, installation and services, hosted the 6th Annual Food Defense Strategy Exchange (FDSE) last week in Chicago. The FDSE provides a platform for food and beverage security professionals, regulators and experts to focus exclusively on food defense issues.

For a majority of us, an “authentic” Italian meal includes a box of pasta, whatever sauce we are in the mood for and Parmesan cheese, which most likely originated in Wisconsin. What most people – myself included – don’t know is that various types of pasta work best and taste best with certain sauce combinations. For example, penne pairs perfectly with a classic pasta sauce made with young and “sweet” or mild Gorgonzola cheese from Lombardy, Italy.

But where do you get those ingredients? And, didn’t the cost of my dinner just jump from around $3 to how much? 

We buy “Italian-sounding” products, which are imitations that sound or look Italian, because they are easier to find and cheaper than authentic Italian products. 

Take any and all opportunities to ask 16-year-olds what they’re currently using in social media. Depending on their interests and taste, their answers will obviously vary, but the conversation will almost always jump-start your own thinking around social platforms and how they should and will be used. 

In this instance, the conversation will spur a whole article about a profoundly popular and influential platform that, for some reason, only sparingly comes up in conversations around brand marketing. 

Consumers are changing the way they use restaurants and a night out does not always mean a typical full-service, casual dining experience anymore. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. is responding to the new way restaurants are being used not only with its menu, but also with the look of its restaurants. 

“We are the evening out versus part of the evening out,” CEO Rick Federico tells Food & Drink International. “Guests can order a couple small plates and a glass of wine and maybe sit at the counter, community tables or in the dining room. A lot of work and focus has gone into crafting our menus to give guests other opportunities to use the restaurant other than for just full-service, casual dining.”

Polystyrene foodservice packaging – you know, the stuff we drink our morning coffee out of and what our food comes in when we order takeout – accounts for about 0.4 percent, by weight, of the total one percent of polystyrene products generated in municipal solid waste. It’s a small percentage, but more can be done and recycling locations are available nationwide to make that happen.

So why has this product come under fire in New York City all of a sudden?

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says expanded polystyrene foam products are environmentally harmful and have no place in the city because there are better options and alternatives. “If more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less,” he says.

Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to your food or beverage brand, copycat names are not a compliment. Thankfully, intellectual property (IP) laws in the United States provide a vehicle to challenge imitators. But even so, wise food and beverage companies will strategically consider ways to construct their important brand assets that reduce risk and enhance the possibilities of brand protection.

Ask many marketing professionals how to select a “good” brand name and you will likely hear that it is best to adopt a brand name that conveys something meaningful about the product in order to immediately communicate to the consumer a benefit or attribute. Thus,  brand names often include words that describe an ingredient or flavor characteristic of the associated product, its function, purpose or use, its quality, or the geographic location from where it comes. 

The food and beverage industry’s most anticipated four-day event comes to Chicago next month when industry leaders and world-renowned chefs come together for the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Hotel-Motel Show. “We are an evolving species and we are the people who feed, fuel and entertain populations and economies,” Chef Elizabeth Falkner says. “We have big responsibilities and we need to share and collaborate to become great.”

The NRA Show is the largest annual gathering of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals, attracting more than 63,000 attendees and visitors from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The trade show showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues, and more growth opportunities than any other event, the NRA says. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two final rules for menu and vending machine labeling on Nov. 25. “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments” significantly expands FDA’s regulatory reach into restaurants and beyond. The long-awaited rule stems from the Affordable Care Act, the comprehensive health care reform law of 2010, and comes more than three years after the proposed rule was issued in April 2011. Because the final rule differs in many respects from the proposed rule and includes potentially burdensome requirements, including certification of nutritional content, covered businesses should begin preparing now for the Dec. 1 compliance date. 

In a significant departure from the earlier proposed rule, FDA’s final rule expands the categories of covered establishments to potentially include not just restaurants, but also movie theaters, amusement parks, concession stands, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues, convenience stores, coffee shops, bakeries, delis, grocery stores, supercenters and fitness clubs. Schools and businesses that sell food but do not have a fixed location, such as trains, airplanes and food trucks, are excluded.

When the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) started FMI Connect, its overarching goal was to provide a forum where industry leaders could come together to collaborate and enhance their businesses. The institute always held an annual show until a few years ago when it changed to every other year, but then re-annualized it last year based on member demand.

“Several years ago we did some research among various parts of the industry and we learned there is a general consensus that at one point during the year, the food and consumer product industry needs to come together to learn together, meet together, talk about what’s going on in the business and enhance their business together,” President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin tells Food & Drink International. FMI Connect is a unique, four-day gathering in Chicago for all things food retail that attracts more than 400 retailer companies. The trade show offers more than 40 education sessions and hands-on learning experiences, as well as space equivalent to five football fields for more than 700 exhibitors to display new products, services and innovations. 

Creating a sustainable business strategy is not just a good thing to do for the planet and its residents – it also makes excellent business sense. Building and implementing a strategic plan can grow your company, increase ROI and hike near- and long-term profitability. 

It is so key, in fact, that 44 percent of respondents to Grant Thornton LLP’s State of Sustainability in the Food and Beverage Industry Survey rated sustainability as being extremely important or important in their company’s business strategy.

Your social media manager has a few things to say about how you should be thinking about social when it comes to your business.

Today, there is a shared impression that digital media is making us more open and communicative with one another. We can text endlessly, reach out any time of day through email, post pictures of our exploits and share our experiences with friends halfway around the world. 


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