10 Food & Beverage Leaders to Watch in 2019

It’s that time of the year again, where everyone reflects on the year before and plans their goals for the next year.

A leader in the food & beverage industry has unique challenges, but a smart leader never stops learning and soaking up insights.

With that in mind, Zenreach recently released a list of thought leaders in food & beverage to follow to stay informed about the latest trends in the foodservice sector.

This list includes our own Paul Barron, Foodable's CEO, executive producer, and editor-in-chief, along with other entrepreneurs in the business.

The Food Critic and Podcast Host Soleil Ho also made Zenreach's list. This 31-year old is making a difference with her podcast Racist Sandwich, which covers social justice issues in the industry. As the Zenreach blog writes Ho exposes industry problems like as "cultural appropriation, male dominance in the kitchen and culinary authenticity." Ho also is the new food critic for the "San Francisco Chronicle."

Although Gary Vaynerchuk doesn't only cover topics pertinent to the restaurant industry, he is a marketing and branding mastermind who lands on Zenreach's list. He helped grow his family's wine company from a $3 million business to a $60 million business in just a few years by incorporating video content with the channel Wine Library TV. This entrepreneur and speaker has interviewed many of the industry's best too, including Jon Taffer and Danny Meyer.

Zenreach also lists restauranteur David Chang and restauranteur and restaurant industry consultant Aaron Allen. Learn more about these thought leaders at the Zenreach blog now.

We also have a few others to add-on to this list.

The CEO: Clare Reichenbach

Clare Reichenbach |   The James Beard Foundation

Clare Reichenbach | The James Beard Foundation

At the beginning of 2018, the coveted James Beard Foundation named Clare Reichenbach its CEO. Even though she has no culinary experience, she has a long career leading organizations. She was the founder of CJJR Consulting, a business network and was the former EVP Strategy and Business Development for BBC Worldwide North America. Her goal at the JBF is to extend "awareness of the foundation and bringing it greater global recognition through programs dealing with education diversity, women’s issues and childhood nutrition," writes "The New York Times."

The Builder: Sam Fox

This restaurateur launched Fox Restaurant Concepts, a group that now has almost 50 restaurants across the U.S., including Zinburger, Wildflower, and Tucson's Blanco. Fox has been a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur 11 times.

The Rule Breaker: Erik Oberholtzer

Foodable has been following Oberholtzer's career for years now. As the co-founder of the fast casual Tender Greens, he has taken a hands-on approach to make the chain a success. Oberholtzer, along with his partners even dug ditches for the chain's first store's plumbing. The chain is backed by Danny Meyer, who even said in 2015 "that I wish I'd thought of it myself." There are now 29 Tender Greens stores in California, New York, and Massachusetts.

The Trailblazer: Ethan Brown

Brown is the CEO of the plant-based company Beyond Meat that has emerged as a leader in this space. Brown spent his childhood on a farm where he developed the mindset to change of the way the world eats meat. Beyond Meat went public at the end of 2019 and the company's products are now available in 11,000 grocery stores across the country.

We recently sat down with Brown to talk about his company and the booming plant-based market. Listen to the recent episode of The Barron Report below.

The Comeback Artist: Brian Niccol

This industry veteran was hired by the struggling chain Chipotle in early 2018 to help the former fast casual darling to recover. Niccol was formerly the CEO and marketing mastermind of the brand Taco Bell. In 2018, Chipotle's store sales gradually climbed and the company's shares spiked 50 percent. Niccol has directed the chain to upgrade its mobile app and in-store technology. He has also made it his mission to "build a culture of accountability," as he said in July. In 2019, Chipotle rolled out new menu items to cater to those on restrictive diets with the Keto Bowl and Whole30 bowl. With Niccol holding the reins, 2019 is expected to be the year Chipotle makes its official comeback.

Plant-Based Food Influencers Want More Delivery Options

  • Data around food influencers show that plant-based diets are trending

  • The consumer shift to vegan diets is causing restaurants to create more plant-based dishes

The Plant-based movement is in full swing. Plant-based consumption is up 300% over just the last year and restaurants are starting to take notice.

According to Foodable Labs, this year, 51% of chefs have added vegan menu items to their menus, up 31% from last year. These plant-based concepts have increased traffic a whopping 13% year over year in a market where overall restaurant counts are down.

So what’s the big deal? Meat is not going to disappear, right?? While data cannot say just yet, we do see engagement with plant-based content growing across the board.

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According to Foodable Labs, conversations among food influencers are showing a 78.4% increase in plant-based topics over the last year, indicating a very clear culture shift.

Big companies like Walmart are jumping on the trend, asking their suppliers for more healthy and plant-based products like alternative proteins. CEO of alternative protein company Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown says he’s noticed the shift, too.

“We’ve gone from pushing and really trying to convince to now just being in response mode where the consumer is now driving the ship, so to speak, and steering the ship and we are just trying to keep up,” Brown explains.

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HipCityVeg CEO Nicole Marquis adds that winning with this new brand of customer is more than simply giving them what they want.

“It’s no longer really about like interruptive marketing and manipulating someone's purchasing choices, it’s really about communicating who we are, what we do, what we believe in,” she says. “I think the driving force is definitely shared value.”

Foodable Labs also shows that plant-based meal delivery has a major gap in the market with 62.7% of food influencers looking for more plant-based delivery options.

Foodable expects plant-based diets and Vegan diets to continue to grow over the next year. Stay tuned to Foodable Network for the latest in plant-based news and trends and comment and share to join the conversation!

Canada’s First QSR to Launch Veggie Burger Experiences Beyond Meat Shortages From High Demand

Canada’s First QSR to Launch Veggie Burger Experiences Beyond Meat Shortages From High Demand

Beyond Meat’s largest restaurant partner, A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. has experienced product shortages due to “extreme popularity” of its latest Beyond Burger offering which launched July 9.

According to Plant Based News, some vegan burger patty fans have been “unable to get their hands on it, leading numerous A&W outlets to post signs, with one saying: We are out of Beyond Burgers! Due to a Canada-wide shortage and the extreme popularity of the Beyond Burger, we have run out. Many stores may still carry them. We will continue serving them as soon as we can get more!! Thank you for making our new burger a success!!!”

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Beyond Meat's Ethan Brown Credits Millennials, Whole Foods for Success

Beyond Meat's Ethan Brown Credits Millennials, Whole Foods for Success

Ethan Brown created Beyond Meat to solve animal cruelty, environmental degradation, and improve human health.

  • Beyond Meat's Burger and Sausage are in high-demand and now available through Sysco, Whole Foods, and TGI Fridays.

Ethan Brown grew up on a farm. It was this childhood that led him to believe that there had to be a different way to create delicious meats. Using science (and a little time) Brown developed a plant protein burger that has been lauded for its incredible performance as an imitation beef burger. Reviews illustrate nothing less than pure disbelief in tasting the “bleeding” burger.

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Leonardo DiCaprio Backs This Plant-Based Meat Company

Earlier this month, Foodable reported on how two plant-based meat start-ups, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are faring in the race to be first to market. Now, let’s talk about brand recognition.

It looks like the Los Angeles-based brand, Beyond Meat, got a boost from Hollywood actor and passionate environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio. The Academy Award winner has invested in the meatless company.

"Livestock production is a major contributor to carbon emissions. Shifting from animal meat to the plant-based meats developed by Beyond Meat is one of the most powerful measures someone can take to reduce their impact on our climate," said DiCaprio in a statement.

Not only is the actor adding Beyond Meat to his ever-growing portfolio of environmental grants awarded through his foundation, but he is also becoming an advocate for the company’s mission.

"I am thrilled to officially welcome Leonardo DiCaprio to the Beyond Meat family," said Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat in a press release. "His investment and role as an advocate reflects a shared vision that meat made directly from plants, like our Beyond Burger, has enormous benefits for human health, the climate, natural resources, and animal welfare…”

DiCaprio’s financial backing and support could not have come at a better time for the company. Not only does this elevate Beyond Meat’s profile overall, but now, with its recent distribution deals, people are going to see a whole lot more of Beyond Burgers.

A post shared by Beyond Meat (@beyondmeat) on

Thanks to the many distribution points from recent partner, Sysco, the plant-based meat will be available at participating restaurants, schools, hospitals and other outlets.

It also expanded from Whole Foods Market to over 2,000 stores and landed in the meat case aisle at two of the country’s biggest grocery chains: Kroger and Albertsons.

Besides being sold at grocery stores across the country, the brand is available at the fast casual chains Veggie Grill and all BurgerFi stores. Most recently, it is also being offered at all eight stores of Chicago-based, better-burger brand Epic Burger.

“Leo is serious about climate change,” said Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat, to “Fortune.” “...this is not a celebrity deal. He is someone who genuinely believes in what we’re doing and wants to help grow it.”

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