Alpha Food Labs and the Future of Food

At its core, Alpha Food Labs has a simple mission: research, invest in, and create innovative foods that are more sustainable, healthy, and tasteful than what currently exists today. And co-founder and co-CEO Mike Lee is committed to bringing the conversation around the future of food and its current problems to the community.

“The future of food is everything,” says Lee. “We want to inspire and educate the food industry on where the future of food might go. We’re not dictating what the future of food will be—we’re offering opportunities for conversation and inspiration.”

While growing up in Detroit, Lee loved to go to The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) every year. He most loved to see the cars that were not going to be for sale: the concept cars. Lee eventually began to ask himself: “Who is doing concept car level stuff in food?” Concept cars are designed to inspire other automakers; he wanted a food company that did the same for the industry.

And consumers are asking for it. “People have woken up to the fact that food impacts your body and the environment in very profound ways,” says Lee. Plant-based has become a billion dollar industry, and what started as a niche market is becoming a key investment for companies like Tyson Foods.

Alpha Food Labs also includes companies Food+Tech Connect and The Future Market. Food+Tech Connect specializes in providing the most up-to-date research on what is currently happening in food technology, while The Future Market offers concept food products and experiences largely based on that research.

Lee and his company have been involved in flavor development for a number of products, including plant-based yogurt Lavva. The yogurt uses plant-based ingredients—including Pili nuts, young plantains, coconut, and cassava—that together create a creamy, delicious taste eerily similar to that of animal-based yogurt.

Lee does not advocate for any particular diet, and is determined to maintain a critical eye on all types of products—whether animal-based or plant-based. “There is no such thing as one optimal diet,” adds Lee. “At the end of the day, it’s not about the right diet. It’s the diet that’s right for you.”

Listen to the above episode of Food Out Loud to learn more about the future of Alpha Food Labs and the ever-evolving problem of sustainability.

Produced by:

Nathan Mikita

Producer

Catering The New Growth Model For Restaurants

In the United States alone, catering has grown into a $60 billion market—making demand generation essential to every restaurant and industry operator’s marketing strategy. Of that $60 billion, $24 billion is concentrated in business catering. And some brands are feeling the pressure to broaden their digital and marketing efforts to keep consumers coming to their door.

On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron chats with David Meiselman. Meiselman is the chief marketing officer for ezCater, the world’s largest online marketplace for business catering. The company works with over 62,000 restaurant and catering partner locations throughout the United States.

According to Meiselman, studies show “that 70 percent of catering buyers want delivery with their order, but only about 44 percent of catering orders are delivered.” With ezCater, he adds, “about 97 percent of the orders that come through our marketplace are delivered.”

For ezCater, the mission is simple: partner with dependable, high quality catering partners to help connect restaurants and operators with their current customers while also building that base. The company utilizes three online platforms—ezOrdering, ezManage, and ezDispatch—to accomplish this goal. Business class catering and delivery is provided via a network of local couriers and companies. Membership is free and there is no cost to be part of the marketplace itself; ezCater simply takes a small percentage of each order from the restaurant.

“The catering business is growing 50 percent faster than the overall restaurant business,” notes Meiselman. And ghost kitchens are part of that growth: restaurants are maintaining one flagship location while adding a number of ghost kitchens in surrounding areas to expand their reach. Such expansions ensure that customers receive a consistent delivery experience.

Listen to The Barron Report episode above to learn more about what makes the catering business unique and how the movement toward online ordering may help restaurants and operators focus on doing what they do best: making great food. And if you would like to keep listening, check out The Barron Report podcast on iTunes Now!

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


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VinePair on the Latest Wine and Beverage Trends

Hosted annually by the Specialty Food Association (SFA) in New York City, The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food and beverage event in North America. The New York City event showcases hundreds of future-focused restaurants, organizations, and innovators dedicated to crafting unique menus and products that meet the ever-changing needs of consumers today.

Host Paul Barron chatted with a number of trendsetters and up-and-comers in the industry this year. Adam Teeter is the CEO and co-founder of VinePair, a publication committed to providing cutting-edge wine, beer, and cocktail content that is both informative and entertaining. Teeter shares his thoughts on current beverage trends, as well as what he sees coming next for drinks.

The former director of business and audience development at Tablet Magazine, and a frequent speaker at a number of renowned food and beverage conferences throughout the United States, Teeter has always been passionate about making drinks accessible.

“We don’t have as much of a consumer base who only drinks one drink,” says Teeter. Millennials tend to be more experimental with eating and drinking when compared with older generations. “It’s fun for the industry, as it allows for lots of growth. It’s also really hard for the industry, because you now have the Budweisers of the world being like, ‘wait, these used to be really loyal consumers and now they’re not?’ It’s challenging, but there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Teeter notes that low- and non-alcoholic wines, cocktails, and beers represent a growing trend. Consumers are looking for drinks that taste as though they are drinking alcohol, but still fit into a weekday healthy lifestyle. Prosecco, rosé, and craft beer continue to be popular, and millennials and members of Generation Z love to try wines from unfamiliar countries and styles.

Wine is especially growing in popularity, as it is perceived—somewhat erroneously—as healthier than beer and cocktails, and helps consumers feel part of a larger culture.

“The idea of single serve is becoming really popular,” adds Teeter. “We are a demographic that unfortunately has commitment fears. We want to try before we buy.” And, according to Teeter, trying is often more important than buying. “We want to be experts, but to be an expert is just knowing a little more than someone else. You just want to say you’ve had it before—it doesn’t have to be the whole bottle.”

Check out the video above to hear Teeter’s thoughts on the possibilities for canned cocktails and purchasing alcohol online—or even one day ordering a glass of wine through UberEats!

How Global Trends Are Influencing Our Food Habits

Current market assessments strongly suggest that seafood consumption will rise year over year. According to Foodable Labs, food influencers have increased their references to seafood by 24.7 percent—a surge larger than any other protein.  Consumers under the age of 40 now constitute almost 40 percent of the United States, and they are searching for new types of protein that are nutritious, responsibly sourced, and carefully prepared.

At the last Foodable.io event in Seattle, Paul Barron hosted a panel discussing the latest seafood trends with three rising chefs in the industry: Keith Brunell, corporate chef at retail and food and beverage giant Nordstrom, Derek Simcik, the executive chef at rooftop bar Scout and The Nest (part of the boutique hotel Thompson Seattle), and Lionel Uddipa, the chef de cuisine for new American restaurant Salt in Juneau, Alaska.

Sustainability is no longer a trend: for many restaurants, it is becoming a necessity and an integral part of day-to-day operations. More and more customers want to know where products come from and how they are sourced and handled—and they want to keep the flavor compositions simple and truly taste the fish itself. Customization and accommodation options also popular to ensure that every consumer receives a dish that meets the needs of their preferred diet.

“As far as the cooking technique, we don’t do a lot. We try to serve the dish in its most purest form,” says Uddipa. “We’ve learned that if you have a story associated with the dish, the customer tends to pinpoint that. They understand and are amazed by the vision and the creation that went into the dish.”

To learn more about the latest trends and educating both consumers and cooks regarding seafood preparation, listen to the full episode of the podcast above.

Why Data Ownership Should Be Key When It Comes to Tech in Foodservice

According to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry 2019 report, “more than 8 in 10 restaurant operators agree that the use of technology in a restaurant provides a competitive advantage, and many are planning to ramp up their investments in technology in 2019.

This is great news for consumers but with so many choices in the technology sector, operators can be left feeling overwhelmed.

What’s important to remember is whichever tech advancement— whether it's their POS, online ordering, smartphone app, mobile payment, or loyalty program— operators decide to prioritize, it must make sense for their type of business and unique customer needs.

Watch the video above to learn how BurgerFi accurately figured out what tech advancements make sense for their business to get a proper ROI and how data ownership must be a priority in this day and age!

Produced and Researched by:

Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez

Writter & Producer


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