The shopping list is a common tool for consumers, who often shop for groceries with a focused and definite goal in mind. And while getting them to stray from buying only the items on their lists can be a difficult task, it is certainly not an impossible one. But are retailers and manufacturers really doing all they can to inspire impulse buys? According to Bill Dusek, managing director at Dechert-Hampe & Co., and Ron Hughes, senior manager of shopper strategy and innovation at The Coca-Cola Company, who covered the topic at FMI Connect in Chicago this week, there is more that can be done to spur shoppers to put those last-minute items in their baskets.

Last year, front-end sales accounted for about $6.4 billion of the total spend at supermarkets, according Dusek, and beverages, confections and magazines mostly drive front-end sales for food retailers across formats.

“The front end is a big, big business,” he said. (read more…)

Chef Stephen “Smokey” Schwartz took home his third grand prize from the 18th annual Championship BBQ held at Chicago’s Navy Pier on May 17. More than 1,000 chefs, restaurateurs and other foodservice professionals gathered to mingle and sample food and beverages at the event, which benefits Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Entries in the cooking competition ranged from cheeseburgers to pulled pork, but Schwartz chose to look beyond typical barbecue ingredients when constructing his winning dish.

“The judges at the 18th annual Championship BBQ and Cookout sure had a tough choice to make … all the food this year was incredible but in the end it was Stephen “Smokey” Schwartz from Burnt End BBQ who took home the prize, for his apple and pecan smoked rabbit rillettes, with rabbit bresaola, compressed watermelon and pickled watermelon rind, freekeh grains, micro greens, popped sorghum and citrus vinaigrette,” said Championship BBQ creator and former publisher of Food Arts magazine Barbara Mathias. (read more…)

More than 2,100 exhibiting companies demonstrated their goods and services to a crowd of more than 63,000 chefs, restaurant owners and other foodservice professionals at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago last week. The show floor was a great place to spot new trends. Several trends from years past — such as gluten-free and spicy flavors — are still going strong. Here’s a look at three concepts that were among the most buzzed-about at this year’s show.

Time for Tea

Specialty iced tea was among the top trends named by American Culinary Federation chefs in NRA’s What’s Hot Forecast for 2015. Teas of all types were represented on the show floor this year, from artisanal loose teas to flavored iced teas that are gaining popularity as more diners seek out healthier beverage choices.

Art of Tea was one of nearly 50 companies featuring tea at the show. The 10-year-old company produces more than 140 blends and restaurants account for 80% of its business, Business Development Executive Chelsea Gutierrez said. (read more…)

Chefs and other foodservice professionals are just beginning to scratch the surface of what they can create with 3D printers, and the possibilities are seemingly endless. The Culinary Institute of America has teamed with 3D Systems to explore how the 3D printing company’s ChefJet Pro, the first 3Dfood printer, can be used in professional kitchens. Representatives from the CIA and 3D Systems sat on a panel at the National Restaurant Association Show Monday to talk about what the future holds for 3D printing in the food world.

“We feel strongly that 3D printing has something to offer the culinary world, and we’re motivated to make sure the technology is available to the industry. But we don’t want to be the ones to decide how those capabilities are deployed. We want to make sure culinarians are able to explore those for themselves,” said Liz von Hasseln, creative director of food for 3D Systems. (read more…)

Restaurants of all sizes and types are trying to tap into the millennial mindset in order to appeal to the influential demographic. Connecting with these tech-savvy, food-loving consumers is key to attracting their business and earning their brand loyalty, chain restaurant chefs said during a panel discussion Sunday at the National Restaurant Association Show.

“It’s really about that connectivity and making a connection with our brand and our guests … they want to feel that connection all throughout their choice,” said Heidi Curry, senior manager of global R&D for bakery at Dunkin’ Brands.

Eateries can foster a connection with millennial consumers in a variety of ways, both in the restaurant and before and after a customer comes in to dine.

Being active on social media and having an engaging, dynamic web presence can go a long way toward reaching millennial consumers, who are interested in brands’ backstories and hearing about why brands and products align with their lifestyle. (read more…)