Diversity is critical to any business, but according to Subriana Pierce, who spent most of her career with PepsiCo‘s Frito Lay division and also served as senior vice president of merchandising for Albertsons‘ Southern California division, diversity is most essential in the food and beverage industry. According to Pierce, developing a workforce that accurately reflects the diversity of the consumer base is key to the success of any food and beverage company.

SmartBrief talked with Pierce about why it is important for the food and beverage industry’s workforce to reflect today’s increasingly diverse consumers, and how food and beverage companies might go about getting there.

In your experience, what is the state of diversity in the food and beverage industry right now?

Many companies are saying they are focused on it. I still think the industry is not changing as quickly as the consumer base and I think there’s still a broad opportunity in both consumer packaged goods and especially retail. (read more…)

Last winter’s blizzards and arctic blasts started becoming a distant memory the minute restaurants around the country set up the patio tables and opened the rooftop decks for the season. Restaurants with outdoor dining spaces in many markets have gone from being a nice perk to a must-have, especially in places where the out-of-doors is a major draw.

“In Colorado, specifically in Denver, we get 300 days of sunshine a year,” said Denver-based restaurant consultant John Imbergamo. “Outdoor patios are a way of life with consumers across the dining spectrum from fast casual to fine dining.”

In addition to fine weather, scenery can also be a big reason for restaurants to add outdoor seating, as evidenced by Gayot.com’s recent list of Top 10 outdoor dining restaurants, which includes waterfront restaurants Legal Harborside in Boston and Red Fish Grill in Coral Gables, Fla.

But even in areas that don’t boast nearly year-round sunshine or waves crashing below, seasonal outdoor dining can be a draw. (read more…)

Supermarkets have more competition than ever from convenience stores, dollar stores, big box discounters and a growing number of online retailers, but they’ve also got some advantages in the form of customer loyalty programs full of data that can be mined in ways that keep shoppers coming back.

Grocery stores have been collecting data through loyalty programs for more than two decades, and those that use the information they gather to improve the shopping experience stand to boost same-store sales by 5% to 10%, according to a study done a few years ago by business analytics and intelligence provider SAS.

Supermarket CIOs are moving quickly to adopt big data tools — 64% were using big data last year, up from 20% the year before, according to a study by SwiftIQ. Strengthening shopper engagement and creating personalized promotions were seen as the top avenues for using big data to create value, the report said. (read more…)

ESHA discusses four potential food labeling changes that may motivate foodmakers to reformulate

Health-conscious consumers are becoming avid food label readers, and proposed new rules from the Food and Drug Administration may soon make it easier for grocery shoppers to make better choices. The agency has proposed the first set of extensive changes to nutrition labels on packaged foods since the FDA first started requiring the information on packages more than two decades ago. The new rules would require more realistic portion sizes, an additional column on packages with two to four servings showing nutritional information for the entire package and disclosures on added sugars and other ingredients.

Food makers had until Aug. 1 to submit their comments on the proposed rules to the FDA. Recently, ESHA Research database manager and registered dietitian Elizabeth Braithwaite shared an in-depth look at the proposed food labeling changes and why they’re coming now. (read more…)

Which restaurant brands are topping DigitalCoCo’s proprietary Restaurant Social Media Index for Q2?

To find out who the Overall Top 250 brands are, we’ve compiled data from more than 93 million indexed U.S. social consumers in conjunction with 9,764 tracked restaurant brands in more than 240,000 locations across the nation. If you’re unfamiliar with the RSMI, a brand’s RSMI Score is determined by four main elements — influence, sentiment, engagement, and location-based actions — across 17 social media platforms. Aside from our Overall Top 250 list each quarter, the RSMI also gathers the Top Mobile Brands based on mobile engagement, Top Social Sentiment based on brand love by social consumers, brands with the Top Location-Based Activity, and brands with the Top Social Engagement. (Learn more about how the Index works here.)

Q2 2014: The Top 10 Restaurants

Subway: The “Eat Fresh” brand maintains its No. 1 spot this quarter. (read more…)