From the workers in the fields who pick our produce to the celebrity chefs crafting the 12-course tasting menus at our favorite five-star restaurants, the universe of people who contribute to putting food on our plates is wide-ranging and diverse, with plenty of moving parts.
Whether they’re growing the food, preparing it in factories and commercial kitchens, serving it at restaurant tables or selling it at supermarkets and c-stores, the fates of employees in the food industry are often tied to some common trends, especially when it comes to the economy and the rise of technology. The recession drove consumers to tighten their belts and spend less on restaurant meals, and shoppers also grew more careful about spending at the grocery store, even as they took to preparing more meals at home.
While the recession was longer-lasting than earlier dips, the economic changes affecting the world of food industry employment are largely cyclical, as evidenced by a recent resurgence in demand for restaurant and hospitality workers. (read more…)
More than 3,000 exhibitors showed off their wares at the 2014 Natural Products Expo West this weekend, from health food to many better-for-you (but still not-so-good-for-you) renditions of popular snack foods. This year’s Expo West buzzed with the energy of a recovering economy and venture capital, including an escalator that advertised dozens of recent acquisitions.
From the array of offerings, including yogurt, popcorn, chia seeds, bars, coconut and plenty of “free-from” foods, emerged three key trends with likely staying power, thanks to their health benefits and alignment with current tastes and demographic trends.
Companies play up plant-based proteins
Proteins derived from grains, seeds, nuts and beans are not new to the natural foods industry. But the phrase “plant-based protein” popped up often as a value proposition, often alongside paleo and/or gluten-free claims. Love Grown Foods blends beans into its brown rice-based O-shaped cereal. Kind makes “plant-based” a key message in its Strong line of savory nut bars featuring Jalapeno and Hickory Smoked flavors. (read more…)
For generations, U.S. growers produced thousands of different varieties of apples with diverse flavors, colors, textures and uses. Years of cultivating only the few types we typically see in supermarkets got us out of the heirloom habit but, while many of the early varieties are lost to us forever, others are having a renaissance as chefs, home cooks and fruit fans find much to like in their varied flavor profiles. Chefs ranked heirloom apples fifth on the list of hot produce trends for 2014 in the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey.
Heirloom apples may be strictly defined as apples that go back centuries, and once in a while some of those varieties are rediscovered in yards and fields that have been neglected for decades, says Claris Ritter, produce manager for Alfalfa’s market in Boulder, Colo. It’s more likely, though, that when we say heirloom apples these days we’re really talking about a broader group that includes heritage and hybrid apples that have been purposely bred to create a new combination of crispness and sweetness. (read more…)
When each of his grandchildren was born, Francis Ford Coppola wrote them a song. He crafted each heartfelt ditty especially for each child, with details about her name or personality. The acclaimed director and winery proprietor puts a similar emphasis on family when it comes to his wine business, calling on his family members for inspiration and even to design labels and marketing campaigns. Coppola sat down to discuss his success in the wine business during an event Tuesday night at the AFI Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Md.
Coppola’s family has a history of winemaking in America, beginning in New York’s Italian Harlem, where “my grandfather would get together with some of the paisan from the neighborhood …. and they would order maybe half a boxcar of grapes from the Napa Valley, no doubt from Cesare Mondavi, who was Robert Mondavi’s father and was in the business of supplying grapes for the immigrants around the country to make their own wine,” Coppola said. (read more…)