One of the most notable shifts in food culture in recent years has been an increasing interest in play, adventure and exploration. People strive to make their meals and snacks into experiences, not just fueling times and a major boost in their quest to discover new flavors and cuisines is the technology on their laptops and in their smartphones.

People now get inspiration from websites and social media for everything from wedding feasts to what’s for dinner on Thursday night. It’s probably not surprising that 70% of consumers use digital food resources at least weekly.

They see a friend’s Facebook post on a favorite restaurant, look up its ratings on Yelp and make a reservation at People are inspired to create meals at home by pictures on Pinterest, suggestions on Twitter and recipes at

There’s also the digital buying of food — and its sophistication is both astonishing and seemingly unstoppable, with some people already imagining how CEO Jeff Bezos’ vision of using drones for deliveries might affect the pizza business. (read more…)

Coffee prices fluctuate with supply, but a severe drought in Brazil and a fungus called coffee rust in Central America have taken a toll on crop yields, sending coffee bean costs soaring this year with the expectation that they’ll go even higher in 2015.

A report earlier this year from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia predicts that climate change will bring more of the same in the future. Arabica bean prices rose at least 72% this year, and they’re likely to continue climbing in 2015, according to Citi Research.

Total global supply is on track to rise 1.5% this year compared to 2013, but it’s the second year of a supply deficit, according to a report by Rabobank earlier this month. And the hit comes as coffee consumption around the globe continues to rise, driven in large part by Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts expansions into new markets, and the expansion of quickservice coffee programs like McDonald’s McCafe line. (read more…)

For restaurants looking to implement a sustainability plan, one of the best places to start is by reducing food waste. As much as 40% percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed, according to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There are a number of ways restaurants can cut their food waste, from donation programs to composting.

SmartBrief interviewed Laura Abshire, the director of sustainability policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C., about different methods of reducing food waste and how restaurants can benefit from food waste reduction. Abshire leads the Association’s work on energy and environmental policy and related advocacy efforts, works extensively with its Conserve initiative and also is the NRA’s liaison for the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a joint effort with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute, to help reduce, reuse and recycle food waste in the retail and foodservice industries. (read more…)

From red velvet to pumpkin, croissant hybrids to savory sweets, desserts have showcased a huge number of changing trends over the past few years. But what are consumers actually eating? And what do they want to eat? For Datassential‘s upcoming MenuTrends Keynote report, which combines survey data directly from consumers with menuing and trend data from our MenuTrends database, we are taking a look at the current state of the dessert market, from cakes to pies to cookies. Here’s a sneak peak at some early results from this extensive report.

Chocolate reigns supreme

Consumers’ love of chocolate almost can’t be overstated. Chocolate cake — any variety — was not only the most eaten cake variety by the percentage of consumers who chose it within the last two weeks (26%), but it was also the most loved cake variety — in fact, over half of consumers said they love chocolate cake. (read more…)

Food fraud is a problem that has sounded global alarm bells in recent years, from tainted meat in China to last year’s horse meat scandal in the U.K. to the revelation that at least 10% of the cheese labeled “Swiss” sold in supermarkets is actually counterfeit. What until a few years ago was a relatively unexplored area of study will be one of the top five critical global issues the European Commission will tackle in 2015.

Defined simply as “intentional deception using food for economic gain,” food fraud has become easier to detect through sophisticated DNA and other tests designed to detect ingredients down to the molecule, but criminology may play just as important a role as science in preventing food fraud.

“The big area we’re focusing on now is not so much on the latest methods to detect fraud, we’re focusing on understanding the fraudster, why he would commit the crime and why he perceives a fraud opportunity,” said John Spink, director of Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative. (read more…)