Today’s consumers expect fine-dining menus to boast locally sourced ingredients and change with the seasons, and now the locavore trend is fueling changes at less-pricey fast-casual chains such as Mad Greens, Salata, Sweetgreen, and Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless.

Fast casual continues to grow, even as overall restaurant traffic has remained flat for more than five years, according to recent NPD Group data. A key trend driving that growth is the rising demand for fresh ingredients, and the willingness to pay a premium for them. And, if the food is locally sourced and comes with a backstory, so much the better.

Colorado-based Mad Greens has increased the amount of locally sourced items on the menu in recent years, and there’s a strategy for expanding that when the 13-unit chain expands beyond the Centennial State’s borders, said founders Marley Hodgson and Dan Long. “The plan is to have a dedicated portion of the menu that’s local specific,” Hodgson said. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s. Find out how more about this revolutionary study, and how its detailed findings can benefit your business.

Morning is when millions of people eat away from home. But today, how A.M. consumers make their morning food choices and purchases is dramatically different than how they’ve previously decided what to eat. Now there are a myriad of variables that affect how people choose their first meal. These include:

  • An unlimited variety of foods available in the morning, at quick-serve restaurants, convenience stores, coffee shops and more.
  • More finely segmented demographic groups including employed vs. retired, urban vs. suburban, stay-at-homes vs. business travelers.
  • Changing attitudes about the definition of morning “meals.” A relaxing sit-down breakfast could be considered a meal to one, while a protein bar and cup of coffee is an equally satisfying option for someone else.

Because eating behaviors have such a large effect on the foodservice industry, Kellogg’s examined what motivates those who eat away from home in the morning. (read more…)

There’s no perfect recipe for rising up the CPG leadership ladder, but what ingredients have been most important for those who are currently leaders within their food and beverage companies? Lisa Walsh, vice president of PepsiCo Customer Management, has been with PepsiCo since 1999 working on things like trade engagement strategy, strategic partnerships with customers and e-commerce sales strategies, and certainly qualifies as a leader in CPG. She also represents the company within the Food Marketing Institute, Network of Executive Women and National Grocers Association.

SmartBrief talked with her about how she got to where she is, what lessons she learned along the way and advice she would offer to those hoping to follow in her footsteps.

Can you talk a little bit about your path to leadership at PepsiCo?

Early in my career I focused on learning the fundamentals of the industry. It started with gaining a solid understanding of data and analytics that drive the business as well as the mechanics of how product moves from “seed to shelf.” Knowing my business cold gave me credibility and visibility to move ahead. (read more…)

As restaurants attempt to innovate through dishing out new bold flavors and creating categories like upscale comfort food, so too turn the wheels behind the bar with moves that take popular liquors to make interesting new cocktails and, a little more outside the box, create the beginnings of a beer cocktail trend.

“Chelada, the Mexican thirst-quenching combo of lime juice and a light lager, the Black and Tan — Guinness and Harp — have been around for quite some time,” says Melissa Abbott, director of culinary insights at the Hartman Group. “Consumers are just coming around to the idea of mixing some of the sour Belgian-style beers as a cocktail ingredient. But it has to make some sort of culinary sense, not just a mash-up of ingredients.”

At Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington, D.C., and on the other side of the country, at Urbane Restaurant in Seattle, Wash., beer cocktails have graced beverage menus with measured success. (read more…)

Millennial consumers pose an interesting challenge for food retailers in that their desires, like those of all generations, are an amalgam of how old they are and the times in which they live. In some ways, their desires echo those of Boomers when they were young adults — except that millennials came of age in an era of rampant technology and mobility, and during a recession that hit them harder than most.

Their goals are not especially unique: They want to build careers, spend time with friends and travel. But millennial shopping and eating behaviors are exceptional, and as the largest generation since the Boomers, their choices have a big impact on overall consumer trends.

In that way, they are a sort of barometer for future consumer behavior and warrant retailers’ close attention. It’s worth knowing, for example, that millennials shop all channels and tend to go most regularly to stores in close proximity. (read more…)