A new promotion and campaign touting the premium ingredients and recipes that make Papa John’s pizzas worth paying a bit more for ranked high with SmartBrief’s food and beverage readers this week, coming in second after a tale about the soaring popularity of meat-based jerky from established companies and emerging startups such as Epic, which was recently acquired by General Mills.

PepsiCo’s plans for a restaurant, bar and event venue called Kola House also made the top five, as did news that grocers Meijer, Lucky Supermarkets and Whole Foods’ 365 are vying for retail space in the Twin Cities and a story about the will of Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams, which leaves his massive cookware collection to the Culinary Institute of America.

Here’s the entire Top 10 list of this week’s most-read food and beverage stories:

  1. Jerky craze shows no sign of slowing
  2. Papa John’s shifts focus from price to premium pizza
  3. Meijer, Lucky’s, 365 scout out crowded Twin Cities market
  4. Williams-Sonoma founder wills eclectic cookware collection to CIA
  5. Pepsi to court social-savvy consumers with Kola House
  6. CAVU Venture Partners raises $156M to invest in CPG brands
  7. Hershey to expand distribution of Krave brand
  8. Kroger chooses new division presidents
  9. How Campbell’s chefs stay on top of the latest trends
  10. Whole Foods chooses Chicago area for 365 expansion

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As a restaurateur, you either give your customers what they want or you could go out of business.

Where sustainability is concerned, you can leverage your customers’ opinions and attitudes to better understand what environmental efforts you should undertake, which could generate more sales.

A short case study from our neighbors to the North is helpful here.

Tips from a Canadian success story

In Canada, selling root beer and burgers is good business. With 845 locations, A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. has a successful business model and is committed to reducing its environmental footprint. When they wondered where to begin their eco-efforts, they asked their customers.

The company crafted an environmental strategy focused on waste diversion, based on consumer market analysis and feedback.

“The majority of our sustainability initiatives are guest-led,” said Tyler Pronyk, director of distribution, equipment and packaging.

“We became the first national QSR chain to exclusively serve beef raised without the use of hormones and steroids, and that was sparked by consumer demand. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by AFS Technologies.

Scenario planning has long been used in managing resources and making marketing and sales decisions at the enterprise level. But thanks to greater connectivity and mobility, the technology is now becoming a critical tool for the marketing and sales departments, especially in managing consumer goods brands and promotions. We recently spoke with Alex Ring, vice president for trade promotion management at AFS Technologies, who called scenario planning a “Swiss army knife,” as it enables trade marketers and sales to deal with every possible contingency.

What is one of the biggest challenges you see with beverage companies and how can scenario planning help?

The greatest challenge marketers and sales face is the number of beverages and various “flavors” of a brand, and finding the right balance in promotions. If you go back 10 or 20 years, the typical approach was to encourage the salesperson to do the math and make sure they were considering events promotions, different price points and coming up with the balance that would work. (read more…)

There may not be many connections between fine dining and frozen chicken dinners, but Chef Jennifer Johnson is one of them. Formerly a Chez Panisse sous chef under Alice Waters and personal chef to Ann and Gordon Getty, Johnson now devotes her culinary talent to creating premium frozen meals for Hip Chick Farms, a company she founded on a sustainable and ethical foundation with her wife and business partner Serafina Palandech.

Together, Johnson and Palandech create artisan frozen meals like chicken wings and meatballs from locally-sourced and ethically-raised poultry. And the industry is taking note. They were recently recognized as two of the “Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” by Food & Wine magazine.

SmartBrief talked with Johnson about the path that led her to Hip Chicks Farms, why innovation is so important and the role leaders — especially women leaders — play in the food industry. (read more…)

Popular reads this week involved all – both retail and restaurants. Among the top stories were Lidl’s plan to expand out to the East Coast, hoping to build as many as 100 standalone 36,000-square-foot stores, and also, Kroger ranking as the top traditional supermarket retailer in the world, according to a report from the National Retail Federation. Also most-read was a story about what it takes for new products to make it onto McDonald’s menu.

Other big news included Ahold and Delhaize Group getting one step closer to completing its merger with a public filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the rising trend of black garlic in restaurant dishes.

Here’s the complete list of the top 10 most-read stories by SmartBrief this week:

  1. Lidl outlines US East Coast expansion plans
  1. How new products land on the McDonald’s menu
  1. Report: Kroger is the world’s largest supermarket chain
  1. Ahold, Delhaize move closer to merger with public filing
  1. Black garlic is chefs’ secret weapon for unique flavor
  1. ConaAgra CEO: Brands can thrive if they keep consumers in mind
  1. General Mills adds oatmeal-based yogurt to Plenti line
  1. Baking mix startup succeeds with focus on nutrition, simplicity
  1. Sprouts to add 11 new stores in the 2nd quarter
  1. Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s jump into value meal rivalry

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