This post is sponsored by Dannon.

Keeping up with the quickly evolving landscape of school meals — from shrinking budgets to plate waste, equipment breakdowns to updated nutrition requirements – can be a challenge for school foodservice professionals. However, as the national account manager of schools for Dannon, which has been serving the needs of foodservice directors since 1998, and from my previous work training school nutrition directors, I’ve been able to dig deep to find innovative solutions for how we at Dannon can partner to help school foodservice professionals be successful in their school menu planning. With so much recent change in K-12 school nutrition requirements and menu items, we are making it a priority to collaborate and bring new solutions to the forefront.

For example, we saw an opportunity to expand the USDA commodity program to include fresh fluid milk, which could then convert to yogurt for schools. (read more…)

From sprawling suburban supercenters and warehouse clubs to shops and stalls on city streets, retail space has always been varied. But as urban lifestyles move further beyond the limits of traditional cities and prime real estate gets harder to find and more expensive to rent, many food retailers are turning to concepts meant for smaller spaces and more specific consumer groups.

Last year, six of the top 10 fastest-growing retail banners were small-box store formats such as CityTarget and Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Market, according to a report from Planet Retail, and smaller-format stores remain one of the key trends in retail this year, commercial real estate lawyer Craig Swanson told GlobeSt.

“Challenged by local jurisdictions trying to curb sprawl, retailers are adapting to these economic, demographic and regulatory changes by moving away from their prototypical stores and developing smaller formats for infill locations,” he said. “This trend will have broad-reaching effects for urban consumers, local governments and CRE companies alike, providing consumers with more diverse shopping options closer to home.”

For Wal-Mart, establishing a smaller-urban footprint is already paying off. (read more…)

With a background in traditional CPG marketing, I used to believe that emerging brands should cast their eyes to the big guys to learn how to market their products or services successfully. Certainly, many global brands are still creating campaigns that are the envy of the industry. But more and more frequently, entrepreneurial brands are setting the gold standard for customer engagement.

In the past, major brands ruled both share of mind and share of shelf. But today, trust in traditional brands is at an all-time low. More than 50% of people say their trust in big business has declined over the past few years, according to a 2014 Harris Interactive and Nielsen study. Customers are demanding greater transparency and authenticity. Iconic brands are losing market share to emerging companies that are doing a much better job of connecting with consumers.

What is their secret? Many entrepreneurial food brands are driven by passion and fueled by a belief in a healthier (and tastier) product. (read more…)

This is a very exciting time for the food and beverage industry; there is such a vibrancy overflowing for all things cooking, shopping and eating. Consumers have a newfound curiosity, a deeper interest and higher levels of engagement with food that we are truly witnessing a broader cultural shift. You might say we are living in a food culture renaissance.

Fundamental shifts in technology, travel and trade have placed food back at the center of everyday life and popular culture. Food is fun and important. Interest in food isn’t a mere millennial trait but a reflection of evolving food culture.

The Hartman Group’s Culture of Food 2015: New Appetites, New Routines new report is a deep dive into the world of food today. We uncovered how consumers are trading out traditional food routines for new ones that reflect the desires and challenges of expanded variety in a complex food landscape. (read more…)

Top news stories this week included quickservice restaurant news involving two big players in the industry: In-N-Out and McDonald’s – as In-N-Out finds a customer loyalty in keeping its menu as it is, McDonald’s is changing things up with a new version of its value menu.

In the CPG world, ConAgra’s spinoff of its Lamb Weston frozen potato products division to form two separate, publicly-traded companies was a departure from the slew of mergers and acquisitions we’ve seen throughout the year and was well-read by SmartBrief subscribers. Other popular news included new and innovative Thanksgiving cooking trends, restaurant delivery expansion with Amazon Prime spreading to more cities, specifically Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles, and grocery delivery technology innovation with Wal-Mart possibly experimenting with drones to eliminate the need for humans — a prospect that has other grocery retailers including Peapod, ShopRite and Wegmans upping their game when it comes to online shopping, delivery and click-and-collect programs. (read more…)