New data sources, along with artistic product descriptions and a lack of classification standards, have dumped a mound of valuable but hard to interpret data on our doorstep. Now what?

Sweetgreen, Panera, McDonald's

We at Food Genius see food and think data. No matter if we’re looking at a menu, a receipt or an elaborate product description from a supplier, we see food terminology and think data. For example, let’s look at three Thai/Asian salads: the Rad Thai Salad from SweetGreen, the Thai Chicken Salad from Panera, and the Premium Asian Salad with Crispy Chicken from McDonald’s. Salads are simple, right? Just greens, vegetables, a protein and dressing. Ah, but we all know life just isn’t that easy. The true insight is in the detail.

Between SweetGreen, Panera and McDonald’s, they have more than 30 distinct salads on their core menus. To even begin understanding this from a data standpoint, we need to cluster (or what Food Genius calls “normalize”) them by type. (read more…)

Consumers who think nothing of ordering their books, clothes and shoes online still often balk when it comes to buying their groceries anywhere but the store. The costs and the logistics involved in delivering perishable consumables has kept the food and beverage sector lagging other e-commerce efforts, but flexibility, personalization and omnichannel strategies are helping grocers catch up.

Only about 1% of all U.S. consumers do their grocery shopping online, but online grocery sales are forecast to grow at a 21.1% compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2018, to nearly $18 billion, while traditional grocery sales are expected to grow only 3.1% annually during the same period, according to Business Insider Intelligence.

In the U.S., grocery e-commerce is working best in high-density urban areas where it’s more cost-effective than in sprawling suburbs or sparsely populated rural areas, said Rahul Bindish, vice president of sales for Grid Dynamics. (read more…)

From big chains like Peet’s and Starbucks to smaller regional players like D.C.’s Dolcezza, coffee makers are helping customers cool off with cold brew iced coffee this summer. Although cold brew coffee isn’t a new concept, it’s a market trend that is getting a lot of attention and gaining in popularity — and it seems to be a trend that could stick.

Cold brew coffee is different from traditional iced coffee in that it is made with cool water, rather than by brewing hot coffee and pouring it over ice to cool it off, and making cold brew coffee is a much more labor-intensive process. In fact, Tech Times reported that it took Starbucks two years to come up with a satisfactory process for making the cold brew coffee that the chain will start serving at all of its locations in North America.

For Brett Holmes, a partner of cold brew coffee maker Strother’s Brewed Cold, the new-found cold brew coffee craze has been a long time coming. (read more…)

The Q2 2015 Restaurant Social Media Index rankings are in!

Last quarter, Panera Bread took No. 1 for the Top 25 National Restaurant Brands of Q1 2015. This month, the artificial-ban brand falls to No. 4, and is replaced by Chick-fil-A. Check out the Top 10 list below, where we also delve deeper into the Top 3. What caused the chicken chain to be on top? And what other players have entered the national field of top brands?

How it works

The RSMI, owned by digital agency DigitalCoCo, is a social media index with domain expertise that tracks five main elements — influence, sentiment, engagement, location-based actions and mobile — across 17 social media platforms. Currently, the Index tracks more than 188K restaurant industry keywords and more than 127M U.S. social restaurant consumers in over 430K locations. Learn more about how the Index works.

Top 10 Restaurant Brands: Q2 2015

  1. Chick-fil-A: Chick-fil-A is one of those brands people seem to either love or hate.
  2. (read more…)

Farmers, food retailers and restaurants serving fresh food have always had to keep an eye on the weather and that’s never been truer than today, as California’s four-year drought drags on and a frigid winter and unseasonably cold spring in the Northeast brings later harvests for many crops.

“The season’s about a month behind,” said Chelsea Strehse, one of three farm managers at Gravity Hill Farm in Titusville, N.J. “We got started on time with some things in our hoop houses, but the ground was still frozen in March.”

This week, the busy market boasted a bounty of fresh from the field fruits and veggies, including husk cherries, heirloom tomatoes, purple peppers and Asian eggplant.

Since the cool spring turned to hot, wet summer, different crops are reacting in different ways, she said. “It’s a great year for eggplants. They like it being hotter, and they’re holding up really well.”

The rain, on the other hand, is making it more challenging to grow the state’s famous tomatoes. (read more…)