This post is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Specialty beverages offer foodservice operators a low-cost way to drive margins, differentiate themselves from competitors and satisfy consumer needs.

Using ingredients they are likely to already have on hand, operators can generate excitement around the menu and raise their check averages with a variety of offerings that strengthen their own brands.

Specialty beverages are among the fastest-growing categories in foodservice, and their multifaceted nature can speak to consumer preferences for both health and indulgence, and also allow for personalization and customization.

We talked to Thays Morgan, senior manager for strategy, planning and development for the full-service restaurant channel at Coca-Cola’s foodservice division, about how operators can leverage specialty beverages to grow their business.

Why are specialty beverages so important to foodservice operators?

When we look at the specialty beverage categories — teas, lemonades, limeades, shakes, smoothies and even sparkling sodas and specialty sodas — they are forecast to have double-digit growth over the next five years. (read more…)

Organic loses its authenticity halo as it goes more mainstream

For decades, consumers trusted organic foods to provide authentic, healthy alternatives to problems they perceived in the world of conventional food.

As organics have gone mainstream, with 73% of people now buying them, their authenticity halo is fading. Consumers do not trust organics the way they used to. They want to support companies that share their values and are committed to organic, natural and real food – but they doubt whether some companies that trumpet those values sincerely embrace them, and they increasingly mistrust the government’s organic certification.

Consumers in all segments are turning toward local to help them resolve their confusion and uncertainty surrounding organic certifications and the claims of the organic marketplace.

“Local is more important to me than organic,” one Nashville resident told The Hartman Group for its Organic & Natural 2014 report. “It’s about building a relationship. (read more…)

It is no surprise that women are behind a good deal of spending dollars. Women account for more than 70% of global purchasing decisions, according to Gallup, and as of last year, women control up to $15 trillion of spending power, Nielsen reported. But while marketers are making great strides when it comes to targeting female consumers, there is still a segment of the female population that marketers are missing, especially in the consumer packaged goods space — women at work.

According to a recent report by WorkPlace Impact, nearly half of women stop at the grocery store on their way home from work or during their lunch breaks, and a whopping 84% of women edit their shopping lists while they’re at work. Because of this, many CPG marketers are not reaching out to female consumers when they are making many of their purchasing decisions, according to Tara Peters, director of marketing at WorkPlace Impact. (read more…)

Restaurants with a sustainability plan have an advantage over the competition in several ways. Making an effort to protect the environment and prevent food waste helps restaurants make a connection with customers by showing that they care. Taking steps toward a sustainable operation is also good for the bottom line — energy-saving appliances, composting and on-site gardens can all help restaurants save money. With so many benefits, implementing a sustainability plan might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be a daunting task for busy restaurant owners who don’t know where to start.

To help restaurants get on the path to sustainability, the National Restaurant Association started the Conserve program, which aims to help restaurants become more efficient and engage with customers about the topics they care about. SmartBrief interviewed Conserve Program Director Jeff Clark about how the program has evolved and why restaurants shouldn’t wait to move forward with a sustainable business strategy. (read more…)

Judy Spires has an undeniable passion for food. Getting her start at a young age, initially for college money, Spires quickly rose in the ranks of the food retailing world, acting as president of three different companies before becoming CEO of Angelo Gordon Supermarket Holdings, where she is currently working on enhancing all 25 locations and refreshing its Kings Food Markets brand.

Spires is also spearheading a commitment to enhancing the Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market shopping experience, first with the grand re-opening of the Scarsdale, N.Y., location, its re-entrance into the New York City market with its new concept, Balducci’s Gourmet On the Go Café, and later this year, the opening of Balducci’s first wine store. Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market in Greenwich, Conn., will also be remodeled later this year and a newly renovated Westport market will be unveiled as well.

We talked to Spires about her journey to where she is now, how her upbringing never made her gender an obstacle and three things she’s learned along the way about leading in the food retail industry. (read more…)