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…)

Autumn’s chilly temperatures typically herald a shift from fresh fruit and other warm-weather treats to more indulgent desserts, and the shift continues as the mercury falls and the holidays approach.

Some 49% of Americans who bake for the holidays use classic recipes rather than experimenting with new trends, according to a survey from Fleischmann’s Yeast and Karo Syrup. Ninety seven percent of Americans serve pie during the holidays and 48% serve three or more different kinds, the survey found. Familiar flavors win with consumers as well, with 78% using cinnamon, 67% picking pumpkin, 65% adding apple, 53% spicing things up with nutmeg and 34% including cranberry.

Pumpkin’s popularity has soared in recent years, spurred in large part by popular pumpkin spice coffees at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts signaling the start of the season. Dessert makers are using the traditional favorite to create new sweet treats for the holidays, including Marie Callender’s which launched a Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Pie this holiday season. (read more…)

Environmental issues are what’s hot on restaurant menus — and have been for years, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary trends survey.

This year, the first and third slots on the survey are locally sourced meats and seafood and locally sourced produce, respectively. “Hyper-local sourcing,” environmental sustainability, sustainable seafood, and food waste reduction management all made the top 20.

While those top trends often overlap, myths and misinformation still exist around environmental sustainability and food. That’s because of the complex and often confusing trade-offs that can occur. Here are three eco-myths to explore:

Eco-myth No. 1

Assumption: Local food is always better for the environment.

Fact: Chefs often cite how local or hyper-local food offers fresher flavor, better quality and the excellent potential for telling customers a story on their menus. Customers often believe shrinking the food miles, or distance the food has to travel before it is eaten, will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of their food (i.e., local is better for the environment). (read more…)

Kroger’s announcement that it plans to pay $178 million for Roundy’s, a smaller rival that operates under the Mariano’s, Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market banners in Wisconsin and Illinois, drew the most attention from SmartBrief’s food and beverage readers this week, and a separate story about the ways Kroger is using tech tools to improve the grocery shopping experience ranked fourth.

Features about food companies coping with changing consumer habits proved popular with readers this week, including a tale about the ways snack maker KIND brand works to live up to its name, a story about how Red Robin hopes to expand its audience with a restaurant redesign aimed at wooing millennials and a missive on Campbell’s efforts to tweak recipes and labels to feed changing tastes.

Check out the entire Top 10 list:

  1. Kroger to pay $178M for regional retailer Roundy’s
  2. KIND Healthy snacks CMO: Connecting through kindness
  3. A redesigned Red Robin aims to be more things to more people
  4. Behind Kroger’s investments in tech
  5. Campbell addresses changing trends with new recipes, cleaner labels
  6. How to get the best work from your millennial team
  7. Wendy’s finds a sweet spot with “4 for $4” promotion
  8. Why Campbell nearly doubled digital ad spend in 2015
  9. Oreo offers coloring book-inspired packaging for the holidays
  10. Whole Foods maps out plan for long-term growth
  11. (read more…)

After a great MURTEC keynote speech by Capriotti’s CMO/CIO Jason Smylie, I was inspired to read the futurist mainstay “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil. In it, Kurzweil spends many of the early pages ruminating on the wonder of exponential growth. He references Moore’s Law in which Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel, observed the exponential improvements in processing power of integrated circuits (because of a doubling of the density of transistors). Moore’s Law is now broadly interpreted to suggest a doubling of processing/computing power each year: the exponential growth of computing power.

At my company, Olo, we are witnessing this same kind of exponential growth in the restaurant industry with the rise of digital ordering: enabling customers to place orders from their own devices for faster, more accurate and more personal service. We are witnessing a doubling every year of our digital ordering user base: 1 million users in January 2012; 2 million users in January 2013; 4 million users in January 2014; 8 million users in January 2015; and more than 12.5 million users now, suggesting that we’ll see more than 16 million users by January 2016 (indeed, we’re now adding more than 1 million users per month). (read more…)