Farmers may do what they do out of love for growing our food, but the business and marketing side of the job hasn’t always come easy, according to Agricultural Marketing Specialist Bill Walker of the New Jersey State Department of Agriculture.

“They’re very good on the operations side, but they’re not always the best ones to write the press release, or have folks out to the farm,” he said. “But local farmers have to compete on marketing with folks who are very good at it year-round. For farmers, they had to grudgingly accept and acknowledge and embrace that you have to market yourself.”

The department’s Jersey Fresh marketing program launched 30 years ago to set standards for food grown in the state and help farmers and small businesses market and advertise local produce. Eateries around the state are increasingly using the program to source local produce from the state’s farmers. (read more…)

Great recessions…challenged consumers…slow job growth… polar vortex…all have slowed but not stopped a 30+ year march of U.S. consumers spending more on food away from home than at home. With a slow but improving economy, a transformative event in foodservice distribution and myriad competing consumer trends, L.E.K. conducted a survey of operators to obtain their perspectives on growth, changes to their menus and thoughts on the Sysco / US Foods merger.

The results from our 2014 survey of 250 foodservice operators and decision makers suggest a growing optimism. After several years of relatively modest growth, nearly 75% of senior foodservice decision-makers believe business will be better over the next three years than it was during the past three.

They also believe that healthier eating is here to stay. Specifically, farm-to-fork matters. A growing demand for health foods, locally-sourced items, cleaner ingredients, value products and gluten-free foods has caused many restaurants to change their menus to keep up with consumers. (read more…)

What makes a truly great sandwich? It’s no small question — sandwiches are big business, both for restaurants — Subway, the largest QSR chain in the world, has over 42,000 locations — and retail, with nearly 90% of consumers report eating a sandwich within the past week, the majority eaten and prepared at home.

For our upcoming MenuTrends Keynote on sandwiches, we wanted to know what consumers were already eating, what they were interested in trying, and how that compared to the sandwiches that operators were menuing. We asked over 1,000 consumers for their thoughts on a wide range of sandwich options, flavors, trends and ingredients, uncovering preferences and motivations with direct implications for both operators and consumers. We combined this with operator data on purchases and brand preferences, and leveraged the power of MenuTrends, our trend-tracking menu database, for this one-of-a-kind series that comprehensively explores topics and categories central to the industry. (read more…)

Diversity is critical to any business, but according to Subriana Pierce, who spent most of her career with PepsiCo‘s Frito Lay division and also served as senior vice president of merchandising for Albertsons‘ Southern California division, diversity is most essential in the food and beverage industry. According to Pierce, developing a workforce that accurately reflects the diversity of the consumer base is key to the success of any food and beverage company.

SmartBrief talked with Pierce about why it is important for the food and beverage industry’s workforce to reflect today’s increasingly diverse consumers, and how food and beverage companies might go about getting there.

In your experience, what is the state of diversity in the food and beverage industry right now?

Many companies are saying they are focused on it. I still think the industry is not changing as quickly as the consumer base and I think there’s still a broad opportunity in both consumer packaged goods and especially retail. (read more…)

Last winter’s blizzards and arctic blasts started becoming a distant memory the minute restaurants around the country set up the patio tables and opened the rooftop decks for the season. Restaurants with outdoor dining spaces in many markets have gone from being a nice perk to a must-have, especially in places where the out-of-doors is a major draw.

“In Colorado, specifically in Denver, we get 300 days of sunshine a year,” said Denver-based restaurant consultant John Imbergamo. “Outdoor patios are a way of life with consumers across the dining spectrum from fast casual to fine dining.”

In addition to fine weather, scenery can also be a big reason for restaurants to add outdoor seating, as evidenced by’s recent list of Top 10 outdoor dining restaurants, which includes waterfront restaurants Legal Harborside in Boston and Red Fish Grill in Coral Gables, Fla.

But even in areas that don’t boast nearly year-round sunshine or waves crashing below, seasonal outdoor dining can be a draw. (read more…)