Thursday, May 26, 2022

Foodservice, Sweets and Snacks, Oh My!


It’s been an exhausting food week in Chicago. The National Restaurant Association kicked things off on Saturday. This was followed by Sweets & Snacks opening up on Tuesday and culminated with Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food on Thursday.

I encourage you to read my take on the National Restaurant Show, published online by Food Business News HERE. For Sweets & Snacks, you will need to wait until next week’s blog, but I’ve shared a few character pictures. 

The Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food, the Windy City’s new flagship food innovation conference led by World Business Chicago, included a live welcome from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Here’s what she had to say. 

“Our local food innovation and startup ecosystem is core to our city’s economic progress and future prosperity,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “As the global capital for food innovation with the largest concentration of food and beverage Fortune 500s, I’m honored to welcome more than 600 founders, innovators and investors for our first-ever Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food.”

According to Pitchbook data, Chicago food innovation companies raised $732 million in venture capital in 2021 alone, a 508% increase over 2019. In Q1 2022, local companies raised $111 million in venture capital. 

“Growth across all industries and sectors in Chicago is being enabled through tech and innovation,” said Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO, World Business Chicago, and chief marketing officer for the City of Chicago. “Today Chicago’s food, beverage and agriculture sector is the nation’s largest, generating over nine billion annually and employing over 65 thousand people; where over 2,800 companies located here are actively participating and contributing to the city’s vibrant startup and venture ecosystem.”

There’s a lot more for me to recap on this amazing meeting. For now, you can learn more HERE.

Thought you might like this comment from Julie Stamberger, CEO, chair and co-founder, The Planting Hope, a Chicago-based company that develops, launches and scales uniquely innovative plant-based and planet-friendly food and beverage brands. 

“Read the label of (almond milk),” she said. “It’s water that is not good for the environment and is highly unsustainable. There’s no nutrition in almond milk.”

And lastly, before I enjoy some needed rest this long holiday weekend, I want to share details on The California Milk Advisory Board’s (CMAB) annual dairy innovation competition: the Real California Milk (RCM) Excelerator. Created in partnership with innovation consultancy VentureFuel, this year marks the fourth installment of the competition. This year’s event focuses on accelerating ANY dairy-based product, from traditional consumer food and beverage items to textiles, haircare and beyond. The competition will award up to $500,000 in prizes for new innovative dairy products that introduce novel benefits in any form and drive consumption of Real California dairy.

“Real dairy provides a package of functional and practical benefits that’s hard to replicate. We’re seeing an increase in unique products that leverage these benefits emerging in the market. By expanding the competition to all new dairy-based products, versus a specific category, we’re creating more opportunity to make a meaningful difference in consumers’ lives and in the utilization of milk from California’s family dairy farms,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “With the Excelerator platforms we’ve established over the past four years, we will be able to support companies as they innovate and establish these products in the market.” 

As one of the biggest dairy competitions in the world, the program seeks early-stage, high-growth potential applicants with a 50% cow’s milk-based product or working prototype. Up to eight applicants will be selected to join the RCM Excelerator program. Each will have access to a group stipend and a robust network of resources to refine and scale their product and business. They will also participate in the CMAB/VentureFuel Mentorship Program, consisting of elite counsel from successful founders, investors, leading corporate executives and experts across design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming and processing industries.

For more information, link HERE. The deadline to apply is July 17, 2022.

Hello Summer! In you are in the U.S., have a nice Memorial Day Weekend!

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