New Products & Emerging Trends Spotted on the 2019 NRA Show Floor
CHICAGO — Along with education sessions, demonstrations and networking opportunities, the 2019 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show gave attendees a look at the newest products and emerging trends that will shape the foodservice industry — and the world of convenience foodservice — going forward.
The blurring of dayparts and the rise of snacking is a common theme, with many foodservice operators experimenting to find the best balance between price, variety and size of offering. Technology innovation in foodservice is also on the rise, whether it is used to facilitate labor efficiencies or to connect with consumers digitally.
During the NRA Show, held May 18-21 at Chicago's McCormick Place convention center, Convenience Store News editors had the chance to hear from a variety of c-store suppliers about their upcoming offerings for the remainder of 2019 and beyond:
Chicken is one of the most popular foodservice offerings within the U.S. convenience channel. Broaster, known for its Genuine Broaster Chicken and Broaster Express programs, recently added an entirely new line with the debut of Rock Country Smokehouse. This turnkey barbecue program uses the Smokaroma pressure smoker to allow retailers to offer high-quality, freshly smoked meats. The real hickory or mesquite chips used during the smoking process offers an authentic flavor, while the pressure smoker lets retailers produce what they need in a third of the time, with no skilled labor necessary. Rock Country Smokehouse includes equipment, sauces and rubs, as well as advertising support.
The Coca-Cola Co.
Coca-Cola's quest to be known as a "total beverage company" (instead of just noted for its iconic cola brand) was evident throughout its booth at this year's NRA Show. The message was amply demonstrated by new, contemporary versions of its highly successful Coca-Cola Freestyle multi-brand dispenser. With 52,000 Freestyle dispensers installed at restaurants and convenience stores across the U.S., the full-size machine offers customers more than 200 different soft drink choices, including the company's new cold brew coffee brand.
Jim Sanders, vice president, Coca-Cola Freestyle, business development and fleet performance, showed CSNews the backend efficiencies for retailers that are powered by new technology built into the dispensers. The Freestyle 9100, now enabled with Bluetooth, allows retail associates to check the refill levels on all flavor cartridges in the machine via an easy-to-use phone app, which also sends alerts. In addition, the new Freestyle 7100 countertop unit, slated to launch in the second quarter of 2020, will provide customers with about 80 flavor choices in a small-footprint countertop model.
Another important part of Coca-Cola's push to become a total beverage company is the reintroduction of "bubblers" for a whole host of existing and new chilled juice and tea choices.
Melinda Pritchett, senior manager of category strategy and innovation for Coca-Cola North America, told CSNews that the company has been researching what consumers like and what they dislike about bubblers. The result is the introduction of new, updated-look units that are simple to assemble and offer a wide variety of premium beverages.
"Customers are attracted by the colors — they can see the beverages and easily mix-and-match flavors," said Pritchett.
Georgia-Pacific Professional (GP PRO) showed off a number of automation- and sustainability-focused innovations. Among them:
- The Dixie 100 Percent Recycled Fiber Hot Cup, the first disposable hot cup made from 100 percent recycled post-consumer fiber, which provides the foodservice industry with a sustainable disposable cup solution;
- The GP PRO Automated Sealing Machine, a first-of-its-kind auto-sealing beverage system (no more delivery drivers sipping your Coke), which meets the need for greater safety in the rapidly growing takeout and delivery market; and
- Dixie Ultra SmartStock Compostable Cutlery, a strong and durable sustainable disposable cutlery solution that contains, on average, 85 percent renewable content.
The plant-based protein trend was spotlighted by several exhibitors, including MorningStar Farms, a Kellogg Co. brand. It teamed up with three-time James Beard award-winner, Executive Chef Paul Kahan, who created a new veggie taco. The exclusive MorningStar Farms Chorizo Taco uses Chorizo Crumbles as a key ingredient.
"Chorizo Crumbles are a really unique and flavorful plant-based protein that cooks much like a real chorizo," said Chef Kahan. "MorningStar Farms offers a lot more than burgers; they have a versatile foodservice portfolio with 26 products, making them a great culinary partner to help chefs innovate with plant-based protein menu items."
As a premium brand in The Kellogg Co. portfolio, MorningStar Farms aims to inspire people to live well by making plant-based protein accessible. Last March, the company announced its commitment to convert its entire product portfolio to be 100 percent plant-based by the end of 2021.
PepsiCo used the NRA Show to announce the launch of PepsiCo Foodservice Digital Lab, a first-of-its-kind suite of capabilities built to connect foodservice operators with the companies, services, insights and solutions best suited for their specific digital and online needs. Powered by extensive proprietary and syndicated research into restaurant and food-ordering interactions as part of the consumer digital journey, Digital Lab is the first offering of its kind from a foodservice manufacturer, according to the company.
"The digital age has disrupted everything — including the way people order, eat and experience food and beverages," said Scott Finlow, chief marketing officer of PepsiCo Foodservice. "PepsiCo is helping our customers stay ahead of the curve in regard to understanding the latest technology and consumer trends impacting the foodservice industry. With the customer-focused Digital Lab, we created a one-stop service for operators to access the resources and knowledge needed to drive a better consumer experience and impactful business results in the digital era."
As an industry leader with an extensive portfolio and global reach, PepsiCo believes it has knowledge that spans the entire food and beverage landscape. Digital Lab is an attempt to bring all of these insights together to address pain points and create a seamless operator experience that will benefit consumers.
Using a mix of human and tech-driven touchpoints, the Digital Lab will teach operators how to identify and deploy technology solutions that benefit their business through four elements:
- Digital Insights: Using proprietary and partner inputs, PepsiCo will share unique insights with its customers, including the digital habits of their target demographics.
- Digital Playbooks: The Lab will provide operators with comprehensive solutions to make digital tools approachable, achievable and effective for businesses of any size — from the small pizza place on the corner to global quick-serve food chains.
- Digital Activation: PepsiCo will partner with operators to optimize the execution and activation of digital solutions, such as online ordering and delivery platforms, to increase beverage and snack sales.
- Digital Innovation: Tapping into tools like voice, augmented reality and machine learning, PepsiCo will experiment with the latest digital innovations and build into practice through customers' platforms.
S&D Coffee & Tea
CSNews had the opportunity to sit down with Ron Hinson, president and CEO of S&D Coffee & Tea, who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary with the company. He started as a sales representative.
Since being named CEO in 2000, Hinson's visionary leadership has propelled S&D's revenue growth by 250 percent. Under his leadership, S&D has become the largest U.S. custom coffee roaster, supplying the world's best-known coffee retailers and restaurant chains.
Hinson shared with CSNews how the company has redefined its business model and is now taking advantage of its global reach, while focusing on "beverage innovation." The company became a subsidiary of Cott Corp. in 2016. Hinson sees the acquisition as a platform to take the company to another level as a broader beverage solutions provider.
The coffee and tea extracts business segment experiences consistent year-over-year growth and, as coffee beverages continue to expand, the company is poised to advance its position as the only vertically integrated coffee, tea and botanical commercial extractor, according to Hinson, who pointed out that the company started to diversify its product portfolio beyond coffee and tea with the launch of its Infused Beverages Platform — a first of many new categories to come.
Tracy Ging, executive vice president and chief business officer, also pointed to another new initiative: S&D's Raíz Sustainability platform, which is designed to help S&D's customers meet sustainability commitments through sustainable purchases.
"It has been an incredible experience growing with S&D Coffee & Tea over the past 40 years," said Hinson. "The company has achieved so many amazing things and I feel honored and humbled to have the opportunity to lead this talented, dedicated team each day. I can't wait to see what's next, and look forward to many more exciting, new ventures."