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Top Stories for 7/28/14

Fast Food Goes Healthy, Local, Ethical

A new generation of small-scale fast-casual chains is following in Chipotle Mexican Grill's green footsteps. Regional chains like Tender Greens, LYFE Kitchen, Sweet Green, and Native Foods use grass-fed beef, organic produce, sustainable seafood, and menus that change with the seasons. Some of these chains also offer local ingredients and partial or full vegetarian or vegan menus, while others impose calorie limits. Most of these chains are also planning national expansions despite higher costs and prices.

“This is not a passing fad,” says B. Hudson Riehle, the research director for the National Restaurant Association. The top two customer priorities reported in NRA’s annual poll of American chefs were locally grown food and sustainability, reports The New York TimesFull Story

UK Supermarket Chain to Power Stores with Food Waste

U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury's is going further with sustainability by collecting food waste from 1,200 of its stores and turning it into energy. All the food that can't be donated to food banks is converted into enough energy to power three superstores. One of the company's local stores will be switched to be powered completely on food waste. A biogas plant that Sainsbury uses to turn the waste into electricity is a mile away from a supermarket, making it convenient to build a direct power line instead of letting the power go directly into the grid. "It made sense to ask, why couldn't I put a cable directly from that facility directly to the store a mile away, and genuinely have the food waste from Sainsbury's produce the electricity to run the whole store?" says Paul Crewe, Sainsbury's head of sustainability. "That's what we've achieved," reports Fast CompanyFull Story

Pets Getting More Specialty Foods

Perceived quality is driving the trend toward specialty foods, and it doesn't stop at feeding ourselves and our families. The Institute of Food Technologists says pets, too, are benefitting from consumers' willingness to spend more on specialty foods, or those that they perceive as higher quality, whether that be natural, organic, ethical, or local foods. When questioned, 79 percent of pet owners said the quality of their pets' food was as important as the food they themselves ate. Health is a driving factor, as half of new specialty pet foods contain added vitamins, antioxidants, and protein, and less fillers and artificial ingredients, according to Consumer Affairs. Full Story

USDA Proposes Lift on Korean Orange Hybrid Import Ban

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing (PDF) to allow the importation of two Unshu orange hybrids from the Republic of Korea into the continental U.S. This would remove the current laws that prohibit Unshu oranges from entering the U.S., as long as certain conditions are met. The fruit is no longer required to be grown in specific canker-free areas, but it must be given proper surface sterilization. Easy-peel seedless mandarin varieties, including Unshu oranges, are gaining popularity but the U.S. does not produce Unshu oranges. It does, however, produce similar mandarin varieties for which output has more than doubled since 2007, to almost 500,000 metric tons in 2012.

Business Travelers in NYC Skip Restaurants for Seamless

Business travelers in New York City are beginning to abandon traditional restaurant chains to use Seamless, a food delivery app. Hotel takeout orders have increased 125 percent all over the U.S., according to GrubHub, Seamless' parent company. Business men and women are looking for a wider variety of options and a convenient, fast transaction, more than can be offered by most hotel room-service kitchens. Seamless lets users search for a restaurant based on price, type of food, and rating, and place orders for delivery directly via the app.

The service offers customers a cheaper option than some of the usual business traveler spots, and makes it easier for corporations to manage their food expenses. Nationally, Seamless has yet to become as popular as in New York, where it can save users around half of what the traditional meal costs, but as mobile ordering and payment become more prevalent, the service may continue to grow in other cities, reports CNN Money. Full Story

Paramount Coffee Expands Distribution, Production

Paramount Coffee plans to invest $3.5 million in its Lansing, Mich., operations, in part by opening a new 58,000-square-foot distribution center. The new facility will be Paramount's central point for shipping and distribution of its coffee products. The company will also add 20,000 square feet to its production facility in Lansing, allowing it to expand beyond its single small-batch roaster and three larger-yield roasters. With the new facility, Paramount aims to add enough space for its finished products and for loading. The company distributes coffee across the U.S., as well as in Canada and 11 other countries. The company also has offices in Chicago and North Carolina, reports The Bradenton HeraldFull Story

Record Cranberry Production in WI

Wisconsin farmers produced two-thirds of the country's cranberries in 2013, three times as much as Massachusetts, the second largest cranberry supplier. Wisconsin produced 6 million barrels of cranberries, compared with Massachusetts' 1.8 million barrels. Of the 6 million barrels, each of which weights about 100 pounds, 5.9 million were utilized. Wisconsin produced more cranberries in 2013 than Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington combined. The price of fresh cranberries totaled $78.50 a barrel and $30.40 a barrel for processed. Along with being the top cranberry producer in the nation, Wisconsin also ranks fourth in tart cherry production, harvesting over 12 million pounds in 2013, reports StarTribuneFull Story

Craft Breweries Work to Balance Success with Soul

A few years ago, the U.S. craft and microbrew landscape was minute, and pioneers had to convice consumers they matched the quality of their European counterparts. Now that landscape has shifted dramatically, and small-batch brewers are making their mark on the global market. A new challenge, however, has risen, as brewers are tasked with convincing the public that good beer can come in large quantities without losing its character. The Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as a producer of less than 6 million barrels a year. Any more than that, and it's considered a large brewery. By definition, Sierra Nevada and Boston Beer Co. make the cut.

As its popularity grows, craft beer has to be made in larger quantities and made to last longer on the shelf, while keeping the same taste, which growing breweries are learning to do. "They shouldn't be punished for being successful," says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. "They bring expertise that all craft brewers are benefiting from," reports The Wall Street Journal. Full Story (Subscription Required)

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