Welcome to Prepared Foods’ 2018 “Foodservice State of the Industry” issue! Before you dive in, I want to warn you that this year’s coverage is little different. Instead of writing and preparing all of our features for you, this time we’re actually writing more about you.

Let me explain. We don’t reach restaurant, in-store or institutional foodservice operators. Instead, we aim serve and celebrate you—all the men and women working at food and beverage manufacturing companies in positions of R&D, consumer insights, culinary, marketing, purchasing, quality, packaging, etc.  

Our past industry overviews featured menu and operator segment trend reviews to give you more customer insights. This year, we’re actually covering more of your new product activities as highlighted at the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show and the annual International Dairy-
Deli-Bakery Association show. I haven’t quite tapped in yet with schools and colleges—but that’s coming too! And one of my favorite new resources also is the International Foodservice Editorial Council, where manufacturers and commodity boards showcase many exciting new products. 

Starting at page 34, we’re pleased to bring you our first series of category-by-category new product news summaries. Meanwhile, we still have our friends at Technomic bringing you an in-depth look at how plant-based foods are changing restaurant menus.

Here are few other quick thoughts. 

New Face, Pace of R&D: I’ve attended the NRA Show since 1990 and can’t remember a time quite like the past five to seven years. It feels like more processors are coming straight from the Fancy Food Show and Natural Products Expo West. Maybe those types of companies always have exhibited at NRA? Even so, it seems foodservice operators are embracing these new companies and edgier new items—all to speed up menu innovation.

Challenge Continues: On page 24, we highlight a new Collaborative Innovation Best Practices board involving food and beverage processors, packaging and equipment manufacturers, restaurant operators, industry associations and data and marketing research consultants. It’s been assembled by
Kinetic 12, Chicago. 

“Foodservice operators tell us there’s not enough collaboration and that they see too many barriers to true innovation,” says LeAnne Garoutte, a Kinetic 12 partner. “They say there are too many ‘me-too’ ideas and/or not enough new offerings that are grounded in consumer or operational insights or opportunities. Operators also feel as though suppliers are leaning too much on quantity and not quality, and that their new products don’t keep up with marketplace change. Last but not least, many new offerings are not operationally efficient and add too much complexity to a restaurant.”

All this tells me that’s there’s more new product opportunity for manufacturers—and more for us to write about in the coming year!  

Prepared Foods’ 36th Annual New Products Conference is a unique, thought-provoking event. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Invert the Pyramid,” Prepared Foods offers an agenda packed with new approaches to disruptive product development, along with exclusive presentations on consumer insights, trends and related new technologies—all to aid product innovation. Leading Sessions include …  

Using A.I. & Machine Learning to Mine Consumer Insights, Drive New Product Ideation
Dr. A.K. Pradeep, CEO, MachineVantage 

Moving at the Speed of Life: Connecting Today’s Consumers, Tomorrow’s Needs  
Rizal Hamdallah, head of the Futurist Innovation Lab at Tyson Foods  

Cut Through the Clutter: A Disciplined Application of Trends to Boost R&D
Michael Gunn, Culinary Director and Giselle Restrepo, Senior Manager, Strategic Insights & Trends, Schwan’s Company

Making the Impossible-Possible! Impossible Foods’ Plant-Based Revolution
Stephanie Lind, SVP of Global Sales at Impossible Foods  

Winning Products Deliver “Authentic” Experience—From Ingredients to Packaging
Linda Gilbert, Founder, EcoFocus 

Meating Tomorrow’s Needs: Hormel Evolves, Links Insights & Innovation
Jim Splinter, Group Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Hormel Foods 

Innovation Meets Insightful Nutrition: Freedom Foods Embraces Better For You and The “Gut Health” Meta-trend! 
Rachel Cheatham, President, Foodscape and Angelo De Blasio, Marketing Manager, Freedom Foods Group North America 

Special Live “Gen Z Panel”: Teen Consumers—on stage—Talk About Food and Purchase Preferences, and More!
Facilitated by Maeve Webster, President, Menu Matters 

Special Live Feature: “Street Dive”: Sterling Rice Group leads attendees on an evening out to taste the trends on Minneapolis’ “Eat Street.”
Facilitated by Amy Shipley, Managing Partner, and Liz Moskow, Culinary Director, SRG

Join us for a look at today’s trends and how they affect the Future of Food. 

Visit www.newproductsconference.com regularly for updates on the 2018 program.