2018 Agenda

2019 Agenda coming soon!

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Sunday, September 30

12:00 PM - 4:00 PM


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Monday, October 1

7:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Breakfast Buffet

Sponsored by treetop

8:30 AM - 8:45 AM
Opening Remarks
Mike Leonard, Strategic Leader & Publisher, Prepared Foods

8:45 AM - 9:45 AM
Keynote: Its Time Has Come! Optimizing New Product Development for E-Commerce

Betsy McGinn, CEO, McGinn eComm

Ecommerce certainly is not a future concept. It’s already here, growing—and dramatically changing the landscape for everything from food and beverage R&D to consumers’ purchase decisions. Each day brings more new foods and drinks exclusively developed for online sales—ranging from Amazon’s Wickedly Prime teas, snacks, soups and spreads; to PepsiCo’s “Drinkfinity” flavor pods.

What do leading CPG innovation leaders and small industry disruptors need to know? Listen in as Betsy McGinn, CEO, McGinn eComm, shares perspectives about what’s new, what’s working—and what’s next in the realm of E-Commerce

With an aggregate 12 years of experience with Amazon.com and other strategic eCommerce partners, McGinn guides companies through this new and complex channel, aligning their multi-functional marketing, finance, operations, sales and other strategic teams around this unique opportunity. Since its inception, McGinn eComm has launched, optimized and recalibrated more than 50 brands on Amazon.com, helping them increase their growth, revenue, and overall success.

This is a “must-hear” session for food and beverage company vice presidents of Innovation, Sales & Distribution , R&D, Packaging, Marketing and Operations!

 Sponsored by multivac

9:45 AM - 10:30 AM
Meating Tomorrow’s Needs: Hormel Evolves, Links Insights & Innovation

Jim Splinter, Group Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Hormel Foods 

During the course of the past three decades, Minnesota’s Hormel Foods has transformed itself from a meat company to a $9.2 billion giant with diversified interests across nearly all product categories and channels. Although it’s still a meat industry leader, Hormel has combined consumer insights, acquisitions and organic innovation and branched into on-trending categories such as better-for-you organic spreads and dips (Justin’s nut butters, Wholly Guacamole) and even sports nutrition (Muscle Milk). Likewise, it continues to walk the cutting edge in meats, ranging from artisanal products from Columbus Foods to Applegate Farms, a leading natural and organic company. Come hear Hormel’s Jim Splinter, Group Vice President of Corporate Strategy, talk about next year’s dynamic food environment and his responsibilities for innovation, consumer insights and corporate development and strategy!

10:30 AM - 11:10 AM
Refreshment Break

 Sponsored by cargill

11:10 AM - 11:55 AM
Future of Dinner: Winning at America’s Dinnertime

Darren Seifer, Executive Director and Industry Analyst-Food Consumption, The NPD Group

U.S. consumers ate nearly 100 billion dinner meals last year with the vast majority of those meals being shared with others in the home. Although consumers still have dinner at home together, the American dinner meal today looks different compared to 20 years ago. Consumers now have access to almost anything through grocery delivery, meal prep kits, grocerants (supermarkets that offer restaurant quality foods), online ordering, and mobile apps.  Convenience is just as important as it was 20 years ago but a new level of it has been enabled with technology and new kitchen tools. Darren Seifer, The NPD Group’s executive director and industry analyst-food consumption, talks about how the dinner solution “will evolve” during the next five years based on generational shifts, consumer needs, and new, emerging options.

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Sponsored by ardent mills

1:30 PM - 2:15 PM
Keynote: It's Time Has Come! Use A.I. & Machine Learning to Mine Consumer Insights, Drive New Product Ideation 

Dr. A.K. Pradeep, CEO, MachineVantage

Artificial intelligence and machine learning help food and beverage manufacturers effectively “invert the pyramid” of traditional R&D and innovation. Come hear Dr. A.K. Pradeep, CEO for MachineVantage, Berkeley, Calif., discuss how manufacturers already are leveraging these technologies to mine consumer data across a wide base and then funnel the best insights into product development and marketing concepts.

Sponsored by process expo

2:15 PM - 3:00 PM
Making the Impossible—Possible! Impossible Foods’ Plant-Based Revolution, Innovation

Stephanie Lind, Senior Vice President- Global Sales, Impossible Foods

In development since 2011, the Impossible Burger is the world's only burger that handles, cooks and tastes like ground beef from cows—but is made entirely from plants. The Impossible Burger debuted at Chef David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in Manhattan in July 2016 and is now served in nearly 400 restaurants nationwide—including White Castle (where it hails as the “Impossible Slider.” As the company’s new Oakland, Calif., plant ramps up, Impossible Foods plans to expand distribution to thousands of restaurants in the United States and overseas. The company also is developing more new plant-based products. Come hear Stephanie Lind, Impossible Foods’ Senior Vice President of Global Sales, share consumer insights, discuss Impossible Foods’ 2018 growth and share an outlook for 2019!  

 3:00 - 3:30 PM 
Refreshment Break

3:30 PM - 4:15 PM
Winning Products Deliver “Authentic” Experience – From Ingredients to Packaging

Linda Gilbert, CEO, EcoFocus

Authentic brands establish trust with consumers by holding true to core values and doing what they say they are going to do. Today’s consumers want an authentic experience with foods or beverages offering fresh, high-quality, natural ingredients;  “clean” processing; “clean” packaging; and product assurance (certifications).

How are consumers integrating lifestyle values with food and beverage decisions? How can brand owners innovate and establish true “authenticity” in 2019? Linda Gilbert shares the latest insights from the EcoFocus My World, My Life™ consumer point of view.

EcoFocus Worldwide engages consumers in large-scale global Trend Surveys and the resulting data help marketers make confident strategic branding decisions. Research focuses on what mainstream consumers look for in green, sustainability and wellness choices. Gilbert knows what brand developers need because she has more than 20 years of experience in strategy, insights, marketing, innovation for range of multi-nationals, including Pfizer, Nestle, Unilever, PepsiCo and Campbell Soup. Gilbert also was founder of HealthFocus International and has 10 years’ experience with the Rodale Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.

 Sponsored by evergreen

4:15 PM - 5:00 PM
Spirit of Innovation Awards Ceremony

Join us in celebrating the industry-nominated, innovative product development teams that recently introduced a new product in six different categoires. Learn the story behind the winning products.

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Spirit of Innovation Celebration Reception

Celebrate and toast the 2018 Spirit of Innovation Award winners. Taste some of the winning products and enjoy drinks and network with winning R&D teams before you head out for dinner.


Dinner on your own.


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Tuesday, October 2

7:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Breakfast Buffet

Sponsored by blueberries

8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
KEYNOTE:  Moving at The Speed of Life: Tyson Innovation Lab Connects Today’s Consumers, Tomorrow’s Needs

Rizal Hamdallah, Head of Innovation Lab, Tyson Foods

This year Tyson Foods launched the Tyson Innovation Lab which is about exploring new approaches to accelerate the pace of innovation. The lab brings together a lean team of designers, chefs, scientists and supply chain experts in a dedicated space at the company’s Chicago office and gives them six months to go from an idea to an in-market solution. For the first product launch, they have explored opportunities to help fight food waste. Utilizing what goes unused in the food supply chain as ingredients, they have developed a line of snacks – ¡Yappah! brand Chicken Crisps.  More recently, Tyson Innovation Lab partnered with Toronto’s Flashfood Inc., to create an affordable home food delivery business serving the Detroit market with surplus produce and proteins. Come hear Rizal Hamdallah, head of the Innovation Lab at Tyson Foods talk about his group’s new mission and methods!

  Sponsored by corbion

9:30 AM - 10:15 AM
Drive Growth in a Changing, Challenging Market:  Idahoan's Secrets to Success

Drew Facer, President & CEO, Idahoan Foods and Larry Levin, Executive Vice President Consumer and Shopper Marketing, IRI

For the past six years, IRI and Boston Consulting Group have studied large, medium and small consumer packaged goods companies and evaluated them based on year-to-year dollar sales growth, volume sales growth and market share gains. Results show industry leaders in each segment share three common traits: they differentiate offerings, target consumers with greater precision and complement organic growth with inorganic growth. One small company consistently making the cut (six years out of seven!) is potato product specialist Idahoan Foods. Come hear Idahoan President & CEO Drew Facer share the company’s innovation and consumer insights journey with Larry Levin, IRI Executive Vice President of Consumer & Shopper Marketing.

10:15 AM - 10:45 AM
Refreshment Break

Sponsored by fdi

10:45 AM - 11:45 AM

Maeve Webster, President, Menu Matters

It won’t be long before Gen Z, the next big generation, starts impacting new product development, food consumption and purchase patterns. Come hear what some of those consumers have to say—now!  Maeve will share four key GEN Z perspectives about food and beverage choices.

Maeve Webster, founder of Menu Matters, will provide survey results about technology (platforms that teens use to learn about foods, make purchases and share opinions), preferences (preferred flavors, formats, categories, cuisines, packaging, etc), and eating places, locations and other influencers (preferred at-home and away-from-home options, etc.).

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Cultivating Innovation From the Ground Up: How Minnesota's Community is Accelerating the Growth of Food Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Moderator: Lauren Mehler Pradhan, Managing Director, Grow North 

Panelists: Sunil Kumar, Owner, Founder, The Amazing ChickPea

Frank Jackman, CEO, Co-Founder, Local Crate

Alex French, CEO, Co-Founder, Get Bizzy Inc.

Julie Wellman, Co-Owner, CEO, Punk Rawk Labs

The world of food entrepreneurship and innovation is exploding, and many of these ideas start and scale locally from entrepreneurs willing to challenge the industry. Hear from three leading Minnesota food entrepreneurs in a conversation led by Grow North, Minnesota's connection hub for the food and agriculture entrepreneur and innovation ecosystem. 

2:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Refreshment Break

3:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Disrupt to Grow: Succeed in the Midst of Blurring and Shifting Categories

Lynn Dornblaser and David Jago, Directors, Innovation & Insight, Mintel

You won’t grow your brand just by being “consistent.” The marketplace and consumers are ever-changing. Are you? The trade, especially retailers, thinks in static categories, but consumers don’t. We see categories continue to blur and shift, and smart companies responding with products that fit consumers’ shifting tastes and lifestyles. Mintel’s Lynn Dornblaser and David Jago  look at some examples that have eschewed consistency with success—such as the growth of craft sodas and how small companies have reinvented better-for-you snacks. Mintel also identifies a few categories that may be ripe for the next shift (think the continued blurring of snacks and meals or the continued impact of plant-based foods).

Dinner on your own.



6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
StreetDive Minnesota srg

Dive into Minneapolis's entrepreneurial focused food scene with Boulder, CO based SRG. We’ll uncover fresh new ideas in culinary, foodservice and packaging by getting an up close and personal view of Minnesota’s best venue. Get to know some of the most exciting and knowledgeable food entrepreneurs who reside on the cutting edge of trends. You'll have a chance to sample, chat and explore exciting products and gain fresh insights and perspective from those at the ground level of food.

Come ready to taste, sip and learn about Minneapolis’s burgeoning culinary community, melding fresh, innovative thinking with core Midwestern values of quality and craft. 

 Sponsored by tastepoint

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Wednesday, October 3

7:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Breakfast Buffet Sponsored by  mane



8:30 AM - 9:15 AM
Keynote: SRG Future Foods Panel: How the Twin Cities are Shaping the US Food Scene

Amy Shipley, Managing Director/Partner and Liz Moskow, Culinary Director, Sterling Rice Group

Boulder-based brand and innovation firm Sterling-Rice Group (SRG) will host a thought-provoking (and tasty) session sharing culinary and new product insights from the vibrant Twin Cities food scene, capturing insights from the StreetDive and introducing the group to several local entrepreneurs who are breaking new ground in product development and innovation.

 Sponsored by tastepoint

9:15 AM - 10:00 AM
Cut Through the Clutter: A Disciplined Application of Trends to Boost R&D

Speakers: Michael Gunn, Culinary Director and Giselle Restrepo, Senior Manager, Strategic Insights & Trends, Schwan’s

We all know knowledge is power—especially in today’s competitive marketplace. But are you able to filter through the mountains of consumer research to apply learning that’s relevant to your businesses and your consumer? Those who can, effectively identify truly actionable insights and gain a competitive edge. Come hear Schwan Food Company executives Giselle Restrepo Senior Manager, Strategic Insights & Trends; and Michael Gunn, Culinary Director, Product Innovation & Development. Giselle and Michael will share insights about their process of harnessing internal expertise, understanding the consumer and focusing resources on activities relevant to an organization and the people it serves.

10:00 AM - 10:45 AM
Where Innovation Meets Insightful Nutrition: Freedom Foods Embraces Better For You and The “Gut Health” Metatrend!

Speakers: Dr.Rachel Cheatham, Founder, Foodscape Group and Angelo De Blasio, Marketing Manager, Freedom Foods Group North America

There’s one—and only one “health” outcome on the nutrition horizon based on the latest metatrend analysis —and that’s gut health, according to Foodscape Group LLC. This Chicago-based nutrition marketing consultancy identifies “metatrends” and digestive health promises to be a key driver for both consumers as well as food and beverage marketers and product developers. Among those companies targeting gut health in 2019 and beyond is Australia’s Freedom Foods Group, which specializes in better for you items in cereals, snacks, plant-based beverages and specialty coffee milks. Come hear product development insights and strategy from Angelo De Blasio, who leads innovation and communications for Freedom Foods Group North America, San Diego. He’s joined by Foodscape Group Founder Dr. Rachel Cheatham, who will share the firm’s metatrends research involving gut health, clean label, plant-based foods and much more.

10:45 AM - 10:50 AM
Closing Remarks

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