DMA Recognizes Outstanding Staff

2022 has been a record year for DMA in many ways! The entire team flourished and was thrilled to recognize "Associate of the Year," "Newcomer of the Year" and "Spotlight" award winners based on feedback from peers, distributors and customers for delivering above and beyond the call.

This year two individuals were recognized with the top honors. 

Please join the company in celebrating the outstanding performance of these team members!

Spotlights: Nancy Willuweit, Jamie Thielman, Julie Sienkiewicz, Adam Rowe, Tracy Rogers, Mike Popella, Matt Kot, Tyler Goll, Laura Colligan and Rob Bingham

Associates of the Year: Carrie Wycislak and Noah Beck

Newcomer of the Year: Erika Center


Analysis: the Most Innovative LTOs of the Year

Restaurants are getting rather creative with their limited-time offers, or LTOs, lately.

"LTOs can be a great way to drive business, but you have to know your audience and what appeals to them," Leith Steel, head of insights at Carbonate, a hospitality marketing agency, told The Food Institute. "The offer should be something appealing and not easy to find elsewhere. The limited nature serves to drive people to try it now rather than postponing indefinitely."

Datassential's recent Foodbytes trends report examined consumer ratings of LTOs. Here are a few popular items that brands and restaurants are putting a new twist on pickles, eggs, French fries, and hot dogs.

Pickles: Pickles have surged in popularity lately. According to Yelp, online searches for pickled-flavored foods were up 55% in the last two years. Restaurants have responded accordingly. Hungry Howie's has a Pickle Bacon Ranch Pizza, Dave & Buster's has Blue Moon Friend Pickles, and SONIC's Pickle Juice Slush was rated as the most unique item in SCORES (Datassentials concept tool for measuring LTOs) from the past 12 months.

Eggs: A breakfast staple, many are finding new ways to present this classic – First Watch's Barbacoa Quesadilla Benedict, and Huddle House's Prime Rib Tips Stuffed Hashbrowns are just a couple examples.

French Fries: Fries are getting an upgrade in the form of BBQ Luau fries from Wienerschnitzel, Asparagus Fries from the Cheesecake Factory, and Crab and Lobster Fries from Glory Days Grill.

Hot Dogs: Is there anything more American than a hot dog? Put a twist on the classic with a Honey BBQ Dawg from Buffalo Wild Wings or a Spicy Asian BBQ Slaw Topped Hot Dog from Nathan's Famous.

Keys to Successful LTOs

What's the key to making an LTO work? Here are a few tips to making a standout, unique product, according to FoodBytes.

    ·Take familiar concepts and combine to create something new

    ·Change the way something is presented, like the shape or the color

    ·Take risks

Invaluable Insight

Peter Frey, chief brand officer at Sonny's BBQ, shared his thoughts on LTOs and how Sonny's has taken advantage.

How beneficial are limited-time offers to restaurants and brands?

"There's a fine balance between how much a brand relies on LTOs to drive short-term traffic and long-term sustainable growth. Ideally, LTOs are strategically placed to drive core user frequency and attract new guests through brand-building promotions.

"Building a successful LTO pipeline requires promotions that meet the needs of consumers, improve the dining experience and are easy for operators to perform."

What are the key elements of a successful LTO?

"Promotions need to be simple to communicate, easy for operators to execute and be true to the brand DNA. The most successful promotions are those that use seasonal drivers, are linked to brand equity, and have emotionally motivating benefits."

Can you give an example of an LTO that worked for Sonny's?

"Over the summer, Sonny's BBQ introduced BBQ Bowls. Summer is a high traffic and critical sales period for Sonny's BBQ, which made it the perfect time to be in front of customers with a fresh message that showcased innovation, value and our culinary expertise. This approachable LTO was a playful twist on familiar, classic BBQ ingredients. It tapped into our guests' desire for choice and variety while also being inspired by the popularity of bowls throughout the industry.

"Leveraging existing ingredients, we empowered our guests with the ability to create their own BBQ bowl or choose from three Pitmaster Select options. The results showed the BBQ Bowls LTO was a tremendous success. The BBQ Bowl LTO delivered a +4.94% increase on total average receipts for guests and garnered five times as much earned press coverage as the brand's previous LTO." Food Institute Focus

Experts Dish Regarding Latest Dessert Trends

For many, dessert is the most anticipated meal of the day. For those with a sweet tooth, a decadent dessert is always exciting.

On that note, Technomic recently released its Dessert Global Menu Category Report, which examined consumer preferences and dessert category trends. One of the more intriguing findings in the report was that two-thirds of consumers globally would purchase dessert from a restaurant more often if there are new menu options that they haven't tried before.

Other, eye-opening findings from the Technomic report:

    ·48% of consumers globally would order cheesecake—the third most-popular dessert on average in the world—from a restaurant

    ·41% of consumers globally would like to see more vegan or dairy-free desserts on restaurant menus, including 56% of consumers in China

Armed with such knowledge of dessert, how can restaurateurs capitalize? The Food Institute spoke with Mansoor Ahmed, CEO of Heritage Kulfi, an ice cream brand, about what it takes for dining establishments to stand out when it comes to dessert.

What are the opportunities for restaurant and food manufacturers to create dessert options that appeal to today's consumer?

"The world of desserts is one that's constantly evolving and a prime space for endless and exciting experimentation. Ice cream enthusiasts are so adventurous. I feel confident that the road to success for manufacturers like myself [entails] being creative and confident in what they offer, and that comes from putting in the hard work during the research and development phase.

"The most satisfying part of creating a new flavor is understanding and embracing the particular ingredient that's highlighted. Whether it's saffron threads, mangos, or pistachios, appreciating these great ingredients and utilizing them to their full potential will allow consumers to build connections with them."

Have you found that different generations prefer different desserts?

"I'm finding that everyone across the board is excited to experiment and try new desserts and ingredients, which is especially exciting for my brand because not only is kulfi (South Asian style of ice cream) new to the mainstream American market, but the particular ingredients I use for certain flavors are also entirely novel. As a brand owner, I find it fascinating that vanilla ice cream continues to be the country's most popular flavor because it is such a sophisticated and delicate ingredient to work with.

"I will often set up tastings at community events or in-store demos, and connecting this way with consumers is very fun and illuminating. I find that people have such a solid and emotional connection to ice cream, so to build on existing nostalgia or new joyful moments around ice cream is incredibly satisfying to me."

How have you managed to keep your desserts up to par, in terms of taste, and still be accessible to consumers in today's economy?

"The food industry continues to be acutely affected by rising costs in nearly every sector, from ingredients and packaging to transportation and labor costs. The onus on premier manufacturers like Heritage Kulfi is to continuously provide our customers with an extremely high-quality and consistent product. Since I use some of the most expensive ingredients such as saffron, pistachios, vanilla, and cardamom, I needed to ensure the ice cream is as accessible as possible for the average consumer in terms of availability and price.

"I'm proud of my efforts during the R&D phase in building local partnerships with farms and other ingredient vendors to support the local and regional business community. Nothing compares to using fresh, high-quality ingredients." Food Institute Focus


Functional Beverage Market Continues to Gain Momentum

These days, an increasing share of consumers are looking for drinks that not only taste good, but also serve a beneficial function. These functional beverages contain ingredients that, theoretically, can help build and maintain health, and have the added appeal of convenience.

Case in point: at the recent SIAL Paris industry event, functional beverages took center stage. The international gathering played host to a variety of different wellness teas, specialty water brands and similar drinks that have been on the rise.

Last year, the global functional beverages market was valued at just under $130 billion. That figure is expected to grow nearly 9% annually throughout the decade, reaching a value of $279.4 billion by 2030, according to reporting by TechCrunch.

Alex Wolfe – founder of biotech wellness brand EONS and co-founder of Circadian Wellness – said modern consumers are often turning to functional beverages for benefits like increased mental focus during their workday.

"Calmness and reducing anxiety is another trend that's attracting people to" functional products, Wolfe told The Food Institute. "Ingredients like L-Theanine are getting a lot of attention for creating a calming effect and allowing people to access a flow state experience."

Convenience a Key Factor

When it comes to overall health, consumers these days are placing an increased focus on what kinds of nutrients they're getting and what the benefits are. Convenience also plays an important factor in beverage purchases.

The old-school, functional beverages like coffee and energy drinks notoriously rely on sugar and additives to give consumers a boost, and many consumers are through with the unhealthy side effects of such drinks. They want products that use ingredients serving specific health benefits that lead to improved energy and wellness without any of the sugar crashes or digestive issues.

The top priority for consumers of functional beverages has long been immunity, gut and heart health, according to a report from New Food Magazine. Certainly after a pandemic era that inspired heightened attention on the immune system, many consumers want products that can stave off illnesses.

Bill Meissner, the president and chief marketing officer of Splash Beverage Group, has seen first-hand the pandemic-accelerated demand for functional beverages, notably as an alcohol alternative.

"People became more conscious and observant of what products serve (or don't serve) their health, stress reduction, and sleep," Meissner told The Food Institute. "As consumers spent more time on their overall health choices, several brands anchored in non-alcohol with existing distribution started to see triple-digit growth, and major producers are taking note."

The foundation of this growing macro-trend, Meissner says, is rooted in younger Americans' desire to live a healthier lifestyle.

Kerry Group recently surveyed thousands of consumers across 18 countries, and a majority agreed that they're willing to pay more for products with added functional benefits. Approximately 53% of those surveyed said they were interested in beverages with ingredients that specifically support immunity. Such products typically include ingredients such as:

    ·vitamin blends

    ·omega-3 fatty acids


Additional Consumer Desires

Functional beverage users are also concerned with cognitive, joint, and heart health.

Additionally, a key concern among consumers surveyed was to be certain that the products they're buying are backed by scientific evidence. Many shoppers have grown wise to questionable marketing tactics that overstate the health values of products.

As these trends continue in the beverage industry, it's clear that this market is staking its territory among health-conscious consumers and won't be going away anytime soon.

"We feel optimistic about the growth, from not only market research data but also the positive reactions of consumers," Meissner says. "Functional beverages will continue to persist, so we expect to see forthcoming options that fit the needs of today's consumers." Food Institute Focus

Store News:

· Checker's and Rally's double drive-thru concept will continue its rapid expansion. The value-first pioneer of the double drive-thru has signed three multi-unit developments to bring 40 restaurants to California, Texas, and Maryland, totaling 32 such agreements in 2022 alone, reported Restaurant News Release (Nov. 16). Full Story

· Seven Wendy's locations in Florida are sourcing renewable energy from Duke Energy, Florida's Clean Energy Connection program. In a statement from the company, Wendy's said an estimated 35 sites are expected to be powered 100% by the sun by 2025. Full Story

· Domino's Pizza is investing in Chevrolet Bolts for 37 of its own stores and hundreds run by U.S. franchisees. The company is turning to electric vehicles to help attract drivers and overcome a worker shortage that continues to hamper deliveries, reported The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 21). Full Story

· Miso Robotics has launched the Flippy 2 foodservice robot in the U.K. Flippy 2 is an automated assistant who can independently perform the work of a full French fry station. Full Story

· Dine Brands is set to acquire Fuzzy's Taco Shop for $80 million. The fast-casual Mexican Chain, which has 138 units, was founded in Texas in 2003 and is on pace to generate $230 million in system sales this year, reported Restaurant Business (Dec. 5). Full Story

Executives on the Move:

·  Papa Johns has named Elias Reyna chief people and diversity officer. This is the second stint at Papa Johns for Reyna, who returns after a short time spent in human resources for ABM Industries. Full Story

US Foods has named Dave Flitman as its chief executive officer, reported Reuters (Nov. 28). Full Story

·  Smithfield Foods announced Tuesday that chief financial officer Glenn Nunziata will retire at the year's end. The company named Mark Hall, currently its executive vice president, finance, as its new CFO, effective January 1. Full Story

·  Dutch Bros has named Christine Barone president of the company. The former CEO of True Food Kitchen will take over company operations as Dutch Bros targets 4,000 locations, reported Restaurant Business (Nov. 28). Full Story

·  Smoothie King recently named Marianne Radley its chief marketing officer, Juan Salas chief information officer, and Laura Scavone chief people officer, reported Restaurant Business (Nov. 29). Full Story

·  California Pizza Kitchen has named Jeff Warne CEO and president. Full Story

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Diesel Shortage Chokes Transportation from the Farm Gate

The well-documented diesel shortage in America is understandably causing concern across the country. But to what extent is the shortage cause for alarm for farmers and consumers alike? Opinions vary.

From the pandemic, to the war in Ukraine, to the state of refineries, there are a multitude of reasons driving the diesel shortage; Business Insider recently reported on the particulars.

A shortage of diesel fuel coupled with inflation is never a preferable combination, and it's not just the transportation of goods that are a concern.

Dwindling stockpiles of diesel have driven prices to a record premium over gasoline and crude oil. Diesel has climbed 50% this year to $5.36 per gallon, with the gap between it and gas rising to a high of $1.60 per gallon, reported The Wall Street Journal.

To better understand the ramifications of the shortage to farmers, The Food Institute spoke to Allen Schaeffer, the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for profit educational organization of global leaders in advanced diesel engine, equipment, and fuels technology.

Schaeffer noted: "Those farms focused on row crops – corn, soy, beets, sorghum, grains, etcetera – all typically are grown over larger acreage and require more tractor time and tending – planting, application of herbicides/pesticides and harvesting all mean more tractor passes in the field, and therefore have generally higher diesel fuel consumption as compared to a dairy farm, or a livestock operation for example.

"Specialty crops like cotton, garlic, nuts etcetera generally have smaller acreages and/or less tractor time, so these would be among the least affected I would imagine," added Schaeffer, who added further analysis on the topic in a recent post for the Diesel Technology Forum.

This is a big issue for farmers, since their cost of doing business has gone up while profit margin is going down, since consumers are forced to spend less. It directly effects their pockets.

Irina Tsukerman, president of Scarab Rising as well as a business and geopolitical analyst, shed light on what consumers can expect to pay more for amid the diesel shortage.

"The biggest issue is going to be anything grain based, such as bread and baked goods, due to the double impact of the grain crisis and overall increased demand," Tsukerman said. "And any perishable goods such as meats, dairy, eggs, and perishable types of fruits and vegetables that need to be transported across long distances.

"Refrigerated trucks have higher costs and limited supply," she added. "However, given that most products need to be distributed at least some distance, expect prices to go up at least somewhat on all items." Food Institute Focus


October Restaurant Sales Up 5.2% Year-over-Year

October comparable restaurant sales rose 5.2% year-over-year despite a 3.2% drop in comparable traffic, according to Black Box Intelligence. Florida was reported at the best-performing region while the Southwest was rated as the worst performing for the month. Fast casual performed well while quick-service struggled, and Italian was rated the top cuisine type for the month. Full Story

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