Seeking Gold in Cuban Soil

According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, American exports could reap more than $1.2 billion a year in sales if the U.S. ends its trade restrictions against Cuba.  Cuba imports 60 percent to 80 percent of its food.  New trade lines would also provide a supply of sugar, coffee and tropical produce to America.

An alliance of organic industry leaders, chefs and investors travelled to Cuba this past May, with a mission of persuading the Cubans to protect and extend the small-scale, organic practices that have become a part of their lives.  These practices came into play during the rule of President Fidel Castro, when the communist Soviet Bloc fell apart, and Cuba was unable to trade for agricultural equipment, chemicals and gasoline.  Farmers were forced to replace tractors with oxen, and cooperative farms emerged.

The country has almost 400,000 urban farms, among them 10,000 small organic ones.  Organic supporters would like Cuba to continue employing a sustainable agriculture that rejects chemicals and genetic modification.  The incentive is that the American market is willing to pay a premium for organic produce.  Organic sales in the U.S. grew three times as fast as the overall food market last year.

Efforts to lift trade sanctions between the U.S. and Cuba are moving slowly, due in large part to the upcoming Presidential election.  In the meantime, Cuban officials are being encouraged to build on the country’s extensive research and the cultural desire for local food.

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Whole Foods Announces a Whole New Concept

Popular sustainable grocer Whole Foods announced today that they are currently working on a sister concept that will provide budget friendly option for Millennials. The new concept will offer the same core values of Whole Foods, providing organic, sustainable options but with out the premium price tag. Whole Food’s co- CEO, Walter Robb states that their goal is to create a “uniquely branded store concept unlike anything that currently exists in the marketplace.”

Whole Food’s has often faced criticism for their high prices and have even been teased with the nickname “Whole Paycheck” as many cannot afford to shop there. Additional details about the chain will be released to the public before Labor Day and sources say that the new chain has the potential to be just as big as the original Whole Foods concept.

Trends in the industry show that healthy is what consumers want and companies are willing to do whatever it takes to get customers in the door. As we previously posted earlier in the week Panera Bread joined the vast list of food companies vowing to clean up their menus. Operations are removing artificial ingredients from their menus, sourcing food that is free of GMO’s and introducing healthier options.

To read more about Whole Food’s new concept, click here

Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry

On Tuesday December 2nd from 8AM-4PM a conference will be held at the New York Institute of Technology hosted by the Global Center for Hospitality Management, the New York State Restaurant Association & Green Hospitality Initiative. The conference will be on “Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: A Global Perspective.” This conference will bring together leaders from all aspects of the hospitality industry to discuss and share their expertise regarding sustainability in hospitality organizations and related industries. The sustainability issues that will be addressed will pertain to: Food, Operations, Work Culture and Community.

Several events will be held on the day of the conference including a continental breakfast networking session; guest speaker presentations; short films; “green flash” presentations on current trends in sustainability; and reception following the conference. Below are a few of the many knowledgeable speakers that will be attending the conference:

  • Dr. Rahmat Shoureshi, Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)
  • Sadri Altinok, President, Turkish Cultural Centers
  • Dr. Robert J. Koenig, Associate Dean and Professor of the School of Management and Department of Hospitality Studies, New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)
  • Alan Someck, Director, Green Hospitality Initiative
  • Alan Fairbairn, M.A./C.H.A./C.H.I.A.
    Professor of the School of Management and Department of Hospitality Studies, New York Institute of Technology(NYIT)
  • Alex Askew, President and CEO, BCA Global
  • Karen Washington, Co Founder at Black Urban Growers and La Familia Verde
  • Hervé Houdré, Regional Director of Operations & General Manager InterContinental New York Barclay

For a more comprehensive list of speakers and more details on the conference, click here. Admission to the conference is $22.75 with a $2.24 processing fee, to  register for the event click here

Five Ways to Embrace Sustainable Packaging

Guests have grown increasingly conscious of sustainable packaging at restaurants. Sustainable packaging reflects a brand’s philosophy, cant guests do not want to patron or have association with an enterprise that appears to not care about the environment, reports Fast Casual. Here are some ways restaurant operators can instill sustainable packaging:

1) Trace the sourcing of your packaging materials

Sustainable traceability has both environmental and ethical roots. Guests want the comfort of knowing that the packaging they’re using is from a legal, acceptable and sustainably managed source.

2) Source from neutral, non-profit organizations that conduct certification auditing

The following NGOs confirm whether sustainability certifications are being upheld:

  • FSC: The Forestry Stewardship Council, considered the most stringent certification standard, was created by environmental and community leaders in the 1990s;
  • PEFC: The Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification, the world’s largest forestry certification program, is an umbrella group working with national and large forestry certification programs to create a global certification program; and
  • SFI: The Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a U.S. forestry certification program, is under the PEFC umbrella.

3) Consider renewable resources for packaging needs

Guests place an emphasis on whether products have been sourced from renewable resources that have been recycled or plantation-grown, for example.

4) Examine opportunities to employ reusable packaging

Guests appreciate that “greener” value in the containers that store their food, which is why reusable packaging for to-go products is essential. Consider implementing multi-use to-go containers that have several functions and can be used in many ways.

5) Take measures to reduce food waste

This includes composting leftovers, switching to packaging that promotes long-lasting freshness for food, and making the removal of all food from to-go containers simple for guests.

SWEETGREEN: SALAD ENTERPRISE

1164 Broadway between 27th Street and 28th Street (NoMad) • 646.449.8884

sweetgreen

sweetgreen

Their Success… Rain or shine, sleet or snow, patrons are willing to form queues out the door for sweetgreen’s delicious and nutritious made-to-order salads and wraps. The food and interior design reflect sustainability. Sweetgreen’s fare is organic, local and sustainable, and any scraps are composted in the kitchen. Even the packaging and serviceware are 100% plant-based and compostable. Reclaimed materials comprise the store structure, and energy efficient LED and Fluorescent lights illuminate the space. Five core values, displayed on their site and in-store, echo sweetgreen’s “culture, spirit and dedication to doing what’s right.” These values speak to the importance of company-guest-community symbiosis, sustainability, authentic food and relationships, meaningful connections and making an impact. Sweetgreen, however, does not just talk about forging strong and persified community ties— they actually do it.

Sweetgreen introduced “sweetlife” in 2010, an original approach to unite fans with a meaningful cause. Sweetlife is an annual music and food festival hosted by sweetgreen that celebrates “flavorful music, wholesome food, and thoughtful living.” Sweetgreen donates all proceeds from sweetlife to “sweetgreen in schools.” “Sweetgreen in schools” is a collaborative initiative with DC Farm to School in which students learn about healthy habits, sustainability, local sourcing and food origins through an eight-lesson interactive program.

The successful salad chain lauds their local purveyors. Prominently displayed chalkboards that hang just above the communal seating pavilion illustrate the vinculum between ingredient, purveyor and region. The transparency in acknowledging those who have contributed to sweetgreen’s success through the supply of their produce resonates well with origin-concerned guests. Furthermore, the bold presentation promotes increased foot traffic and speedier lines by thwarting the “where does this ingredient come from?” dance with languid guests next-in-line.

Volunteerism and giving back to the community encompass key cornerstones in sweetgreen’s culture. Through mobile app payment, 1% of purchases are donated to City Harvest to support nutritional education and food rescue programs. The company’s internal volunteerism demonstrates an unwavering spirit. According to Head Coach Greg LaFauci, sweetgreen’s internal volunteer program with the Bowery Mission proved so successful that despite there only being a handful of spots available for staff to fill, literally dozens of employees volunteered to give up their Friday night plans without any incentives.

LaFauci said it best, “You can’t be successful in an unsuccessful community. Having staff aligned with the mission of giving back is tied in with their success”

Take Aways…Forging strong and diversified community ties extends beyond just an essential core value— it creates meaningful connections internally and externally.

Blue Bottle Raises $25 Million for Expansion

Thanks to the $25 million Blue Bottle just raised from investors, the Oakland-based coffee roasters will be launching several more locations on both coasts in the near future. The top-tier coffee company plans to “expand retail operations, improve internal training programs and further develop its quality control department.” A Boerum Hill location, bottled iced coffee and an improved sustainability quotient include just a few of the exciting ventures in store for Blue Bottle.

About.me founder and True Ventures (the company that invested $20 million dollars in Blue Bottle in 2012) investor Tony Conrad lauded visionary/Blue Bottle Founder James Freeman:

“What we saw and why we got involved is that James and his team are part of a handful of people who are founding a movement around coffee. It’s not just the very specific experience around the coffee Blue Bottle roasts, it’s everything they do from the way they source the product; supporting farmers in developing regions of the world to grow the purest, highest quality organic beans that promote sustainability; the way they choose store locations that often act as a vote of confidence for a developing neighborhood; and how they serve the product (what cup, what glass, what temperature, single origin beans versus blended bean mixes, espresso drinks only on premise….). They think through every detail to offer something beautiful in our daily lives—it’s a philosophy/approach that has led to a movement around the integrity of experience around coffee.”

Fast Casual Chain Adopts Rooftop Garden Model

Hyper local sourcing is a major trend for fine-dining restaurants, many of whom have started their own rooftop gardens.  But Northeast chain B. Good has shown how the model can work for the fast casual segment.   The chain reports it has actually saved money growing their own produce, compared to buying it from local farms, but insists the benefits are broader than financial success.  The brand’s identity centers on sustainability and healthy food, so growing produce on-site “‘…reinforces what our brand is supposed to be about. Our customers will get really crazy about it,'” said B. Good co-founder Jon Olinto.

For the full story, click here.