Rise Of Plant-Based Foods Creates Industry-Wide Growth In R&D

Right now is a particularly exciting time to be recruiting in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry. The groundbreaking innovations we’re seeing in our sector portend this could be a most consequential time not just for our industry, but for the planet and our future.

It may have all begun in the research and development of plant based foods.

The Rise Of Plant Based Foods Sparks Innovation

There has always been a viable market for plant based foods. But a variety of recent changes and product developments has caused a boom in demand. One of the main factors causing this demand is a spike in innovations and developments such as:

This is a notable evolution in an industry where R&D has historically been a tough sell. In part because of the uncertain ROI and potentially costly and time-consuming nature of R&D.

But now, food manufacturers are investing heavily in research and development in this sector to stay ahead of the curve for innovations in:

This trend is made possible as big companies are getting on board with the profitability and viability of R&D for the plant based industry.

To put this into perspective, it is not uncommon that leading investors would lend hundreds of millions of dollars to help promising manufacturers expand production capacity, add more innovative products to their portfolio, and lay the foundation for global expansion. It’s a bet that, given the momentum of the industry, is likely to pay off handsome dividends.

Growth & Innovation influences All Sectors of Food & Beverage Manufacturing

The statistics alone indicate the effect R&D is making on growth in the plant based industry: 

But the benefits of R&D from top plant-based food manufacturers is not contained to just the plant based industry. Both 2019 and 2020 were banner years for innovations in the food manufacturing industry as a whole. 

The livestock, dairy and meat industry are experiencing a need/push to evolve and diversify toward increased efficiencies and sustainability. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And seldom has this been more true in the growth and innovation of the food and beverage industry.

Thanks to the demand for plant based foods, we’re seeing a spike in demand across all sectors – all part of a growing movement dedicated to finding new ways to make our food supply more plentiful, fresh, and sustainable.

Why is R&D So Important For All Food Manufacturers?

Supply chains continue to be tested. The appetites of consumers are changing frequently. Environmental factors are shifting unexpectedly.

When we juxtapose the uncertainties of the food and beverage industry to historical demands, it is no surprise the suppliers of all foods are in a rush to find new, creative ways to produce foods that are:

  • Healthier
  • More profitable
  • Drought resistant
  • More pest resilient
  • Able to travel better
  • Grown closer to market

The government agrees. These are all reasons why companies who invest heavily in R&D could benefit from a variety of tax credits. But more importantly, the decision makers and people driving change towards increased R&D could save countless generations from poverty and famine.

Research & Development For All Food & Beverage Companies

At Curtis Food Recruiters, we are finding R&D is playing a bigger role in our retained client’s needs. They’re counting on us to source and recruit the best top C-Suite Executives and Senior Level talent who can lead the R&D revolution and meet the demands of the market and its suppliers.

We are always looking for ways we can help. The fact that our talent may be a part of such a historic moment makes recruiting for the food & beverage industry our passion.

If you need the top C-Suite Executives and Senior Level talent who can contribute to your R&D goals, and nurture an environment of innovation within your organization contact Curtis Food Recruiters today.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why Choosing a Retained Recruiter Gives You the Advantage

When you need top executive talent, you want them to be the very best. You want your new hire to be able to hit the ground running and begin guiding your company like a seasoned professional. And you want them to stick around for the long-term!

That can be a tall order for anyone in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry. If you’ve made the first step towards working with a recruiter, you might be wondering what kind of a recruiter you should work with. Retained or contingent?

We wanted to share some of the differences between these unique relationships and demonstrate how retaining Curtis Food Recruiters can not only give you and your company the market advantage but can provide peace of mind you can’t get anywhere else!

Retained Recruiting Vs. Contingent Recruiting

To understand what is best for you and your company, it is best to juxtapose the main identifying factors between the contingent and retained recruiting models.

Characteristics of Contingent Recruiting:

  • No up-front fees.
  • The placement fee is often lower than a retained search fee.
  • You only pay a recruiter if they successfully place a candidate in your business.
  • Contingent firms will often expedite the hiring process – working to fill the position as the highest priority.
  • Contingent search firms have access to a large quantity of candidates actively seeking new employment.

Characteristics of Retained Recruiting:

  • Retained recruiters work with their clients from the very beginning of the candidate search. As partners, the client and recruiter develop a recruiting strategy, and process to follow throughout every step of the recruiting project.
  • The client benefits from their recruiter’s long-term advocacy within the talent community.
  • Often, retained recruiters will work exclusively with their client, offering an unmatched level of service and detail.
  • Retained recruiters can afford to have a highly specialized niche industry to which they recruit, such as the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries. They understand the pain points and nuances of their clients better than anybody else.
  • Retained recruiters can expedite the hiring process by thoroughly vetting their candidates, saving time by offering quality over quantity.
  • Because the client and their recruiter are considered partners, many recruiters will often share their recruiting technology, subscriptions, and sourcing tools with their clients.

Why Only the Best Executive Talent Works With Retained Recruiters

Many candidates who work with contingency firms are often overwhelmed with phone calls from multiple recruiters. Additionally, it is unlikely the candidate will get to meet their recruiter’s client right away. Because of this, answering a call from a contingent recruiter can present the unsavory prospect of more time spent following unpromising leads

The best candidates, on the other hand, are extremely discerning when it comes to handing out their resumes. Since confidentiality is key to a higher level of executive recruiting, they won’t want their resume’s distributed without permission. This is why contingency firms simply aren’t in the same orbit as these high-quality candidates.

As your retained recruiter, you’ll have access to a better pool of talent: our trusted network of proven executives with the perfect mission-driven experience, skills, leadership style, and cultural competencies to match your company.

In the same way, retaining Curtis Food makes us your dedicated recruiter, our talent only works with us for a higher, more intimate level of service and professionalism.

When Diversity is a Priority: Choose Retained Recruiting

In order to understand how retained recruiters are able to offer more diverse options, one must understand how executive outreach into underrepresented communities is made.

Diverse executives have heard it all before. They’ve heard about how employers are eager to work with more diverse talent. Employers are after diverse candidates’ ability to provide a different perspective, add more innovative ideas, and round out the talents of their peers, creating a more unified, resilient, and creative leadership team. 

But putting all that into practice is another story altogether. Hiring diverse candidates is one thing. But creating a business culture that nurtures diversity and fosters equity is something entirely different. The problem is, from the outside looking in, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. 

Because we are retained recruiters, the diverse executives we work with count on us to know our clients through and through. Moreover, they depend on us to be truthful about your organization and their real potential to truly make an impact and succeed.

The very best diverse executives work with retained recruiters for two important reasons:

  1. They can expect more candid, inside information from a retained recruiter because of our deeper, closer relationship with clients.
  2. Retained recruiters can provide a more thorough and transparent track record of lifting up diverse and underrepresented talent.

When we begin working together on a project, our candidates have access to the fine details of your organization. And with our historical record of success in representing diverse talent, we can truly demonstrate how your opportunity is right for them.

Retained Recruiters Take the Pressure Out of “No Win, No Fee” Recruiting

One thing everyone can agree on – when you need to make a decision about anything, it’s best to have clarity and space to make the right decision. That becomes even more true when you ratchet the stakes higher. And for any company, there may not be any stakes higher than who they hire for executive leadership. 

You may have a fabulous relationship with a contingent recruiter. But there is just no getting around the “no win, no fee” element of contingent recruiting. Simply, if your recruiter doesn’t get their candidate hired, they don’t get paid. 

Retained recruiting eliminates all that in one fell swoop. No pressure. No competition. No confusion or worry that your recruiter is sending you the actual best candidates. And, most importantly, there’s no rush to make an incredibly important decision that requires ultimate clarity and confidence.

Your retained recruiter’s shortlist of candidates comes garnished with all of those luxuries and more: the guarantee that in the highly unlikely case that something should go awry, your partner will be right there for you in a snap. 

The Unique Guarantee of a Retained Recruiter 

What is a guarantee, really?

If you buy a new tv, and the tv doesn’t work, your purchase guarantee means you get a new tv. That is nice and all, but you still have to box up the tv, take it back to the store, and exchange it for another tv (presuming they have your model in stock). In the end, you get the tv you paid for, but not after an unnecessary headache and hassle. 

That is not the case for retained recruiters!

Think of the guarantee of a retained recruiter as the anti-hassle. The key is in two very important components to the relationship you strike in a retained agreement:

1) Accountability is key

Contingent recruiters are simply not held to the same degree of accountability as a retained recruiter. That is because the relationship between a contingent recruiter and their talent is often transactional and informal. There just isn’t the same level of intimacy and trust as the relationship between retained recruiters and their talent.

We are able to proudly call ourselves retained recruiters because when it comes to our talent, the buck stops with us. It’s our reputation and trusting relationship that’s on the line. 

2) Insurance you can count on

The strength and depth of any relationship is rarely put to a full test when everyone’s happy and things are going well. It’s when the unlikely and unexpected occurs you’ll be glad you had the security and resolve of a retained recruiter in your corner. That is why working with a retained recruiter is like buying an insurance policy for your hiring strategy, but better. Your retained recruiter can act with speed and accuracy to provide a seamless solution that is just as good, if not better than your first choice.

That is insurance you can count on to support your hiring strategy.

Why Choose A Retained Recruiter

Working with a recruiter can be a very personal experience. So ultimately, the decision should come down to what’s right for you.

Many employers prefer contingent recruiting because they aren’t looking for a deep, long-lasting relationship with their recruiter. They may prefer a more transactional model in which the recruiter is motivated to work very quickly to complete a project with a short time-to-fill. 

But we’ve found our partners in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries are looking for the very best management and executive-level professionals. They depend on Curtis Food to provide a different model: that of a high-touch partner who’ll work closely with them every step of the way through the recruitment process. They’re looking for a trusted, long-term recruiter who can ensure the success of their executive hire.

Our retained relationships have meant the world to our clients and have given them the market advantage in sourcing and hiring the very top talent for their company.

We’re excited to talk with you about how we can provide this unique service for your company and how, as your retained recruiters, we can provide a market advantage like nobody else. 

Contact our team at Curtis Food today. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Gardening in Small Spaces

As we finally seem to be rounding the corner on spring, looking back, I can truly say that it was a long winter! I know this for sure because on one of our first Minnesota spring mornings, I was awoken to the sound of birds and I literally couldn’t recognize what the sound was! That got me thinking about my vegetable garden. 

At Curtis Food Recruiters, we are all about the food!  On this note, one of my passions over the last few years has been planning and growing my own vegetable garden. Even though I don’t have a lot of space for vegetable gardening, I really do enjoy it. Backyard gardening is a food trend that has been growing in popularity across the nation, especially since COVID-19.

Many of us do not have expansive fields in which to plant and grow our own food, however, we do have the means to create some very productive crops using the space that we do have. Whatever you choose to call it: urban gardening, square foot gardening, container gardening, backyard gardening, the concept is all the same; we are trying to do the most with the space that we have.

The following are some of my favorite small space gardening tips:

Use square foot gardening. The concept of square foot gardening was created in the 1970s by a retired engineer named Mel Bartholomew. He noticed that instead of the traditional way of planting with rows, small gardens would be more efficient if planted in squares. This was because the rows were intended to make space for the equipment in the fields, but were not as efficient as a densely planted garden. Square foot gardening involves laying down 1foot square guides and then planting the various crops within each 1-foot section. This can be done using wood strips or even string or in my case “eye-balling” it. With rows eliminated, this type of dense planting also helps reduce weeds, another bonus for the home gardener.  Raised gardens also work well.  In two 4 x 8 gardens, you could have as many as 64 different types of vegetables.

Think about recycling your crops throughout the summer. Some plants grow quickly from seed and can be replanted throughout the summer. This is one form of succession planting. Vegetables like lettuce, radishes, and green beans work well for this. You can replant these crops about every 2-3 weeks, as the plants stop producing.  Another great way to re-use garden space is to cut plants like Swiss chard and lettuce about an inch above the ground when harvesting them. This will allow them to re-grow at least one or two more times. By following these tips, you can recycle your garden space all summer long.

Consider dwarf or miniature varieties of plants. These plants can produce as much as the traditional larger-sized varieties but in a much more compact area. More and more types of these plants are being introduced as backyard gardening is becoming more popular. They will often be labeled with words like dwarf, miniature, or compact. Also, be sure to look for varieties that indicate that they are highly productive.

Consider growing herbs and vegetables among the other plants in your landscape. Herbs and vegetables don’t always need their own private garden space; they can be simply incorporated into your landscape. This also means that the space in your front yard can be just as easily used as the space in your backyard; making more room for planting vegetables and herbs.

Plant what you enjoy.  Herbs are very distinct in flavor and smell and can trigger a range of feelings, emotions, and memories. Lavender is a great example of this.  One of my favorite things to plant among my perennials is Pineapple Sage. Even though I never choose to cook with it, Pineapple Sage is one of my favorite herbs.  Full-grown at about 2 feet, it is a beautiful lime green plant that smells absolutely wonderful! Every time I walk by it, I grab a small handful of leaves and am immediately taken to the tropics!

Create miniature gardens in your containers. Even planters on a patio or deck can be great containers for a small garden. You can create small themed gardens within the containers. For a spaghetti garden, all you need is a tomato plant, like San Marzano or Roma, and some herbs like oregano and basil. Be sure that the space does get at least 6 hours of sun for the best results. Consider other types of miniature gardens as well, such as a salad garden with various types and colors of lettuce, grape tomatoes, chives, and radishes. Be creative!

Use all of your space wisely, including vertical space. Planting vining vegetables on a trellis or pole is a great way to get several more feet of vertical space from your garden without using a large footprint. A simple thing I like to do is put 4 or 5 bamboo stakes in the center of my raised garden in a small circle or square and then tie them together at the top with twine. Last summer, I planted pole beans around the stakes. At the height of summer, they were not only a beautiful focal point in my garden but also produced an abundance of great-tasting beans through the later part of the summer. In the landscape, a rung ladder propped next to the sunny side of the house would make a great support for peas or miniature pumpkins; or a trellis would work equally well.

Have fun and be creative with the different types of containers you can use in your space. I have seen some pretty creative uses of containers around the web these days. This includes multi-level containers on the deck, as well as pallets being propped up vertically with plants in pots tacked to the sides. One of my favorites is the re-purposing of an over the door shoe bag. It was made out of a really pretty burlap-type fabric and had herbs tucked in the places where the shoes are supposed to go. Adorable! I have also seen multiple layers of gutters hung together with twine and used for planting. I currently have a window box that I am not using for flowers this year but filled with herbs, it may be a great centerpiece for my outdoor dining table.

For additional information on the topic, one website that offers some great suggestions and how-to’s, including tutorials, on creating small space edible gardens is Sunset at http://www.sunset.com/garden/fruits-veggies/small-space-vegetable-gardens-00400000044403/. Mel Bartholomew also offers some great tips to getting starting with the Square Foot Gardening method on his blog at http://www.melbartholomew.com/

Now get planting! I would love to hear about your results!

Marianne Lenz

Curtis Food Recruiters 15th Anniversary

Just last month, Curtis Food Recruiters celebrated our 15th anniversary. It’s been an incredible journey only made possible by the invaluable people who have been a part of our team and the wonderful clients and candidates we’ve met along the way. 

To commemorate this special occasion, we sat down with our founder, Julie Curtis, to talk about what the past decade and a half has been like for both CFR and the food industry.

Why start Curtis Food Recruiters?

I had a leadership role with a Fortune 500 company, which came with a tremendous amount of visibility and responsibility. While I loved that job, it was hard to balance that with a young family. Starting my own business was a way to create my own work-life balance. 

While I admit I still struggle with achieving a true work-life balance, I love what I do, I truly do. This encompasses all of what we do here, our team, our clients, and our candidates. A lot of work goes into owning your own firm, but to me, I think it’s more than worth it! 

What thoughts & emotions come to mind when you think about the 15th anniversary of CFR?

It should feel like a huge accomplishment, however, with the ups and downs of the pandemic, it doesn’t quite hold the same weight. Our 10th anniversary felt like “we did it!” Our 15th feels hard-fought, like running a race. The past 13 months have made searches more difficult and complex. 

When business is good, you work hard to make sure it stays good, and when business is slow, you work even harder; embracing those challenges is the only way to make it through. Reflecting on this particular anniversary, our whole team continues to work hard for each other, for our clients and for our families. Without this particular team and group of women, I couldn’t have made it to 15 years!

What was some crucial advice you received that has helped you make it to your 15th anniversary?

I received an incredibly impactful piece of advice as I was starting out with CFR: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. As simple as that may seem, it had incredible meaning for our business. It means for executive search, don’t spend 75% of your time working with one client because so much can change — organizational and leadership changes, mergers and acquisitions, and that can lead to completely redeveloping your customer base. Rather than rely so much on just a few relationships, diversify your client base. We have been able to successfully diversify our portfolio with branded food manufacturers, private label, large and small grocery retailers and wholesalers, and foodservice customers across the country.  

Another piece of advice I received that has stuck with me all these years is, when you are hiring people for your own team, focus on their customer service skills. Hire someone with great client relations skills; someone who understands how to communicate, gather information, pay attention to the details and problem solve for the customer. Rather than focusing on hyper-specific skills, hire a stellar communicator, someone that is innovative, and has experience overcoming challenges. Your clients will be happy and come back time and time again.

How has the food industry changed in the last 15 years?

I think there are components of the food industry that have changed drastically; quality assurance, quality control, point of origin, blockchain technology — being able to know exactly where that bushel of product originated. The ability to find out on a granular level how to improve our food supply has greatly improved.   

Another element that is fun to reflect on from the past 15 years is how the organic, natural products and grocery chains have grown. All of these tiny little organic and natural food companies were just sprouting up and finding their place back then. 

We’ve also seen an incredible amount of innovation in food products, flavors and ingredients. There has been such a dramatic change in the way we eat, what we eat, and how we as consumers make more educated decisions on what we are putting into our bodies. We have seen some amazing transformations within food companies and it will be fascinating to see how that continues to evolve. 

Who is your business role model? Who has inspired you?

One person that stands out in my mind is Sheryl Sandberg — both her books “Lean In” and “Plan B” mean a lot to me. I relate to her values, her thought process and problem-solving. Helping other women inspires me as well. I recently participated in a mentoring experience with the Network of Executive Women (NEW), and I loved that! I’ve also learned a lot from some of the clients we’ve worked with over the years, such as Kathy Hayden, VP of Sales during her time at WhiteWave and beyond, Rhonda Harman, VP of HR at Michael Foods, as well as so many other great business leaders. 

I have also grown a lot as a business leader through working with Executive Coach, Sarah Bridges — she has inspired me and knows how to ask just the right question to help you problem-solve on your own. As a leader, this is the area that I have grown in the most over the last five years and continue to work on. My tendency was to jump in and fix the problems, but instead, I have learned to ask more questions and redirect people to solve the problems on their own. 

What is your favorite part about your job? 

For me, the motivation always comes down to my client and candidate relationships. A client once commented, “You come to every single conversation with such energy, how do you do that?” I might not always have that same energy while working at my desk, but I definitely do when I am working with my clients — it’s my favorite part of the job! When clients are innovative, thoughtful, authentic and share who they really are, I’m able to help them define what they truly need, and in turn, find the right person for the role.

What do you foresee in the next 15 years for CFR? What are your goals?

Applying the insight I have gained this year from working with an executive coach, my focus will be on trying to let go a bit more, trust more in others and continue to let my team shine. I am naturally a take charge person and I am learning to sit back and let others take the lead (sometimes) — I’m a work in progress! 

From a company standpoint, I want to continue strengthening our existing relationships, grow our customer base and focus on higher-level roles that are appropriate for executive search. Also concentrate on being more efficient with the time we have and improve our processes with new technology. It’s important in our industry to always challenge our mindset and continue to try new things.   

Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters has successfully matched skilled job seekers with prominent businesses throughout the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry for over a decade. If you’re searching for your next top performer or need help advancing your career, contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to move your hiring needs forward. 

5 Ways to Promote Wellness in the Workplace

Wellness in the workplace isn’t a new concept—far from it. But the events of 2020 have brought employee wellbeing into sharper focus than ever before. In 2021, organizations that recognize this and commit themselves to support their employees have been able to differentiate themselves from other employers by showing they truly value the whole employee, not just what skill sets they bring to the organization.

Our team at Curtis Food Recruiters collected our thoughts on a few of the most effective ways leaders can keep their teams supported, connected, and well throughout 2021. 

Get Everyone on Board

Before you start to build out or enhance your employee wellness initiatives, it’s important to make sure your teams are on board and motivated to participate. Surprisingly, studies show that 80% of employees do not have the inner drive to follow their organization’s wellness programs. Leveraging coaching and educating employees on the benefits of wellness programs can help boost participation and follow through on whichever initiatives you choose to implement. Bringing fresh, engaging and exciting ideas to your wellness program will certainly garner more interest than the outdated models some companies are still using. 

Here are a few tips from SHRM on how to establish and design a wellness program that works from the start!

Get Your People Moving

Exercising is an undeniable antidote for a variety of negative conditions, physical and mental alike. Commit your organization to step up its fitness goals in 2021. You can promote friendly competition and accountability for a variety of physical activities like jogging, biking (if you’re in Minnesota like us, maybe put this one on hold until Spring!), steps challenges, yoga and more. Decide what’s best for your unique company makeup and get your people moving in 2021.

Ongoing Virtual Employee Wellbeing Sessions

Based on what is feasible for your organization, providing an opportunity for your team members to seek out a wellbeing session is one of the most effective and helpful ways to respond to challenging times. Whether it’s guided meditation, yoga, or simply someone to talk to, it’s important to make it clear to employees that it’s okay if people are struggling and that you’re here to help them through it. 

Unplug and Recharge

In addition to the structured wellness programs you incorporate, don’t be afraid to get a little creative and personal as well. “Unplug and Recharge” is an idea that supports employees on an individual basis by championing the wellness practices they want to explore. Whether it’s a two-hour window every Thursday where someone can go for a walk, take a long lunch, read, run errands, or simply unplug, dedicating a period during the week where your teams have the liberty to choose what’s best for them can speak volumes about your commitment to wellbeing and encourage participation in whatever other initiatives you put forward.

Celebrate Employee Achievements

We know you probably already recognized employees of the month before the pandemic—but in 2021, it’s best to take that a couple of steps further. Create a genuine culture of celebrating one another. Encourage people to shout out fellow team members for how they are valuable. Whether it’s in weekly company-wide meetings or smaller daily encounters, carve out time for your people to appreciate one another this year. It matters!

Make Your Office Greener

This may seem a little outside-of-the-box, but the amount of data supporting the benefits of interacting with nature, can’t be ignored. To combat a year dominated by being sequestered indoors, help your employees reconnect by injecting your office space with a little more green. Bringing nature inside office walls with indoor plants (succulents are great options), moss walls, water features, and open windows where feasible, can work wonders and help employees fight back against a year of disconnectedness and separation. 

Wellness ideas like the ones listed above serve as a great launchpad for doing whatever part you can in supporting your team members through difficult times. Beyond just intrinsically being the appropriate response, as the pandemic shifts the dynamic between employers and employees, having a comprehensive employee wellness plan (and having people know you have it) is becoming a competitive necessity. 

Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters has successfully matched skilled job seekers with prominent businesses throughout the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry for over a decade. If you’re searching for your next top performer or need help advancing your career, contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to move your hiring needs forward. 

6 Food Industry Themes To Watch in 2021

2020 made its mark on virtually every industry, and the food and beverage industry was no exception. We now live in the wake of the pandemic, and it’s important to recognize how it will continue to affect our industry.  

Our team at Curtis Food Recruiters sat down to help you identify some defining themes facing the food industry in 2021. Here are a few of the most prominent insights. 

Transparency Takes Precedence

In 2021, transparency will triumph. 

As the industry experts at Grande put it, more than ever, “Consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it was produced, and how it was sourced, making ingredient transparency and a strict chain of custody more important than ever.” 

As consumers become increasingly invested and concerned with where and how their food is sourced, smart marketing messages become more and more critical to get right.

Brands that find innovative, effective ways to make their transparent practices resonate with consumers will stand out from those who don’t.

Plant-Based Trends Accelerate

Plant-forward foods have been making waves for years; that’s not news. But there’s been a marked uptick in average annual growth that is expected to continue through the year.

As Mike Wystrach, Founder & CEO of Freshly states, “2020 showed us that consumers are interested in trying and buying more plant-based foods, as sales of foods like plant-based proteins and milks topped $3.3 billion over the past year.”

Notable brands are already recognizing this massive opportunity. McDonald’s, for example, currently plans to release a “McPlant” later this year in response to the “Impossible” burger that has already made its mark in this space. Additionally, plant-based grocery options are soaring. Pennsylvania-based startup Good Catch, for example, offers a line of plant-based substitutes for seafood like crab cakes and whitefish sliders. 

Appetite for Immunity-Boosting Foods Grows

One of the many reactions to the global pandemic included a growing awareness of the immune system and a desire to help support it through the foods and beverages we buy and consume. 

According to data from The Business Research Company’s Immunity Boosting Food Products Market Global Report 2020-30: Covid-19 Implications and Growth, the global immunity-boosting food products market, due in part to the pandemic, is expected to grow from the $16.31 billion in 2019 to $24.02 billion in 2023. 

Certain categories of food, like mushrooms (lion’s mane, turkey tail, chaga, etc.), are becoming increasingly popular as consumers continue to seek out more and more immunity-boosting options. 

North America was already the largest region in the immunity-boosting food products market in 2019, and experts expect that to continue in the coming years. 

Sustainability 

As we move through the Covid-19 pandemic, sustainability initiatives have and will remain vastly important across the food industry as consumer concern continues to rise. 

People across the globe have long been invested in products that empower them to live more sustainable lives, and, according to Forbes, “the modern consumer prefers sustainable food brands and adds them to their digital and physical shopping carts daily… 65% of consumers look for products that can help them live a more sustainable and socially responsible life.”

While some food and beverage companies were already seriously committed to their sustainability efforts and have been working to reduce their environmental impact before 2020, the pandemic has caused a shift. The coronavirus illuminated social inequality and health disparities in society, and companies are now beginning to consider social and health issues while they craft their sustainability initiatives.

Expect even more scrutiny and attention to be placed on sustainable, resource-efficient and eco-friendly food and beverage practices in 2021. 

Omnichannel Delivery

While hardly new to the food industry, the events of 2020 drastically accelerated the push towards omnichannel delivery; a study conducted by Accosta last summer revealed that more than 50% of consumers were buying groceries online—and a third of those were purchasing groceries online for their first time. 

Grocery stores are reflecting this shift in consumer demand in a variety of ways already from robots gathering grocery orders, smart carts, and cashier-less checkouts. Newer innovations include putting ratings and reviews on shelf labels, downloadable shopping lists, and in-store kiosks that provide answers about meal preparation or other grocery-related inquiries.

An omnichannel approach will be critical for brands to meet the growing expectation for on-demand, flexible and expedient services among consumers. 

Flavor Trends

As 2020 changed the way we lived, it also changed the flavors we sought. Nostalgic flavors served as a safe source of comfort during the pandemic. As a press release from the beverage development company Flavorman explained in December, “the need for comfort has taken on a whole new meaning within the current social and political climate, but flavors continue to provide a soothing constant.”

A desire to relive the tastes and sensations of our more tranquil childhoods led to creations like “smokey vanilla cold brews” and “bubble gum seltzers.” Other traditional favorites like maple, coffee, and butterscotch all saw a significant rise in launch activity, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. 

Paradoxically, while many sought nostalgic, comforting flavors, 2020 also inspired many to seek out new and adventurous flavors, a perhaps symbolic nod towards a longing for a time when the ability to travel and gather was uninhibited. This desire manifested in a surge in demand for globally-inspired flavors like yuzu, tamarind, blood orange, fig, matcha, and curry.

Manufacturers are helping to bridge the gap between the desire to try new, adventurous flavors and the reluctance to take that risk by combining them with more familiar, “safer” flavors. For example, Rebecca Davis, flavor scientist at National Flavors, explains that you can “combine an emerging flavor, like hibiscus, with a more familiar taste such as ginger to attract consumers who want flavor adventures but want a bit of familiarity to make the first purchase less risky.”

As the pandemic continues to affect daily life, we expect flavor trends like these to persist in 2021. 

About Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters has successfully matched skilled job seekers with prominent businesses throughout the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry for over a decade. If you’re searching for your next top performer or need help advancing your career, contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to move your hiring needs forward. 

Posted in Uncategorized

How You Can Give Back this Holiday Season

At Curtis Food Recruiters, volunteering in our community has always been a fundamental core value for us. After such a long and challenging year, our team felt especially moved this holiday season to raise awareness throughout our networks on the importance of giving back. 

It didn’t take us long to single out a cause that we felt was especially vital after the events of this year: food banks. 

The charitable food system is a critical service for people in need in nearly every community across the United States. As financial hardships have increased dramatically due to the effects of the pandemic, hunger is becoming an even more prevalent concern than during the financial crisis of 2008. 

The term “food insecurity” describes when a person lacks consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Today, more than 80% of food banks are serving more people than they were a year ago, and the number of people who are food insecure in the US could rise to more than 50 million by the end of the year, including 17 million children.

Feeding America, one of the nation’s largest anti-hunger organizations, distributed 4.2 billion meals from March through October. The organization has seen a 60 percent average increase in food bank users during the pandemic: about 4 in 10 are first-timers.” 

More than just sharing statistics, though, we wanted to give readers a more involved look at the impact of food banks on their communities, so we reached out to one of our local favorites in our home state of Minnesota: CROSS Services. 

For years, we’ve held CROSS near and dear to our hearts for their incredible service to communities across Minnesota by providing food assistance programs, financial assistance programs, kids programs, and much more. 

We wanted to offer our readers the chance to get to know CROSS a little bit better and, more importantly, the people they work so hard to help.

 

Thankfully, Elizabeth Brown, CEO of CROSS Services was generous enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions:

 

Could you educate readers about the current hunger issues in the community? 

There are several food sites popping up here and there for “short-term” gap-filling, but this is not the work that CROSS does with families. Not having enough food or not being able to pay your rent/mortgage, not being able to put gas in your car to get to work…These are just the result of so many other areas of need.  

Many people have lost jobs they have held for years; their entire industry is damaged in some cases and they might not have a job to go back to. As an example, one family came in with this situation:  

Not only had they lost their job and needed food and housing help, they feared there was no option to go back into that industry. Our Family Resource Manager provided the food, the housing support, and then connected them to a free job counseling service. The father stopped in last week to thank the CROSS staff person and let him know that he was starting a new job in a new industry this week. It’s never just about hunger – hunger is the sign that much more help is needed. This is where CROSS steps in to be that connector.

Could you clear up any confusion about the types of people who receive help through your organization? 

Many people needing services during this time are new to asking for help. CROSS is seeing many families never before needing these services.  

60% of those coming to CROSS are working at least one job (many working more than one job); even during a “normal” time in our world, it is very difficult to stay ahead of rent/mortgage, transportation costs, health insurance, and raising children.  

Many people making even $17 per hour, which is a good wage, have no funds left each month after just paying for housing, transportation, and child care so they can work. This is where CROSS comes in to help families through with more than just food and housing. We provide the connection to the community and to other resources, here at CROSS and across our region.

 What’s the best way for people to donate?

There are a lot of great options to give. It could be through a cash donation, or volunteering your time; no amount is too small. Look at your charity’s website for preferred options for donating. In addition to traditional methods, many are using technology such as Venmo, Square or Paypal to make giving as easy as possible. In Minnesota, you could also go to GiveMN.org which allows you to find and support various charities all from one website; look for similar organizations in your state for online giving.

Is there anything else you think is important to know for people looking to give back this holiday season?

The holiday season is traditionally stressful…I heard one mom say that it is just MORE of everything.  You have to do everything you have always done to survive, and during the holidays, it’s just MORE…Leaving people tired, frustrated, poorer, and more anxious…In this time of “just MORE” we need to also have MORE patience, MORE faith, and MORE care for others.

CROSS will continue to do our work as faithfully and compassionately as we always have. We are grateful and dependent on the community for allowing us to do this work for families in our community.

——

 

For more information on how a donation to CROSS can help Minnesota families in need, take a look at their website here. To find other food shelves in your area in Minnesota, use this helpful tool

 

The impact of organizations like CROSS depends largely on donations and volunteers from their communities. To find a local food bank near you, follow this link. 

Posted in Uncategorized

5 COVID-Related Insights From Food Quality Assurance Executives 

As a food industry-focused recruiting firm, we have witnessed first-hand some drastic changes in the food manufacturing and retail worlds over the past eight months. After many conversations with food safety industry experts, we felt it would be informative and useful to share some insights from top food industry QA leaders. 

Basic Human Needs Are The Most Important 

We need food, shelter, and water to survive, but these essential life ingredients are often taken for granted. This point was summed up perfectly during an interview with Harry, a Technical Manager of a $2 billion private-label prepared food manufacturer.

“The value of basic human needs is still the highest in human life. When this pandemic was at its peak, people were not worried about their cars, vacations, or luxuries; they were focused on providing food, water, and shelter,” said Harry. “We can be so technologically advanced and can make groundbreaking innovations, but food, water, air, and shelter are still the most important needs we have.”

Hygiene Awareness and Improvement is Paying Off

Food quality assurance executives across the board have unanimously agreed that hygiene awareness has noticeably improved since COVID-19 began. 

Harry also elaborated on the importance of hygiene when we asked him about this critical issue. “We always have struggled to communicate, train, and coach people on the importance of hygiene. Now, people are more aware of the importance of proper handwashing and hand sanitation to prevent cross-contamination.” He went on to say, “The consumer has and will continue to benefit tremendously from improved hygiene practices. If we look at data from March 2020 to now, we’ve nationally seen fewer recalls in the food industry. This pandemic taught us to cover our mouths while sneezing, wash our hands, sanitize our hands, sanitize our kitchens, and it even helped significantly fight the common flu. The number of people with common flu decreased significantly, which is a direct result of hygiene best practices.”

Pre-COVID, there was a perception that you were dedicated and selfless if you came to work sick. Now we see that staying home until you are well can help protect the workforce and the public. 

According to Joan Menke-Schaenzer, Chief Quality Officer at Van Druen Farms,The food safety and quality assurance protocols have always been strong, but now we are more focused on heightened cleaning of high touch areas,” said Joan. “I believe that the temperature and health screening of employees will continue forever. There is a new perception of personal health; we pay people not to come to work if they are sick. This has enhanced the safety of our employees.”  

Empowering the Workforce Through Increased Trust

Trust has always been a critical ingredient for success in virtually every business. During the early stages of the pandemic, most businesses changed overnight. They relied on their workforce to band together to overcome the onslaught of new challenges, including remote work, flexible hours, and more. 

“One of the most significant positive changes is that companies working remotely are getting into the culture of trusting the integrity of their employees and moving away from micromanagement,” said Harry. 

This has continued to play out more and more as companies move away from the traditional 9-5 office culture and replace it with flexible hours. Employers are trusting their employees more than ever to get the job done on their schedules. 

Technology Must Be Embraced

There are several long-standing norms around embracing change and innovation throughout the food safety industry, but since COVID, businesses have had no choice but to rapidly embrace technology and adapt to the new normal to survive today’s economic conditions. 

We asked a trusted Senior Food Safety Consultant in our network about the positive changes they’ve seen due to COVID. “The positive changes I have seen include rapidly embracing technology and adaptable approaches to work,” she said. “I believe shattering these long-standing norms has opened the industry to embrace change and innovation in ways never imaginable. Specific to food safety, we are very fortunate COVID is an enveloped virus and food is not a primary vector. Overall, this issue has opened people’s eyes to monitoring for infectious disease and basic GMPs.”

Embracing technology benefits food safety leaders in many ways. The Senior Food Safety Consultant went on to say, “I hope to see emerging technologies like Ozone/UV combined with traditional technologies to address pathogens and heat/acid resistant non-enveloped viruses for a safer food supply. I see this disruption has caused all companies to look more closely at their supply chain and demand planning systems.”

Speed and Adaptability Are Critical For Growth

Speed and adaptability have always been critical to the food safety industry. With COVID, it’s imperative to evolve at light speed to successfully tackle the frequent changes in food safety measures. 

“The rapid shifts in our understanding of COVID drove almost daily changes in procedures at the onset,” said the Senior Food Safety Consultant.  

“Historically, an emerging trend might require a tweak or procedural change. The early onset of COVID required very rapid (and almost perpetual) risk assessment and implementation. The PDCA cycle time also shifted rapidly.” 

Additionally, many food manufacturing businesses have adapted by establishing close partnerships with local public health officials. 

“At Van Druen Farms, we had the local hospital come on-site to test all 500 employees at no cost to them, and we were given results quickly. I am in constant communication with public health and the local county infectious disease expert,” said Joan. She went on to say “My role is currently incorporating more communication with public health and the community.  We can’t live with blinders on and know that employees are living their lives outside of their work at the plant.  We educate and help make change.”  

In Conclusion

COVID-19 has presented new challenges and paradigm shifts to the food industry. Despite all of the new hurdles, the food industry remains resilient and adaptable, continuously evolving to deliver the highest standard of safety.

About Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters has successfully matched skilled job seekers with prominent businesses throughout the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry for over a decade. If you’re searching for your next top performer or need help advancing your career, contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to move your hiring needs forward. 

* Some of the executives we talked to preferred to remain anonymous or use their first name only.

Opening the Door to an Executive Recruiter

Are you open to a new opportunity? If so, you are in the right place.  

This blog will equip you with actionable tips to help find your next rewarding career opportunity while highlighting the advantages of partnering with an executive recruiter in your hunt.    

Regardless of your situation, you may feel a bit discouraged in your job search. You’re not alone. Nationally, the hiring process has taken a lot longer than usual, with many leadership roles being put on hold midstream until organizations can confidently get through COVID-related challenges.

The good news is the economy is beginning to thaw; it’s just a little slower than we all hoped. But fear not, there WILL be another leadership position coming your way, and a great tip to speed up the job-seeking process is to work with an executive recruiter.

Why Work With an Executive Recruiter?

As a job seeker, there’s a variety of reasons why working with a seasoned recruiter can help streamline and improve your job search, but for the sake of time, we’ll cover two of the greatest benefits: 

  • Broadens Your Network – Very few professionals have a network as vast and as well-connected as a recruiter. Working with a recruiter opens the door to their massive network, giving you a competitive hiring advantage.
  • Partner For Your Job Search – Your recruiter is your hiring ally. They have your best interests in mind and genuinely want to help prepare you with details about the company, role and leadership team.  

What Type of Executive Recruiter Should I Work With: Retained or Contingent?

Understanding the difference between working with a retained recruiter and a contingent recruiter is vital to determine which is best for your unique situation.  

  • Retained Recruiter – A retained recruiter works on an exclusive basis for a client. They typically have a close relationship with the employer and know the culture, the history, and the leadership team. They are focused on finding the right combination of education, skills, leadership style, and contribution to their client’s culture. 
  • Contingent Recruiter – Contingent recruiters are typically generalists who work with various industries and types of positions. They do not often have an exclusive relationship with the employer; the employer only pays the contingent firm once they place a candidate. 

It’s important to note that employers often have relationships with both. In general, contingent recruiters are best at filling junior-level roles and are willing to market your resume to multiple potential employers. Retained recruiters are better suited for senior-level leadership positions that often require a particular skill set. Many of their roles are critical hires, confidential or immediate needs.  

Job Hunting Tips From Our Top Recruiters

With a combined fifty years of experience connecting job seekers to meaningful employment opportunities, the team at Curtis Food Recruiters put their heads together to develop five tips that will help you land your next role faster. 

Get Active in Your Network

It’s easy to take your network for granted while you’re gainfully employed. You might attend an occasional conference, belong to a professional association or have colleagues that you network with, but for the most part, you’re busy with life and work. It is important to continually refresh both professional and networking relationships.  

While 2020 has presented some unique challenges in networking, it’s a great time to pick up the phone and reach out to colleagues you have worked with in the past. People are willing to have those conversations now more than ever. It’s a great way to stay on someone’s radar. 

Additionally, you’d be surprised how many professional organizations are hosting virtual meetings. Be sure to engage in those meetings and aim to be an active participant – it certainly can’t hurt!

Get Social

Take time to be active on social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. This shows prospective employers that you are a thought leader. Write engaging posts, share interests, and interact (liking, commenting, and sharing) with potential employers. Ensure that your social media profile is exactly how you want to present yourself. Consider taking down pictures or posts that do not represent you in a professional way.

Keywords and Key Phrases 

Take a look at your online profiles (LinkedIn, Monster, etc.) and determine what keywords and key phrases a potential employer is using as search terms. To start, review the job descriptions for any positions that you’re interested in. Write down as many keywords and phrases that seem relevant to your next role. 

Now that you have your list, spend some time thinking (and writing down) experiences that you have had. Challenging problems you have solved. Outstanding successes you have had in current/past employers. Write 2-3 sentences that describe the type of position you are most qualified for, and then add the keywords and phrases that are relevant. Adding concrete data and real numbers is a huge advantage, if possible (i.e. “Grew manufacturing sales by 15%”).  

Flexible Resumes

Keeping your resume flexible and making sure it is specifically tailored to the role you’re interested in is critical. There’s nothing that says, “average” to a potential employer more than having a generic resume. Take time to customize your resume for each job application you send. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; simply updating job descriptions and experiences accurately to reflect the relevant position is a great way to show your interest.

Interviewing

You’re likely to have interviews, but they may look a little different. Video interviewing is pretty much industry standard right now, so be sure to have a decent internet connection and proper attire. It’s also incredibly vital to embrace the importance of listening and not over-sharing. Practice and be prepared to speak to all aspects of your career that make you stand out, and be able to explain how those experiences will make you successful in the role you are interviewing for. After the interview, be sure to follow up with a thank you, and if you don’t end up getting the job, ask for feedback – positive and critical. Accept rejection gracefully. 

Using one or all of these tips will certainly help you get ahead. Here’s the bottom line: reach out and connect with people. You never know who knows someone looking for your exact background, expertise and personality. Your recruiting partner is your best advocate, so when in doubt, reach out. Good luck!  

About Curtis Food Recruiters 

For over a decade, Curtis Food Recruiters has been matching food and beverage professionals with prominent, rewarding career opportunities. As a full-service executive search firm specializing in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries, we are dedicated to helping job seekers find (and land) the perfect positions. Contact us today so we can do the same for you.