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.

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. 


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. 

What California’s New Henhouse Cage Law Means for the Poultry Industry


We’re always keeping up with current events that have the potential to affect the food production and services industries. Whether it’s market demand or new regulations put into place, consequences that might be intended or unintended are important to take note of so that we can adapt accordingly – minimizing or avoiding any fallout that could occur as a result. This week we’re discussing a California law known as Proposition 2 that recently went into effect requiring grocers to carry eggs produced from henhouses that provide more living space to chickens. It’s something that’s presenting a sizeable challenge to the poultry industry and the stores who carry their products. So without further ado, let’s go into detail and answer any questions you may have on the subject:


How must California grocers comply?

Cartons of eggs at stores in the Golden state must now be marked “California Shell Egg Food Safety Compliant” – distinguishing that they meet new regulatory standards passed by California voters back in 2008. Despite the law’s passage nearly six years ago, the law didn’t go into effect until January 1st of this year. Specifically the law requires that henhouses feature enough space where chickens are able to move around with a sizeable amount of space that allows them to spread their wings.


What’s the law’s intention?

It’s intended to look out for animal welfare but transitioning to it is proving costly on both sides – requiring both poultry producers and the grocers who buy from them to spend more in the meantime. As it stands currently, standard henhouses feature cages limited in size where multiple hens are packed into small living quarters. But some contend that providing hens with expanded space could simply result in more injuries for the chickens.


Are any companies okay with the change?

Yes, but they’re mostly big names. Some companies in the services industry, including Whole Foods, Starbucks and Burger King, have voluntarily agreed to comply with the law, not just in California but outside the state as well.


How is the poultry industry adapting and where are the increased costs coming from?

Poultry producers nationally have had two options when complying with Proposition 2: Either construct new cages or reduce the amount of chickens they keep in each – requiring new manufacturing costs or forcing them to cut down on poultry production due to having less chickens. Meanwhile, poultry producers have raised pricing on those eggs to help cover the transition – hurting grocers in the process and the American shoppers who buy them (grocers are raising egg prices as well).


“You’re talking about millions upon millions of dollars,” commented Centrum Valley Farms CEO Jim Dean, according to a report from the Washington Post. “It’s not anything that’s cheap or that can be modified easily, not in the Midwest.”


What are the long-term consequences?

While it’s expected that the industry will eventually meet the new demands and stabilize financially after some time, it’s quite possible that egg prices in California will remain high for the foreseeable future. Ultimately those who could hurt most from the law are consumers. Egg prices at stores in California have experienced no less than a 35% increase, Ronald Fong of the California Grocers Association recently stated, according to NPR.

2014 R&D Trends -Holly Shoberg

I have had a passion for food and food science since as far back as I can remember so it was a natural progression to have food science be my major in college. Having worked in an R&D lab, I love keeping up on food trends.  This allows me to follow my passion and benefits my current role as a CPG recruiter.  I found myself chatting with a current R&D scientist and got the inside scoop on what is currently going on behind the scenes.  Here are my findings!

With the FDA proposing to update the Nutrition Facts label found on most food packages in the United States, R&D scientists are in a frenzy to reformulate product to make it appear healthier on the new label.  If adopted, the proposed changes would include the following.

Provide a Greater Understanding of Nutrition Science

  • Require information about “added sugars.” Many experts recommend consuming fewer calories from added sugar because they can decrease the intake of nutrient-rich foods while increasing calorie intake.
  • Update daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. Daily values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value listed on the label, which help consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.

Updated Serving Size Requirements and New Labeling Requirements for Certain Package Sizes

  • Change the serving size requirements to reflect how people eat and drink today, which has changed since serving sizes were first established 20 years ago. By law, the label information on serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they “should” be eating.
  • Require that packaged foods, including drinks, that are typically eaten in one sitting be labeled as a single serving and that calorie and nutrient information be declared for the entire package. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda, typically consumed in a single sitting, would be labeled as one serving rather than as more than one serving.

Refresh Design

  • Make calories and serving sizes more prominent to emphasize parts of the label that are important in addressing current public health concerns such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Shift the Percent Daily Value to the left of the label, so it would come first. This is important because the Percent Daily Value tells you how much of certain nutrients you are getting from a particular food in the context of a total daily diet.

I can only imagine the conversations at the round table of snack food and beverage companies!

Another hot topic in R&D is how to incorporate protein into everything.  Now R&D scientists are looking out of the box for non-allergenic sources for example: lentil, quinoa and ancient grains.  Interesting fact: Whey protein is added to the chocolate coating on granola bars we buy at our local grocery stores.  Who would have known!

Other topics that are front of mind for R&D in food manufacturing companies include the ever troubling allergen issues as well as the controversy with regards to GMO’s.  I am excited to see what R&D will be focused on in 2015 and will be anticipating the new food labels with the nutrition facts update.

This is the food science enthusiast signing off!

References: www.fda.gov

How Food Tells a Story

In the spring, I talked about some great ways to grow food in small spaces.  Now that it is late July and my gardens are starting to get into full swing, I was reminded of a day late last summer when the vegetables were in full production.  After one of my kids spent a full day hanging out at a friend’s house, the friend’s mom had sent home two cucumbers from her garden.   I remember how much I appreciated her simple gift.  If she had bought them at the store and sent them home to me, I probably wouldn’t have thought much of the gesture. But, because she grew and nurtured them in her own garden and then passed them on to me, I felt loved!  It’s funny how a couple of irrelevant cucumbers can pack such a message!  But, food does have meaning; in many ways, it tells a story.  That’s why so many of our holidays and traditions are centered around food.  Food brings us together and we create meaning and memories through food.  Sometimes, I think about what I am saying to others through food.  One day last winter while we were grocery shopping, my youngest wanted a muskmelon.  I remember thinking “$3.50 for a muskmelon, are you kidding me?”  In the middle of summer, I wouldn’t pay more than a buck or two for a muskmelon.   I remember catching myself just as that two letter word was about to roll off my lips and I remember thinking; “well, it’s not the middle of July, it’s the middle of January.”  I’m sure I’ve spent $3.50 on many other things that were not nearly as healthy as this” (chips, ice-cream, other miscellaneous snacks).  But, for whatever reason, these purchases seemed to be OK because I wasn’t paying more for them than what I thought they were worth.  I don’t usually buy fruit or vegetables that aren’t in season, but before I said no, I thought about what I was saying to my child by not getting the overpriced fruit.  So, instead, I said “sure, I could go for a muskmelon in the middle of January”.  We ate it later that cold January night, and it was truly one of the best muskmelons I remember eating.  I have worked pretty hard to teach my kids the value of a dollar over the years, but I think this needs to be balanced with teaching them the value of a good memory as well.   Again, I’m referring to something as simple as a fruit or a vegetable, but those simple foods do play a bigger part in our lives than we often realize, they can create memories; they can tell a story.

-Marianne Lenz

Farm to Table – One Food Recruiter’s Perspective

This has become a trendy new movement, rooted in the 60’s commune values of living locally and sustainability. Now, this concept is hot in the trendiest (and priciest) of restaurants along with small local cafes, and even household kitchens. As well as being the new “it” way to eat, farm to table has also become a critical movement in eating healthier and supporting the environment and our fragile resources.
When you sit down to eat your dinner at night, your plate may contain a chicken breast, some broccoli, perhaps a grain and fruit. We don’t traditionally think about the total miles the food on your plate traveled to get to your belly, we just eat it. Well, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture tells us why it needs to be more than just a trend to shop your local farmers markets and why the distance on your plate needs to be more than just an afterthought. According to their website (www.cuesa.org) :
It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate. Why is this cause for concern? There are many reasons:
• This long-distance, large-scale transportation of food consumes large quantities of fossil fuels. It is estimated that we currently put almost 10 kcal of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every 1 kcal of energy we get as food.
• Transporting food over long distances also generates great quantities of carbon dioxide emissions. Some forms of transport are more polluting than others. Airfreight generates 50 times more CO2 than sea shipping. But sea shipping is slow, and in our increasing demand for fresh food, food is increasingly being shipped by faster – and more polluting – means.
• In order to transport food long distances, much of it is picked while still unripe and then gassed to “ripen” it after transport, or it is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport and sale. Scientists are experimenting with genetic modification to produce longer-lasting, less perishable produce.

The benefits of including more local fruits, vegetables and meats in your shopping cart are extensive. More nutrient dense produce, fresher produce because it is not traveling from overseas to get to your plate, which in turn impacts that carbon foot print of the food being consumed. It is obvious that this method of consuming produce is not going to work year round for everyone. Here in MN, without mass transportation and a robust supply chain, we wouldn’t see a fresh apple or tomato for many, many, many months out of the year. So, it is not an all or nothing proposition, just a balance between what you buy from your farmer down the road, and what was shipped to you from Chile.
Seasonal and regional cuisine can be a fun experiment to take on in your own home. Go to the farmer’s markets or join a CSA and see what you can create. You don’t have to be a chef (or a food recruiter) to dive in and get your hands dirty.

Food Trends We Love

Food like everything has trends; they come and go. I love every part of food; from reading recipes and grocery shopping to cooking, and best of all eating!

In the last ten years some fads turned into bona fide trends.  Moving from $.50 diner coffee to a $5.00 venti nonfat Caramel Macchiato’s and the rise of organic and sustainable foods.  More recently we have seen an increase in whole grain and gluten free products.  The advent of the “Food Truck” is one of my favorite trends.  To be able to get a gourmet Cabrito Butter Burger with Roasted Tomatoes, Charred Onions and Sweet Pickles from the Andrew Zimmern’s food truck is an incredible treat on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.  We have learned to love quinoa, kale, gluten free and Sriracha (or have we!).


One of my favorite new trends in the food industry is the use of fresh herbs. Today’s cooks use them regularly to add flavor and freshness to any dish.  Although classic herb gardens have thyme, basil, mint and chives my favorite is Cilantro.  Cilantro is easy to grow and can be used in a variety dishes. One key to successful cilantro is to prune the flowers when it begins to grow. If you don’t, the stems become woody and the flavor changes.  The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis uses it in their chorizo stuffed peppadew pepper and the Barriro Tequila Bar on Hennepin uses a cilantro-lime vinaigrette in their mixed green salad and also in their barbecued pork torta. One of my personal favorites is Southwestern Spiced Sweet potato fries with chili-cilantro sour cream. Another is Cilantro sugar which can be used to dip watermelon or rim cocktail glasses. One other noteworthy item: Each 100-g serving of raw cilantro leaves provides over 521 mg. of potassium. Cilantro adds a unique and subtle flavor to many dishes.


One thing I know for sure is that overall the trends have been focused on delicious, healthy, and flavorful foods. Herbs play a key role in enhancing both savory and sweet dishes.  I am a true foodie at heart.  My education and early experience was in food science/R&D and now as a CPG recruiter I just can’t get enough of what the food industry has to offer.  I look forward to seeing what the next ten years bring.

-Holly Shoberg


Food Festivals


Working for a CPG Recruiter we are constantly talking about food.  Our food industry clients make some of the best products in the grocery aisle but there are some brands that don’t get the same kind of PR.  Eating is one of my favorite hobbies.  Whether it’s a night out on the town trying new foodie restaurants, or Martini Friday at home, snacks are on the menu!  One way to sample a lot of food in one spot is a food festival.

Whether you are into garlic, truffles, or food truck dining there is a food festival for you.  Some of the more notable festivals involve throwing tomatoes or wearing watermelons as water-skis.   All year long you can find grand celebrations of food and drink all over the world.  From local eats to celebrating bug cuisine, there are food festivals to satisfy many fancies.  Easy enough to find on the internet are the “Best Food Festivals,” I have listed a few links below.

After I saw what the world could offer I decided to look closer to home.  Here in MN we can enjoy several food, wine, craft beer, and local eats festivals in 2014.    I recently found and attended a local food focused event.  From “Olive Oil on Tap” infused olive oil and “BurntOut BBQ Company” sauces to sweet confectionary treats and amazing cheeses, there is always something wonderful to snack on while sampling the local beverages.  Minnesota craft beers are fantastic!  The artistry and talent of these small shops is apparent to me as a small time foodie.  I believe they are inspirational to the larger food producers as well.  It was a pleasure to put faces and stories to some local brands I have bought at the store, like Curt’s Special Recipe salsa.  We are excited to try their Spicy Bloody Mary Mix.  I brought home some great cheese and snacks for the next Martini Friday!  I am looking forward to dipping my fresh baked bread in Tuscany infused olive oil with parmesan, and working away at the quarter wheel of “Faribault Caves” cave aged Gouda.  Is anyone else hungry?


Here are a few of the websites I enjoyed while looking for food festivals: