Tag Archives: Food & Beverage

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A look at food and beverage trends for 2020

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We are closing in on the end of the 2010s, a decade that has seen far-reaching changes in all areas of our lives and faster than any decade before. From technology to travel and food and beverage, there have been massive paradigm shifts.

A report released by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows some interesting trends as we step into 2020. This is a varied list of trends, including tea with alcohol, meal kits, online grocery, organic food, and drinkable collagen.

Despite the first appearance of not being connected to each other, these trends perfectly represent the lifestyle we lead now. Some of these have been playing out for several years but will show stronger growth in 2020 and onwards.

Millennials are 27% of the population and therefore have a sizable influence on food and beverage trends. An increasingly dynamic market will respond to their demands of organic, sustainable, and farm-to-table products.

These consumers are also looking for convenience and digital solutions for their food and beverage needs. Their buying habits reflect digital savviness for online grocery shopping and using apps to order directly from farms.

The health and wellness sector of the food and beverage market will see a significant boost as well. Drinkable collagen is poised to see rapid growth and is in demand for convenience store nutrition.

People are busy but don’t want to compromise on their diet because of that. They want to get products off the shelves and in easy-to-consume formats. Meal kits will see a boost for similar reasons.

Another noticeable trend predicted by the University of Florida is the significant rise in prices for some critical fresh produce items due to extreme weather impacts. Food crops that grow in specific regions and unique environments that face climate disruptions will become scarce.

Whole Foods Market’s 2020 food trend list also predicts that the grab-and-go food category will expand and grow at a fast rate. Along with that, regenerative agriculture and plant-based foods beyond soy, along with fresh snacking, will make great strides in 2020 and beyond.

Those who always avoided the frozen foods section in the supermarkets will now have the option to find something suitable there. Wholesome, fresh snacks with savory toppings and mini-dips and mini-meals like soups will be available in convenient single-serve packaging. Nutrition bars with fresh fruits and vegetables in them will be found in these sections as well.

Plant-based foods will move beyond soy and will showcase unique blends like grains and mung beans, watermelon seed, hempseed, avocado, pumpkin, and golden chlorella, among others.

These will be demanded by users who wish to avoid the top allergens and flexitarian eaters. Blended foods like syrups made from sweet potato; cauliflower flour; meat-plant blends; and sugars derived from produce like pomegranates, coconuts and dates will make waves in months to come.

Whole Foods also explained the growth of regenerative agriculture, where farming practices positively impact climate change. These methods seek to increase carbon capture to create long-lasting environmental benefits, restore degraded soil, and improve biodiversity.

Technomic’s trends report also points to the increasing use of CBD in edible products. As for the blends that everyone keeps talking about, Technomic goes a little deeper to explore possibilities. Be prepared to find seaweed in your desserts and drinks, while spirulina and butterfly pea may find a place in your daily teacup.

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Achieving the promise of reduce, reuse, recycle with chemical recycling

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There’s no consensus yet on whether chemical recycling is the silver bullet for the growing plastic pollution problem. What is clear, however, is that a solution needs to be found — and fast.

Plastic and the use of plastic are not going away anytime soon. This quintessential representation of environmental pollution is readily available and highly valued in product packaging.

Despite consumer calls for bans on single-use plastic and statewide legislation addressing these demands, plastic in all its forms has a large global market. Current demand for PET/PETE plastic and polyester fiber alone is nearly $130 billion with global production expected to grow 3-4% annually through 2022.

For the foreseeable future, companies will remain bound to plastics in their production cycles. This article will look at how industry can reduce the environmental impact of plastic, reuse material already circulating in the economic value stream, and create a circular recycling mechanism is at the heart and promise of chemical recycling.

How Plastics Are Recycled Today

Historically, the U.S. used two mechanisms for managing plastics recycling efforts: shipping plastic waste to China and Southeast Asia to recycle and discard; and mechanically recycling a small portion domestically.

In 2018, China stopped accepting plastic imports and other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam swiftly followed suit. Now, municipalities across the U.S. are collecting the full spectrum of “recyclable” plastics and promptly routing them directly to landfills or incineration sites.

Commonly used PET/PETE (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastics are still mechanically recycled in the U.S. but at varying levels of effectiveness due to the expense and energy required. Batch contamination from mixing incompatible plastic types (e.g., PET/PETE with PVC) remains an ongoing recycling challenge, too.

The most significant limitation to mechanical recycling is its ability to only downcycle plastic or to produce lesser-value plastic items. The result is that less than 10% of all plastic gets recycled in the U.S. today.

What Is Chemical Recycling?

Chemical recycling takes plastic back to the source. Plastics are polymers made by fusing two kinds of oil via chemical reaction. In the chemical recycling process, plastic is decomposed or separated into its essential parts: crude oil and natural gas. After the depolymerization process, contaminants like food or coloring are removed so that the material can be repolymerized and recycled into good-as-new plastic.

Chemical recycling offers several advantages to traditional mechanical recycling. First, plastic batch contamination is not a roadblock. Most low-value and waste plastic can be deconstructed, decontaminated, purified and repolymerized into recycled plastic resin.

Second, chemically recycled plastic can be recycled a near infinite number of times with minimal material loss. Third, it can be upcycled into products of same or increased value from its original use. Fourth, the “gold standard” in chemical recycling does not involve the use of external heat or pressure, which significantly reduces the energy intensity of operations.

Chemical Recycling Is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Cure

Chemical recycling is an umbrella term that conveys the different technologies for deconstructing and repurposing various plastic types to be used as raw material inputs for new products. The more than 60 global technology providers at various levels of commercialization fall into three main technology buckets:

Purification: a process that dissolves plastic in a solvent to separate and purify the plastic mixture and does not break down the polymer into separate monomers.

Decomposition: a depolymerization process that uses thermal, chemical or biological starter components to break plastic polymers into base monomers and purify the plastic waste for reuse.

Conversion: a process similar to decomposition with outputs of liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons to be used in intermediate materials and monomers to make new plastics.

Systemic Hurdles to Scaling Chemical Recycling

For chemical recycling technologies to meet the demands of plastic-use growth and create a circular system of upcycled plastics, several challenges need to be resolved in the coming decade.

1. The cost of recycled materials needs to be on par or less than the cost of virgin plastics. Today, there is little market incentive for companies to pay a premium for plastic material inputs. Crude oil prices hover below $60 per barrel, propping up our dependency on virgin plastics. The break-even cost for recycled plastics is closer to $100 per barrel.

2. Processing capacity for chemically recycled plastics must increase exponentially. Global market demand for polyethylene alone in 2017 was 80 million tons. Only a few chemical recyclers, such as Loop Industries and Carbios, are commercial and actively processing plastics, albeit at low-volume levels — around 10,000-15,000 metric tons of plastic per plant per year. Agilyx, with its Tigard, Oregon, facility, processes less than 4,000 metric tons of polystyrene annually.

3. Production scale is wholly reliant on facilities that exist and are operational. All major chemical recycling companies are planning new facilities or retrofitting existing plants between now and 2025.

4. Proving to the public that chemical recycling is more environmentally friendly than virgin plastics production and mechanical recycling. Doing so would go a long way toward making a value-added sustainability business case for pursuing these technologies.

Steps Industry Can Take to Adopt Chemical Recycling

Coca-Cola, Unilever and Nestle have pledged to source recycled plastic for their food and beverage and consumer product goods. Industry players in textiles, agriculture, construction and consumer electronics must quickly follow suit. Here are three ways companies can pair desire with action:

1. Build an internal business case for executive leadership that emphasizes the medium-to-long-term value of investing in chemical recycling technologies. Quantify how chemically revalorized plastics will optimize and streamline a company’s product design processes, material sourcing strategy, and value chain GHG emissions.

2. Partner with the right chemical recycler for your business needs. Focus on your company’s product waste streams and the regions in which they occur. Research the technology that best supports your company’s needs and engage the innovators that offer the capacity and willingness to partner with you.

3. Plan to co-locate manufacturing facilities close to municipal recycling waste streams and chemical recycling facilities. Without a clear strategy to maximize waste feedstocks into the system and minimize travel for processing, chemical recycling will not be market competitive anytime soon.

Chemical recycling can tackle the three Rs of sustainability: reducing material throughput of virgin plastic resin by creating a system of near-infinite plastic, and reuse within a circular plastic material system that prizes recycled content over virgin. With a focus on overcoming the systemic hurdles the process currently faces, a path to widespread implementation will open.

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Sodas found to be common denominator between obesity, tooth wear in adults

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We all know they’re bad for us. But most of us indulge in sugary soft drinks at least occasionally. All things in moderation, right?

Well, a recent study published in the journal Clinical Oral Investigations may give us one more good reason to cut back on (or even eliminate) soda consumption.

Drawing on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004, the study has found that sugar-sweetened acidic drinks, such as soft drinks, are the common factor between obesity and tooth wear among adults.

Scientists from King’s College in London found that being overweight or obese was clearly associated with having tooth wear. Even more important, they also found that the increased consumption of sugary soft drinks may be a leading cause of the erosion of tooth enamel and dentin in obese patients.

Patient body mass index (BMI) and the degree of tooth wear were the exposure and outcome measurements in the study. The consumption of sugar-sweetened acidic drinks was recorded through two non-consecutive, 24-hour recall interviews where the participants were asked to provide details of everything they ate and drank across these two days.

“It is the acidic nature of some drinks such as carbonated drinks and acidic fruit juices that leads to tooth wear,” said lead author Dr. Saoirse O’Toole from King’s College London.

The erosion of tooth enamel is ranked as the third most important dental condition, just after cavities and gum disease, and the consumption of acidic foods and drinks is a leading cause of this tooth wear.

“This is an important message for obese patients who are consuming calories through acidic sugar-sweetened drinks,” added Dr. O’Toole. “These drinks may be doing damage to their body and their teeth. There is also an important message for dentists. We should be asking our patients who are obese and have tooth wear what calories they are drinking as this may be having an effect on their full bodies — not just their teeth.”

Tooth wear is preventable and changes to consumption habits can help stop people from experiencing it or making it worse.

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Food halls: An easy way to taste a city’s eats

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The food hall concept is booming across America. Surveys indicate there are more than 200 of these conglomerations of casual dining stalls, most of them dedicated to artisanal, locally sourced, and reasonably priced meals and snacks.

Typically housed in revamped industrial or commercial buildings with plenty of space for stalls serving a variety of different cuisines, they offer tons of great stuff to eat, all in one place. What more could you ask for?

Let’s take a look at six of the nation’s most popular food halls where you’re certain to find something to titillate those taste buds.

Reading Market Terminal, Philadelphia

This bustling food market has been a premier dining destination in Philly for nearly 40 years. Visitors and local patrons alike come especially for the legendary Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. The best ones arguably are found at Carmen’s — but Team Foobooz and Spataro’s make great sandwiches, too. The latter serves a dynamite egg and cheese breakfast sandwich.

For a change, try a pork cheesesteak at Wursthaus Schmitz. Other favorites include DiNic’s roast pork sandwich, Beiler’s donuts, pretzels at Miller’s Twist and Whoopie Pies at the Flying Monkey.

Revival Food Hall, Chicago

When Revival opened in 2016 in a cavernous 24,000-square-foot hall in the downtown Loop, it brought some much-needed change to the area’s chain-focused dining scene.

Local chefs have imported a variety of faraway flavors, ranging from Budlong’s Nashville hot chicken to Hawaiian poke bowls at Aloha; not to mention succulent St. Louis spare ribs from Smoque BBQ and Asian ramen dishes from the Furious Spoon. Other favorites include Fat Shallot’s made-to-order sandwiches, Mindy’s Burgers and, for something sweet, cakes and pastries from Hot Chocolate Bakery.

St. Roch Market, Miami

The first food hall to open in Miami’s high-end Design District is described by The New York Timesas offering “the most eclectic mix of food choices yet to be had under one roof in Miami.”

It is a slick, upscale, chef-centric food hall featuring a thoughtfully curated mix of local food and beverage talent. Besides Vietnamese street food at Tran An, you’ll find regional Italian dishes at Dal Plin, pork belly ramen at Yuzu, craft tacos and fresh ceviche at Hot Lime — and, for a refreshing drink, it’s hard to top the cold-pressed juices and smoothies at Sweet Blendz. For something a bit stiffer, order up a craft cocktail at The Mayhaw.

Eden Center, Falls Church, Virginia

Located in a sprawling suburban strip mall said to house the highest concentration of Vietnamese-owned businesses in the nation, Eden Center is focused exclusively on Asian fare –- primarily Vietnamese.

Devotees of this cuisine will find endless choices, but those not so familiar with such spicy, impossible to pronounce dishes will do just fine sticking to basics such as the pho at Pho Xe Lua, freshwater prawns at Huong Viet or fried tofu bites at Thanh Son Tofu. If you only order one thing, however, it should be broken rice with pork three ways and an egg on top at Thanh Truc.

Grand Central Market, Los Angeles

A downtown landmark and dining institution since way back in 1917, Grand Central brings together literally hundreds of vendors offering just about every kind of food you can imagine. It’s a virtual UN representation of L.A.’s sprawling global community.

Here are some options just to tempt your taste buds: hand-rolled falafel at Kismet, a bento box at Bento Ya, panang curry at Sticky Rice, tacos or carnitas at Taco Tumbras, spaghetti and meatballs at Knead & Co., and a big, fat pastrami sandwich at Wexler’s Deli.

Melrose Market, Seattle

If you’re familiar with Seattle, you were probably expecting to see Pike Place Market featured here. The highly popular waterfront market where you can join throngs of fellow tourists watching fishmongers tossing huge salmon back and forth is certainly an essential Seattle experience — but Melrose is where you want to go if you’d like something amazing to eat without risking being jabbed in the eye with a selfie stick.

Sequestered in a set of historic 1919 buildings on Capitol Hill, Melrose features a vibrant array of inventive farm-to-table fare. As this is Seattle, you’ll find strong, hot coffee at Honor Society and fresh oysters, clams, Dungeness crab, various chowders and, in season, fresh uni (sea urchin) at Taylor Shellfish. Roast beef sandwiches at Rain Shadow Meats are to die for, as are the breakfasts at Homegrown. And, oh yes, there’s a bar, and a really good one, at Still Liquor.

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Thanksgiving: It’s not just an American celebration

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It seems like an all-American holiday, but Thanksgiving is more universally celebrated than we might think. Nearly a dozen countries observe such a day of gratitude, usually in the fall, and traditionally held in recognition of a bountiful harvest.

Although dates and specific traditions vary, here are some of the countries that have a designated holiday for giving thanks.

Canada

Our friendly neighbor to the north is one of four countries that actually call their fall celebrations Thanksgiving. Canadians, however, observe their Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October rather than the fourth Thursday of November when the holiday is celebrated in the U.S.

Declared a national holiday in 1879, it’s a big deal for citizens of the Great White North, who gather with friends and family for a Thanksgiving feast on any one of the days of the three-day holiday weekend.

Liberia

Freed slaves from the United States carried the tradition of Thanksgiving with them when they founded the West African nation of Liberia in the 1820s. Liberians celebrate Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November.

It’s said to be a day for people to give thanks for freedom and the founding of their country. Much like in the United States, families gather for music-making, dancing and a special meal — typically, roasted chicken, mashed cassavas and green bean casserole.

Brazil

In Brazil, Thanksgiving Day, or Dia de ação de Gracas in Portuguese, unsurprisingly serves as an opportunity for carnival-like festivities. Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, it is, in a spiritual sense, a time to express gratitude to God for an abundant harvest and bountiful resources.

In reality, it has evolved into a huge carnival. Houses are colorfully decorated and music rings through the streets. In every home, spectacular feasts are prepared, traditionally including turkey, mashed and sweet potatoes, corn stuffing and pumpkin pie.

The resemblance of this menu to our own can likely be attributed to the fact that the tradition of Thanksgiving was introduced to Brazil in 1949 by the country’s then ambassador to the U.S. who was fascinated by the concept and wished it to be celebrated in his home country.

Grenada

Thanksgiving came into being in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada under the most unusual of circumstances. It takes place on Oct. 25 and commemorates the United States military’s coming to the country to help restore order after its communist leader, Maurice Bishop, was killed in a coup in 1983.

Soldiers stationed on the island lamented to locals that they would be missing their upcoming Thanksgiving dinners — and to their surprise were served an American-style feast, complete with turkey and all the traditional sides. It was an endearing gesture, now observed as an official holiday in Grenada.

Germany

Thanksgiving in Germany has a long tradition but one much different from that of the United States. Erntedankfest (“harvest festival of thanks”) is primarily a rural and a religious celebration. It is celebrated on the first Sunday of October, but that can vary by locale.

A typical Thanksgiving celebration in Germany begins with church services followed by a procession that leads to music, dance and food. An evening church service gives way to a lantern or torch parade and fireworks. Owing perhaps to the influence of the large numbers of American troops stationed in the country, turkey has in recent decades earned a prominent spot on the holiday table along with the more traditional pork roast.

Malaysia

This multiethnic Southeastern Asian nation of 32 million people calls its Thanksgiving Kaamatan, and it occurs in May when Malaysians come together to give thanks at the end of the annual rice harvest. The holiday is celebrated with dancing, traditional games and buffalo races. A variety of rice-based dishes is served along with tapai — a wine made from (what else?) but rice.

Thanksgiving, in its various iterations, also is celebrated in Ghana, Japan, China, Mexico and Israel.

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The environmental impact of unhealthy foods

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If you aren’t that concerned about your health, at least think of the planet.

A recent study conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota and Oxford University shows how nutritious food and healthier diets impact the environment positively.

If most were to adopt a healthy diet, there would not only be positive health outcomes, but the environmental impact of food production would decrease as well. The study echoes recent UN recommendations that suggest that we should eat more plant-based foods, which will lead to sustainable farming and limit worsening climate change.

Researchers studied the consumption of 15 different food groups to see different health and environmental outcomes. Healthier and sustainable food choices can prevent environmental degradation.

Foods that have the lowest ecological impacts include whole-grain cereals, nuts, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and olive oil — all foods associated with improved health outcomes. On the other hand, foods with the negative environmental impacts include various red meats, processed or otherwise. These are also foods that lead to several health conditions and risks.

If you aren’t that concerned about the planet, then at least think of your health.

Another study conducted by the University of Michigan in partnership with Tulane University shows how climate-friendly diets that lead to lower carbon footprints are much healthier for the human body as well. The study used real-world data about what Americans are eating and compared foods’ nutritional value with their climate impact.

It, too, stated that eating less red meat, foods that are high in saturated fat, and dairy will lead to good health. Along with that, these diets contribute to a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions since food production is a significant contributor to climate change.

The junk food addiction that has gripped us over the last few decades has had an adverse effect on both health and the environment. We know it’s bad for our health, but we still opt for it. You only have to go to a regular food court to see which stall has more lines: fast food or the salad bar.

Eating junk food threatens the environment in so many ways that we may not even be aware of it. The transportation, packaging, and emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) during the preparation of fast foods, along with the high percentage of wastage involved in junk food, are too high for us to ignore. The adoption of traditional farming, a reduction of fuel consumption and a healthier diet will all help combat this issue to a large extent.

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that unhealthy foods are bad for the environment. The very nature of fast food is unhealthy. It came into being as a necessity because we lead fast and busy lives.

However, the processes are not natural, and the ingredients aren’t healthy in most cases. Sustainable and healthier diets seek to optimize natural and human resources. They have a low environmental impact because they try to protect biodiversity and ecosystems, contribute to food security, and aim to offer a healthy planet for future generations.

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Study: Groundwater supplies in peril as irrigation, pumping decimate aquifers

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U.S. groundwater continues to go dry based on humanity’s seemingly insatiable desire to drink and grow food. Who’d a thunk? People need to eat. Eating requires water. As populations increase, more food is needed, meaning more water is needed.

Alternatively, any livestock grown for consumption needs water, too. The best place to get the water? From the ground.

According to a recent study published in the journal Nature, water stored in aquifers underground makes up the vast majority of accessible freshwater on Earth. Its abundance has fueled forays into drier locales, enabling a boom in crop production.

People and livestock are not the only things relying on aquifers. While about 70% of all groundwater used worldwide goes to agriculture, surface waterways, including rivers and streams, need groundwater, too. As groundwater gets pumped to Earth too quickly, these water arteries diminish, too.

The Nature study shows the water is at an “ecological tipping point” that scientists call the “environmental flow limit.” Environmental flows are the quantity, timing, and quality of water flow required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on these ecosystems.

This limit has been reached in 15% to 21% of watersheds tapped by humans. The majority of these resources are in drier regions like parts of Mexico and northern India, where groundwater is used for irrigation. At this rate, in about 30 years — by 2050 — the study authors note that anywhere from 42% to 79% of pumped watersheds will have crossed this threshold.

“Already, unsustainable groundwater pumping exceeds recharge from precipitation and rivers, leading to substantial drops in the levels of groundwater and losses of groundwater from its storage, especially in intensively irrigated regions,” the study’s authors note.

“When groundwater levels drop, discharges from groundwater to streams decline, reverse in direction or even stop completely, thereby decreasing streamflow, with potentially devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems.”

According to the American Geosciences Institute, groundwater is any water found underground in the cracks and pores in soil, sand, or rock. Groundwater is replenished almost entirely by rainfall. In the United States, roughly one-quarter of all rainfall becomes groundwater. Groundwater makes up approximately 90% of the total available freshwater in the United States.

In many areas, groundwater use outpaces groundwater recharge. “Groundwater is replenished when rainfall soaks into the ground, but it can take hundreds to thousands of years to replace what we extract,” the institute said. “In arid areas, high demand for groundwater and slow replenishment provide challenges for sustainable groundwater management.”

A healthy aquifer ecosystem protects against seasonal fluctuations in water availability, providing stability for resident plants and animals. “But if too much groundwater is pumped, surface waters begin to seep into the aquifer, draining the life from many river and stream habitats,” the institute notes.

Irrigation provides about 80% of freshwater consumption. Annually, groundwater provides 43% of the freshwater used for irrigation. Groundwater accounts for around 40% of U.S. freshwater consumption, and is not easily, nor quickly, replaced.

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Will convenience outweigh privacy when it comes to using facial recognition in public?

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Facial recognition technology is convenient. Many of us use it numerous times a day to unlock our smartphones.

Although people often access their phones with Face ID or fingerprints, many still worry about their privacy when their biometric data are used in the public space. There is a fine line between consensual identity verification and non-consensual surveillance. Here are some examples.

More airports are now using facial recognition

Delta Airlines opened the nation’s first biometric terminal at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (ATL) in November 2018. Travelers can now use their biometric ID (a facial image in this case) for check-in, dropping off luggage, and going through TSA at ATL.

Travelers using biometric ID can enjoy faster service at ATL with the following:

  • Storing their passport information in their frequent flier profile.
  • Check-in to the flight at a kiosk and opt-in to use facial recognition in the airport.
  • A picture taken in the kiosk will be compared to the image in the database at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
  • Dropping off luggage by looking at the camera.
  • Looking at the screen with a valid boarding pass at TSA.
  • Looking at the screen when boarding the airplane.

After adopting the facial recognition technology, Delta Air Lines saved nine minutes on the ground for the boarding process. Moreover, facial recognition technology can help detect targeted criminals and terrorists at the airports.

Currently, the facial recognition technology runs at about a 98% success rate. The remaining 2%, as well as the travelers who are not comfortable with the technology, may still use their passport or driver’s license at the airport, the traditional way of ID verification.

According to CBP, the facial images of U.S. citizens scanned at the airports will be deleted shortly after confirmation. The facial images of non-U.S. citizens arriving in the States will be stored for 75 years in the database, but their photos taken at departure will be deleted after 14 days.

JFK in New York City, YVR in Vancouver, and Haneda and Narita Airports in Tokyo, among other examples, have adopted or will adopt the facial recognition technology.

Shopping malls want to use facial recognition, too

Retail stores and shopping malls also want to provide a different kind of experience for customers with facial recognition technology, including:

  • Recognizing shoppers’ names when they enter the store.
  • Recording what they buy.
  • Sending them promotions.
  • Detecting shoppers’ paths of travel in the property.
  • Determining traffic patterns.
  • Monitoring worker performance.
  • Watching shoppers’ reactions to displays.

Privacy concerns arise about using facial recognition technology in public space. Human rights groups are voicing their concerns about using surveillance cameras to monitor people’s daily activities. In some extreme cases in China, for instance, people’s emotions are also analyzed.

Restaurants try facial recognition to improve customer service

Outback Steakhouse rolled out a pilot program last month in selected stores, in which cameras are stored in the lobby area, capturing the interactions among the hosts, servers, and customers. The technology enables the restaurants to:

  • Track long wait times.
  • Monitor the cleanliness of the lobby.
  • Record the number of customers who leave without being seated or greeted.
  • Notify the managers or staff before customers get angry.

According to a CNBC report, the data captured by the cameras will be stored for 30 days, and no personal identification information is tracked and recorded. Outback plans to expand the program to the dining rooms, kitchens, and curbside pickup areas as well.

The trade-off between convenience/efficiency and privacy

If consumers’ biometric data is not tracked or at least stored in a secure place, consumers may feel more inclined to accept facial recognition because of convenience and efficiency. It is quite different, however, when consumers are being watched through surveillance cameras and analyzed as objects.

While I urge legislators to regulate the usage of any technology that utilizes consumers’ biometric data, I would like to hear your thoughts about technology.

In what cases, or to what extent, do you allow a business or agency to collect your biometric data? Or, on the contrary, on what occasions do you want to say no to such practice?

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The reasons behind seasonal food marketing

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McDonald’s McRib, the famous fast-food “barbecue” sandwich with a cult following, is back for a limited time. This is one of the most popular seasonal items on the American menu along with Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Similar endeavors of other fast-food chains include seasonal turkey sandwiches from Subway, Dunkin’s slew of pumpkin-flavored treats, Coca-Cola’s Christmas trucks, and others.

Why are seasonal items all the rage?

Well, limited-time offers tend to affect the psyche. Seasonal food marketing is a strategic way to ensure customers crave items that they cannot get around the year.

Limited-time offers and exclusive products attached to different seasons have a dual impact. Seasonal marketing is all about creating campaigns that align with the latest trends, events, and holidays. Targeting these big occasions, identifying appropriate opportunities, and creating a brand message is an effective way to capitalize on them.

Consumer behavior changes with a changing season, and marketers pay close attention to them. They offer a unique opportunity for brands to create a deep and meaningful connection with their audience.

Holiday items offer consumers of fast-food chains some variety, particularly as they must rely on familiarity all year long. Specialty items are exciting, and even if they come back every year, it helps consumers associate the product with a special occasion.

The science behind seasonal marketing

Seasonal marketing employs basic supply and demand economics. Scarcity increases demand, and limited-time releases build hype and provide customers with unique, seasonal offerings create excitement for the menu along with celebrating each season.

Pumpkin spice and fall now go hand in hand. It smells of autumn and signifies Halloween and Thanksgiving. Starbucks is not only the brand to use the pumpkin spice craze, but it is the leading one.

Across the food brands, we have a plethora of fall delicacies to choose from: pumpkin spice cereal, pumpkin spice lattes, and even pumpkin-flavored craft beer. In a few short weeks, the seasonal marketing flavors will change into yule log, peppermint, and gingerbread.

Seasonal marketing and trends

In the age of social media, trends are highlighted and have even more impact than before. Pumpkin spice is now an established fall marketing flavor. Changing demographics and swift social change may have this flavor evolve further.

Relying on analytical data is imperative here. The ebb and flow of trends will inform future decisions. Marketers today use predictive analyses to understand their audience better and see where trends are going.

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Mocktails, low-alcohol cocktails bring innovation to beverages

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First, it was craft cocktails. Now, it is mocktails that are inspiring beverage innovation. The latest Culinary + Cocktail Trend Forecast survey from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants says that inventive craft mocktails are the newest attractions to many menus.

As more people move towards spirited beverages that do not lead to a hangover the following day, mocktails and “lighter” adult-only drinks are creating a new beverage trend. These are lower in calories and fit in perfectly with the no- and lower-alcohol beverage movement.

Consumers today want to explore exotic-flavored and sophisticated beverages in a social setting without getting drunk.

Alcohol-inspired flavors of craft mocktails resonate well with this new-generation consumer who likes the fun of mixology and is cautious about their diet. These mocktails include exotic flavors such as smoke, herbs, bitterness, and botanicals, adding layers of complexity to the drinks. They allow consumers to enjoy any occasion that is traditionally associated with alcohol.

Brands like Seedlip, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit, are making waves. Designed to be served with tonics or in non-alcoholic cocktails, Seedlip has an aromatic blend of spice, bark, and citrus distillates. The absence of sugars, sweeteners, or calories adds to its attraction.

Low-alcohol beverages and flavored alcoholic seltzers are also booming right along with non-alcoholic craft beverages. The beverages also are appearing in ready-to-drink, single-serve formats that provide convenience and portion control.

Brands like Social Sparkling Wine have put an interesting spin on the trend by having fermented brown rice as its base instead of grapes. This offers users a low-calorie, sulfite-free, and flavor-neutral alcohol base with hints of elderflower apple, pink grapefruit ginger, hibiscus cucumber, and strawberry rose among others.

New-age natural flavors are mostly plant-based and health-infused without the artificial sweeteners that have scared consumers. The sober-curious movement wants mocktails to match its healthy diets and plant-based eating.

Innovative beverage brands are also tapping into the preferences of next-generation drinkers who favor flavor rather than brand loyalty. While restaurants and pubs are innovating to meet this trend, even fast food chains have seized the opportunity to introduce mocktails into their menu.

Sonic Drive-In is one such example of a national food brand that launched a line of mocktail slushes and saw a massive response from customers. Brands like Synergy Flavors are trying to deliver authentic flavors various beverages by introducing hop essences that are made from varietals.

Others, like Colorado’s Hoplark HopTea Brewery, offer drinks brewed with hops in a sparkling tea format. This makes for a drink that is like an IPA for the nondrinker but with less punch.

Also, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) is partnering with the Mocktail Project for its third annual “Mocktober” campaign. During this mock-Oktoberfest, Kentuckians can enjoy a mocktail, aligning with the new view of alcohol as a choice, not an expectation.

So, why there is such a shift towards the alcohol-free movement? Research shows us that deaths from cardiovascular disease were lower among moderate drinkers.

Yet, they are still more prone to higher death rates, disability, and cardiac risks than nondrinkers. Researchers from British Columbia found alcohol consumption is bad for brain health even if it is moderate drinking.

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