175+ attend ROI-NJ’s Food & Beverage Innovation Summit

More than 175 people attended ROI-NJ’s inaugural Food & Beverage Innovation Summit, held Wednesday in Whippany.

The event featured a keynote address by Stew Leonard Jr., CEO and president of Stew Leonard’s, plus a number of panels, vendors and more. It brought together industry leaders in the sector, as well as celebrating the Top 10 members of ROI-NJ’s first ROI Influencers: Food & Beverage list.

Leonard’s keynote covered topics ranging from shopping locally to the latest trends and his own successful supermarket chain: “We really try to build a family culture at the store. We are proud of the young people we are able to promote — 80% of our management team is promoted from within.”

The three panels covered topics of vital importance to the industry, including technology, financing and innovations — as each impacts the food industry as a whole. The breakout session discussed the legal and marketing concerns of CBD in food and beverage products.

“It’s not so much about developing, creating and launching the products — it’s about making them successful in the market,” Richard McArdle of the Food Innovation Center @ Rutgers University said on one panel. “This is a very competitive business.”

Reading labels is a new trend that came up several times, including in Leonard’s remarks and by panelist Estee Smoler of ShopRite, who said: “What I see is plant-based and meat-eating paleo people. Those people are very focused on sourcing.”

The event took place at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany.

Sponsors of the event included: EisnerAmper, breakfast and registration sponsor; Marcum LLP and Mazars USA LLP, “Food Fella” allied sponsors; and All American Ford, Calandra’s, Food Innovation Center @ Rutgers University, Norris McLaughlin Law, New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program and Goya Foods Inc., supporting sponsors.