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Downingtown's Victory Brewing Company announces its summer beer lineup

According to the Colorado-based Brewers Association, a trade group responsible for supporting the craft beer industry in the United States, that industry is now worth some $4 billion in Pennsylvania alone.  
 
And the Commonwealth's largest craft beer producer? That would be Downingtown-based Victory Brewing Company, best known for its wildly popular india pale ale, HopDevil.   
 
Victory also has a reputation for its limited releases and seasonal brews. They recently announced their upcoming summer lineup, which includes a variety 12-pack known as Summer Selection, as well as the return of Victory's WildDevil IPA, a Belgian twist on its flagship beer.
 
But the summer lineup's most unusual offering is a rotating IPA series known as Moving Parts, which will be released in a staggered series of "batches" -- the recipe will be slightly tweaked every four months.  
 
"We're referring to it as our 'ever-evolving IPA,'" says Victory's Melissa Thomas. "The idea behind it is that in each release in the series, there will be a part that 'moves. [Moving Parts] celebrates the simple yet really cool ingredients in beer. It's kind of fun for consumers, to have an idea of how just one small change to an ingredient can really have a significant impact on the flavor profile."
 
Along with WildDevil IPA and the Summer Selection 12-pack (which will include the Visit Philly-commissioned Summer Love Ale), the first release in the Moving Parts series, MP01, will be available in May.
 
Source: Melissa Thomas, Victory Brewing Company
Writer: Dan Eldridge
 


Grocery delivery-service Instacart announces same-day liquor delivery in Philadelphia

If the rise of Web 2.0 has taught us anything about why we love the Internet, it's probably that convenience trumps all.

Instacart
, for example, a grocery delivery service startup with roots in San Francisco and operations in Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., has just announced that its Philadelphia-area customers can now have alcoholic beverages from Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores delivered to their homes in as little as one hour.
 
If you've never heard of Instacart, you're not alone. In fact, when the company launched its local service on February 18, Whole Foods was literally the only choice available to customers willing to pay anywhere from $3.99 to $14.99 for the convenience of having groceries brought to their doorstep.
 
Super Fresh and BJ's Wholesale Club have since signed on (customers aren't required to have BJ's memberships), and with the recent addition of its liquor service, Instacart seems primed to capture a large portion of the food delivery market.

The company's deliveries are handled by a team of "personal shoppers" who use their own vehicles. And because Instacart has no warehouses, trucks, retail locations or full-time drivers, their overhead remains manageable.    
 
"We're growing every week," says Instacart operations manager George Shotz. "It's just constant."

Asking customers to complete wish-list surveys is one way Instacart aims to fill its customers' needs. According to Shotz, liquor has consistently been one of the surveys' most-requested items.

Securing an alcohol delivery license with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was a breeze: "We just applied and followed their rules," he explains. "And they approved us. They were great."   
 
Visit the Instacart website to view a map of the company's local delivery area and to open an account. 

Source: George Shotz, Instacart
Writer: Dan Eldridge





A group of beer-loving mechanical engineers at Bresslergroup automate the home-brewing process

Three craft-beer enthusiasts who work for Bresslergroup, a local product design consultancy, have developed a consumer home-brewing appliance that may one day turn the growing home-brewing industry on its head. The Bresslergroup Brewery, as the team calls its new venture, has created an Arduino-powered automated system that brews computer-assisted beer.

The idea for the appliance was the result of an informal conversation between a small group of employees, all of them home-brewing hobbyists. "One of our partners thought, 'Hey, it'd be pretty cool if we could do this here,'" recalls Todd Sack, a Bresslergroup product design engineer. "Sort of leverage the expertise and talent we have at Bresslergroup to take [home brewing] to the next level.'"
 
And that is exactly what they did.
 
The team's "yearlong quest to innovate … and automate the typical home brew process" -- as it's explained in a company blog post -- has resulted in a setup that still requires a decent level of computer literacy to operate. Should the kit ever make its way to market, however, it would likely include a kettle, a heating element and a thermocouple, as well as an Arduino-operated control box with a user-friendly interface, and an app that could be controlled from a laptop or mobile device. The product would probably come with a retail price-point in the $500 to $600 range. (Similar commercially available units capable of brewing beer are generally priced in the $1,200 to $2,000 range.)
  
As part of this year's upcoming Philly Tech Week, a presentation of the automated system, complete with a beer tasting, will take place at the Bresslergroup offices (6 - 8 p.m. April 9). Reserve your seat here.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Todd Sack, Bresslergroup



Replica Creative uses social media to set up coffee dates with local innovators

The Center City design-and-print firm Replica Creative has been in the brainstorming business for some 34 years now. But it wasn't until Replica opened the doors of its now three-month-old University City location, Creative Cafe at Replica (which also houses a coffee shop), that Brand Manager Keith Leaphart stumbled upon an idea that might prove to be Replica's most impressive yet.
 
Leaphart calls it the #DreamCup Campaign.

"Our locations are all about bringing people together," he says. "So, when we opened the second location with a cafe in it, I was sitting there and thinking: Who would people want to have their dream cup with?"
 
Leaphart started by sharing his plan with friends and fellow employees: What did they think about the idea of knocking back a latte with their favorite local thought leader or entrepreneur? The response was overwhelmingly positive -- people wanted to pick the brains of Comcast EVP David Cohen or Philadelphia Style Publisher John Colabelli -- and the #DreamCup campaign was officially launched.
 
To enter, potential coffee klatchers share the name of their would-be #DreamCup date in a Vine video or a tweet sent to @designprintcafe. Once a month, a winner is chosen. Of course, the object of a DreamCupper's affection has to agree to the meeting, which also includes a $25 Replica gift card for the winner.  
 
The campaign's first recipient, City Fit Girls founder Kiera Smalls, happens to be an entrepreneur herself. She shared a cup with Mayor Nutter's Communications Director, Desiree Peterkin Bell.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Keith Leaphart, Replica Creative 



West Philly's Fresh Food Hub, a mobile farmers' market, now serving communities city-wide

America's obesity epidemic is often attributed to a lack of available and affordable unprocessed foods, especially for lower income and urban populations. The mobile farmers' market Fresh Food Hub offers a simple antidote while also supporting the local food system and economy.

Founder Ryan Kuck and his wife's personal gardening project in the Belmont section of West Philadelphia grew into a community garden on Preston Avenue, aptly named Preston's Paradise. Kuck used a pushcart to distribute fresh produce from Preston's Paradise, eventually partnering with Greensgrow, an urban farm in Kensington, to expand. When Flying Kite last covered the company, Kuck had purchased a bread truck and was operating it as a mobile store four days a week.

Now, the company is positioning to grow again.

"Our pilot has been pretty successful and we'd like to extend it to other neighborhoods," says Kuck. "If we really want to take this idea to its full potential, we need to invest."

Kuck launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $9,773 to branch geographically, support more local farmers, extend hours, hire more staff and upgrade the truck.

The community responded -- the Fresh Food Hub campaign exceeded its goal, raising $10,500 even before its funding period was complete.

One community that Kuck is particularly dedicated to serving is Philadelphia's older adults. In addition to food stamps, the truck also accepts produce vouchers from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). Kuck is currently working with PCA to identify additional senior centers in North and South Philly to add to the truck's route. 

Kuck's reaction to the community's support for the Fresh Food Hub is as simple as the food he grows and sells.

"People just are happier when they eat well," he says.

The Fresh Food Hub's Spring operations will begin on April 30; like them on Facebook for updates about the truck's route.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Ryan Kuck, Fresh Food Hub

Inventing the Future: Creative Café @ Replica, first-ever print shop/cafe opens in University City

Believe it or not, until December 2, there was no one-stop shop for caffeine and creatives—no Kinko’s/Starbucks joint venture. Keith Leaphart, the CEO who reimagined the graphic design firm Replica Creative at a time when many thought print was a dying business, saw this as an obvious opportunity. 

"I’m proud that Philadelphia is the birthplace of this concept,” says Leaphart. "The Creative Café @ Replica allows us to do what we love to do best, and that is provide great services, while meeting and greeting people. And what better way to do that than over coffee?”

The Creative Café @ Replica prints marketing materials, wedding invitations and custom wall graphics while serving up comfort food from DiBruno Brothers and coffee from Counter Culture. Leaphart hopes that the cafe/lounge/print shop hybrid will be more than the sum of its parts; its location at University City Science Center should be a huge asset.

"So much is happening in University City," he says. "The creative economy is truly thriving; and University City is one of the best places to be, to foster and grow original concepts. When we found this space in the Science Center, it was love at first sight…I was excited at the opportunity to launch the concept in the heart of the innovation zone."

Though two different groups of employees were hired to staff Creative Café (graphic designers and baristas), Leaphart looked for the same basic qualities when hiring

"Across the board, we like intelligent, energetic, creative types who understand that our corporate philosophy is ‘Grow or Go!’" he explains. 

The Creative Cafe @ Replica is located at 3711 Market Street; to learn more, visit replicacreative.com and follow @designprintcafe on Twitter. 

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Keith Leaphart, Creative Café @ Replica 

Local education initiative Fresh Palates to Palettes puts the 'art' in culinary arts

Featured on both Rachael Ray and WHYY-TV's Friday Arts program, the innovative program Fresh Palates to Palettes is back for a second round at the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School (SLA). The multifaceted four-month curriculum exposes SLA's students to some of Philadelphia's best culture and cuisine as part of a collaborative effort to fight arts funding cuts in schools.

The program's parent organization, Fresh Artists, is an award-winning local nonprofit that empowers children to create art in exchange for art supply donations to their schools. Fresh Palates to Palettes is a pilot project of the Fresh Artists Greenhouse Program, an incubator of entrepreneurial ideas, networking support and development acumen for art teachers.

Students in Fresh Palates to Palettes are connected with local restaurants, chefs and artists. This year's participants include Lacroix, Bistrot La Minette, Pub & Kitchen, and Vernick Food & Drink. SLA's art teacher, Deva Watson, or "Chef" to her students, leads the classroom implementation of the program.

Watson has spent many years working in local kitchens, and she carries over lessons learned in the hospitality industry to her classroom. Her mantra emphasizes working "hard, clean and with efficiency." 
 
Watson began the program by teaching her students about still life art. At each restaurant, students will be served the chef's signature dish, then sketch the meal. Acclaimed food photographers, including Flying Kite's Michael Persico, will then style the sketches. 
 
Fresh Palates to Palettes will culminate in the spring with several high profile exhibitions: a public pop-up of the entire project at Metropolitan Gallery 250; and a private reception for the chefs and project donors at Avance, hosted by Chef Justin Bogle. Each participating chef will highlight "Le Choix du Chef" (Chef's Choice). On March 20, those four selected artists will be honored with a special cooking lesson courtesy of South Philadelphia Taproom chef Scott Schroeder, hosted by COOK
 
Barbara Chandler Allen, founder and president of Fresh Artists, believes the previous run of the project showed its ability to break down barriers for students while introducing them to potential creative careers and honing additional skills.

"In our second year, Fresh Palates to Palettes, like a fine wine, continues to improve with age," says Allen. "Last year's pilot project has blossomed into a richer, deeper educational experience for the children and the generous culinary community supporting them. Our kids are learning there are real exciting jobs in the creative economy if you are passionately engaged in learning and connecting. Fresh Artists is committed to opening doors for city kids -- changing their scripts and raising the bar so high that they will aim to sail over it."

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Barbara Chandler Allen, Fresh Artists

Kensington Community Food Co-op holds '60 by 60' membership drive

After five years of planning and building membership, the Kensington Community Food Co-Op (KCFC) is ready to sign a lease. Their current campaign, 60 in 60, aims to bring 60 additional members to KCFC in 60 days, and to secure enough funding to ensure holding costs. If these goals are met, KCFC will open a location in 19125 early next year.
 
"It's going to provide healthy, quality food to the community," says Lena Helen, president of KCFC. "No grocery store in the area is committed to doing that completely."
 
To assist the membership drive, KCFC is holding two meet-and-greets this month: the first was held November 4 at Pizza Brain and Little Baby’s Ice Cream and the second will be November 21 at Adorn Boutique. The co-op also holds bi-weekly marketplaces at Circle of Hope church on Frankford Ave. The evening marketplaces give new and prospective members the opportunity to ask questions about healthy foods.

KCFC plans to increase educational activities once the permanent location has been established. Due to the density of low income residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, the co-op expects to offer food access programs such as "Food for All," a neighborhood fund for subsidized memberships. 
 
KCFC is supported by local organizations including the East Kensington Neighborhood Association and the Norris Square Neighborhood Project. The New Kensington Community Development Corporation helped the co-op raise initial funds and conduct a feasibility study. KCFC has also held marketplaces at Greensgrow Farms and staffs a booth at Greensgrow events.
 
Source: Lena Helen, Kensington Community Food Co-op
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Invisible Sentinel enters expansion phase, is hiring for various positions

A year after receiving their first certification from the Association of Analytical Communities International (AOAC), Invisible Sentinel -- the "garage" biotech startup -- is growing fast. They’re pulling in enough revenue to break-even on initial investment (over $7 million) by 2014. The company is graduating from the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator and will remain on the Science Center campus.
 
Invisible Sentinel makes disposable, rapid diagnostic tools that test for food contaminants such as Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter. Veriflow, the company's patented technology, cuts down on both time and human error, making testing easier, cheaper and more reliable. Invisible Sentinel has a broad client base -- so far their products have been popular among dairy farms, peanut butter factories, meat manufacturers and third party labs that use their technology to conduct outsourced testing for large processors.
 
"Everybody who makes and produces food is our customer base," says Ben Pascal, cofounder and CBO. "It's really countrywide."
 
That means the company has a lot of work to do. They're currently outfitting and staffing an in-house manufacturing center complete with a robotics system. Open positions include manufacturing technician, quality director, production manager, financial and accounting services, sales and scientist. They will continue to raise capital for this phase.
 
"It's all expansion capital," says Pascal. "A lot of the risk associated with research and development is gone. Our challenge now is scaling to be able to meet demand."
 
Invisible Sentinel -- currently an 18-person team -- will remain in Philly thanks to low-interest government financing and flexible accommodations from the Science Center. They've received FDA approval on two products and expect approval for two more in the near future. The company recently released a video demonstrating how their devices work.
 
Source: Ben Pascal, Invisible Sentinel
Writer: Dana Henry

New York City entrepreneur brings Local 215 food truck to Philadelphia

One of the advantages of operating a mobile food business is the ability to follow the market -- literally. That wisdom guided Alexander Buckner, founder of the Local 215 food truck and catering service, to Philadelphia.
 
Local 215 prepares their cuisine at Greensgrow's kitchen space and sources almost exclusively from family farms within 100 miles. The truck debuted last August at the The Food Trust's Night Market in Mt. Airy and re-launched this past spring after a winter hiatus.
 
Ironically, Local 215 was conceived while Buckner was living in New York City. The culinary entrepreneur had watched the popularity of food trucks spread from Los Angeles up the west coast. By 2011, high-concept street food had made its way east and was gaining traction in New York City -- unfortunately, the city's moratorium on vending licenses made starting a business prohibitively expensive.
 
Around that time, Buckner visited Philly and was impressed by the low startup costs and high density of young professionals and university students.
 
"It looked like Philadelphia was going to be next in line," says Buckner. "It has all the ingredients for a good food truck city."
 
Local 215 focuses on simple, "technique-driven" preparations. The menu features delicacies such as housemade Merguez lamb sausage in duck-fat gravy, braised duck, and fresh corn, slow roasted with shallots and topped with mascarpone cheese. 
 
"It's a balancing act to run a food truck or catering business that's all local," explains Buckner. "We actually do get almost everything from right here in Philly."
 
Local 215 truck stops at locations in University City, Callowhill and near the The Mann Center. Find them by checking their Twitter feed.
 
Source: Alexander Buchner, Local215
Writer: Dana Henry

South Philly Food Co-op preps for annual garden tour, is hiring

They're popping up all over the neighborhood -- little stickers proclaiming "We Support South Philly Food Co-op." 

The infant co-op is prepping for a big year. After an aggressive membership push earlier this spring, the ever-so-secretive real estate committee is scouting sites (they could tell you, but they'd have to kill you) and the organization continues to raise funds.

Next on the docket is the Third Annual South Philly Garden Tour on September 7 -- a chance to take a peak into the area's hidden backyard oases. As any resident could tell you, this neighborhood is filled with secret spaces, spotted through fences and from adjacent rooftops, decked out by dedicated gardeners and DIY designers.

Due to growing turn-out and participation, this year they're narrowing the geographic area, showcasing home gardens from Washington Avenue to Snyder Avenue, 11th to 17th Street. Consider it an inside look at the South Broad Street corridor. (Click here for details on how to participate.)
 
In another sign of their rapid growth, the Co-op is currently hiring a Capital Campaign Coordinator; it's a part-time contracted position in charge of fostering the organization's $500,000 capital campaign.

Source: Carolyn Huckabay, South Philly Food Co-op
Writer: Lee Stabert

Greenstreet Coffee Roasters open cafe in Center City

For Greenstreet Coffee Roasters, the ascent has been rapid. Two and a half years ago, the local company set up their first roaster in a commercial kitchen on Temple's Campus. Now their product is sold at Metropolitan Bakery, Whole Foods and Mariposa Food Co-op, and served at dozens of local coffee shops including Rocket Cat Café. Last month, Greenstreet opened their first café in Center City.
 
"After doing wholesale, we started to look at what's next," says Chris Molieri, who cofounded Greenstreet with his brother Tom. "It's great to have the final consumer get a cup of coffee directly from our hands."
 
Instead of purchasing from a distributor or middle man, Greenstreet researches and selects small independent farms in South America, Africa and other parts of the world. Customers can learn more about these growers through the company's blog.
 
"We want to highlight the impact of buying from a specific farm in Colombia, for example, and then celebrate it as local coffee roasted here in Philadelphia," explains Molieri.
 
Those relationships allow Greenstreet to assess flavor and seasonality with the source, which is particularly useful when a farmer experiments with new plants or processing. The brothers have even purchased a micro-plot on a farm in Southern Colombia.
 
"We're trying to work directly with farmers to focus on quality," says Molieri. "We're trying to develop direct relationships, to channel our energy towards sourcing coffee that we think tastes awesome."
 
Source: Chris Molieri, Green Street Coffee
Writer: Dana Henry

Common Market's Philly Good Food Lab supports local entrepreneurs

In the journey from farm to table, the role of the processor -- the baker, the fermenter, the cheesemaker -- is often overlooked. Common Market is in a unique position to change that. The regional foods distributor recently bought a 70,000-square-foot industrial building in North Philly, and they're using it to launch Philly Good Food Lab, a partnership program that helps food entrepreneurs scale up their operations.
 
The new building boasts 6,000 square feet of cooler storage, vast warehouse space and several offices. Lab partners can rent any of these resources. In addition, tenants (as well as off-site food entrepreneurs) can access the organization's comprehensive transport system, which covers an area bound by Lancaster, Baltimore and mid-New Jersey.
 
This month, Mycopolitan Company, local mushroom cultivators, became the Food Lab's first partners.

"There’s definitely some great kitchen incubators in the area for people who are just starting out," says Leah Pillsbury, director of development at Common Market. "We're looking for the next level and ready to increase their production."
 
Before purchasing their new building, Common Market was operating from a 3,000-square-foot incubator space at Share Foods inc. The move is a testament to their rapid growth -- this year, they’ve gone from 13 to 16 employees and created $2 million in local foods sales -- and their evolving role in the regional food economy.
 
"We want to help the local foods infrastructure," says Pillsbury. "Part of that means helping other local foods companies to develop products that can reach the market."
 
Common Market is currently hiring a procurement manager and a customer outreach manager.
 
Source: Leah Pillsbury, Common Market
Writer: Dana Henry

Philly's third Vendy Awards reward mobile culinary innovation

For the culinary entrepreneur, Philly is a great testing ground. In addition to our thriving BYO culture, the city supports a growing army of food trucks. To celebrate, the New York City-based Street Vendor Project will host the third annual Philly Vendy Awards at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown on Saturday, June 8.   

While metal boxes carting cheesesteaks, fruit salad and breakfast sandwiches are nothing new, the new generation of Philly concessions are creating portable versions of national food trends -- Korean tacos, anyone? The Vendy Award finalists, selected thanks to thousands of public nominations, pay homage to the growing diversity.

"Vendors are giving us more options," says Helena Tubis, event coordinator for the Street Vendor Project. "They're creating a location-based experience. There's a fun factor that's just a little different than your traditional dining experiences."

The event will showcase six sweet trucks (offering frozen yogurt, baked goods and, of course, cupcakes) and 11 savory trucks (including Asian fusion, build-your-own mac and cheese and vegan delicacies). Attendees are given unlimited samples and will vote to decide the People's Choice award, Best Dessert and Messiest Food. There's also a judges' award determined by a panel of experts, including Paul Kimport, cofounder of Johnny Brenda's and Standard Tap, and Emilio Mignucci of DiBruno Bros. Ticket proceeds benefit The Food Trust.

Street Vendor Project has held the Vendy Awards in their home city for nine years. They brought the event to Philly because the local scene was booming: Over 15 trucks serve Love Park daily and The Food Trust has organized several packed Night Markets.

"There's just a huge influx in Philadelphia," says Tubis. "A tremendous amount of new vendors are doing unique offerings."

Source: Helena Tubis, the Street Vendor Project
Writer: Dana Henry

Wash Cycle Laundry teams up with Neighborhood Farms CSA

Thanks to an innovative partnership with Wash Cycle LaundryNeighborhood Foods CSA will soon begin delivering its food shares from urban farms to subscribers via bicycle.

This past year, the Merchants Fund introduced Neighborhood Foods CSA to Wash Cycle Laundry, a wash-and-fold two-wheeled delivery service. Both businesses are new, local, independently-run and invested in creating quality jobs while advancing sustainability. Cross-promotion seemed natural, but Wash Cycle had a better idea.
 
"The more we thought about it, the more we thought it made sense to do delivery," says Gabe Mandujano, founder and CEO of Wash Cycle Laundry. "We've gotten really good at hauling things around town. For us, it's the first time we've hauled anything other than laundry."
 
Neighborhood Foods CSA, a project of Urban Tree Connection, provides shares comprised of seven to ten varieties of produce sourced from two multi-acre farms -- 53rd and Wyalusing in West Philly and one in South Philly -- supplemented by a small Lancaster farm. Add-ons include fruit from Breezy Acres Farm and Beechwood Orchards, bread from Four Worlds Bakery, jam from Green Aisle Grocery, honey from local beekeepers and coffee from La Colombe. In their first year, Neighborhood Foods provided 68 shares over the course of 22 weeks. By offering delivery service from Wash Cycle Laundry, they expect to serve 100 customers from May through October.
 
"Our hope is that by offering delivery, it will make the CSA more attractive to a new type of customer," says Mandujano. "A lot of people like the idea of local food, and might even be willing to pay a little bit of a premium for it, but can't get to a pickup site every week."
 
At the partnership's inception, Wash Cycle Laundry obtained a $50,000 loan from Patricia Kind Family Foundation and increased their workforce from 12 to 16 employees. They expect to grow to 30 employees by the end of this year.
 
Source: Gabe Mandujano, Wash Cycle Laundry
Writer: Dana Henry
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