Glasses of coffee

Google Food Lab

Instead of spending this past Halloween dispensing candy to trick-or-treaters, I traveled to Seattle to participate in the Google Food Lab. The Google Food Lab is a community of invited members working in the food and beverage space that meet biannually to discuss the sector's future, including pathways toward developing more healthful, environmentally beneficial, and socially responsible products and processes. It is always an engaging event that offers opportunities to learn about innovations and make connections with inspiring individuals worldwide.

This lab began with a tour of Seattle's Starbucks headquarters and cornerstone roastery. The highlight of the visit to headquarters was a tour of the “Tryer Center.” This is a space where the company encourages its employees to explore innovative ideas. These ideas may focus on a new product to share with consumers, a new processing technology, or a new layout or procedure for engaging customers in the retail space. For this latter initiative, I was especially impressed by their complete model of a Starbucks store to enable real-time and full-scale testing of these innovations - complete with a drive-through window! At the roastery facility, I was impressed by the striking visual landscape of roasting and brewing equipment, the comforting smell of roasted coffee beans, and the new flavor experiences of olive oil-infused coffee and coffee brewed with bourbon barrel-aged beans. 

At the Google Food Lab meeting, I enjoyed discussions of the critical role of indigenous peoples in protecting and preserving their traditional food sources, with particular emphasis on fisheries in the Pacific Northwest. I was also happy to engage with other members in discussing issues of food loss and waste, whether it was recycling spent coffee grounds at Starbucks, redirecting food surplus to new products like chips (Pulp Pantry) and soups/sauces (Matriark Foods), or improved measurement of food waste in food service establishments enabled by companies like OrbiskLeanPath, and Winnow. As always, I left the event with new ideas and new connections, and I am already looking forward to the next event this coming Spring.

Ned Spang in front of a coffee roaster

coffee brewing set up

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