Chicago food companies are teaming up to help feed the poor. Their debut creation: Healthier hot cocoa.

 In Press

Since launching three years ago, the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network has sought to make the region the “the Silicon Valley of food and beverage” by cultivating the kind of collaborative culture that made the Bay Area a hotbed of tech innovation.

This year, the group upped the ante with a project that pushed companies that normally might compete for business to instead put their heads together to create a product for a good cause.

In partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, a group of nearly a dozen food companies created a low-sugar, high-protein hot chocolate, produced entirely with donated ingredients and know-how, for distribution to food pantries.

ADM, the Chicago-based ingredient giant, donated the soy protein isolate and soluble fiber. Imbibe, a Niles-based beverage development company, contributed the formula and the sugar substitute Stevia. Other companies gifted cocoa, packaging, food safety expertise and branding ideas. The day before Valentine’s Day, 40 volunteers from the participating organizations gathered at the food bank’s Geneva headquarters to affix the labels to the packets.

Under the brand Bigger Table, the hot cocoa is the first of what the network hopes to become a series of jointly created products that encourage the area’s food companies to share ideas, engage with the community and cut down on food waste.

“I’ve never seen an example of that kind of collaboration in the industry,” said Andy Dratt, chief commercial officer at Imbibe. “There is a platform here that could be expanded dramatically.”

Read the full article in the Chicago Tribune.