Category: REAL Certified Businesses

Food CMO’s Guide to Choosing a Social Monitoring Tool

April 20th, 2017 by

By Keith Butler April 4, 2017

Originally posted by EvansHardy+Young

The large number of social monitoring tools available makes choosing the correct one a challenge for food commodity and CPG brands. At EvansHardy+Young, we take an aggressive approach to tool selection, and you should too.

We know selecting the right tool is a crucial business decision. The wrong decision will directly impact your business’ bottom line, so seeking professional expertise is worth consideration.

Should you decide on the do-it-yourself approach, you need a plan before starting the selection process. When you begin looking at social monitoring tools, take a walk on the wild side, and conduct research. This upfront approach will save you time, and more importantly, money.


UCSF Becomes the First REAL Certified® Medical Center in the Nation

March 31st, 2017 by

San Francisco, CA (PRUnderground) March 29th, 2017

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Health’s Nutrition and Food Services has become the first healthcare organization to be REAL Certified® for its use of nutrition and sustainability best practices. Serving over 8,000 patients, customers, faculty, staff, and students per day, UCSF joins other institutions in higher education – including UC Davis, UC San Diego, Stanford University, Marist College, and Sacred Heart University – who have undergone the audit process.

Dan Henroid, Director of Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) states that “As an active participant in the national culinary arts, nutrition and food movements, our food-services team at UCSF strives to develop customer friendly solutions to today’s most pressing social and environmental concerns, such as obesity, diabetes, and rising healthcare costs.  The REAL Certification provides an excellent framework for acknowledging and verifying the advances we are making in sourcing and producing the food we serve at UCSF.”


How Healthy Pizza Became a Reality in Quick Service

December 21st, 2016 by

Pizza brands are finding ways to deliver the cleaner ingredients and better-for-you options customers are craving.

Originally from QSR Magazine

By Mary Avant

There are certain words that come to mind whenever pizza is mentioned: indulgent, delicious, comforting, crowd-pleasing. And now another, perhaps surprising, one is entering the lexicon: healthy. That’s because a growing number of limited-service pizza concepts are making a concerted effort to provide guests with the better-for-you options they’ve been lusting after for years.

“People want healthier choices. They want to know more about the ingredients being used,” says Nicole Quartuccio Ring, vice president of nutrition strategy for restaurant nutritional analysis experts Healthy Dining Finder. “And it’s not just a fad. This is going to become the new way consumers eat and choose the restaurants they go to.”

With organic dough, seasonal produce, and a variety of veggie toppings, &pizza wants pizza to be a healthy, everyday meal option. &PIZZA / JAMES C. JACKSON

But rather than low-carb or low-calorie options, today’s pizza brands are creating their own definitions of what healthy pizza is, namely by cleaning up their ingredient lists, providing a broader range of ingredients, and allowing for more customization. In 2015, for example, Papa John’s began spending a reported $100 million a year to wipe its ingredient list of artificial colors, corn syrup, and a long list of other historically unhealthy options.

Smaller chains like New York–based Skinny Pizza are crafting entire concepts around this definition of healthier pizza. Skinny Pizza uses natural flour free of potassium bromate—an ingredient banned in Europe and several other countries—as well as organic tomato sauce made fresh in house. It also bakes its antibiotic- and added hormone–free chicken rather than frying it; uses nitrate-free pepperoni; and sources all-natural sausage, while its veggies are farm-fresh and local when possible.

“Almost every restaurant in this space has vegan options, whole grains. They’re making their sauces from scratch; they’re using less prepared products,” Quartuccio Ring says. “They’re aware of and trying to deliver on that transparency of providing more healthful options.”

San Francisco–based Hot Italian Pizza Bar is so confident in its better-for-you pizza approach that it’s deemed itself the #healthiestpizza in the country. As the first and only U.S. pizza brand to receive a REAL Certified Food Award from the United States Healthful Food Council, the brand is committed to providing clean, fresh, and sustainable ingredients. It also uses an organic house-milled flour to craft its dough, which it then ferments and proofs for 24–48 hours to break down proteins and make it easier to digest.

Not only are brands using healthier toppings, sauces, and other ingredients, but they’re also expanding the number of topping options. At Washington, D.C.–based &pizza, for example, the menu has 16 veggie options ranging from pickled red onion to roasted peppers, as well as 26 vegan toppings.

The fast casual also guarantees that products are MSG-free; dough is organic; produce is fresh and adjusted for seasonality; and dairy is free of added hormones. &pizza also crafts its own soda without the use of high-fructose corn syrup.

“Those looking for a healthier meal who don’t want to compromise on flavor or quality are some of our largest brand advocates, because there hasn’t been a lot of really craveable food that’s also cleaner and healthier in nature,” says founding CEO and president Michael Lastoria.

Like many others in the space, &pizza also gives diners the opportunity to customize their orders. Quartuccio Ring says providing customers with as many choices as possible helps them make the decision about what is healthy to them. Even further, allowing diners to watch the pizza-building process gives the impression that the product is fresh and therefore more healthful.

But as many limited-service brands have seen over the years, offering cleaner ingredients and better-for-you options can be pricy for both restaurants and their guests. The average Skinny Pizza, for example, rings in between $9 and $11, and owner Joseph Vetrano says some of the cheeses it uses cost the brand as much as $4.99 per pound.

“We try not to pass the costs all onto the consumer, so our margins get cut,” he says. “But we feel as the market is growing, a lot of our buying power is increasing and we can negotiate better.”

While local products and sustainable proteins are more expensive than canned or preserved ingredients, Hot Italian balances quantity with quality. “Instead of having 20 slices of pepperoni, you can put 10 or 15 that are enough to cover the pizza, and the price is still good,” says Fabrizio Cercatore, Hot Italian’s cofounder.

At &pizza, higher AUVs and foot traffic allow the brand to spend more money and time offering these premium, healthier options, but Lastoria acknowledges that not all pizza brands can or want to do the same.

Even if they do make the effort, there’s always the risk that marketing healthier pizza could scare off customers who fear that “healthy” equates to “not flavorful.”

“We don’t want to turn guests away that are looking for the most delicious or the best pizza in town, because we believe wholeheartedly that we do offer that,” Lastoria says. Instead, it is an added bonus for those who want to “look under the hood.”

That’s why &pizza’s healthy initiatives are less of a marketing ploy for the brand and more about creating a feeling of healthfulness.

“Our goal has always been to make pizza more of a lunch option, as well as a dinner option or anytime option; to provide a pizza that is cleaner and lighter and more refreshing that doesn’t weigh you down,” he says. “That in and of itself has been the biggest selling point.”

REAL Certified Restaurants Work to Create Healthier Dinning Out Options Throughout the Nation

December 12th, 2016 by

Originally posted by Salud America!

There are many options for dining out these days, but which restaurants offer healthier and more sustainable options for families?

REAL, standing for Responsible, Epicurean, and Agricultural Leadership, is a nationally recognized mark of excellence for food and foodservice operators committed to holistic nutrition and environmental stewardship.  The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC), established in 2012, works to help restaurants become REAL Certified in three areas that show conscious health for the environment and the people.

The goal is to make sure healthy choices are highlighted and offered, and that unhealthy options are limited or changed for families dining out.

Through this certification, healthy changes are being made in restaurants all over the nation by offering consumers dining options that promote more fruit and vegetable consumption and highlighting healthy restaurant menus and sustainable food practices.

How does it work?

Registered Dieticians (RDs) work with restaurants or foodservice providers to take them through a 100-point scale of key performance indicators (KPIs) on nutrition and sustainability, which include everything from maximizing fruit and vegetable options, whole grain options and access to free water, to reducing deep-fried foods, added sugars, and default sugary beverages on kid’s menus.

On the agriculture end, the restaurants earn points if they serve local or regional products, or if they are making efforts to use non-GMO or USDA certified organic options, seasonal options, and sustainably sourced fish products.

Various restaurants across the United States are joining the REAL movement, hoping to be noticed for their good measures, values, and healthier food options. Once restaurants become REAL certified, they are promoted through the organizations geo-targeted website, Certification offers restaurants bragging rights that a third party has reviewed and certified their efforts in sustainability and nutritional content.

Where are some of these healthy restaurant changes happening?

A healthier marketing campaign, REAL 25, created by the Tasteful app and USHFC was launched in February 2016 in Austin,TX (35.1% Latino) to help promote the top 25 healthiest restaurants for major cities across America.

Also, in Tennessee (5.2% Latino), where 33.8% of the population is overweight and the state is known to be the second in the nation with highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes, for the first time ever, the Tenn. local health department has joined forces with USHFC to create a healthier environment of restaurant choices for those dining out.

Ensuring healthier dining out options is important for many families, especially Latino families, who often are at risk for higher rates of diabetes and heart disease.

Schools can even get REAL certified, like the K-12 in Boulder, Colorado!

Nikkole Turner, the Tennessee Project Manager from USHFC, explained that restaurants that become certified are able to have bragging rights to explain to patrons that they have partnered with the state of Tenn. to help reduce diet-related disease and obesity within the state.

Although the Tenn. Health Department is the first health department that USHFC has partnered with, they plan on expanding this concept of partnership with other health departments across the nation to increase healthy options in restaurants and reduce diet-related diseases.

“We would love to work with health departments in other parts of the country and we’re definitely pursuing expanding what we’ve done here in Tenn. to other areas that could benefit from the work that we’re doing. If they [cities/states] have high statistics of diabetes, we know that this is the next step.”

Hot Italian — a healthy type of pizza

November 1st, 2016 by



Originally posted on The California Aggie


Written by: Betty Wu —

Restaurant offers variety of pizza made from local, organic ingredients

As an international student studying in the United States, I must admit that I have mixed feelings about American cuisine. Juicy hamburgers, cheesy pizzas and extra-large Cokes are all part of my U.S. guilty-pleasures list. I always feel satisfied when eating these foods, and I feast like there’s no tomorrow.

But the pleasure comes at a price; after eating, I need to spend a solid two-hour session at the gym. Luckily, I recently discovered a healthier alternative which satiates all of these guilty pleasures and saves me from a sweaty workout.

I first spotted Hot Italian — the newly-opened Italian pizza restaurant located in Davis Commons, downtown at 500 1st St.  — at the end of Spring Quarter 2016. Last Saturday, I finally had the opportunity to try out this new restaurant and learned about the owner’s endeavor to uphold the Davis community’s healthy and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

Hot Italian is a REAL-certified restaurant, which is a “nationally recognized mark of excellence for food and foodservice operators committed to holistic nutrition and environmental stewardship,” according to the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC).

Hot Italian is the first pizzeria in the United States that has been REAL certified by the USHFC. Not only does the restaurant use fresh, organic ingredients, but its furniture is also made from mostly repurposed materials, such as recycled paper and bamboo.

Hot Italian changes its menu depending on the season and is currently on its fall and winter menu. Customers have about 15 different choices of pizza, including a vegan option, and several choices of salad and desserts. They also serve beer and wine, either produced locally or imported from Italy.

Since it was a chilly Saturday morning, I ordered “Sozzani,” a salad with locally-produced baby spinach and pear; “Materazzi,” Hot Italian’s take on pepperoni pizza; “Gattuso,” a fall special pizza featuring pumpkin; and “Zucchero,” a dessert with Italian hazelnut cream and pear.

Fun fact about the menu: each dish is named after a “hot Italian.” For example, “Sozzani” is named after Franca Sozzani, an Italian journalist and editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia since 1988; “Materazzi” is named after Marco Materazzi, an Italian soccer star.

“Customers sometimes have fun guessing whose names are on the menu,” said Andrea Lepore, a 1992 UC Davis alum and owner of Hot Italian.

All of the dishes I ordered had colorful and aesthetically-pleasing combinations of different fresh ingredients, which made for a perfect Instagram post for all my friends to envy as they studied for midterms. Pepperoni has always been my favorite pizza, and I noticed that they added pitted olives on “Materazzi,” which is a great revamp of the greasy cheese and pepperoni that you’d normally find at other pizza restaurants.

My personal favorite would be “Zucchero.” Fresh out the oven, the warm dessert made me forget the cold rain showering outside. The sweetness was perfect for me, as I find most American desserts are too sweet, and I absolutely loved the smooth texture of the hazelnut cream mixed with chocolate powder.

The pizzas are about $15 each. For UC Davis students, the restaurant offers a lunch special: $5 per slice on weekdays. You can pre-order pizza from Hot Italian by phone or by downloading the Hot Italian app. Hot Italian also provides delivery service via the Joyrun app. For more information and to view the menu, please visit the Hot Italian website at



Part 1: Why more restaurants are getting REAL

August 31st, 2016 by

Orginally posted on Fast Causal 

By now, most members of the restaurant industry have heard of both the U.S. Healthful Foods Council and its program, Responsible Epicurean Agricultural Leadership, or REAL.

The council has certified hundreds of restaurant brands nationwide that live up to its high standards for sustainable sourcing, environmentally sound practices, and healthful menus.

Additionally, the council is entering the second renewal period in a contract with the state of Tennessee to help restaurants there implement healthful change in an effort to curb climbing numbers of nutrition-related health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

“We have over 80 restaurants now in Tennessee that are REAL-certified now,” said Tennessee program manager Nikkole Turner. “[W]e’ve just started taking the [state] parks through our certification, too, and we have several communities that have signed on for REAL certification. Another big example, as far as ability to influence the market is concerned, is that we’ve awarded REAL certification to the first convention center in the nation, right in Nashville, at the Music City Center.”

It sounds good, but what does it take to live up to REAL standards? And is it truly worth the investment of time and money to undertake the certification process?

The REAL need

For answers to these questions, we went straight to the source — brands that have earned REAL certification. And we learned from them that certification does, indeed, require a heck of a lot of work.

We also learned that certification is practically a business imperative today given consumer demands for products and practices that are healthful and sustainable, as well as for proof of the same.

“Most of the restaurant industry has evolved on making food as palatable as possible,” said USHFC Chairman and CEO Lawrence Williams. “But now people are starting to say that it is not just how I feel when I’m eating the dish, but it’s how I feel afterwards. …

“But, when the industry is as competitive as it is — I would say maybe the most competitive industry on the planet — the margins are driven very low and there can be very perverse incentives to cut costs at every corner. But at the end of the day, the reason we’ve found that restaurants go through [REAL certification] is because of what’s in it for them. And our goal is ultimately to put butts in seats. … So for their investment of time, we want to give them a positive return on their investment.”

In addition to Williams, plenty of organizations and studies have noted the healthful-and-sustainable trend overtaking the restaurant industry. In fact, the National Restaurant Association has placed it at the top of its restaurant trends list for the past 10 years.

But if American consumers are feeling a greater drive toward healthfulness and sustainability, they are also coming up shorter on the time required to act on their inclinations.

In July, the USDA released the results of a 12-year study investigating the nation’s growing dependence on convenience foods and restaurant meals. Even the researchers were surprised to find that nearly half of the average American’s annual food budget is spent on meals out — a greater proportion than at any other point in the nation’s history.

At the same time, Americans are less willing than ever to sacrifice their health or their ethical beliefs about food sourcing in the interests of expedience.

The need for restaurants not only to move to more healthful menus, but also to prove to their customers that they have done so is underscored by findings that:

  • Americans eat out more now than ever before;
  • millennials, in particular, demand healthful and sustainable foods when they eat out;
  • today’s diners expect restaurants be transparent about their food sources as well as the healthfulness and sustainability of their operations;
  • millennials (again) feel empowered to coerce businesses to bend to their demands by “voting with their dollars”; and
  • diners are fiercely loyal to businesses that comply with all of the above.

Perhaps the long-term impact of obtaining REAL certification is best summed up by one restaurateur who has gone through the certification process, and whose restaurants now proudly claim REAL status.

Bareburger CEO Euripedes Pelekanos said simply:

For Bareburger, being REAL-certified is like getting to shout our mission from a mountain. Our crew hustles everyday to serve fresh, organic and delicious food. We’re basically just a bunch of food nerds trying to change the world one burger and crop bowl at a time, and that can be harder than it sounds.

REAL supports the crazy passion we have for our partners, purveyors and farmers … celebrates our wacky proteins and ever-changing crops … acknowledges our place in the industry as that loud-mouthed change-maker. REAL is the bridge between the food system and the people it serves. It’s like telling restaurant goers: ‘Hey! Look what these guys are doing! It’s pretty awesome and important!’

In the second part of this report tomorrow, we’ll talk with other REAL-certified restaurant operators in order gain a better understanding of what’s involved in the certification process and what its payoffs can be.

UC Davis becomes second university to be REAL Certified

January 28th, 2016 by

Original Article on University Business

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) announced today that the University of California, Davis, has become only the second university in the nation to be audited and certified for Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL).

“UC Davis recognizes the critical link between food, health and the environment, not only for our students, but for the world’s growing population,” said Emily Galindo, executive director of Student Housing and associate vice chancellor of Student Affairs. “We decided to become REAL Certified because we want to raise the bar for school foodservice everywhere.” (more…)

Taziki’s Holiday Offer

November 3rd, 2015 by

Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe was the first national franchise to gain REAL Certification – a year later, they are still setting the standard for healthful living. As the holiday season begins, Taziki’s is offering a promotion to get you and your loved ones eating REAL through the festivities. For every $25 gift certificate purchased, you get a $5 gift certificate for your own use!


Zoo’s Eateries First in Indiana to Earn REAL Certification

September 4th, 2015 by

Program recognizes restaurants offering healthy, sustainable foods

INDIANAPOLIS — Fresh flavors, local ingredients, healthy options — those are the principles that recently earned two of the Indianapolis Zoo’s eateries the United States Healthful Food Council’s REAL Certification.

Café on the Commons and the seasonal Farm to Table salad cart are the firstIndy Zoo REAL restaurant locations in Indiana to receive the REAL Certification, which stands for Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership. Additionally, the Indianapolis Zoo is the first zoo in the nation to earn the distinction, in partnership with Centerplate, the Zoo’s hospitality partner.

“Health and sustainability play a significant role in our food preparation from start to finish,” said Zoo Executive Chef Joe Hsu. “We start every dish using as many local and organic products as we can.”

Since first joining Centerplate’s staff at the Zoo in 2013, Hsu has redesigned the Zoo’s menu to serve a mix of delicious dishes, including everything from traditional indulgences to more health-conscious culinary creations. Whether guests order a burger with fries, an entrée salad or one of the 50-plus other offerings, the focus is on using high-quality, locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible. Salads, sandwiches, soups and soft pretzels are just a few examples of foods made on site, and many of the herbs that flavor these foods are grown on Zoo grounds.

Highlighting those practices that promote sustainability and maximize nutrition, incorporating lighter preparation techniques and adjusting portion sizes helped the Zoo attain the prestigious certifications.

The USHFC developed its REAL Certification program in 2012. This nationally recognized standard not only acknowledges food service organizations for their healthful and sustainable practices, it also helps consumers identify eateries that are committed to serving delicious and nutritious foods.

In addition to the Zoo’s certifications, Centerplate has also earned the REAL Certification for its hospitality services at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Stanford’s dining program earns elite sustainability designation

July 22nd, 2015 by
By Bianca N. Herron, Digital Editor

A nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting diet-related disease has certified Stanford University as meeting its Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) criteria.  No other college has yet earned the certification from the United States Healthful Food Council.

“Stanford is helping set new standards for higher education foodservice by offering an abundance of plant-based meals and utilizing food from many local and sustainable sources,” said Lawrence Williams, CEO of USHFC, in a statement.

In order to become REAL certified, operators must complete requirements and earn sufficient points in the areas of Responsible (nutrition), Epicurean (preparation), Agricultural (sourcing) and Leadership (going above and beyond). Since its founding in 2011, the organization has certified college dining services, restaurants, and corporate cafes in 28 states.