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Food for Thought

JetBlue Partners With Innovative Food and Beverage Brands Merging Product With Purpose

Submitted by: Sophia Mendelsohn

Posted: Oct 16, 2017 – 06:00 AM EST

Series: JetBlue – Inspiring Humanity in the Air and on the Ground

Tags: food, supply chain, bluebud


It is no secret that airlines haven’t traditionally been associated with fresh and responsible foods. That is one of the many reasons it’s such an appealing area to work on within the sustainability department of an airline. Food has become a way for people to express and act on their social engagement and personal lifestyle. As the customer, just because you bought an airplane ticket doesn’t mean you suddenly want junk food or have stopped caring about your food preferences.

I work with our product development and strategic sourcing teams to find and bring on food and beverage companies who deliver social and environmental benefits through their products. That means products that reduce waste (like a beer made of otherwise discarded wheat) or a snack that is nut and gluten free. Being a successful supplier to a commercial airline is no easy task -- especially for small businesses. Through our BlueBud  (buddies + budding new companies) business mentoring program, we are giving responsible food and beverage companies an insider’s advantage.

As New York’s Hometown Airline®, our focus is on brands from New York State. We remember what it’s like trying to make your way as a start-up in the Big Apple. That is why we focus on products that create jobs and social solutions for New York. With our third round of our BlueBud program, we recently selected three New York-based food and beverage brands. All three of these companies bring something new and distinct to the table or should I say tray table. Through BlueBud, we get into the details with them of what it is like to actual supply airplanes and airports with product, a process that is vastly different from supplying a store on land.

This year’s winners merge food and beverage with social impact and purpose and they will learn what it takes to potentially get their products onboard a commercial airline, directly from airline senior leaders who are the key decision makers.

  • Toast Ale - Focused on reducing wasted food, Toast Ale uses unsold loaves of bread from local bakeries to brew beer. Since Toast Ale opened, 2,325 gallons of beer have been brewed using 1,375 pounds of bread that otherwise would have gone to waste. Originating in London, Toast Ale has been selling beer in New York since March 2017. All of the company’s profits go to Feedback, a non-profit focused on anti-waste campaigns.

  • Barber Farm Distillery - Since 1857, the Barber family has farmed produce and dairy in Schoharie Valley, New York. Barber Farm Distillery is a recent addition to this long-standing family business. Built on family and homegrown, high quality produce, Barber’s Farm Distillery brings a new facet to an already distinctive brand with its naturally gluten-free, farm-to-bottle vodka. Barber’s Farm is one of the only distilleries growing its own potatoes and using its own spring water in America.

  • Luv Michael - The organic, gluten-free, and nut-free granola is made without harmful chemicals or toxic allergens. Luv Michael is focused on providing training and income to individuals on the autism spectrum. Autism now impacts one in 88 children. The granola crafted by Luv Michael can be purchased in more than 30 stores in the New York area including Wild by Nature, Fresh and Co., and select Starbucks locations.

Choosing foods that the tens of millions of people who fly JetBlue will all like is a pretty hard task. So we called in reinforcements. We worked with GrowNYC to recruit applications for the current crop of BlueBud. Applications were reviewed by a panel of esteemed judges well known in the food and beverage space who also encourage small business. Judges included Liz Neumark, CEO and Founder of Great Performances; Bret Csencsitz, Managing Partner, Gotham Bar and Grill; David Johnson,  Deputy to the Senior Advisor to the Brooklyn Borough President; Jeanhee Lee, Assistant Managing Editor, Crain’s New York Business; Karen Washington, Co-Owner of Rise &Root Farm, and William Telepan, Executive Chef at Oceana.

Over the next year, these three companies will participate in business mentorship including:

  • A tour of JetBlue's Long Island City Support Center headquarters, its largest operation at JFK's Terminal 5 (T5) and an airline catering facility to better understand how food (literally) gets onboard JetBlue.

  • A speaking and taste-testing event opportunity for JetBlue's crewmembers to learn more about each company at the airline's Long Island City Support Center.

  • A tasting event for JetBlue customers at the airline's award-winning JFK T5

  • Intimate access to JetBlue teams including but not limited to strategic sourcing, purchasing, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, communications, marketing, brand and onboard product. 

Previous BlueBud participants have included Bronx lGreenmarket Hot Sauce, made from serrano peppers grown in collaboration with GrowNYC and Bronx Greenup, and Hot Bread Kitchen – a social enterprise bakery based in Harlem that creates economic opportunity through careers in food for foreign-born and immigrant women.

Our support doesn’t end after the BlueBud mentorship. Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce is available in JetBlue’s T5 in the New York Minute shop, a concept store that offers New York-produced products.  After a year of mentorship, Hot Bread Kitchen learned what it takes to partner with an airline, and then pitched their product to JetBlue. Although being part of BlueBud is no guarantee to making it onboard, JetBlue was impressed by Hot Bread Kitchen’s pitch and introduced the bakery’s challah rolls onto its Mint brunch menu. Mint is JetBlue’s unique take on premium service and is available on select routes. 

BlueBud promotes innovation and helps us offer responsible food and beverage. BlueBud is an example of our inclusive mindset -- impacting people, planet and profits. We’re hoping to create greater access to JetBlue opportunities one BlueBud at a time. 

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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