Top 10 Food
01 - Starbucks
For showing what a struggling powerhouse can do to revitalize its reputation and strengthen its relationship with customers through its own payment system. Starbucks introduced a sophisticated mobile app and payment system that lets patrons load cash onto their mobile phones, which then display a barcode baristas can scan at the register. It did so well in trials last year that Starbucks took it national, and it saw 26 million transactions and more than $100 million in funds loaded onto the app. Starbucks continues to innovate on the beverage front as well, from its new Blonde roast coffee to a new line of healthy juices. READ MORE
02 - Chipotle
For making fast-casual dining sustainable and marketing it like no other fast food, to the tune of $1.84 billion last year. The burrito hub increased its use of local produce in 2011 to more than 10 million pounds, double its 2010 goal. READ MORE
03 - Chobani
For becoming America’s leading Greek yogurt brand in only four years. With a focus on quality, hormone-free ingredients, and exotic flavors like blood orange, Chobani sounds like it was made for the aisles of Dean & Deluca. But with an average unit price of $1.40, it retails for 30% less than competitor Fage. Oh, and no need to look further than Walmart for a cup. READ MORE
04 - GrubHub
For leading the way in mobile food delivery apps. Last October, GrubHub acquired competitor Dotmenu, giving it a total of more than $225 million in combined order revenues to restaurants, not including chains like McDonald’s. Since its creation in 2004, the online food delivery service has expanded from the web onto smartphones, with expectations of becoming almost entirely mobile by 2016.
05 - Revolution Foods
For boosting the health profile and quality of school lunches. Launched in 2006 in the Bay Area, the food service has since spread to eight states and Washington D.C. Partnering with Whole Foods, Revolution now delivers unprocessed, balanced meals—free of hormones, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavorings—to 600 schools, nearly twice as many as two years ago, and projects $50 million in revenue for 2011-2012.
06 - Sysco
For restructuring its produce delivery system to better serve locavores. It took three years of strategizing, but the bulk food provider now allows clients to integrate locally grown produce into their shipments via consultations with food brokers. In Michigan, where Sysco began testing, the company moved 100,000 cases of local produce in 2010, nearly twice the amount of 2008.
07 - Naked Pizza
For proving healthy pizza can be palatable (and profitable). Premised on ancient dietary patterns, Naked Pizza contains a whole-grain crust chock-full of probiotics, as well as hormone- and additive-free toppings. Since opening its first restaurant two years ago, Naked has expanded to 26 locations (with 500 in development)—in large part thanks to its social media blitz. "We look at social media as a way to let people know what we’re doing, and ask them if it’s valid for us to be inside the community," says cofounder Robbie Vitrano. "If we’re invited, so to speak."
08 - Ness Computing
For crafting a sleek, social food app that recommends what to eat next. Since its launch in August, Ness (short for Likeness) added more than 100,000 users and generated more than 1.5 million ratings in just a few months, a feat that took Yelp three years. Ness provides recommendations via "radical personalization" but also integrates with a user’s social media—Foursquare check-ins, Facebook friends’ ratings—in an unprecedented way. CEO Corey Reese has plans for taking Ness beyond food recs: "We want to build a digital replication of a person’s preferences. We eventually want to be able to make nightlife, concerts, movie recommendations."
09 - Stop & Shop
For streamlining the checkout process with an easy-to-use mobile payment app. First introduced last June, the Scan It! app allows smartphone users to scan, tally, and pay for groceries on their phones, making this New England supermarket the first with a fully integrated in-store payment system.
10 - Tequila Avión
For becoming the fastest-growing spirits brand, with a little help from its Entourage. The ultrapremium tequila startup—itself a rarity in the conglomerate-driven liquor business—has won national distribution in record time thanks to an obsessive attention to what’s in the bottle as well as deft deals and showmanship to get the word out. A relationship with "Entourage" showrunner Doug Ellin led to the beverage being incorporated into the storyline of the show’s last two seasons, fueling demand.