Focused on restoration | MEAT+POULTRY

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Restaurant food and beverage suppliers showcased the latest innovations at the National Restaurant Show held in Chicago May 21-24. Scattered among long-established Windy City brands, such as Vienna Beef, Eli’s Cheesecake and Grecian Delight, restaurateurs around the world sampled products that reflect consumer trends and at the same time alleviate the challenges facing the industry. in terms of manpower. , supply chains and the economy.

“There’s amazing food all over the world and we’ve barely scratched the surface,” said Zia Ahmed, senior director of food services, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, during a session on food trends.

In terms of menu innovation, Dave Henkes, Senior Director, and Lizzy Freier, Menu Research & Ideas, both at Chicago-based Technomic, discussed how to “energize business and delight customers” by using their five “P’s”. The first “p” is to pivot. This involves redesigning the menu without adding too many new ingredients. One approach is to infuse dishes with new flavors or create mashups that “combine the known and the unknown,” Freier said.

The average number of items on restaurant menus has declined in recent years as COVID-19 forces restaurants to streamline their offerings to focus on revenue-generating items that work best for takeout and delivery, Henkes said. At the same time, limited-time offers have multiplied.

“Restaurants are trying to do more with less,” Henkes added. “It gives consumers something to be excited about.”

For operators, this can be accomplished by adding new flavors to a base recipe. Vendors on the show floor presented shortcuts to help them.

MegaMax Foods, a company of Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minnesota, for example, launched Tres Cocinas pepper pastes. Concentrated pastes come in three profiles and are formulated to help chefs add authentic flavor to Mexican cooking. The ancho and pasilla variety has notes of dark chocolate and dried fruit. The chipotle pepper paste includes an adobo sauce for a balance of smoke and heat. The third offering is made with guajillo peppers and spices and offers a balanced, slightly sweet flavor with hints of berries.

Prepare for the best

The second “p”, according to Technomic, is preparation. Persistent supply chain issues are forcing operators to innovate with unique and varied preparations of ingredients at their fingertips, Henkes said. This includes everything from freezing a cocktail that is usually served over ice to give it a melty texture to charring vegetables to give them a deeper flavor.

“Sixty-six percent of consumers consider preparation styles, such as broiled, roasted or braised, to be an appealing method of imparting flavor,” Henkes said.

Labor savers also help with preparation. Operators looking for ways to offer tasty and innovative menus with fewer staff can turn to products such as fully cooked chorizo ​​crumbs and chicken breast Belgian-style waffle sandwiches. spicy breaded meat wrapped in butcher paper from Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.

Many vendors have posted labor savings in the beverage space, such as high-end mixers for adult cocktails and the growing mocktail category. Robots that make mixed alcoholic beverages have become more sophisticated, with companies such as J&J Snack Foods Corp., Pennsauken, NJ, relying on its Icee and Slush Puppie machines now offering a flow of spirits with the fruity base mix .

Import Plant Ideas

Vegetable proteins are part of the third “p”. And, it was no surprise that plant-based meat makers were in full force on the show floor. Three new exhibitors came from abroad.

The Israeli company Yo Foods Ltd. introduced Yo!, a plant-based egg concept for operators that comes in two parts – white and yolk – allowing for the preparation of sunny and poached concepts. The white is formulated with peas while the yellow is made from chickpeas and colored with carrot powder.

Next Gen Foods offers Tindle Plant-Based Chicken created for chefs. With its global headquarters in Singapore, the company has aggressive expansion plans in the United States. Tindle is a versatile, uncooked product that chefs can turn into everything from patties to balls to strips. It gets its flavor from an ingredient called lipi, which is a combination of sunflower oil and natural flavors formulated to simulate chicken fat.

SavorEat, an Israeli food tech company, showcased its robot chef platform that creates a personalized plant-based burger. Using an app, the robot chef allows diners to customize their patty – protein source and fat content – ​​and cook it in minutes.

Speaking on Food Trends, John Li, Vice President of Culinary Innovation, Wendy’s, Dublin, Ohio, said the health and well-being of people and the planet will continue to fuel innovation in Restoration. He cited the acronym FARM, which stands for Fresh, Authentic, Real and Minimally Processed, as a mantra to follow in product development.

“If you don’t have a product from a culinary point of view, you’re going to fail,” Li said.

When it comes to new plant-based protein offerings on the expo floor, “every evolution gets better,” he said.

In plant-based dairy, the big news was ice cream mix products from several companies, including Ripple Foods, Emeryville, CA. The liquid product comes in one-gallon plastic milk jugs in original and vanilla flavors and can be used as soft serve ice cream. .

Tailored

The fourth “p” is customization, which you get with many of the robot concepts shown at the show. These robots also help operators in times of labor shortages, allowing them to better focus on the cooking experience.

Self-service menu boards and sophisticated apps put the consumer in the kitchen. These personalized dishes allow diners to order something to suit their tastes.

Technomic’s fifth “p” was its predictions for the future. Technomic predicts that a very basic ingredient – salt – will be the focal point of menu innovations. It will go beyond being a staple taste to take center stage in cocktails and food.

Freier cited that the global flavors to watch now come from Mesoamerica, West Africa and West Asia, with new peppers adding zest and nuance to dishes.

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