March 31st, 2014

The Future of Take N’ Bake

Posted in New Foods and Flavors, Pizza, Restaurants, Trends

Papa Murphy’s, the grand daddy of the take and bake concept, has been the trailblazer in this sector of the pizza industry since they invented the idea in 1981. Their recent addition of a pan pizza that they call “fresh pan pizza” debuted in February of this year to all markets. It has received good reviews so far, and this addition has served to round out the menu at Papa Murphy’s.

With the success of such a well-known chain, several other chains are capitalizing on the improved margins from the take and bake model.

Godfather’s Pizza just announced that they are opening a take-and-bake concept this spring called Big Vinny’s Take & Bake Pizza. Set to open in Lincoln, NE, the concept will showcase fresh dough and premium ingredients to create customized pizzas for their customers.

ZPizza, a chain that is one of the first to use organic flour and organic tomato sauce, just recently launched a take and bake option in gluten-free and wheat crusts. The bonus? The gluten-free crust is just as tasty as the wheat crust.

Figaro’s, an Oregon-based chain, claims to be the first chain to have offered gluten-free take and bake pizzas to its customers back in 2011. They also offer take and bake lasagna and calzones with baked or take and bake options.

Noble Roman’s has 22 locations that offer take and bake pizzas (traditional, SuperThin, and deep-dish Sicilian), breadsticks, chicken wings, cookies and cinnamon rounds. At the end of 2013, 56 franchise agreements had been signed for new locations. They feature fresh-made sauce from crushed tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and spices. To grab a larger share of lunchtime pizza revenue, they are also testing the “You Bake or We Bake” concept in a 3 store test.

Mama Mimi’s is an award-winning small pizza chain based in Cincinnati, OH. They have won “Pizza of the Year” at the National Pizza Festival in Las Vegas as well as the “Best Gourmet Pizza in North America” at the prestigious World Pizza Championship in Italy. With 6 locations in operation, and award-winning pizzas like Mama’s Marmaletta Amore (apricot glaze, mozzarella, chicken, caramelized onion, basil, red pepper flake and gorgonzola), they definitely define gourmet take and bake pizza.

Several companies have taken a different approach to the desire for take and bake. By offering nationwide shipping on their pizzas and other products, the following chains seek to further widen their customer base into new territory:

Donato’s Pizza recently came out with a line of gluten-free pizzas and flatbreads to complement their regular take and bake options. These are offered in-store but also in Kroger’s and on Amazon’s online store to be shipped right to your door. This allows them to extend their customer reach while still providing the quality pizzas that their customers expect.

Lou Malnati’s is the king of the deep-dish pie in Chicago. And they will ship you a pie anywhere in the country via the website www.tasteofchicago.com . They also offer a Pizza of the Month Club for those who cannot get enough Lou Malnati’s.

Whichever delivery method a chain chooses, great quality take and bake is the pizza of the future. It should not be underestimated by operators as the trend in ‘gourmet at home’ becomes more and more popular.

March 19th, 2014

2014 – The Year of the 3D Printer?

Posted in About Allison, New Foods and Flavors, Trends

A question posed in a survey that I took for the UT Austin Foodlab really got me thinking: What will your lunch look like in 2050? . One of the answers was: “ 50% 3D printed”, and from there my brain shot off into the stratosphere, like fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I just couldn’t compute this as even a remotely possible reality. It seems so space age yet could it be possible?

To answer this question I turned to my friend GOOGLE to help me out. A search for “can we print 3D food?” listed many articles with buzz words like Oreos, SXSW, pizza, astronauts, Hershey, spinach and sugar diamonds.

A little further digging and I find that the 3D printer is the brainchild of Chuck Hull, the Co-Founder of 3D Systems. The first 3D printer was large and clumsy and could set you back a couple hundred thousand dollars. Early innovation with the technology was centered on the automotive industry. Today’s 3D printer is more affordable and more approachable across all sectors of the industry. The year 2014 promises access to the technology by chefs and home cooks alike.

Most recently, 3D printing technology was showcased at SXSW, where Mondelez was producing 3D printed Oreos in 12 flavors and colors. And right down the road from them, 3D Systems were using their ChefJet to print 3D candies for SXSWers.

A high price tag is not stopping big names such as NASA from getting on the 3D printing bandwagon. They awarded a 125,000 grant to Systems and Materials Research Corporation to develop a 3D printer that can print pizza in space. Remind you of any fancy device on the Enterprise? Anjan Contractor of Systems and Materials envisions a 3D printer in every household and an end to the world’s food shortages. What is neat about their technology is that the pre-filled food cartridges are shelf stable and can be used up to 30 years later.

And then there is Hershey, who recently signed a multi-year contract with 3D Systems to print 3D chocolate and sugar-based confections. A pretty big deal considering Hershey is the largest chocolate manufacturer in the country. While development will take several years, this agreement puts Hershey’s well ahead of its competitors. They could be the first large-scale manufacturer to print in 3D.

Barilla Pasta is bringing 3D pasta printers to a restaurant near you. They have been working with TNO (a Netherlands based Applied Research Facility) to develop a pasta printer that can print customized pasta per a customer’s request. Think about how cool it would be to order your custom pasta and have it served to you only minutes after ordering? They hope to accomplish this by using dough cartridges that are sent to the restaurant pre-filled.

The idea of 3D printing goes a step further at Modern Meadow. Here, they develop meat and leather products from tissue cultures grown in the lab. This approach takes the raising, slaughtering and processing of animals entirely out of the equation. While the product is still facing challenges with texture and taste, that problem will eventually be solved.

The 3D printing of meat is endorsed by PETA who has offered a million dollars to the 1st person to create a viable in vitro chicken alternative by March 4th, 2014. While this deadline has passed, great strides were made by several organizations to meet this goal. Dr. Mark Post developed a 3D printed hamburger from beef muscle that was cultured in a lab. The cost? $325,000. Sergey Brin, founder of Google funded the project. And Bill Gates of Microsoft is a major investor in Beyond Meat, a company that produces vegan chicken strips. According to his blog, Mr. Gates was unable to distinguish the difference between real chicken and this meat-alternative.

So when will this technology be available to you? 3D Systems will release 2 models of its version of the 3D printer this year. The ChefJet (up to $5000) and the ChefJetPro ($5000-10000) are the two of the first 3D printers on the market. These are designed for pastry chefs who are looking to craft intricate confections from sugar and chocolate.

Natural Machines, out of Barcelona, Spain, will soon start selling the Foodini. This gadget is geared towards the home cook, and makes preparation faster, without compromising quality. This printer holds 5 cartridges and since it uses an “open capsule model”, the Foodini can print a range of products in the savory and sweet categories. This system allows the consumer to prepare the cartridges themselves. They also plan to sell pre-made cartridges for convenience. Current estimate for availability is the 2nd half of 2014.

As we dive deeper into 2014, keep your eyes peeled for further innovation in this category, it’s only going to get more exciting as time goes on. One thing is for sure: 3D Systems will be leading the way.