July 29th, 2019

Hibiscus Trend is Blooming

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors

Hibiscus is trending on menus for its bright flavor and brighter color!

Hibiscus flower

I feel like it’s been too long since we’ve discussed flavor trends, so we’re going to end that streak today with a look at hibiscus.

Now, when I say hibiscus you probably think of a flower garnish on a Mai Tai or a component flavor in tea. But these vibrant flowers have proven to be a lot more versatile then we give them credit for. Their slightly bitter and citrusy flavor makes them perfect for an array of uses from garnish, sauces, beverages, and herbs.

Now Trending: Hibiscus

According to Datassential, hibiscus currently falls into the “adoption” stage of the Menu Adoption Cycle (MAC). This generally means that it’s gaining traction on menus but is still considered unique. It can be found at independent casual-dining and progressive fast-casual restaurants.

Hibiscus Glazed Wings

Image courtesy of Wahaca Twitter

It’s currently found on 6% of menus nationally, which is a 69% increase over the past 4 years. While the product is most familiar with Millennials and Gen Z, over half of the population has heard of it and almost a quarter have tried it. This leaves fertile ground to explore hibiscus in application.

In fact, the product Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup recently won the 2019 Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition. How’s that for timing?!

How to Use Hibiscus

Hibiscus is most commonly found in beverages, such as teas, cocktails, and agua frescas. But those are merely entry points for this ingredient.

Velvet Taco in Dallas serves their “Gator” taco on a hypnotically purple hibiscus taco shell. With its mild tartness, it’s a great balance to the fatty meat inside. You can use hibiscus in almost any bakery application to add color and an aromatic citric note.

Hibiscus Taco

Image courtesy of dallas.culturemap.com

Looking for a tangy sweet glaze for pork or lamb? Hibiscus and cranberry or orange make an excellent addition, cutting through the fattiness of the meat with bright, fresh flavor. It’s equally delicious in chutneys and vinaigrettes.

White fish and hibiscus also have a special relationship. It can be used as a dry rub, sweet sauce, or fresh garnish to bring a tropical note to the meat. It can also be an excellent component to ceviche, exemplified by Poca Madre’s Hamachi Ceviche, made with hibiscus, agua Jamaica, garlic, chile Serrano, and corn.

Where to Find Hibiscus

Hibiscus Ceviche

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

As its popularity grows, so does its availability. Hibiscus powder and dried flowers can often be sourced through networks like Shamrock and Sysco. Smaller producers, such as Iya Foods and the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company are also working on bringing their distribution up to meet the needs of a larger market.

Fresh hibiscus flowers can be more difficult to locate, but Fresh Origins, a micro greens company that works with most major distributors, can provide them.

Power to the Flower

As hibiscus continues along the MAC, we can expect to see new and unique methods of utilization. I, for one, expect to see it used often in sauces where color becomes almost as important as flavor. In our Instagram generation, it never hurts to pay attention to the aesthetics.

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July 15th, 2019

Plant Based Meats Hit the Bigs

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Vegetables

Big Players Join the Plant-Based Meat Movement

Plant Based Meats

In our last blog we discussed the proliferation of plant-based meats, along with the new clean/cell-based meat technology. We covered the big players in those arenas and the popularity of their products through growth and national menu acceptance.

This week we’re going to piggyback on that topic by looking at some of the bigger international players looking to break into the plant-based meat market. The most notable names in this category include Tyson, Nestle, and Hormel.

Plant-Based Meats Go Prime Time

Tyson

Tyson Foods crafted their empire through chicken and poultry but have proven repeatedly to be willing to change. From bacon to dog treats, sausages to meal kits, Tyson is no stranger to exploration. Which is why it should come as no surprise that they’ve begun the development of their own plant-based protein brand, Raised & Rooted.

Plant based proteins

Image courtesy of foodnavigator-usa.com

Using blends of pea protein powder and other plant-based ingredients, Tyson looks to gain a strong foothold through diverse product development. Foods included in this category are chicken nuggets, blended burgers (which will include Angus beef), and a mix of sausages and meatballs under the Aidell’s brand name. The vegan nuggets are expected in stores this summer while the blended burgers are slated for fall, 2019.

In support of these products, Tyson is working with and investing in many plant-based protein startups in order to gain an edge in the flavor race. One such company is MycoTechnolgy, the developer of a mushroom-based product called PureTaste. PureTaste is a clean label product designed to” clean up the taste profile of plant-based proteins.”

Nestlé Sweet Earth

meat alternatives

Image courtesy of foodnavigator-usa.com

Instead of undergoing their own infrastructure change, Nestlé purchased Sweet Earth, a plant-based protein producer, in 2017. While the agreement left original owners Kerry and Brian Swette in charge of operations, they actively receive support from Nestlé USA Foods Division.

Sweet Earth has gained quite the cult following in California with their craveable breakfast burritos and flavorful veggie burgers. Their partnership with Nestlé offers them immediate national distribution, marketing support, and trusted brand recognition. This year they intend to launch a new wave of products including the “Awesome Burger,” and its ground beef component, “Awesome Grounds.” A higher percentage of protein and fiber sets Sweet Earth products apart from their competition.

Hormel

Plant-based protein

Hormel is entering this market a bit more timidly than the other players. The initial offering will be a plant-based pizza topping (with little more description than that) focusing on the food service market. They’ve also recently introduced the “Fuse Burger,” a blend of turkey and rice, and the “Blend Burger” under the Applegate brand. The “Blend Burgers” feature a mix of meats and mushrooms.

No word on whether Hormel will investigate further plant-based meat options, but it’s clear they are monitoring the situation with a focus on restaurant applications.

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July 1st, 2019

Meat Alternatives – A New Normal?

Posted in Food Trends, Product Innovation

Could the new generation of meat alternatives win over even carnivores?

Plant-based Proteins

Plant-based proteins, clean meats, and other meat alternatives continue to evolve in the world of culinary innovation. A handful of imaginative companies have progressed this category so far that it’s caught the attention of larger food manufacturers, distributors, and restaurants looking to get a slice.

Even national restaurant brands are taking notice, including meat alternatives on national menu rollouts. Let’s look at a few leaders in this category and see if meat alternatives could become the new normal.

Plant-Based Proteins

Impossible Foods

Impossible Burger

Photo courtesy of Medium.com

For those not familiar with Impossible Foods, maker of the Impossible Burger, you might recognize their original shtick: A plant-based burger that seems to bleed like a beef burger using vegetable heme. While this concept was somewhat repulsive to vegans and vegetarians, and a novelty with omnivores, the brand earned its staying power with how delicious the product is.

The new focus has been on removing allergens to increase the consumer base. As of 2019 Impossible Foods has reformulated the product in order to remove wheat, making it now vegan and gluten-free. It does, however, still contain soy. This step makes the brand much more accessible and attractive for national menu roll outs.

Meat Alternatives

Photo courtesy of ImpossibleFoods.com

This fact is further exemplified by their newly announced relationship with Little Caesars. As of May 20th, Little Caesars will be testing a meatless pizza topped with Impossible Sausage crumbles in 58 restaurants including Washington State, New Mexico, and Florida. If initial customer feedback is positive, we could see a national launch shortly after. You can also find Impossible products at Red Robin, Dave & Buster’s, QDOBA, Bar Louie, Burger King and more.

Beyond Meat

Photo Courtesy of BeyondMeat.om

Photo Courtesy of BeyondMeat.om

Beyond Meat is another brand that has effectively matched the flavor and texture of meat with their plant-based products. While Beyond also produces a burger patty, they differentiate themselves with a line of sausages. Available in Traditional Bratwurst and Hot Italian Links, Beyond Sausages have proved to be a true crowd pleaser in testing, focus groups, and at food shows. I can attest to the food show craze, having to wait in a line 30 people deep to get a taste of the Traditional Bratwurst. Worth it.

Beyond has also managed to expand into food service on a national scale. Their products are available at places like TGI Friday’s, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, Burger Fi, and A&W. With their ever-growing list of accolades, including consecutive FABI awards in 2017 and 2018, there’s no doubt we’ll see continued innovation from, and interest in, Beyond Meat products.

Clean Meats

Clean meat, which is also referred to as “cultured meat,” is produced through cellular replication. Why this may seem like off-putting science fiction, the truth is it’s likely to be not only indistinguishable from natural meat, but more affordable. Best of all, this meat be can produced without hormones and antibiotics.

Meat Alternatives

Photo courtesy of MosaMeat.com

While these products aren’t currently on the market, it’s valuable to look ahead and see what kind of potential they could become in a rapidly changing market space.

Memphis Meats

Meat Alternatives

Photo Courtesy of MemphisMeats.com

Launched in 2015, Memphis Meats is a pioneer in clean meat production. They’ve been striving to bring the cost of clean meat production down in order to make it fiscally competitive against natural meats.

In 2016 Memphis created the world’s first cell-based meatball, and in 2017 the world’s first cell-based poultry. In a sign of future expectation, Cargill, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson have all invested in Memphis Meats.

Mosa Meats

Clean Meat

Image courtesy of MosaMeat.com

Creators of the first slaughter-free hamburger in 2013 (at a whopping $330,000), Mosa Meat endeavors to not only create affordable cell-based meats alternatives, but also reduce animal slaughter worldwide. Mosa expects to have its first meats on the market in the next 3-4 years, which would show a remarkably fast increase in efficiency.

The process of development is described as being the same process animals use to create meat, only outside the animal. The cells “naturally” proliferate and do so without the need for additives or GMOs. Not only have they successfully produced muscle fiber, but they’ve also produced fat cells, which we know is extremely important for taste and mouthfeel.

What’s Driving Meat Alternatives?

Many components are driving the want for meat alternatives. Health factors play a large role, both in increasing the amount of vegetables consumed and decreasing the volume of meat consumed. For the clean meat alternatives, environmental and ethical concerns are the largest driving factors. Specifically, the reduction of carbon gas emissions, deforestation, and factory farms utilizing inhumane practices.

Regardless of the motivating factors, meat alternatives will continue to grow in interest and popularity.

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