October 29th, 2018

3 Burger Chains on the Rise

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

These burger chains are smashing competition

Who says there are already enough burger chains out there?

According to FSR Magazine, there are at least 3 burger chains out there defying the dreary odds of success facing many brick and mortar restaurants today. In fact, they are thriving and poised for growth for years to come.

Burger Chains

1. Umami Burger

With 22 current units and another 40 planned for 2019, Umami Burger is positioned for long-term success. One move it’s making to ensure this continued growth is by capitalizing on global markets, like Japan.

With plans to extend to Mexico, UAE, and Qatar (the second and third of these being locations of major U.S. military bases), Umami Burger plans to deeply entrench its global presence.

Another factor playing into their prosperity is the exclusive partnership they have with Impossible Foods, maker of the ever popular Impossible Burger. This impossibly craveable vegetable-based burger patty has become extremely popular with vegetarians and carnivores alike. And with backing from restaurant and nightlife group sbe, well known for their work with Chef Jose Andres’ Bazaar, the sky seems to be the limit.

Trends in Burger Chains

2. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

The name says it all. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar is proving to its competitors that it’s a force to be reckoned with.

BD’s turned heads when it recorded 13 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales, which would have, realistically, gone for 14 if it weren’t for the detrimental effects of Hurricane Florence. Multiple locations were forced to close for 7 days due to the storm, but even with this catastrophe, BD’s still managed to decline only 0.7%.

With 33 current units and another 10 planned for 2019, BD’s remains firmly entrenched in the thick of their success with no signs of stopping. With newly minted locations in Georgia and South Carolina, Bad Daddy’s is building the makings of a permanent fixture in the burger market.

2019 Best Burger Chains

3. Bareburger

Bareburger is working to change the standard of what we expect from a burger restaurant. With a focus on sustainable farming practices and a menu comprised of over 1/3 vegetarian options, Bareburger is raising the bar of green practices.

These services have not gone unnoticed. The chain currently hosts 40 domestic locations, with 10 more on the horizon for 2019, plus restaurants in UAE, Tokyo, and Germany.

Bareburger has also diversified by making delivery service a major focus of it’s business model, with certain locations (aptly named “Bare Bones”) operating as delivery only models. It’s innovations like these that ensure Bareburger will remain relevant as it plans to launch another 10 stores in 2019.

That’s it for this week’s installment. Be sure to drop a comment below and let us know what unique/craveable things are happening in burger chains near you.

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October 1st, 2018

2018 Chicken Wing Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Trends

What’s Trending in Flavor and Texture

Chicken wings are a ubiquitous fan favorite among Americans. Whether as an appetizer, a meal all itself, or, as the focus an event or celebration, chicken wings have not lost their popularity.

 

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In fact, according to the National Chicken Council, an estimated 1.35 billion chicken wings would be consumed during Super Bowl 52 alone! That shows an increase of almost 20 million chicken wings since 2017.

It’s no surprise then, given their popularity, restaurants continue to experiment with chicken wings in flavor and texture.

Flavor Trends

Asian

Asian flavors are pushing the envelope in almost all categories, and while wings are no stranger to Eastern flavors, they’re starting to get funkier, err, fishier.

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That’s right, fish sauce is boosting wings to another level of umami. Pok Pok Restaurants, based in Portland, OR, lead the way with the aptly named “Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.” These crispy morsels are marinated in fish sauce and sugar, then tossed in a sauce of fish sauce and caramelized garlic.

MOPHO of New Orleans is no stranger to nam pla either. Their eponymous wings are coated in a caramel made from fish sauce, sugar, garlic, Thai chilies, ginger, and lime.

On the Korean side of things, Chi’Lantro Korean BBQ Inspired Restaurants serve their chicken wings in a house “Gangnam” sauce that features spicy gochujang paste. A fermented chili and bean paste, gochujang serves as the base for many Korean BBQ sauce recipes.

Smoke

Smoked flavors continue to drift into the mainstream, and wings offer a great medium to play with different types.

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Firebirds Wood Fired Grill amps up its classic Buffalo wings by smoking, chilling, then flash frying for service. Chili’s has entered the game as well with their pecan wood smoked wings glazed in zesty BBQ sauce.

Momofuku Noodle Bar of New York combines both the Asian inspired and smoked trends with their smoked chicken wings made with garlic, Thai chile, and scallions. Wingzup of Austin, TX, doubles down on the char by smoking their wings for 4.5 hours over hickory then grilling them over an open flame.

Texture

Along with flavor, chefs are starting to add different textures to their wings, elevating the simple dish and driving interest.

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At Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen they are serving up Thai Sticky Wings garnished with crushed peanuts and crispy spring-roll wrapper strips for added crunch. Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken Restaurant goes deep on the crunch by using cornstarch in the breading and twice frying their wings giving them a thin, ultra-crispy skin and immensely satisfying crispiness.

Finally, at Haisous in Chicago you can find chicken wings basted in a caramelized fish sauce and topped with crispy fried garlic and shallots. My mouth is watering just thinking about that depth of flavor.

Keep an eye out for other fun textures like potato chips, panko, and puffed grains as they start to make headway into the mainstream market.

Until next time, cheers everybody!

 

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September 10th, 2018

New Flavors in Hot Sauce

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

We searched around to see what’s happening in the hot sauce world

Hey there hot sauce lovers. Thanks for stopping by to find out what’s new in the world of spicy condiments.

Hot Sauce

2018 has seen bold statements made in flavor trends with things like Za’atar, Thai and Filipino cuisine, and Mexican moles. The hot sauce market is no different, seeing a myriad of new flavors and ingredients.

Let’s look at what’s new and trendy.

What’s New in Hot Sauce?

Fruit

Ok, not totally new, but stay with me. While fruits have been showing up in hot sauces and salsas for a while now (see mango and pineapple), helping to mellow out those spicy acidic tones, more interesting fruits are beginning to appear.

Bravado Spice Co. has developed a Jalapeno and Green Apple sauce that’s gaining quite a bit of popularity as a flavor packed, not too hot sauce. They also produce a Ghost Pepper and Blueberry sauce for the more adventurous palate. Yellowbird, out of Austin, TX, uses bright tangerine juice to balance out the spicy peppers used in a few of their sauces.

Hot Sauce Trends

Image Courtesy of Culleysusa.com

Finally, Culley’s out of New Zealand makes a Kiwi Habanero sauce that I’m dying to try. It may seem a bit too on the nose, but I love it anyhow.

Chocolate

Chocolate really does make most things better (bacon, fruit, potato chips, you get the idea), and hot sauce is no exception.

Image Courtesy of Heathotsauce.com

Nebraska’s own Volcanic Peppers brand has proved this with their award winning Chocolate Lightening hot sauce. Also joining the party is Punch Drunk with their Chocolate Ghost Pepper hot sauce. To make theirs a bit more unique they use chia seeds as a thickening agent.

Finally, look for Dawson’s brand Chocolate Hot Sauce for use on desserts. With a milder heat and sweeter profile, this one plays well with unique confections.

Truffles

Because, why not? Truffle flavors are common on fries, chips, eggs, and pizzas all over the U.S., so why not hot sauce. Makes sense to me.

Hot Sauce 2018

Image Courtesy of Truffhotsauce.com

While you can find a few brands selling truffle hot sauce, like Frohlich and Gindo’s, the clear market leader in this category has to be Truff. With its use of black truffles along with an infused olive oil, Truff balances the heat with savory aromatics and a clean flavor.

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As you can see there doesn’t seem to be any lack of innovation in the world of hot sauces. I hope we see this trend continue forward, as I’m one of the many who just can’t get enough.

Happy eating friends!

 

 

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August 27th, 2018

2018 Pizza Industry Review – Pt. 2

Posted in Consumer Trends, Pizza, Product Innovation, Restaurants, Trends

Enhanced ordering, & new menu items

Catch-Up

Welcome back friends. Let’s do a quick catch-up session here.

Last blog we talked about the 2018 Pizza Industry, focusing on consumer preferences (convenience, quality, affordability), national chain vs. independent restaurant stats, and international growth.

Today, we’ll cover new menu trends and enhanced ordering with a spotlight on new tech.

Menu Trends

2018 is the year of personalization. Customers are looking for unique toppings, signature pies, and the ability to make whatever wacky concoction pops into their mind (looking at you, unicorn pizza). This has led to an expansion in toppings held on the line for many restaurants (think Brussels sprouts, clams, and brisket).

2018 Pizza Trends

Photo Courtesy of Teen Vogue

This love for customization is also a contributing factor to the success of fast casual pizza restaurants like Blaze and Mod. Additionally, these restaurants are quite popular with guests looking for healthier options or suffering from allergies and intolerances. They have many offerings to help avoid triggers and amp up the health quotient while still creating a delicious personal pie.

Finally, Detroit style pizza has found a proper following and is trickling across the nation. Most major cities now offer Detroit style, which is a deep dish pizza made in a rectangular pan. Its caramelized edges and thick, chewy dough have been turning heads and gaining a stable of fans for good reason.

Enhanced Ordering

As we discussed in the consumer needs section on the previous post, technology and ordering convenience are major factors in the customer’s restaurant choice. With 69% of internet users choosing the online ordering option per Emarketer, it’s imperative for pizza restaurants to not only adopt this measure, but make it convenient and easy as well.

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Hand in hand with ease of ordering is efficient delivery. Customers want a fresh, hot pizza delivered to them within minutes of submitting the order, and, as it turns out, they prefer that delivery to be directly from the restaurant, rather than a third party service like GrubHub or DoorDash.

Pizza restaurants are also looking into new technology to help with faster delivery. Domino’s, for example, has developed proprietary technology that allows consumers to order pizza in multiple convenient ways (including through Twitter, Zero-Click ordering, the AnyWare app, and into the future with natural voice). They’ve even gone as far as to commission a line of automated vehicles complete with built-in pizza ovens that will be capable of baking a freshly made pizza en route to your home.

Conclusion

2018 Pizza Trends

That’s a wrap for the 2018 Pizza Industry Review. With all that’s happening around technological innovation, I can’t wait to see what the landscape looks like for 2019.

Be sure to comment about what you’ve seen or anticipate seeing in the future of pizza. The only limit is your imagination (see: Unicorn Pizza…).

Cheers!

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July 2nd, 2018

Indian on the Rise

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

and I couldn’t be more excited…

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Much to my delight, Indian cuisine is on the rise in the American palate. This niche of food is steadily growing in the United States today. This is shown through the rise of Indian inspired dishes, casual Indian eateries, and expanding variety of easy to cook Indian dishes at home.

Indian fusion and inspiration is creeping it’s way into mainstream. Restaurants such as the Bombay Frankie Co in L.A. are starting to serve item such as Indian burritos. We’re seeing Masala Pizzas, Indian burritos, and other delectable mashups. These combinations are encouraging accessibility and new experiences to the American palate.

Quick service restaurants have also seen a rise in Indian flavors. In Texas, we’re seeing more and more local quick service restaurants such as Tarka Indian Kitchen and Masala Wok appear. The well-known G’Raj Mahal food truck on Rainey Street has now earned a brick and mortar location. Quick service Indian food can be served as easily as a Chipotle style DIY assembly line or a conveniently on-the-go as Indian styled tapas (think tandoori seared chicken).  Indian food is delicious, fresh, and easy to make for quick service.

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In supermarkets, the curry section is no longer a few bricks of seasonings mixed in with the rest of the tiny Asian section. Brands that are selling easy to make Indian sides or even main dishes such as Tasty Bite, Maya Kaimal’s simmer sauces, and Patak’s are starting to take over shelf space. These products paving opportunities to make Indian at home without the usual length of preparation time. The millennial appreciation for more and more complex flavors is adding to the popularity of Indian food today.

Thanks for reading along and let us know where you’re seeing Indian cuisine pop up in the comments section below.

Cheers!

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June 11th, 2018

Single-Focus Restaurants Offer New Benefits

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

Single-Focus Concepts Are Bringing a New Norm

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Instead of looking for the best restaurant specializing in a regional cuisine, how about looking for a restaurant that specializes in the best execution of a single item?

If this idea seems strange to you, it shouldn’t. According to Datassential, 46% of consumers are looking for these types of single-focus restaurants. This change in the tide may come with some discomfort, but for food producers, there are many benefits.

Focusing on the production of a single item allows a restaurant to do several things, including: Minimize overhead, reduce stock, streamline operations, reduce waste, easily replicate kitchen and menu designs, experiment with flavor in a low-risk environment, and, perhaps most importantly, focus on quality.

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For manufacturers, single-focus concepts give opportunities to create foods with exotic flavors and unique attributes that otherwise might have not had an audience in the past, find creative ways to cross-utilize ingredients to reduce waste, bring in new talent to update the creative process, and develop new distribution avenues thanks additionally to the continued rise in global flavors.

Macbar in New York focuses on making a variety of high quality macaroni and cheese, including flavors like chipotle chili and cognac and tarragon. Super Chix, based out of Dallas, TX, focuses on the production of high-quality chicken sandwiches and diversifies them with an array of sauces including Nashville Hot, Mississippi Comeback, and Sweet BBQ.

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Brooklyn’s Arancini Bros. focuses on, as the name eludes, savory balls of breaded and fried risotto rice. Flavor offerings include spicy buffalo with Gorgonzola cheese, classic ragu, and Pizzaiola (tomato-braised steak). And finally, a personal favorite of mine, Ramen Tatsu-Ya based out of Austin, TX, sets it’s sights on making a variety of craveable ramen bowls made with a spectrum of sauces including Thai chili and habanero, chunky red pepper paste, and Japanese citrus with Serrano, jalapeno, and garlic.

Single-focus restaurants will continue to stretch the limits of the consumer’s palates with new flavor experimentation, rapid flexibility, and increasing food quality. Their efficiency and scalability will allow for fast growth and broad distribution, making them a prime asset for food manufacturers. In order to keep the pace, manufacturers need to remain focused on trends and adopt levels of versatility not previously seen in the industry.

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April 23rd, 2018

Sergio’s Cuban Eyes Fast Casual

Posted in Consumer Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants

Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill Looks Towards Fast-Casual for the Future

Cuban Fast Casual

Photo Courtesy of shop.fiu.edu

As we’ve mentioned before in our blogs, fast-casual dining is not going anywhere. It gives chef’s and restaurateur’s an opportunity to provide fresh, high-quality food at lower prices due to reduced overhead costs. Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill of Miami is the most recent entrant into the category.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Carlos Gazitua, the CEO of Sergio’s, knew three years ago when planning the launch of their 6th location, it would be the last full-service restaurant. Gazitua cites rising rent prices and economics as the prime reasons to steer away from full-service and into fast-casual.

Sergio’s will also fill a hole in the fast-casual market for Cuban food. Leveraging the strength of their restaurant reputation, Sergio’s fast-casual will be able to launch with the power of their brand identity to help them capitalize on a thriving industry.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Hoping to be the “Chipotle” of Cuban food, their bowl-centric menu features bold flavors like Mojo pork, Ropa Vieja, chimi-churri, and spicy habanero sauce. Contrasted with healthful choices such as cauliflower rice, boiled yucca, and lean ground turkey, Sergio’s is working to offer plenty of flavorful options while adding nutrient density to an often rich, heavy cuisine.

With site locations like Denver, Texas, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. slated for development, we’ll be keeping an eye on Sergio’s growth and look forward to a nearby location for taste testing.

What other Cuban fast casuals have you come across? Let us know in the comments section below.

Cheers!

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March 26th, 2018

Plant-Based Protein Gaining Traction

Posted in Consumer Trends, Educational

Demand for Plant-Based Protein Increases in 2018

How do we reconcile the traditionally American animal-protein heavy diet with science backing the importance of vegetable consumption? A new generation of plant-based proteins aims to answer that question.

Plant-based protein

The average eater in the U.S. has an imprinted image of a plate, broken into 4 wedges, each of which representing a category: fruits, vegetables, grains/starches, and protein. This plate represents the general amount of each of these foods they should be consuming, with the largest wedge belonging to vegetables.

Choose My Plate

If we were using this plate to represent how the average American really eats, the protein wedge would look much more like the vegetable wedge. On average, Americans eat twice the amount of protein they require daily (1), normally in the form of animal-based protein.

But as a country, our science is getting better, our information moves further, faster, and our people are becoming wiser. We know now that it’s detrimental to our health to consume more vegetables and reduce our intake of animal proteins, and we’re adjusting our diets to reflect that.

Plant-based protein

40% more Americans are attempting to incorporate plant-based foods in their diet, and 23% are looking specifically for plant-based proteins to assist (2). In light of this, some crafty culinarians have set out to recreate the taste, texture, aroma, Maillard reaction, and even the “bleeding” effect common to animal meats using plant-based proteins. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are creating a cult of popularity that’s beginning to appear in national restaurant chains.

 

Impossible Burgers have made their way into burger titans such as Hopdoddy, Fatburger, and Umami Burger. Beyond Meat has found equal success in national markets such as Target, AmazonFresh, and Kroger, as well as restaurants like BurgerFi and TGI Fridays. Beyond Meat has also developed a line of “chicken” products, bratwurst, and sausages.

Vegetable Burgers

Another plant-based protein carrier that continues to grow in popularity is the ever present, and universally enjoyed falafel. This crispy little concoction of chickpeas and spices offers a center-of-the-plate star that can be fried, baked, dipped, deconstructed, and dressed-up to your heart’s content. It’s not only the flexibility of falafel that makes it so popular, but also, it’s unique, savory taste and crispy texture. Expect to see it landing in more unexpected locations soon.

Drop us a line and let us know what other unique plant-based proteins you’ve come across.

Until next time!

1. Egan, Sophie. “How Much Protein Do We Need?” The New York Times: Well. 28, July, 2017. Accessed 20, March, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/well/eat/how-much-protein-do-we-need.html.
2. “Plant-Based Proteins Are Gaining Dollar Share Among north Americans.” The Nielsen Company: FMCG and Retail. 22, Sep., 2017. Accessed 20, March, 2018. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2017/plant-based-proteins-are-gaining-dollar-share-among-north-americans.html
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March 12th, 2018

Expo West 2018 Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

What’s Trending at Expo West 2018?

Simple answer, lots!

Expo West Lolgo

The Natural Products showcase that is Expo West featured a bevy of fun, interesting, but most importantly, responsible foods and products that will continue to shape the landscape of the industry.

Unique new items included Alove, a yogurt made with aloe vera, oat and vegetable milks, Sushi Quinoa, Pervida’s pomegranate seed seed oil infused sparkling waters, and my personal favorite, chia fruit spread.

World of Chia, based out of The Woodlands, TX, has developed a line of fruit spreads using chia seeds instead of pectin. Not only are these spreads unique and delicious, but they embody the clean-label movement perfectly with only 4 key ingredients: fruit, agave nectar, chia seeds, and lemon juice.

Now let’s take a look at the trends with traction:

Pastas from Produce

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, “Alternative pastas, wow! Really groundbreaking.” Fair. But what’s special about these pastas is not just that they’re made from things like chickpeas, plantains, lentils, and brown rice, it’s that they actually taste good. Really good! And that is something to be excited about.

Artisan Jerky

We’re continuing to push towards high protein, low carb. and calorie snacks, and the folks running the dried meats show have noticed. The big companies like Jack Links and Oberto are being challenge by small batch artisan companies such as Epic and Three Jerks, with products like Maple Bourbon Churro Filet Mignon, Sesame BBQ Chicken, and Smoked Maple Salmon. I bet I have your attention now…

Tiger Nuts

Don’t laugh. This isn’t a Rocky Mountain Oysters kind of thing. Tiger nuts are actually a tuber that grows under the soil’s surface, much like carrots. They are highly nutritious, versatile, and do not contain the same allergens as nuts making them a great alternative. It seems some folks are starting to take notice. Organic Gemini Brand has developed a line of tiger nut products including flour, granola, smoothie mixes, and because apparently they love me, tiger nut horchata beverages. Additionally, Cabo Chips is about to launch a tortilla made with tiger nuts and cassava.

This is only a small snapshot of what I found. There was also a lot of traffic around small farm honey, pickled and fermented vegetables (are we going to see a return of sauerkraut?!), and healthy savory snacks like puffed edamame and high fiber savory veggie crisps.

We’d love to hear what you took notice of at Expo West. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments section.

Cheers!

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February 26th, 2018

Mediterranean Fast-Casual on the Rise

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Mediterranean Cuisine Shows Continued Growth in the Fast-Casual Market

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Fast-casual restaurants continue to gain steam as their popularity with multiple demographics holds strong. By focusing on quality ingredients within a limited, often chef-driven menu, combined with a lower overhead cost of standard brick-and-mortar establishments, fast-casual creates an opportunity to sell delicious, high quality food at reasonable prices.

Within this market, we are seeing Mediterranean cuisine thrive. With fresh ingredients, hearty options for both vegetarians and carnivores, and a continued nationwide interest in the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, the food of places like Greece, Israel, and Turkey are grasping the palates of customers nationwide and not letting go.

Restaurants like Gyroville, who have recently expanded to Ecuador, Taim, which extends from the Chipotle leadership and is set to open its 5th location, and Sajj Mediterranean opening its 8th location, exemplify the new wave of menu focused fast-casual Mediterranean restaurants. Combine these with the already existing trailblazers such as Garbanzo, Zoe’s Kitchen, and Noon Mediterranean (formerly Verts), which focus more heavily on customization, and you can see a strong pattern of flavor-first concepts taking a strong hold in an already crowded marketplace.

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Drivers of these establishments include on-trend flavors like harissa, preserved lemon, and za’ataar. The common link between these items is their unique depth of flavor stemming from ingredients or procedures uncommon to the average American diner. This dissociation will not last long though, especially at the current rate of growth in the Mediterranean food market.

There’s still plenty to taste and explore in this cuisine, and hopefully it’s continued popularity will drive some of the even more ambiguous items, such as Cholent and Magiritsa, into the spotlight.

Until then, we’ll keep our eyes open and tasting spoons ready.

Cheers!

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