May 29th, 2017

NRA 2017 – Top Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Shows, Food Trends, Packaging, Product Innovation

Top Trends in Food from the
2017 NRA Show

Wednesday wrapped up a great week of learning and exploration at the 2017 National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, Il.

There was so much to see, touch, taste, and learn, but I’ll try to pick a few really popular trends to highlight for those of you who couldn’t make it.

Let’s dive in…

#1 – Cold Brew Nitro Coffee

Well if there was one trend that popped up more than any other, it was cold brew nitro coffee. On tap, artisan, slushy, and soft serve varieties available for whatever application you could imagine.

#2 – Go Nuts for Donuts!

Honestly, donuts haven’t really gone anywhere. Everyone loves fried dough. But NRA would show us that donuts, especially exciting, decadent donuts, are thriving. People are loving the idea of customization and seeing donuts in unique places like sandwiches and sundaes.

#3 – Compostables

All image above courtesy of PacknWood. Available at https://www.packnwood.com/home.jhtm.

If you want to take a stake in this millennial market you better be using compostable products. From plates, cups, straws, wrapper, utensils, to-go boxes, and even chopsticks, compostable products have become a must for any operation that wants to be a serious competitor.

Others

Other noteworthy trends included sparkling beverages, including coffee and kombucha, guacamole variations, atomization in the food process, and a continuing array of vegetarian and vegan food products.

If you’ve noticed any cool trends or were at the NRA 2017 show and saw something I missed, let me know! We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

 

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September 26th, 2016

Food Trucks Series: Picnik

Posted in Food Trends, Food Trucks, Gluten Free, Healthy, New Foods and Flavors, Paleo, Product Innovation, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

If there’s one thing we know Austin does great, it’s food trucks. These portable testaments to culinary dedication span the spectrum of culinary adventurism.

You can find everything from fancy Turkish breakfasts, savory fried bananas, and traditional African cuisine via a local food truck. Honestly, it’s a blessing and a curse. With all this amazing food at your fingertips the budget is always in jeopardy.

For this series we are going to explore some of Austin’s unique food truck options. Our first stop will be Picnik, which, admittedly, is more of a “trailer” than a food truck, but let’s not get hung up on the semantics.

1

About Picnik

Picnik focuses on healthful, gluten-free and paleo food options made with only the highest quality ingredients. They set themselves apart from the traditionally decadent food truck scene with a focus on nutrient dense, flavor packed options.

You’ll find no refined sugars or white flour on this menu, but what you will find are unique dishes that will satiate both your stomach and your spirit.

The Food

BUTTER COFFEE

2

Butter is back! Sporting a rich aroma with notes of hazelnut, this coffee offers hearty flavor with luxurious mouthfeel. Even with no sugar, the butter coffee hits sweet notes on the palate. The butter and MCT oil offer creamy texture without overwhelming the drinker.

BONE BROTH

3

I took the guidance of the barista on this one and ordered the classic beef bone broth with a hit of ginger and spicy pepper. Glad I did. Great flavor, rich notes of marrow, wonderful herbal notes and a kick at the end. In my opinion the ginger came on too strong but overall the broth was executed wonderfully with a beautiful fatless surface.

CHORIZO FRITTATA

4

I love eggs. Period. I really wanted to love this frittata. Unfortunately, the heavy cornmeal flavor and aroma snuffed out any taste of chorizo and left it flat. Very dense and a bit under seasoned I’d say the heart is in the right place on this one but it could use a revamp.

BROCCOLI CRUNCH

5

I was not expecting to enjoy this dish as much as I did. The broccoli was fresh and bright with great crunch and flavor. I loved the pairing of the creamy avocado oil mayonnaise with sweet currants, salty bacon, and tangy red onions. The only knock on this dish was that the chicken, while flavorful, was overcooked by a good 5 minutes. It was so chewy and fibrous that I pitched it in order to get more of that delicious broccoli.

BLONDIE

6

What a winner! Ultra-moist, soft, and bursting with flavor, this gluten-free gem makes you forget flour has purpose. The combination of coconut sugar and almond flour gives off a rich, almost fig-like flavor and texture. Just excellent.

Thoughts

I respect the heck out of Picnik. With an extremely difficult platform they manage to offer good, healthful food choices without skimping on flavor. They’ve got some hurdles to mount but I think they can get there. I would certainly return for a BBB lunch anytime (Bone Broth, Broccoli Crunch, and Blondie).

Where to Picnik

You can visit Picnik online at http://picnikaustin.com/ or at one of their following locations:

1700 S Lamar 400-B
Austin, TX 78704

4801 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78756

 

CHEERS!

March 8th, 2016

How High Speed Home Delivery Will Change How We Eat in 2016

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Marketing, Product Innovation, Promotions, Restaurants, Retail, Trends

If you are craving a burger, but don’t feel like leaving the house, you’re not alone. According to Technomic’s 2016 food trends, the shift to eating in is driving significant growth in the easy order app sector, allowing consumers to order from the comfort of their couch. This trend toward cozy dinners in front of the TV, while watching Netflix in your pajamas, is just beginning to pick up traction. And it’s not limited to fast food either: Safeway and Meijer will deliver your groceries. It’s estimated up to 17 percent of grocery shopping to be done online by the year 2023.

Let’s look at some of the major players in the food delivery sector:

Uber: this rideshare giant has cornered the market in transporting people. They even have some novel offerings, such their ‘puppy delivery service’. Essentially bringing adoptable puppies to you for a play date. This summer they delivered free ice cream if you ordered through the app. A partnership with InterContinental Hotels Group allows riders to earn points towards their stay at participating hotels. And yes, Uber is getting into the food delivery business with Uber Eats, their food delivery platform. Serving 12 cities, including Paris and Toronto, they guarantee a 10 minute delivery within a very limited delivery range. Once you order the food, you just pick it up curbside. How simple is that?

Amazon: they have the drones, they have Amazon Prime, and now they have Amazon Prime Now, which can deliver anything from groceries to cleaning supplies in under 2 hours. That time is cut in half with an order of food arriving within 1 hour. The current delivery area is limited, serving only seven cities as of March 2016. They do have an advantage over the Uber model in that they seem to cover a larger area, you just have to wait a little longer. They even offered free cookies during the holiday season as a promotion.

Postmates: also an up and coming delivery service that features a plethora of items for delivery. Get your groceries and lunch with a delivery fee starting at an affordable $4.99. They also offered for the holidays a “12 days of Christmas” promotion where you could choose from an array of gifts to be delivered each day of the promotion. They have signed agreements with Chipotle, McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Doordash: established in 2013, they are a relative fledgling in the delivery service industry. Regardless, DoorDash has already managed to secure contracts with Taco Bell, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts. They are also in a pending litigation with In-N-Out regarding delivery of their food without permission. The lawsuit calls into question the issues of food safety and trademark infringement. Brand identity and food safety are pretty critical to any chain establishment, so the outcome of this lawsuit could set the tone for the future of delivery service companies.

EatOutIn: This model employs an interface where the order is sent to the restaurant and an independent driver in the local area are notified when a delivery is ready. One of the first entrants into this market, the company has been serving the Austin, TX area since 1986 with recent expansions to San Antonio and Houston.

Grubhub: one of the pioneers of the food delivery industry and the one you are probably most familiar with, Grubhub has the largest delivery base, including over 1000 cities and more than 40,000 restaurants. Their “Track Your Grub” feature gives real time updates on the status of your order. The recently merged with Seamless and formed GrubHub, Inc. in August 2013. Dedicated to bringing the best delivery dining experience, the company offers 24/7 order support to its customers.

 

December 10th, 2015

Technology for the R&D Professional

Posted in About Allison, Product Innovation, R&D Technology, Trends

For Research and Development teams, one thing is sure: getting your products to market as quickly as possible is the key to staying ahead of the competition. Today’s technology takes the R&D Development team well beyond Excel spreadsheets, paper forms and disjointed software systems. The future of food product development lies not in fragmented and disconnected programs but rather in a fully functioning solution that integrates all steps of the R&D process while linking it to critical company information.

From prototype development, and formulation, all the way up through taste tests with customizable surveys, online integrated solutions are the wave of the future.

Flavorstudio Suite

One company looking to change how the research and development department works is Senspire, LLC. Started in Palo Alto, California by Gregory Willis, Senspire has developed the Flavorstudio Suite as a powerful workhorse that allows the development chef to accelerate the development life cycle. A truly powerful management tool, the online platform is broken down into 4 distinct modules: Projects, Inspire, Recipes and Taste Tests.

Projects Module

You can create projects, tasks and subtasks with deadlines; assign tasks to team members; add customers; and set project priorities. The repository allows team members to upload or download documents related to the project. You can also send messages to the team through the messages link.

Inspire Module

Here you have the ability to create flavor relationships. Start by searching for an ingredient, in this case, we will use garlic. You can create weak or strong relationships between the ingredient and other ingredients. The database is 1,000,000 items strong, so the combinations are endless. What the Inspire module does well is show the strongest flavor relationships between multiple ingredients, lending ease to the development process, especially in unfamiliar territory. In addition, the Inspire module is where one can create recipes. There is also the ability to share the recipes and scale up the recipes by changing the batch size. Want to know how much the recipe will cost? No problem, there is even a built in yield and cost option.

Recipe Module

The warehouse for all of your company’s recipes. Here you can view your current recipes, share them with colleagues, and even create new versions of the recipe. A tab along the top shows all versions in order so that you can compare changes between versions. And you can add ingredients to a subcategory. For example, let’s say you work for a spice company. To maintain better organization, you can create a subcategory titled “Spice Blends” and then add all of your spice recipes to the subcategory. It is an easy way to ensure consistency and efficiency in the process.

Taste Tests

The last module is designed to help elicit feedback from consumers, whether internal or external. The module allows you to create a taste test, set time and location parameters, add products (from your recipes module) and add tasters. It can even be set up to require a login to do the survey. You can publish the taste test, which links it to a specific project as well, and you can duplicate a taste test for efficiency.

One other part of the software that is an excellent organizing tool is the Admin section. In this section, you can add customer profiles; import recipes and costing; configure the parameters for formulation, ingredients and recipes; and set yields and costs. You can also set parameters for projects in this section, including fields visible in the dashboard.

What makes this online suite so useful above everything else is its accessibility. If you have an internet connection, you have access to the database, making it a truly convenient option.

For a better feel for Flavorstudio capabilities, start a free 7-day trial at http://www.senspirellc.com/

Alpha MOS Electronic Nose

Another challenge to R&D professionals is the matching process. We are often times asked to replicate a product without access to the formula. Relying on the human tongue can be subjective at best. By isolating the volatile chemicals in a sample, devices such as the electronic nose can accelerate the formulation step.

Electronic noses employ gas chromatography to verify chemical makeup as well as olfactometry, which can determine odor and concentration.  The combination of technologies provides a powerful solution to the issue of product consistency as well as robust analysis of product components to make effective formulation revisions.

Alpha MOS specializes in providing top solutions for flavor and order analysis. Want to make sure your products are consistent? Want to crack the code on an elusive flavor note? The Fox electronic nose is easy to use but can break down volatile chemicals and aromas with respect to concentration, origin of products and shelf life.

The model consists of 3 components: the headspace autosampler, the electronic nose unit and the software package.

The headspace autosampler can house up to 96 samples and a large vessel 750mL sampling oven. Sample headspace is generated so that the detection system sensors can identify the volatile chemical present in the sample.

From there, the samples are analyzed by the electronic nose. The Fox model houses up to 18 sensors, allowing for very fast and accurate analysis of bench samples with minimal sample preparation.

The integrated software then takes the data gathered by the electronic nose and generates and output depending on requested criteria.

With all of these features, the Alpha MOS line of products is a formidable development tool, and one you should consider having in your arsenal.

If you are looking for a more entry level model, Alpha MOS also offers an electronic tongue, the Astree. The model allows for a global analysis of compounds in solution. It can determine shelf life as well as offer taste comparisons to other samples. While not as robust as the Fox model, it can provide broad insight into the makeup of a compound mixture.

As you can see, technology advancements can make the development process all that more streamlined, assisting the development team at meeting and beating development timelines.

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