April 11th, 2018

Fast Food Quality Is Way Better Than You Think

Posted in Product Innovation, R&D Technology

Recently, a friend of Culinary Culture, Chef Jerome Rejano, was featured in an excellent write up by FoodBeast.com. Read below to learn why the quality of some fast food may be higher than you think it is.

If you would like to see the original article, please click here, and remember to follow our friends at FoodBeast.com for industry news and quality content.

(All content and images hereon courtesy of FoodBeast.com and Constantine Spyrou)

Fast Food Quality Is Way Better Than You Think, This Chef Helps Ensure That

Constantine Spyrou
Feb 20, 2018

What’s your take on fast food quality? Thanks to chefs in the food industry, it may be a lot better than what you think.

fast food quality

Food industry chefs like Jerome Rejano of CTI Foods work to create high-quality foods for the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry. CTI Foods, for example, supplies brands at the national, regional, and local level with soups, sauces, and proteins. These include shredded chicken, taco meat, hamburger patties, steak strips, and chili. “If a fast food restaurant has one of those items, more than likely CTI is manufacturing that,” Rejano, CTI’s director of culinary and innovation, told Foodbeast.

But while most consumers today see fast food as low quality, Rejano and CTI Foods actually work to bring out the best in every single one of their products. Rejano utilizes his fine dining background and food science knowledge to ensure that CTI’s lineup is delicious, safe, and made with quality ingredients.

That job starts with the grades of meat CTI uses for their proteins. When it comes to fast food meats, “there’s always a connotation that it’s dog food, it’s dog meat, it’s what’s gonna go into pet food or canner or something like that,” said Rejano.

However, while each client will allow and disallow specific grades of meat, several specify USDA Select or better. For those unfamiliar with the USDA grading system, Select is the third-highest in terms of quality, behind Choice and Prime. Most of the beef and pork you can find in grocery stores is Select, meaning the meat you buy there is the same CTI uses to make fast food items.

There’s also a lot of quality assurance and food safety procedure that goes into every batch of product sent out to quick-service-restaurants by CTI. Rejano detailed exactly what some of those are:

“Raw material can’t exceed a certain age, if it’s in a package, it can’t exceed X amount of days, and then we have so many days to use it once it’s opened. In manufacturing we have certain temperatures to hit to ensure that everything is fully cooked. And even after things are made, we send them out for microbiological testing to make sure there’s no spoilage, there’s no pathogens in there like E. coli, Salmonella, some of those bugs that you hear about in food. As the manufacturer, we’re really responsible for putting out safe food first, and it’s a benefit on my end if it tastes good.”

Even with all of that testing, chains and clients will still come in for regular audits of CTI’s facilities to ensure everything is up to their specifications. During these visits, Rejano will flex his “culinary muscle” and serve fine dining-type dishes to show that the raw materials CTI works with are of a quality the customer is looking for.

Companies like CTI ensure that what you’re eating at your go-to fast food spots uses the same quality ingredients you can cook with at home. If that’s the case, though, why aren’t these restaurant chains advertising that they’re not selling “dog food” quality product?

A big reason is that if they did, people that saw fast food as higher quality would also see it as more pricey. Many major QSR chains look to capitalize on their value menus to drive traffic. The perception that they had higher-quality meat would harm their “we’re cheap” brand images. The fact that these QSRs are able to marry the two together is a remarkable feat, and something they should get a little more credit for.

Rejano feels that for those skeptical about fast food, they should “give the brand a chance.”

“Depending on what fast food chain you go to, even if you have a restricted diet, or have some likes or dislikes or eat a little bit cleaner, there’s still options out there. These fast food chains are really gearing for a pretty wide net. So if someone’s not a really high fast food user, you still have choices — it’s just a matter of seeking those out. And again, the ingredients are pretty high quality.”

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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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