“Boursin-stuffed kangaroo nachos with roasted avocado corn salad and huckleberry habanero demi-glace” reflects the latest trends that are emerging from foodservice, according to a new report called “Emerging Food Concept Trends in Foodservice” from Packaged Facts. Not only are these “out there,” adventurous menu items in restaurants today, they are also beginning to show up in the mainstream and may even be considered the future of comfort food. Some examples that have made the leap are Roasted Red Pepper with Goat Cheese Kettle Chips and the Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar burger at Carl’s Jr.

New emerging concepts range from retro to artisan, eco-conscious to global fusion, and they require an experienced, talented and creative product development team. Meet Christopher J. Stepan, corporate chef and “master of innovation” at Vegetable Juices Inc. (known as VJI). Equipped with a full state-of-the-art test kitchen and Culinary Innovation Center, 38 years of diverse culinary experience and a team of talented associates, he has been creating forward-thinking concepts such as Butternut and Baileys, a smooth butter cream white chocolate ganache infused with butternut squash and Bailey’s Irish Cream; this and other concepts have been created for many of their clients—the major food marketers and manufacturers in North America. (See chart.)

In combination with the full service product line of vegetable juices, purees, diced, chopped and roasted vegetables at VJI, chef Stepan is creating unique flavor palates while also keeping an eye on the functionality and formulation of prepared food products. Clients who work with VJI at the Culinary Innovation Center to develop recipes are invited to an expansive day of trends review, brainstorming and stimulating concept sampling. Then, “As our guests settle into the creative environment that we have developed, they find it easy to relax and remove themselves from preconceived notions; their minds become open to all the possibilities—that is when things really get interesting,” says Barry Horne, vice president of sales and marketing. With the downtown Chicago restaurant scene available, a field trip can provide additional focus. For those clients who cannot personally visit the 5,000-sq-ft center, Horne explains that they can be accommodated with video web conferencing in the innovation process. VJI has the full capability to innovate concepts and applications for a wide array of products including meats and proteins, dairy, baking, retort items, salad dressings, marinades and dips. Vegetable Juices is also developing a line of proprietary concentrated vegetable and fruit juices that offer authentic fresh flavor and vibrant natural colors for unique applications in beverages and related products.

At the end of July 2007, Vegetable Juices will be hosting an open house in conjunction with the national IFT Show, which is being held at McCormick Place in Chicago (July 28-Aug 1). A tour, an Innovation Presentation and tastings of creative concepts will be the highlights of the event. The company invites readers to see how food innovation meets proprietary manufacturing to produce prepared foods that are as hip, fresh and tasty as menu items from the trendiest restaurants.

For more information:

Vegetable Juices Inc., Bedford Park, Ill.
Barry Horne, 708-924-9500,horne@vegetablejuices.com,www.vegetablejuices.com