Once a year, the British publicationRestaurant Magazinepublishes a list of the premier restaurants, called The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It is gathered by obtaining feedback from over 800 international restaurant industry experts, from food critics to restaurant chefs, each selected for their expert opinion regarding the international restaurant scene. This year, two American-based restaurants made the top 10: Chicago-based Alinea at #6 and New York City’s Per Se at #10. Alinea owner/chef Grant Achatz’s cuisine has been described as deconstructed food, unfamiliar flavor combinations and theatre to tableware, with dishes served in test tubes, cylinders and even multi-layered bowls that come apart. Recently, Alinea was awarded three Michelin stars, Michelin’s highest ranking, bestowed to only 97 restaurants this year, worldwide.

Per Se owner chef Thomas Keller notes his goal is to pique the sensations of his customers’ palates. Each day, two unique nine-course menus are created. Food critics describe Per Se as an urban interpretation of Keller’s highly acclaimed other restaurant, The French Laundry, located in Napa Valley, Calif. Per Se’s menu includes such options as compressed strawberries and Persian cucumbers with Greek yogurt; and Applewood-smoked liberty farm Peking duck (served with summer pole beans, pickled watermelon rind and Burgundy mustard).

 So, the question is: Can the same philosophy and culinary know-how of many top chefs be used in the manufacturing industry, to create outstanding retail food and beverage products?

 Chicago-based chef Charlie Trotter, whose restaurant has been awarded the prestigious AAA Five diamond Award for 16 straight years, produces a line of retail, gourmet, smoked salmon products, each with a quality good enough to be placed on any high-end restaurant’s menu. There are two flavors; one is citrus-cured smoked salmon (made of salmon, kosher salt, natural cane juice, orange peel, lemon peel, vodka, assorted herbs, spices and hardwood smoke). The other flavor is Darjeeling tea and ginger salmon (made of salmon, kosher salt, brown sugar and five toasted spices). A fusion of Darjeeling tea and ginger is steeped with some fresh citrus zest and added to the cure. The salmon is then smoked, using a unique blend of fruit wood and Darjeeling tea leaf.

Both salmon flavors are packaged and sold in 4oz, 1lb and 2.5oz sizes. They are sold in the refrigerated section of retail gourmet specialty stores, as well as Chicago-based Trotter’s To Go.

[This is an abbreviated version of an article first appearing in the July 25, 2011, issue of Prepared FoodsE-dition. For the full article and information about subscribing to E-dition, visit www.PreparedFoods.com.]

Food Prices on Consumers

According to Deloitte’s new “2011 Consumer Food and Product Insight Survey,” nearly nine in 10 respondents (87.7%) believe prices in food stores are escalating, and almost three quarters (74%) say the size of some packaged goods is smaller. Consequently, savvy consumers are purchasing more private label and store brand products. More than three quarters of respondents (75.3%) purchased lower priced products, and nearly two in five respondents (39.6%) added more private label products to their grocery bags.

High gas prices are also having an impact on shopping behaviors. Some 73% are making fewer trips to the grocery store to save money, and more than two fifths (40.8%) are purchasing fewer items overall.

“Higher prices, smaller package sizes and pain at the pump are driving consumers to buy lower priced grocery items,” said Pat Conroy, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and the U.S. consumer products practice leader. “That’s why now, more than ever, it is important for consumer products companies to strengthen their customer relationships and distinguish value ahead of the competition.”

Consumers are paying more attention to “front-of-package” nutrition information to assist them in making healthier decisions, according to the survey.  More than three in four respondents (76.2%) say they more often want healthier food options when they shop, and nearly two thirds (64.8%) agree or somewhat agree that food retailers are starting to sell more locally produced fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, nearly half of respondents (49.3%) agree that packaging displaying a row of standardized icons called “Nutrition Keys” on the front of the package, with standard ingredients listed on the back, would be very helpful for purchasing decisions. The survey also found more than half (51.1%) of food shoppers read the ingredients on unfamiliar food items.

“The front-of-package findings, coupled with survey results showing that consumers are trending toward healthier food purchases, present a tremendous opportunity for consumer products companies that are willing to enhance their nutritional transparency,” said Conroy.

The proliferation of smartphones and savvier shoppers have spurred consumers to use mobile devices to assist with several aspects of their shopping routines, based on the survey. More than one third (34%) of smartphone users research food prices or product information while in a store.

Overall, more than one half (53%) of shoppers surveyed are increasingly using technology to obtain information about food products, and more than one quarter (28%) of respondents interacted with a food retailer via their mobile application or website. Furthermore, more than one fifth (23.5%) of survey respondents expect their smartphone-related grocery shopping activity to increase next year.



Weight and Price  

September 2011/Prepared Foods “Market Watch”-- A recent USDA study found food prices have small, but statistically significant, effects on children’s body mass index (BMI). Lower prices for some healthier foods, such as low-fat milk and dark green vegetables, are associated with decreases in children’s BMI. In contrast, lower prices for soda, 100% juices, starchy vegetables and sweet snacks are associated with increases in children’s BMI. Specifically, results show a 10% price decrease for low-fat milk in the previous quarter is associated with a decrease in BMI of approximately 0.35%, or about 0.07 BMI unit for an 8- to 9-year-old. In addition, a 10% drop in the price of dark green vegetables (e.g., spinach and broccoli) in the previous quarter is associated with a reduction in BMI of 0.28%, while a decrease in the price of sweet snacks during the previous quarter is associated with an increase in BMI of 0.27%.

 Soda prices were shown to have a greater effect on children in households with income below 200% of the federal poverty line. Prices for healthy foods, such as low-fat milk and green vegetables, have greater effects on higher BMI children than on those of average weight. Prices for less-healthy food groups, such as carbonated beverages, fruit drinks and starchy vegetables, have greater effects on BMI for children of average weight.

Weight management will be the focus of the next Prepared Foods’ Virtual Expo, to be held October 5, 2011. For more information, visit www.preparedfoodsvirtualexpo.com.





For daily industry news updates, see the homepage of www.PreparedFoods.com and www.NutraSolutions.com.

* The Food Institute will partner with the Consumer Federation of America for the 34th Annual National Food Policy Conference, scheduled for October 3-4, in Washington, D.C. For additional information, contact Doreen Pfeiffer; 201-791-5570, ext. 218; doreen.pfeiffer@foodinstitute.com.

* Ocean Spray has the results of its cranberry concentrate trading event: Ocean Spray reported the sale of a total 148,750 gallons of cranberry concentrate.

* David Michael & Co.’s ninth annual Innovation Roadshow® will be held Wednesday, April 25, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing. More information may be found at www.dmflavors.com. The company also added Mary Gromlowicz in Processed Flavors, Amanda Prudente as flavor technician for Creative Flavors, Victoria Vaynberger as marketing and consumer insights manager, and Xiaofan (Isabella) Gao’s addition to David Michael Beijing as a food technologist.

* Mike Kramer has been promoted to senior applications scientist for the Food, Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Technical Services group at Grain Processing Corporation, and Rob Bohannon has joined the company as a technical sales representative in the Food, Pharmaceutical and Personal Care group.

* Sensient Flavors & Fragrances Group has expanded its extraction capabilities with a new, state-of-the-art CO2 extraction plant based in Indianapolis, Ind.

* Technology Crops International announced the opening of its state-of-the-art oilseed processing facility at the company’s location in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

* Kendall College in Chicago is thrilled to announce one of its chef instructors, Dina Altieri of Mt. Prospect, Ill., won the American Culinary Federation’s Chef Educator of the Year Award for 2011 at the ACF’s National Convention in Dallas.

* WILD Flavors GmbH has relocated its East China Sales and Shanghai Flavor Creations Teams to the Shanghai Juke Biotech Park, utilizing over 870 square meters of new office and lab space.