Up-Close: 2015 Food and Beverage Innovation Award Winners
A second look at the National Restaurant Association’s Food and Beverage Innovation honorees
Editor’s note: This spring saw the National Restaurant Association (NRA) recognize some of foodservice industry’s top new food and beverage products. A panel of commercial and non-commercial industry experts considered numerous entries and then honored 28 food, beverage and supply products with Food and Beverage Innovation (FABI) awards (see honorees, page 35). Prepared Foods also put follow-up questions to three contest judges: John Li, senior vice president of RD at Bloomin’ Brands; Robin Rosenberg, vice president, chef de cuisine, Levy Restaurants; and Jennifer Ziegler, director of purchasing, Aramark.
Prepared Foods: Was there a particular new entry that stood out to you?
John Li: I was impressed most with Atalanta’s Del Destino Ready to Eat quinoa. They won me over and my vote because they delivered benefits against some major needs: health and wellness, convenience and Mediterranean Influenced flavor profiles. They covered all three trends in one product. The single portion pack delivered on-the-go convenience. The quinoa base delivered on-trend health and the flavor delivered big taste and quality cues.
The Gluten Free Wholesome Flour Blend delivered against the ever growing demand for gluten free—but with the culinary credentials of the French Laundry. This made believing they could deliver function and taste a “no brainer” and the product did deliver when put in application.
Robin Rosenberg: Taft Foodmasters’ Vegetarian Gyros really stood out to me. The vegan sector is such a hard niche to fill and 90% of the items do not taste very good. The gyros were delicious and fill a big need!
Jennifer Ziegler: I thought the Trident Seafoods’ Alaskan Whitefish Burger was an excellent product with great flavor and texture. It is a refreshing break from the more popular salmon burgers you see on menus today. I also liked the Earnest Eats’ Energized Hot Cereal Cups. I thought they were very on trend with the super-foods included along with the ancient grains of quinoa, oats and amaranth.
PF: So you’d say that the food and beverage honorees are keeping pace with consumer interests?
Li: I saw a few major trends addressed with this year’s award winners. Topping the list was health and wellness that ranged from gluten free (including Whoopie Pies to base baking flours) to protein with Organic Black Bean Spaghetti (25g protein).
The second trend involves consumers’ desire for fresh and less processed offerings. The Nice Fruit patented process excited me. It shows that old technologies can be updated and optimized (frozen) to deliver fresher cues and peak flavor of season harvests with their product line.
Delivering premium experiences was the last big trend and seen in products like the Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic and the Iberico Chorizo. These offerings are all about product narratives and fantastic flavor delivery.
Rosenberg: Most of the items filled current needs in the industry, such as consumer interest for gluten free, low fat, natural and healthy. I was very impressed that manufacturers are so current!
Ziegler: Most of the products submitted were in line with a trend that is currently top of mind for consumers. Whether it be a gluten free, natural, healthy, organic or clean label—most of the products submitted fit into one of those buckets.
PF: Are the food and beverage honorees in step with back-of-the-house needs?
Li: I think of RP’S Pasta Company’s fully cooked, IQF gluten-free pasta and Trident Seafoods’ SeaFusions Pacific Cod Bites. These items help address a major need on the operations side of our business. It’s always a major benefit when products allow operators to execute innovation with lower levels of added complexity.
Rosenberg: I did not notice as much focus on back-of-the-house needs. Most items we were shown were fully prepared and ready to eat!
Ziegler: Some did a great job thinking about their packaging and how it would work in a traditional foodservice environment. Others were more retail focused.
PF: How could manufacturer-suppliers better work with you on new menu offerings?
Li: I feel the best solutions require constant, two-way communication between the vendor and client development team. A manufacturer needs a strong knowledge and understanding of category dynamics where the client competes. This helps uncover insights and opportunities so the two sides can work together for win-win project.
Rosenberg: That’s a tough question. There are so many middle men that very seldom do you directly deal or communicate with the manufacturer.
Ziegler: It’s important that product manufacturers think about a traditional foodservice environment and how their products would be utilized in a back-of-the-house environment. Labor, waste, costing, ease of use etc., are all challenges facing today’s foodservice operator. I think many manufacturers are too retail focused and don’t understand the complexities of foodservice.
2015 FABI AWARD WINNERS
(excludes non-food products)
Company: Atalanta Corp.
Product: Del Destino Pre-Cooked Quinoa
Description: “Requiring no additional cooking or preparation, this versatile, shelf-stable, and ready-to-eat quinoa—available in both red and white variety—delivers outstanding taste, consistent preparation without added labor costs, and superior storage and handling capabilities.”
Company: Atalanta Corp.
Product: Del Destino Ready-to-Eat Quinoa Salad
Description: “Utilizing pre-cooked quinoa and premium vegetables, this shelf-stable and ready-to-eat salad is available in five distinct flavor combinations—each of which delivers both great taste and convenience in a nutritious, high-protein, vegetarian meal.”
Company: Brands of Britain LLC
Product: Fever-Tree Hand-Picked Elderflower Tonic Water
Description: “Artisan-crafted in glass bottles to ensure premium freshness and high levels of carbonation, Fever-Tree Hand-Picked Elderflower Tonic Water uses only the best natural ingredients—handpicked elderflower from the UK, real quinine from Africa, and pure cane sugar—making its refreshing floral flavor both light and subtle in character, a true standout among mixers.”
Company: Bungalow 23
Product: Culinary Cocktail Mixers
Description: “Bungalow 23 establishes a new beverage category: true, craft-quality cocktail mixers - the finest fruits and herbs from around the world, such as Willamette Valley blueberries, French lavender and fresh cut lemongrass, are hand-crafted into complex, balanced, award-winning taste profiles ideal for pairing with premium spirits.”
Company: Cane Simple
Product: Cane Simple Liquid Sugar
Description: “The only individually packaged simple syrup on the market and available in three flavors— Original, Mint and Vanilla - this all-natural Liquid Sugar not only dissolves instantly into cold beverages (unlike granulated sugar), but is ideal for hot beverages too.”
Company: Cheatin’ Wheat
Product: Gluten-Free Pancake Mix
Description: “From bag to bowl to griddle in less than 5 minutes, this gluten-free pancake mix delivers on both taste and texture, creating deliciously light and fluffy pancakes every time while also being versatile enough to be used for crispy waffles, buttery biscuits and scrumptious scones.”
Company: Cheatin’ Wheat
Product: Gluten-Free Whoopie Pie
Description: “Developed by a professional chef and culinary instructor, these Whoopie Pies are made with a proprietary flour blend that leaves the devil’s food cake fantastically light, fluffy, and delicious– the perfect defrost-and-serve option for any foodservice establishment looking to offer patrons a cream-filled, chocolaty and gluten-free treat.”
Company: Cup4Cup LLC
Product: Gluten-Free Wholesome Flour Blend
Description: “Developed in the kitchen of the famed French Laundry in Napa Valley, Calif., Cup4Cup’s new Wholesome flour blend boasts such healthy additions as ground golden flaxseed and rice bran delivering 4g of fiber, 1200mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 14g of whole grains per serving, making this the premier certified gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher and non-GMO Project Verified cup-for-cup flour replacement for cooking and baking.”
Company: Dawn Food Products Inc.
Product: Gluten-Free Cookies
Description: “Available fully baked in three popular varieties of Chocolate Chip, Candy and Oatmeal Raisin, Dawn’s individually wrapped Gluten-Free Cookies not only taste rich and chewy; they are certified gluten-free by the GFCO and trans-fat-free.”
Company: Dawn Food Products Inc.
Product: Gluten-Free Muffins
Description: “Certified gluten-free by the GFCO and available in three popular flavors of Blueberry, Banana Nut, and Double Chocolate, these nationally distributed, individually wrapped muffins provide operators the ability to offer a great-tasting, trans-fat-free line of gluten-free muffins for breakfast, snack or dessert.”
Company: Earnest Eats
Product: Energized Hot Cereal Cups
Description: “Organic, wheat-free and ready in just five minutes, Energized Hot Cereal Cups contain the world’s first oatmeal made with sustainable Coffee Fruit—an amazing super-food with, among other benefits, five times the fiber of whole-grain wheat flour and a light caffeine lift—in addition to quinoa, oats, and amaranth grains for sustained energy all morning long.”
Company: Explore Asian
Product: Organic Black Bean Spaghetti
Description: “Offering foodservice operators another way to reach the growing consumer audience looking for healthier meals and gluten-free dishes, this delicious Black Bean Spaghetti cooks to al dente in just 7-8 minutes, delivering an organic, vegan, non-GMO and kosher experience packed with 25g of protein and 12g of fiber per serving.”
Company: Hail Merry LLC
Product: Nut Hummus
Description: “Made from Macadamia nuts and cashews rather than traditional garbanzo beans, these dairy and gluten-free vegan dips are available in three savory flavors of Sriracha, Red Pepper Macadamia and Hatch Green Chile.”
Company: Mr. Bey Foods Corp.
Product: Petit Gateau Chocolate Lava Cake
Description: “Featuring a cocoa nugget center that creates a lusciously warm chocolate filling when heated either by microwave or conventional oven, Petit Gateau Chocolate Lava Cake combines irresistible taste with speedy prep time, making it the perfect fit for any restaurant looking for a consistently delicious and cost-effective dessert.”
Company: Oregon Fruit Products LLC
Product: Fruit in Hand Original Pourable Fruit
Description: “Manufactured using a cold process to maintain the remarkable flavor and vivid color of farm-fresh fruit picked at the peak of ripeness, this premium, pourable fruit base with no artificial flavor or colors offers a healthy, more authentic alternative to syrups for beverages, cocktails, smoothies, desserts, sauces, toppings and breakfast applications.”
Company: The Original Cakerie
Product: Inspired By Happiness Gluten-Free Two Layer Dreamin’ Cakes
Description: “Created with premium ingredients such as Belgian white chocolate, succulent strawberry fruit filling, and chocolate ganache, these two decadent desserts, one featuring two layers of dark chocolate sponge cake, the other two scrumptious layers of light, yet moist shortcake, will have patrons wondering how they could be gluten-free.”
Company: RP’s Pasta Company
Product: Fully Cooked IQF Gluten-Free Pasta
Description: “Fully cooked, IQF frozen and portioned into 8oz bags, this gluten-free pasta saves the operator time, avoids waste, and prevents cross-contamination by reheating with sauce in a sauté pan only as needed. The pasta uses brown rice flour, starch and egg as its three primary ingredients, giving it the same authentic al dente texture and taste as traditional high-end pastas.”
Company: Sipp Eco Beverage Co. Inc.
Product: Sipp Sparkling Organics
Description: “USDA-certified organic and containing absolutely no preservatives, artificial flavors or coloring, Sipp Sparkling Organics bottled beverages are sweetened with agave nectar, rather than sugar, and come in four different varieties.”
Company: Taft Foodmasters LLC
Product: Vegetarian Gyro
Description: “The perfect protein alternative for both meat and non-meat eaters, this authentically seasoned, 100% plant-based Vegetarian Gyro comes pre-sliced and warms in just 30 seconds on each side.”
Company: Trident Seafoods
Product: Alaskan Whitefish Burger
Description: “Made from Wild-Caught, certified-sustainable Alaska Pollock, these quick-frozen, easy-to-prepare burgers, available in 3.2oz and 4oz sizes, are seasoned with a flavor-enhancing herb blend of garlic, pepper, and chives.”
Company: Trident Seafoods
Product: SeaFusions Pacific Cod Bites
Description: “Made from Wild-Caught Pacific Cod and available in two delicious flavors of Crunchy Potato and Spicy Sriracha, SeaFusions Pacific Cod Bites cook from frozen in minutes and deliver 13g of protein per eight-piece serving, making them the perfect choice to leverage many of today’s hot snacking, sharing and small plate trends.”
Company: Wagshal’s Imports
Product: Authentic Raw Spanish Ibérico Chorizo
Description: “Available frozen in convenient one-pound packages for effective portion control, this delicious nitrate-free chorizo is coarse ground and mildly spiced with Spanish pimento. It is the first and only available in the US from the Fermin family made from raw Spanish Ibérico pork and all natural ingredients, providing premium taste without the premium price.”
Company: Waiakea Inc.
Product: Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water
Description: “Beginning as snowmelt and rain in one of the purest environments on Earth—the peak of Hawaii’s active Mauna Loa volcano—then naturally filtered through 14,000 feet of porous volcanic rock, Waiakea volcanic water offers consumers a delicious tasting, naturally healthy, alkaline, carbon-neutral and ethically sustainable thirst-quenching beverage.”