When you host an awards program honoring new product innovation—it’s okay (and perhaps even expected) to add make some improvements. That’s why Prepared Foods and Ventura Foods recast have the annual “Spirit of Innovation Awards,” which recognize food and beverage formulators’ exemplary teamwork and new product achievements.
EDITOR’S PICK/MOST UNIQUE:
BEST NEW RETAIL FOOD:
BEST NEW RETAIL BEVERAGE:
BEST NEW FOODSERVICE ITEM/FRONT OF HOUSE:
BEST NEW FOODSERVICE ITEM/BACK OF HOUSE:
BEST NEW FOOD /ALTERNATE CHANNEL:
The awards first started in 2003 and have recognized new retail and foodservice products—with first-, second- and third-place designations. Judged scoring considers demonstrations of teamwork, problem solving, product execution, finished taste and market performance.
For the 2016 awards, co-sponsors Prepared Foods and Ventura Foods went back to the drawing board and created six distinct new product categories—each with a single first-place honoree. The open entry contest drew more than a record 100 nominations from March to June 2016.
Winning companies’ representatives were honored with a special awards program and tasting reception during Prepared Foods’ annual New Products Conference, Sept. 25-28, at the Naples Grande, Naples, Fla. This year’s new categories and winning products included:
Taco Bell Quesalupa from Taco Bell and Tyson Foods Inc.
Taco Bell is laser focused on delivering differentiated menu offerings. Tyson’s Mexican Original business, a division of Tyson Foods, is a leading supplier of carrier items to Taco Bell. Officials say the Quesalupa story involved a seemingly simple question from Steve Gomez, Taco Bell’s manager of research and development.
Talking with Ben Stockalper, a key account manager at Tyson, Gomez asked, “Can you put cheese inside a tortilla?”
Tyson R&D Manager Mike Langham says the Quesalupa involves a new method of placing cheese –not inside a single tortilla—but sealed between two tortillas. The Quesalupa is a chewy, flaky Chalupa shell on the outside with pepper jack cheese inside the shell. The finished product then is fried in Taco Bell restaurants. Frying ultimately gives the cheese has the “perfect kick and the right pull,” says Langham.
Officials say the Quesalupa took five years and hundreds of prototype samples with Tyson and Taco Bell restaurant and development teams investing approximately 2,100 hours. Because the Quesalupa is unlike any tortilla, a unique manufacturing process was needed. Tyson R&D and operations teams worked together to design and build unique equipment to assemble the two-layer product. Overall, Tyson says the project required about 700 employees (a 30% increase in staffing), across four Tyson plants.
To support Taco Bell’s 2016 Super Bowl launch of the Quesalupa, production began in summer 2015. Inventory required a space equivalent to a large distribution center. During the Super Bowl promotion period many incremental truckloads were shipped to keep up with high customer demand.
Since its launch,Taco Bell has sold more than an estimated 68 million Quesalupas. Moreover, the product and process even drew notice from Fast Company, which profiled the Quesalupa in a February 2016 article (“Epic Cheese Pull: How Taco Bell Nailed Its Innovative New Quesalupa”).
noosa Blackberry Serrano Yogurt from noosa yoghurt LLC
When you compete against giants in a growing, competitive category, you’re always thinking outside the cup when it comes to new ingredients. And that’s exactly how noosa yoghurt LLC, Bellvue, Colo., has grown since 2010.
The company says Co-Founder Koel Thomae started looking for flavors that would lend themselves to a variety of dayparts beyond breakfast—an answer to consumer interest in more savory snack options. Thomae says sweet and spicy combinations, in particular, had been on her mind for months after seeing them pop up during of tour of those European cities with high dairy consumption.
It took several iterations to balance the right combination of sweet and spicy—as it was a departure from noosa’s traditionally fruit-forward sweet flavors. Blackberry Serrano features all-natural whole milk with a kick of sweet heat in the form of blackberries and serrano chilies. It debuted in January in noosa’s home state of Colorado and positive response led the brand to roll it out nationally this summer. Other varieties include Pineapple Jalapeno, Raspberry Habanero and Mango Sweet Chili.
Karma Probiotics Water from Karma Culture LLC
Karma Culture LLC, Pittsford, N.Y., believes most pre-mixed probiotic beverages require refrigeration and that the efficacy of the probiotics diminishes over time. That’s why Karma utilized its own proprietary cap technology and created Karma Probiotics. Developed in combination with probiotics supplier Ganeden, this new line of shelf-stable waters stores the probiotics and digestive nourishment in the cap—all until consumers release them. This assures greater stability, maximum benefit and no refrigeration required.
Two billion cultures are kept in the patented KarmaCap until consumers release the contents. Infusing the nutrition and probiotic cultures just prior to consumption optimizes the health benefits. Officials say the combination of GanedenBC30 and the KarmaCap are more effective than probiotics consumed from yogurt. Simply peel, push and shake to infuse the probiotic nutrition into the water. To complement the probiotics, each bottle of Karma contains vitamins A, E and B Complex (B3, B5, B6 and B12). There are three varieties: Apple-Cinnamon, Blueberry-Lemonade and Berry-Cherry. Each 18oz bottle contains 2 billion cultures, only 20 calories, and is free of preservatives.
Gluten-Free Crusted Fish Fillets from King & Prince Seafood Co.
A breaded or crusted gluten-free fish fillet opens up a flavorful new experience for people suffering from gluten-intolerance as well as those just wanting to limit their gluten intake. That’s why King & Prince Seafood, Brunswick, Ga., created Fish Market Fresh, Gluten-Free Crusted Fish Fillets. Operators can now add breaded fish items to the gluten-free section of their menu.
King & Prince developed two varieties—Gluten Free Panko Crusted Tilapia and Gluten Free Potato Crusted Tilapia—as additions to the company’s Fish Market Fresh line. Interestingly, because the gluten-free breadings performed so well, company officials converted the entire hand-trimmed, lightly crusted line to gluten free, says Sue Gurkin Allis, King & Prince director of innovation.
“Gluten-free breadings can have a tough texture and often result in ‘toothpack,’ where the breading sticks to your teeth,” Allis notes. “By collaborating very closely with several breading suppliers, we were able to pair systems that eliminated the typical, undesirable texture qualities. To maintain a desirable particulate appearance, we have also spent many hours in production modifying the process to obtain top quality product.”
Jennie-O Reduced Sodium Smoked Uncured Turkey Frank from Jennie-O Turkey Store, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods
Kids love hot dogs and 30 million children participate in the K-12 lunch program every day. However, schools nationwide have been removing hot dogs from lunch menus because of the inclusion of nitrites, erythorbate and sodium levels that did not meet USDA menu regulations.
As a leader in the K-12 turkey segment, schools look to Jennie-O Turkey Store for solutions. A cross-functional team consisting of marketing, operations, R&D and sales employees set out to develop a product that met the nutritional requirements of the USDA program.
Jennie-O says this was the R&D team’s first attempt at making an uncured frank. To accomplish this, scientists used celery juice powder to replace the sodium nitrites; however, it didn’t cure the product effectively alone. The team identified an all-natural accelerant and tested several different levels to achieve the desired results. Several salt replacers also were tested to achieve the sodium reduction goal. Several rounds of testing were run to ensure the right level of saltiness/smokiness and the best texture.
Officials say the new turkey frank delivers only 260mg of sodium per serving with no erythorbate or nitrites added –and now meets the nutritional requirements of the USDA program.
Says Jennie-O, “The team was able to beat competitors in the channel because of the product’s superior nutritional information, cleaner label and delicious taste. This new product hit the company’s first year goal and has seen the fastest-growing sales of any new K-12 product introduced by the company. In fiscal 2015, more than 1.6 million pounds were sold, which means more than 12 million Jennie-O reduced sodium smoked uncured turkey franks were served in schools. In addition, the company foresees strong sales growth for many years to come.”
Mexican Hot Bar Concept from Sandridge Food Corp.
Progressive in-store deli and convenience operators are looking for innovation in hot bar menus. While fried chicken and macaroni and cheese have long been the staple offerings in the category, there is opportunity for new sales and attracting millennial customers to the category by offering new, ethnic meals to go.
With growing interest in more Hispanic/Mexican menu offerings, Sandridge Food Corp., Medina, Ohio, started in fall 2015 on an entire new a line of products: a Mexican hot bar menu. Utilizing the best of multiple technologies—sous vide cooking and HPP cold processing—Sandridge chefs and scientists created a line of on-trend, labor-saving components for operators to compete directly with Chipotle.
The turn-key program consists of slow-cooked, tender proteins (Beef Barbacoa, Chicken Chipotle and Pork Carnitas); hot sides (Chili Lime Rice, Cilantro Rice, fully Cooked Quinoa); along with toppings and condiments, such as Leon’s Fresh Salsa, Black Bean and Corn Relish.
All products are prepared and packaged in flexible pouches (for sustainability and easy prep at store level). Operators can add sour cream, fresh cut tomatoes, tortillas or taco shells, to create a fresh, food-safe meal.
“We initially tested the concept in a retail supermarket chain in the Midwest, and results were so favorable, the bars will be a stand-alone kiosk in three new locations currently under construction,” notes John Becker, Sandridge senior director of marketing. “We introduced the concept to the general trade at the NRA and IDDBA shows this summer and we are greatly encouraged by the huge interest generated in the program.”
SPIRIT OF INNOVATION AWARD JUDGING & CRITERIA DETAILS:
Prepared Foods/Ventura Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Awards are unique in that they honor product R&D teams’ multi-functional collaboration to identify market opportunities and work together in product development.
To be eligible, product(s) must have been introduced between January 2015 and March 2016. Each product was evaluated on an initial 10-point grading scale according to its originality, demonstrated teamwork, demonstrated sales success and other contributing factors (including innovative packaging, where appropriate).
Prepared Foods staff prepared and evaluated finalists’ submissions and sought additional input from editors at other BNP Media titles including: Beverage Industry, Dairy Foods, The National Provisioner, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, Candy Industry, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods and Industria Alimenticia.
Related titles include Brand Packaging, Flexible Packaging and Packaging Strategies.
CO-SPONSOR VENTURA FOODS
Ventura Foods, Brea, Calif., is a leading national manufacturer of branded and custom shortenings, oils, dressings, sauces, margarines, culinary bases and pan coatings. Using its products as ingredients, Ventura partners with other manufacturers to bring great tasting and innovative food and bakery items to the market in the retail and foodservice channels.
Ventura Foods is proud to be an agile partner by delivering the highest-quality products and services. Visit www.venturafoods.com for more details.
For 2016 awards, co-sponsors Prepared Foods and Ventura Foods went back to the drawing board and created six distinct new product categories— each with a single first-place honoree. The open entry contest drew more than a record 100 nominations from March to June 2016.
Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Awards are unique in that they honor product R&D teams’ multi-functional collaboration to identify market opportunities and do work together in product development. To be eligible, product(s) must have been introduced between January 2015 and March 2016. Each product was evaluated on an initial 10-point grading scale according to its originality, demonstrated teamwork, demonstrated sales success and other contributing factors (including innovative packaging, where appropriate).
ROLL CALL: Spirit of Innovation Past Winners
Visit PreparedFoods.com/innovation and see “Past Winners” back to 2003!
Retail: Ritz Crackerfuls, Kraft Foods*
Foodservice: Seasoned Pork Spareribs, Tyson Foods
Retail: Brownie Pops/Blondie Pops, Ticklebelly Desserts
Foodservice: Super Fro Yo, TCBY
Retail: Hooray, Hooray Bars, Tofutti Brands Inc.
Foodservice: Fresh Grain Salads, Sandridge Food Corp.
Retail: Garden Lites Veggie Muffins, Classic Cooking LLC
Foodservice: Jalapeno & Cream Cheese Stuffed Shrimp, King & Prince Seafood
Retail: Stonefire Naan Crisps, FGF
Foodservice: Wise Fries, McCain Foods
Retail: Hummus Plus, Pure Mediterranean Foods
Foodservice: Dreamin of Chocolate Gluten Free Cake, The Original Cakerie
*Company now known as Heinz Kraft