Q&A with Jeff Wirtz, Blount Fine Foods
An executive chef’s perspective on soup trends and formulation
Prepared Foods talks with Jeff Wirtz, corporate executive chef for Blount Fine Foods, a Fall River, Mass., processor of premium fresh and frozen soups, sauces, entrees and sides.
Prepared Foods What have been some trend lines in soups?
Wirtz: The impact of sodium—while certainly not new—has been important to consumers, and therefore our customers. Consumers not only have shown us that they are more aware of sodium than they have been in the past, but they have also been more resolute in avoiding it. We have put a lot of work into lowering sodium without also wiping out the recipe’s flavor profile.
Another trend involves bone broth, and the perceived benefits from it. However, I believe this item has had its moment and the trend already may have peaked.
PF: What have been a few noteworthy new products from Blount?
Wirtz: We have introduced several broth-based, world-inspired recipes, including our Asian-bowl line. We also have a few more in the queue for later in the year.
PF: What’s one of your new favorite ingredients?
Wirtz: One of the coolest ingredients we’ve brought into our kitchen is togarashi, which is a traditional Japanese seasoning blend that contains dried crushed seaweed along with peppery spices. The result is a wonderful combination of salty and spicy that we find really jumps onto the taste buds, and which has been very popular among those who have sampled our test recipes.
PF: How might the soup category change in 2018?
Wirtz: I would not be surprised to see sugar and carbohydrates come back into the public eye. This is in part because of the upcoming changes in FDA guidelines, but also because the cyclical nature of dietary preferences. It sort of points to sugar as “next up.”
We will also see a continued emphasis on and curiosity about ethnic recipes from around the world. Latin and Southeast Asian-inspired dishes will continue to lead the way.
Additionally, I believe the momentum of wholesome ingredients, and label transparency will continue to expand in importance to consumers, who are increasingly showing they are unwilling to ingest anything with a two-inch ingredient label.
Originally appeared in the October, 2017 issue of Prepared Foods as First Person.