Prepared Foods talks with Jasmine Sutherland, president of Texas Food Solutions (TFS) and Vice President of Perfect Fit Meals. Texas Food Solutions, Katy, Texas, is a toll provider of high-pressure processing (HPP) services to area food and beverage manufacturers in southeast Texas and Louisiana. Perfect Fit Meals, Houston, manufactures refrigerated meals for nationwide distribution.
Prepared Foods: You wear a few different hats! How did you get into the food business?
Jasmine Sutherland: My background is primarily in product development and operations management. It oddly goes together. To develop a new product, you need to understand production feasibility.
I have been in the food business for more than 10 years now. I went to Johnson & Wales for Culinary and Nutrition / Food Science. After college, I went through a dietetic internship and sat for my credentials as a Registered Dietitian (later working at University of Houston and Texas Children's Hospital). I wanted to work in food, but wanted to make sure I developed enough of a diverse background to be able to secure a job.
PF: More specifically then, what’s your connection to Perfect Fit Meals and Texas Food Solutions?
Sutherland: A few months after Perfect Fit Meals (PFM) was founded in 2011, I joined to help grow the operation, establish a product development program, and obtain certifications to move into retail sales. It interested me to see how PFM’s three passionate co-founders didn't seem to have a fear of failure. Rather, they had a lot of grit and knew how to hustle. I realized that I wanted to surround myself with those types of people. A few years later, I had the opportunity to start Texas Food Solutions (in 2015) with the same team.
At PFM, we make ready-to-eat, extended shelf life, refrigerated meals that are distributed nationwide. Our meals can be found in supermarket deli and meat departments, and also online with Amazon Fresh. Meanwhile, Texas Food Solutions exists to help other companies get HPP products to market.
Thanks to HPP—as well as the hustle of our sales and development teams—PFM’s product line has grown significantly. Likewise, I’m proud to say that Texas Food Solutions’ HPP Innovation Center also has played a significant role to help launch a wide array of products including salsas, sauces, meals, smoothies and juices.
PF: How did you learn about HPP?
Sutherland: It was at college when I first learned about HPP, but it wasn't a cost-friendly technology to consider using. It resurfaced again a few years into the launch of Perfect Fit Meals. At the time, there just happened to be a tolling facility within a usable distance.
Before HPP, we were using modified atmosphere packaging with our meals and that delivered about a 15-day shelf life. Unfortunately, our previous process and packaging didn’t adequately “secure” our meal components on a tray and everything looked like a scramble when it made it to the store shelves. It’s funny now to say it but “Chicken Parmesan scramble” doesn't end up being a top seller—despite what you may think.
Within a few months, we quickly shifted gears to study everything about the HPP process and its packaging. Then we performed a ridiculous amount testing of both HPP, finished product quality and consumer acceptance. We wanted to know what we were getting into, and—if we were launching one of the first HPP ready meals—we wanted it to look better than anything out there.
We ended up changing to vacuum skin packaging. And with HPP, we we’ve been able to significantly grow our shelf life, food safety program, and overall product presentation.
Looking back, it was that very quick and thorough HPP investigation process that led us to open Texas Food Solutions. We quickly realized that we could help other manufacturers use this technology and get new products to the market.
PF: What’s your outlook for 2018?
Sutherland: We are incredibly optimistic about 2018 for lots of reasons. PFM will be venturing into new areas. Likewise, the Innovation Center at Texas Food Solutions also has an amazing list of customers with new products, which are moving forward with launches in 2018.
The market is getting ready to see some new, inventive, and delicious products that all recognize and use HPP technology as their choice for a superior food preservation standard.