Q&A with Michael Gunn, Director of Culinary for Schwan's
A corporate chef's perspective on bakery product trends
Prepared Foods talks with Michael Gunn, director of culinary for Schwan’s Company’s research and development department. Schwan’s Company, Marshall, Minn., is a leading multi-channel processor whose broad portfolio includes the Tony’s, Red Baron and Freschetta pizza brands, Pagoda Asian snacks, as well as the Edwards and Mrs. Smith’s frozen dessert brands.
Prepared Foods: We’re looking at bakery trends involving pies as well as hand-held, filled sweet or savory items. What do you observe here?
Chef Michael Gunn: The desire to explore regional cuisines from around the world is a long-term trend. Almost every cuisine has a tradition of savory dumplings, filled buns or hand pies. I’m seeing innovative chefs and bakers use these ethnic breads as a platform to innovate across savory and sweet menus. I also see the growing use of non-wheat flour. This not only is to address gluten free consumer needs but to take advantage of the different flavors and functionalities of alternative grains.
PF: How about trends involving pizzas or flatbreads—particularly involving dough components?
Gunn: I’m inspired by amazing flatbreads found around the world. Regardless of where they are from, there is a certain [consumer] familiarity when it comes to flatbreads. As a result, consumers are willing to try new ones in traditional and non-traditional ways.
This means lots of experimentation involving India’s breads, such as naan, paratha or dosa. Then from the Middle East you find lavash, laffa and gozleme. Even China’s flatbread, jian bing, has been getting attention lately.
PF: What were one or two of Schwan’s new products in 2018 that you’re particularly proud of?
Gunn: Last year, Schwan’s Company opened a dessert-only restaurant called “Edwards Dessert Kitchen.” The creative visionary behind it is Executive Pastry Chef Christina Kaelberer, who is a member of our Schwan’s Chef Collective. Christina has been teaching us—as an organization—to think differently about how we can develop new and exciting flavor and textural combinations across our dessert portfolio.
For example, one item on Christina’s menu is a gluten-free Rocher Mousse made with hazelnut chocolate mousse, chocolate sable and hazelnut praline crunch. While we might not launch this exact item at retail, we have learned from this item’s success. We will look to Christina’s expertise and influence for future product designs for brands like Edwards, which is all about exceptional indulgences—made effortless. Still more tempting items on her menu are a Yuzu Green Apple dessert and a Pineapple Upside Down Tart (pictured).
PF: Is there a particular bakery trend you’re watching in 2019?
Gunn: I am excited by all the bakers and chefs re-imagining traditional ingredients and techniques in new and innovative ways. But the important thing is that they are respecting and staying true to what made those ingredients and techniques special to begin with.
An example I’ve seen lately involves the resurgence of exceptional quality croissant dough being used in unique ways. I’ve seen it used as a base for tacos, sticky buns, “cruffins,” and savory Danishes.