Q&A with Rob McEwan, Perdue Foods
A food technologist's perspective on working with alcohol-related ingredients.
Prepared Foods talks with Rob McEwan, food technologist at Perdue Foods, parent company of Coleman Natural Foods. Coleman Natural, Westminster, Colo., says it has produced meats “raised the way nature intended” since 1875.
Prepared Foods: The Budweiser BBQ Collection looks great! What’s the back story?
Rob McEwan: It was a little bit of a non-traditional development timeline. We started in December 2018 and officially launched the product to customers in March 2019—in just four months! In late 2018, Budweiser came to us when they were looking for an opportunity to enter the meat category from a licensed product standpoint.
The partnership made sense as both Coleman Natural Foods and Budweiser are American companies with strong ties to family farmers and a focus on simple, real ingredients. It was an obvious fit from a cultural perspective. Also, who doesn’t love beer and BBQ?
Budweiser also connected us with a company that has the license to make the Budweiser Brewmaster’s BBQ sauce and we were able to incorporate that into our recipes.
PF: What consumer trends support this move?
McEwan: BBQ and beer often are enjoyed in the same eating occasion, and the popularity of alcohol-infused meats has been on the rise. Everyone is looking for more convenience and easy to prepare meals for one, two, or a crowd. So it made sense to develop a heat-and-eat product line to enhance Coleman Natural Foods’ existing offerings. Our Coleman Natural brand also is enjoying something of a renaissance. Partnering with one of the most recognized brands out there also provided an opportunity for us to enhance our brand recognition.
PF: What can you tell us about the co-development process?
McEwan: People think we can just dump a can of beer in our mix and call it a day. However, it takes careful cooking of the beer to remove carbonation and alcohol, and then a calculated amount to balance the flavor of the beer with the pork formulation.
This was my first time working with an alcohol-infused product so it was both fun and challenging! We had to be sure we balanced the flavor of the beer with the flavor profile of the other ingredients so that they are complementary and not competing.
I’m really proud that, even under a tight deadline, we were able to come out with four recipes (pulled pork and ribs with classic BBQ sauce, beer bratwurst, and jalapeno cheddar bratwurst) that both the Budweiser and Coleman Natural Foods teams were really happy with. The lager beer flavor is authentic while it doesn’t overpower the pork and seasonings.
PF: You mentioned the licensee already making Budweiser Brewmaster’s BBQ Sauce. That certainly must have helped.
McEwan: Exactly. Budweiser already has a great sauce on the market for consumers. They were able to connect us with the licensee who was producing it and we worked with their recipes. We only had to make few tweaks to make the sauces fit what we needed for these products.