Sunday, June 7, 2009

Flavor Fad To Flavor Trend: My Journey

As one embarks on a discovery of food it has become my own belief after many years of creating, developing and successfully marketing a wide variety of branded and custom food items that all roads lead to flavor, function and form.

I grew up in the snack food industry and as a result became well acquainted with the consumers ever expanding demand for new flavors. Sweet, savory, spicy all apply as consumers seek the sensory satisfaction of a flavor that taunts or teases the palate.

My own path along the flavor journey expanded as I spent several years working for the world's largest spice and flavor company. I became intimately acquainted with the subtle nuances of spices and flavorings and learned very quickly about the superiority of the products that I became accountable for, as the National Director of Sales for the Food Service Division at a time when the industry was enjoying robust expansion and Americans were seeking more exotic fare as they explored new and exciting dining venues.

I became fascinated by the science of flavor at a time when blending spices to create unique seasonings was viewed as cutting edge within the previously narrow confines of an America that considered Chinese take out as exotic asian cuisine and Pepperoni pizza as spicy italian fare.

I can recall during this same period of time, numerous discussions regarding a flavor trend evolving from New Orleans, as well as other communities in Louisiana and East Texas and the difficulty in convincing certain traditionalists within the corporate structure that I reported to, of the burgeoning prominence of these cayenne based seasoning blends that chefs were creating on their own through out the region. Over time these cajun blends became popular across the United States and other regions of the world. Like so many innovations in flavor they evolved from regional dishes by chef's willing to experiment and consumers willing to expand their flavor frontier.

The corporation after an intensive amount of lobbying by myself and members of my sales team finally agreed to begin developing cajun blends which over time led them to the development of many others blends as they realized that they had the ability to assist in transforming food fads in flavor to food trends.

Trader Joe's For A Summer Treat

This is the time of year when a fresh loaf of artisan bread, preferably a sour batard, some flavorful cheeses, not too sharp, a sun dried tomato based bruschetta, a mixed olive hummus, a flavorful duck pate, and some sopressata make for a wonderful picnic at home on the courtyard or patio.

The aforementioned items should obviously b served with your beverage of choice which may include a cool crisp chardonnay, a delicious fruit based beverage, some mint laced iced tea or any of a plethora of sodas or waters.

We took advantage of the day to hold our own courtyard picnic among a setting of palms and pines after a quick trip to our local Trader Joe's where we acquired a variety of the previously mentioned items.

It is always exciting for a food focused individual to wander through the aisles at a Trader Joe's and marvel at the delightful items that intrude upon the senses. I always find myself purchasing more than I intended to as I am lured by some fascinating new flavor pairing such as the Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger and the Dark Chocolate Chipotle Hazelnuts we purchased on impulse before heading home for our own courtyard picnic.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Smaller Portions Major Trend

Mini, is the new major, in food portions. As consumers focus on health and wellness, the era of large portions that Americans are famous for, may be coming to an end. Increasingly, consumers are trending toward the consumption of smaller food portions.

A national dialogue on obesity and an ageing population, with the first group of Baby Boomers having crossed the 60 barrier in 2006, are obvious catalysts for this trend. Consumers, though are also influenced by a plethora of flavors to enjoy as ethnic foods continue to gain in popularity.

Today's consumer is willing to sacrifice quantity and filler , for an indulgent flavor experience that satisfies the palate and allows the consumer to walk away from the table without having over eaten.

Flavorful food, in fun mini forms are gaining shelf space at retailers and finding a home on more restaurant menus. The grazing phenomena, that began in the 1980's with the advent of casual theme restaurants and expanded appetizer menus has evolved to a host of mini delights and will no doubt contine to evolve as consumers continue to seek indulgence in smaller portions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Consumers Embrace Signature Retail Brands

As America suffers through a recession that has eroded faith and confidence in our markets, our local retail supermarkets perceive the downturn in the economy as an opportunity to accelerate the transfer of traditional consumer brand loyalty to a new range of premium signature retail brands.

The evolution of retail brands in the food industry, has evolved from black and white generic labels, through more traditional store identified brands, to a host of emerging signature brands.

Americans, who have lagged behind European and Canadian consumer trends, with respect to embracing private labels, are catching up quickly, as attractively packaged products that are equal to or at times better than iconic brand offerings, are attracting new consumers to retailers brands. Nearly one in four purchases in supermarkets today are private or signature labeled items.

Clearly, Loblaw's began the trend toward retail signature brands in North America, with their President's brand launched in the Canadian market a decade ago and subsequently adopted by several retailers in the U.S. market. Since then Retailers have created their own signature brands and placed them in categories throughout their stores.

In many cases, retailers are partnering with suppliers to identify products that are highly differentiated from competitive national brands as they seek to enhance their relationship with consumers.

Premium products that are packaged well, taste great and provide a lower priced alternative to traditional national brands are right for today's consumer and over time will gain market share at the expense of traditional brands.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

All Things Food

After many years of involvement in the food industry I have arrived at the the conclusion that to understand the essence of food one must understand flavor, function and form. In future Blogs, I will write about all things food related including, products, concepts , manufacturing companies,retailers, restaurants and consumer trends from the perspective of someone who has created new products and brand concepts, led companies and consumed a great amount of food in various locations around the globe.