THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for Trends

TRENDS: Chicken Up, Seafood, Pork & Beef Down

shifting-appetites-trends-chart-wsj-500

Chart courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

 
 

While Americans are aware of the need to improve their diets, there’s been a decline in consumption of one of the healthiest food choices: fish.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, the average U.S. consumer ate:

  • 82 pounds of chicken
  • 57 pounds of beef
  • 46 pounds of pork
  • 14.4 pounds of seafood, down from 15 pounds in 2011 and a record high of 16.6 pounds consumed in 2004 (by comparison, the average Japanese consumer eats 120 pounds a year, while Spaniards consume 96 pounds)
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    As you can see from the chart, chicken—affordable and versatile—is the big winner in growth, and the higher-calorie, higher cholesterol beef and pork have experienced some decline. But while the overall category experienced positive gains, the decline in per capita consumption is down.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s a combination of higher prices (quality fresh fish is $15 or more a pound while fresh whole chicken is 10% of that) and consumer hesitance, because they don’t know how to cook fish properly (and at those prices, who wants overcooked fish?).

    Is help on the horizon? Maybe not: The seafood industry is much more fragmented than the beef and pork industries, which organized major marketing campaigns to promote their products.

    Here’s a tip: Although it’s a treat, you don’t need to pay top dollar for fresh fish. Look for values in frozen fish and stock up. Defrost it slowly in the fridge.

    After all, if you order fish at restaurant chains, it’s likely frozen—and few people know the difference.

      

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    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

    Salted caramel hot chocolate. Photo courtesy Starbucks.

     

    What’s trending in hot chocolate? Salted chocolate caramel hot chocolate or cocoa (here’s the difference between hot chocolate and cocoa).

    We’ve seen prepared drinks and/or mixes from Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Williams-Sonoma. But you can try your hand making it from scratch at home:

    RECIPE: SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE

    Ingredients For 2 Servings (Mugs)

  • 16 ounces milk (for an extra-rich version, use half and half)
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces chocolate caramels, chopped-or-caramel syrup*
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Optional garnish: caramel and/or chocolate syrup†
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    *The caramels create a thicker, richer drink than the caramel syrup.

    †The syrup has visual appeal, but the drink is plenty sweet without it.

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT half the milk and all the chopped chocolate in a small pot over medium heat until the chocolate is melted, whisking regularly. Whisk in the remaining milk and the chopped caramels, and continue whisking until the all the chocolate and caramel are dissolved.

    ALTERNATIVE: Instead of using chopped caramels, add 2 tablespoons of caramel syrup to each mug. Add the hot chocolate and stir.

    2. GARNISH with with whipped cream, drizzle optional caramel syrup and top with a pinch of sea salt.

    3. TWEAK the recipe until you have your ideal. We prefer a less sweet drink, so we use chocolate with a cacao content of 70% or higher (the higher the percentage of cacao, the less sugar in the chocolate). We also like the salt stirred into the hot chocolate, instead of on top of the whipped cream. We had some fine chocolate salt caramels on hand and used them instead of supermarket-variety chocolate caramels. They are ideal for this recipe, but a pricey way to enjoy the caramels! The intrepid among us can make chocolate salt caramels from scratch with this recipe.

    Let us know what your “perfect recipe” is.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Why Your Favorite Food Products Are Discontinued

    This week we received an email from a reader asking what happened to Bibi Caffe, a line of elegant, imported Italian sodas we reviewed in 2007.

    She wanted to know why the line was no longer sold in the USA, and asked if there was “any way to get it at all?”

    If “at all” includes taking a trip to Italy to bring it back, there is a solution. Otherwise, Bibi Caffe joined the ranks of products, imported as well as American-made, that are discontinued by stores.

    Here’s why products are discontinued:

    1. The biggest problem manufacturers have is getting shelf space for their products. There are 20,000 new supermarket products introduced every year. Where will they fit?

    The 20,000 new products include variations of existing brands, such as Chocolate Flavored Instant Cream Of Wheat cereal and the latest flavor of Diet Coke, as well as more niche products. (We once came across Brown Sugar Sweet & Low).

     

    Bibi Caffe Italian soft drinks are packed with flavor and not too sweet. Photo by B.A. Van Sise | THE NIBBLE.

     

    2. It has nothing to do with how good (or mediocre) the product is. As the expression goes, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” To maximize profit, retailers need to optimize their shelf space, which includes inventory turns (the reorder rate or other measure) and profit margins. A product that turns stays on the shelf. A product that doesn’t turn fast enough can be discontinued to provide space for a product that will hopefully turn more (and generate more sales and profits).

    Products that don’t meet sales goals are discontinued by the manufacturer. So even if something sells well in your area, if it isn’t as popular elsewhere, it may be discontinued.

    3. Manufacturers pay to be on the shelves of chain supermarkets. These fees are called slotting allowances, and every product pays them—even the most popular products. The fees vary greatly depending on the product, manufacturer and market. But for a new product, the initial slotting fee can be $25,000 per item at a regional chain, or five times that for a large chain. And that fee is for one item in one chain!

    In addition to slotting fees, retailers may also charge promotional, advertising and stocking fees. Unfortunately, the whole system works against small manufacturers that don’t generate the volume to pay such fees, and don’t have the marketing muscle to promote their products to create the volume.

    Thanks to the Internet, small manufacturers can sell from their websites. But Biba Caffe is imported and the glass bottles are heavy to ship. Even if the company sold it online, only moguls would pay to have it shipped from Italy.

    WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

  • If you really love something, become an evangelist. Tell everyone. Email your friends. Add it to your Facebook page. Blog about it. Tweet it. Start a grassroots movement to generate initial purchases, and hope that everyone loves (and buys it) it as much as you do.
  • Pitch it to the buyer at a specialty food store. Specialty stores (also called gourmet stores), such as Bi-Rite in San Francisco, Dean & Deluca in New York City and Fox & Obel in Chicago, delight in introducing new products to their customers.
  • Generate some publicity for it. If you can buy the product, see what you can do to get it some attention. This is similar to the first point, but it takes substantially more effort—unless you’re a food publicist with a list of every food reporter and producer.
  • Contact the company. If you can no longer find a product, contact the manufacturer, who should be able to tell you if and where it can be found.
     
    And appreciate that, like fresh flowers, some things are ephemeral. Enjoy them while they last.

      

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    EATING TRENDS: What Type Of Eater Are You?

    Are you an experimental eater? If so,
    this tuna tartare topped with wasabi-tobiko
    and salmon caviars might be just up
    your alley. Photo by | IST.

     

    What type of eater are you?

    According to a national survey conducted by LivingSocial.com, we’re not the carnivores that we were a generation ago. In those days, before global cuisines and health foods (even yogurt) were widely available in the U.S., most people would have seen themselves as meat lovers.

    Nowadays, when asked to choose (multiple categories could be selected), responders revealed themselves to be:

  • Meat Lover: 45%
  • Experimental: 35%
  • Foodie: 25%
  • Sweet Tooth: 21%
  • Fast Food Junkie: 19%
  • Health Nut: 18%
  • Locavore: 11%
  • Vegetarian/Vegan: 5%
  • Food Trucker: 4%
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    Responders were consumers in the top 20 media markets, 18 years of age or older, who had made an online purchase or were “very likely” to make one within the next six months (online purchases include social media coupons).

      

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    NEWS: Americans Making Better-For-You Food Choices At Restaurants

    We met our brother for lunch this weekend at California Pizza Kitchen.

    As we both ordered from what we considered to be the “better-for-you” salad menu, Brother, an attorney, looked at the small print.

    “Yikes,” he said, “My Cobb Salad has 941 calories. I thought salads were supposed to be low-calorie!”

    Well, er, not when topped with blue cheese, bacon, avocado and 1/4 cup of dressing (which is 400 calories in and of itself).

    But we are still perplexed as to how our Thai Crunch Salad added up to 1089 calories. It had lots of Napa and red cabbage, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers and scallions, with perhaps two ounces of grilled chicken and modest accents of edamame, wontons, rice sticks and peanuts. The lime-cilantro dressing was minimal.

    It seems that if we wanted to count calories, we should have gotten half portions. But we left full of fiber and protein, and grateful that we hadn’t ordered the BBQ Chicken Pizza.

    This morning, we read a Food Channel Trendwire email which announced:

     

    At 550 calories, a better-for-you entrée.
    Photo courtesy Applebee’s.

     

    Restaurant Diners Actually Starting to Make Healthier Choices

    The article led with the bad news: A report issued earlier this month by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed that the national obesity epidemic continues to worsen. Only one state showed an obesity rate below 20% (and just barely): Colorado at 19.8%. Twelve states have obesity rates over 30%. Mississippi was number one at 34.4%. Seven states have seen their rates double in the past 20 years.

    But there is some good news: This year, a number of leading restaurant chains are finding significant growth in the better-for-you menu options.

  • Applebee’s. For the first time in the restaurant’s history, the top selling entrée on the menu came from the under-550 calorie menu: Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Sauce. Applebee’s president, Mike Archer, remarked, “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. We’re seeing a sea change in consumer behavior.”
  • IHOP. The pancake powerhouse reports that its Simple & Fit menu, offering a range of under-600 calorie choices, now accounts for 8% of entrées sold. At 330 calories, the Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato Omelet is now a best seller.
  • Friendly’s. Four of its under-550 calorie limited time offers have sold so well that they’ve been moved to the permanent menu this summer.
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    Of course, the reports don’t count any beverages, bread, appetizers and desserts, but America is finally off to a good start.

      

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