Category Archives: Food and Beverage Trends

Leftover pickle juice keeps this football team running

Leftover pickle juice keeps this football team running
San Antonio Express News | By Maggie Gordon STAFF WRITER

You get a lot of phone calls at a deli — “A ham and rye to go, please.” “A Caesar salad, dressing on the side.” After a while, they all run together. Except the person who calls every few weeks requesting leftover pickle juice.

That sticks out. Even at Kenny & Ziggy’s in Houston, where a constant rush of customers keeps the pace bustling all Pickleday.

It started a few years ago, says Ziggy Gruber, the “third-generation deli man” who co-owns the hot spot with Kenny Friedman.

One of the counter workers approached Gruber to tell him he’d received a strange request: Someone at Lamar High School wanted a few quarts of pickle juice.

“Can we give them that?”

Gruber thought for a moment. Each week, the deli goes through 60 5-gallon kegs of pickles. That’s about enough to fill your bathtub four times. So there’s plenty of leftovers, and since no one actually takes a bath in a tub full of pickle juice, it just gets thrown away.

“What do they want it for?” Gruber asked.



“Cramps for the football players.”

‘What’s your secret?’

The idea came to Chad Scholz nearly two decades ago while watching the Philadelphia Eagles destroy his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, 41-14, during what went down on record as one of the hottest NFL games ever played. It was 109 at Texas Stadium on Sept. 3, 2000, and newspaper reports say the temperature on the turf reached 130 degrees. The Cowboys couldn’t hold a candle to the Eagles in the heat. By the end of the game, they were all gassed out. “Sucking air,” as Scholz puts it. Philly? They were fine.

“Everybody starts asking, ‘What’s your secret? How are you not cramping up?’ ” Scholz remembers.

Philadelphia’s answer was simple: pickle juice.

Pickles are high in potassium and sodium, two things the body loses through sweat. According to the Eagles, a cup of pickle juice can help all this back into the bloodstream. Scholz, who is an assistant coach and special teams coordinator for the Lamar High School football team, figured it was worth a try for his team.

He called up the heaviest hitter in Houston’s pickle landscape in hopes he could score some of this green gold. Could the deli spare a few quarts every so often?

Is there a science behind it?

“Give it to them,” Gruber instructed his employee. “Give them whatever they want. Help out the kids. Help out the school.”

It’s been years since this first request, and Scholz still keeps Gatorade-like sports bottles filled with pickle juice on the sideline during games. If a player cramps up, he takes a long, 6-ounce slug, waits a few minutes for the relief to set in, then returns to the field. At Lamar, it’s as normal as wearing lucky socks on game day.

“Kids will do almost anything to get on the field,” says Scholz. “There’s no funny faces, and I’ve never had anyone turn it down. It’s almost like a medicine — and whether you like a medicine or not, if it’s going to fix you, you’re going to take it.”

And it fixes them, he insists.

“There’s science behind it,” says Scholz.

But not good science.

“There are a couple of studies, but the science is not very strong. Especially when looking at muscle cramps,” says Mindy Patterson, assistant professor of nutrition at Texas Woman’s University in Houston, who sifted through a slew of pickle-juice studies found scant evidence that it can alleviate cramps.

“The thought is that it’s related to dehydration. So when you’re dehydrated, you’re sweating, and losing a lot of electrolytes, sodium, potassium and magnesium through your sweat,” says Patterson. “So they think that when you sweat excessively, you can potentially develop muscle cramps, because electrolytes are involved in muscle contraction. And when they’re removed from the body, the muscles will clam up and that will become a cramp.”

So ingesting pickles juice is hypothesized to combat that dehydration. But how can you test for this?

“It’s hard to study muscle cramping,” she explains. “One study brought male subjects into a lab, and put them in sweatpants and had them exercise on a bike.”

Each was told to drink pickle juice. Scientists measured two things: the level of electrolytes in the blood and the presence of cramps. Electrolyte levels were the same after drinking the juice, which Patterson says indicates the pickle juice ingredients don’t actually make their way into the bloodstream and therefore wouldn’t travel to muscles to fight cramps.

And while the fact that none of the subjects developed cramps may look like a confirmation that the pickle juice was working, it’s really not, says Patterson.

“You can’t control this experiment,” she says. Some people don’t get cramps. Some people get cramps from one exercise, but not another. It’s hard to predict whether these subjects should have reasonably been expected to have cramps.

Her theory?

“It’s marketing, not science.”

This Could Clarify WTF Food Expiration Dates Actually Mean

Bye-bye, “sell by,” “use by” and “best before.”

This Could Clarify WTF Food Expiration Dates Actually Mean | Huff Post Generation Now

by: Elyse Wanshel

Here is a fresh idea.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would standardize expiration date labels like “sell by,” “expires on,” “best before” and “use by,” on food. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced The Food Date Labeling Act, which aims to combat customer confusion by establishing a national system for date labeling. The system would have just two uniformed labels — one that tells consumers when food is at its peak quality and another that indicates what day food becomes unsafe to eat. Both labels will be clearly distinguishable from the other, so there will be no question as to whether food is still good to eat.

“One of the most common arguments people seem to have at home is about whether or not food should be thrown out just because the date on the label has passed. It’s time to settle that argument, end the confusion and stop throwing away perfectly good food,” Pingree said in a press release.

The time is ripe for this kind of legislation. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, confusion over expiration dates causes 90 percent of Americans to throw out perfectly good grub before it actually goes bad, which contributes more to food waste than grocery stores, restaurants or any other part of the food supply chain. Private homes in the U.S. waste $162 billion-worth food each year that used 25 percent of the nation’s water supply to produce. The wasted food also creates 33 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gases and is “the single largest contributor to landfills today,” NRDC reports. This is all occurring while one in six Americans is food insecure.

It’s such a problem that last year, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a goal to cut the country’s food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Regulating food date labels is a good way to put a dent in that ambitious goal — especially when they have been arbitrarily marked since the 1970s.

When Americans moved away from farms during the 20th century — and began buying food in stores — they began to lose their ability to tell how fresh their food was. Americans had to rely on manufacturers and grocery stores to tell them how fresh food was and began demanding verification. This demand led to the introduction of over 10 congressional bills between 1973 and 1975 to establish requirements for food dates that illustrated how fresh food was. Yet, none of the legislative efforts gained enough momentum at the federal level, so none of the bills became laws and no uniform, nationwide system was established. The result has been food labeling chaos, in which state governments and industry actors respond to consumer interest for unspoiled food in whatever way they see fit, but with zero unifying strategy. For instance, the “use by” date on a carton of milk could have been created based on lab tests or consumer focus groups to pinpoint a flavor’s peak, but there’s really no way of telling what method was used.

The Guardian reports that canned food manufacturers set dates way before the food goes bad just so customers don’t become suspicious of how long canned food can last.

In fact, the only product that has a federal regulation in regards to the phrase “use by” is infant formula. But that date only indicates that the nutrients in formula decline by that date, not because it actually spoils.

“Use by” is a phrase that the bill specifically wants to tweak to “best if used by.” The updated phrase has been identified through surveys to be the one that is clearest to consumers.

It may be an addition of two little words, but Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, thinks it can have a huge impact on food waste.

“It doesn’t seem like a big change, but part of the challenge when labels are not standard is that consumers aren’t sure what to gather from that,” Leib told The Huffington Post in March. “But standardized labeling resonates with consumers.”

Google unveils top food trends

Google unveils top food trends | Food Business News

by Monica Watrous

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. — Turmeric, jackfruit and vegan donuts are considered “rising stars” in the latest food trends report from Google. The company evaluated the monthly volume of top food-related queries in the period between January 2014 and February 2016, measuring year-over-year growth, velocity and acceleration to determine which food trends are rising and falling the fastest. Bacon cinnamon rolls, wheat-free bread and evaporated cane juice have slowly declined over the past two years.

As for what’s hot, the Google Food Trends 2016 Reportconfirmed consumers are seeking out functional ingredients, global flavors and customizable snacks, and revealed a few surprise findings, too.

Functional foods

Google searches for functional foods are more likely to occur during the beginning of the week, when consumers may be returning to a healthier lifestyle after an indulgent weekend, the report indicated.

“The digital behaviors tied to functional foods present opportunities for brands to educate consumers on the benefits associated with each ingredient, as well as provide methods, tips, and recipe content for consumption,” Google wrote in the report.

Turmeric is trending at top speed; interest in the ingredient rose 56% from November to January this year. Top associated keywords, including “powder,” “root,” “ground” and “golden milk,” suggest Americans are curious about how to consume turmeric, the report said. The top five turmeric consumption videos drew 3.9 million views in the past year.

After turmeric, top functional ingredients ranked by search volume include apple cider vinegar, jackfruit, Manuka honey, kefir, coconut milk, erythritol, bone broth and cauliflower rice.

Interest in pho has grown at a rate of 11% year-over-year since 2013.

Global cuisine

From bibimbap to chocolate babka, the American appetite for global flavors trends all over the map, according to Google’s findings. Top searches ranked by volume include pho, ramen, Mexican candy, taquitos, empanada, queso fresco, mochi ice cream and wonton.

Interest in pho, the Vietnamese noodle dish, has grown at a rate of 11% year-over-year since 2013. Keywords linked with the dish include “recipe” and “how to make,” as well as “restaurant,” “delivery” and “near me,” suggesting consumers are seeking ways to make it at home as well as locate the best spot for dine-in or delivery. Consumers are more likely to search for pho on weekends, and the dish trends higher on the West coast and in Denver and Seattle.

“As consumers strive to taste the world, there’s new opportunity for brands to help make these dishes more D.I.Y.-friendly,” Google said in its report. “Brands may also look into partnering with influencers to provide authentic cultural experiences via content and endorsements.”

Consumers are more likely to search for pork shoulder on weekends.

Pork prevails

Google searches show consumers are pigging out on pork shoulder, andouille sausage, bacon jam, pig feet and prosciutto. Interest in pork shoulder is particularly strong in December, and the dish is often paired with such keywords as “how to,” “crock pot” or “slow cooker” and “recipe.” Related searches for “roasted,” “braised,” “Cuban” and “butt” suggest consumers are experimenting with preparation methods and various cuts of meat. Consumers are 22% more likely to search for pork shoulder on Saturdays and Sundays.

“While there’s opportunity for brands to enable easier D.I.Y. cooking at home, there’s also an opportunity for brands to join consumers for an experimental weekend of cooking via video content,” Google said in the report. “Crossover versions of familiar dishes can make the experience even more exciting.”

Mug cakes are on the rise.

Bite-size snacks

Consumers are seeking snacks that offer portion control, convenience and personalization. Trending snack searches include cheese curds, edible cookie dough, buffalo cauliflower bites and French toast sticks.

Interest in mug cake, the top trending bite-size snack food, has exploded in the past year, growing 82% from December to January. Associated search terms include flavors, such as “chocolate,” “vanilla,” “pumpkin” and “banana,” as well as diet-related keywords, such as “protein,” “vegan,” “paleo,” “no egg” and “gluten free,” underscoring consumer need for customization. The top five mug cake videos on YouTube — which span such flavors as rainbow mug cake, funfetti, gluten-free chocolate banana, red velvet and apple crumble — fetched 18.4 million views from January 2015 to February 2016.

“Consumers are more complex when it comes to food choices, and snacking has become more personal,” Google said in the report. “Brands will need to offer more than just customization based on flavors, but dietary restrictions, as well. Personal choices come best in solo portions — and make for convenient snacking.”

Searches for rigatoni increased 26% year-over year from January 2015 to January 2016 and were linked with such keywords as “baked,” “pie,” “casserole,” “stuffed” and “spicy.”

Pasta makes a comeback

Rigatoni, tortellini, linguine and penne rank among the top pasta-related search terms on Google in recent months.

“While growth was slow for interest in pasta from 2011 to 2014, demand picked up again in 2015 and continues to rise through 2016,” Google said.

Searches for rigatoni increased 26% year-over year from January 2015 to January 2016 and were linked with such keywords as “baked,” “pie,” “casserole,” “stuffed” and “spicy.”

“As with pork dishes, consumers are taking familiar dishes and experimenting with new ideas such as rigatoni pie,” Google said in the report. “It’s time for marketers to refocus their attention on pasta. There’s growing interest for a variety of pasta recipes, and consumers are seeking new ideas for their weekend eating adventures.”

Consumers were more likely to learn about rigatoni on weekends and showed interest in such variations as “lobster,” “Bolognese,” “Pomodoro,” “Marinara” and “Primavera.”

When iconic brands go organic

When iconic brands go organic | Food Business News

by Monica Watrous

Capri Sun Organic, Kraft-Heinz Co.
Capri Sun Organic contains more calories and more grams of sugar than its conventional counterpart.

KANSAS CITY — Is organic healthier? It depends on your definition of healthy. Consider the newly launched Capri Sun Organic juice beverage from The Kraft Heinz Co. The organic product contains more calories (70 calories versus 50 calories) and more grams of sugar (15 grams versus 13 grams) than its conventional counterpart, a fact health-minded consumers may not be willing to forgive, said Carl Jorgensen, director, Global Consumer Strategy-Wellness, Daymon Worldwide.

“Across the board, wellness-engaged consumers are looking to reduce sugar, not increase it,” Mr. Jorgensen said in an interview with Food Business News. “People are trying to reduce sugar, and the products that help them do that are going to succeed. But to reformulate and come out with a product that has more sugar, that’s just not going to win.”

Mr. Jorgensen cited as an example Cheerios Protein cereal introduced by General Mills, Inc. two years ago in response to consumers seeking more protein in their diets. Problem was, the protein-fortified varieties contained 16 and 17 grams of sugar, compared to the original Cheerios’ 1 gram.

“It had 17 times more sugar than regular Cheerios,” Mr. Jorgensen said. “That’s the definition of a swing and a miss in marketing.”

Cheerios Protein cereal, General Mills
Cheerios Protein cereal contained 16 and 17 grams of sugar compared to the original Cheerios’ 1 gram.

Research from the Hartman Group, Inc. shows more than a third of consumers (37% of participants in a survey of 1,728 U.S. adults) believe organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. The figure skews higher for parents of young children, 44% of whom view organic food as more nutritious.

Sales of organic food and beverage products in the United States continue to grow at a double-digit rate, reaching $39.1 billion in the United States in 2014, which marked the first year conventional grocery sold half of the organic products, according to the Organic Trade Association.

“Organic is not only here to stay but is going to continue to steadily grow for a long time,” Mr. Jorgensen said. “In terms of consumer acceptance and trust in organic, it seems to be growing year by year. Everybody is going to want to try to get on the organic bandwagon in one form or another. And some of those attempts will be very successful, and some will be less successful.”

Organic Gatorade, PepsiCo
PepsiCo plans to launch organic Gatorade later this year.

A product he predicts will be less successful is organic Gatorade, which PepsiCo, Inc. recently revealed it planned to launch later this year.

“For something like Gatorade, it’s never really had an appeal to customers who are looking for cleaner products and a healthier lifestyle,” Mr. Jorgensen said. “Why all of a sudden will that brand appeal to them?… In many cases, the solution is not to take a brand that has no equity at all with the healthier eating consumer and try to make it healthy.”

Take Coca-Cola Life, the Coca-Cola Co.’s first reduced-calorie soft drink sweetened with cane sugar and stevia leaf extract, containing 35% fewer calories than other leading colas. The product rolled out nationwide at the end of 2014 with lackluster results.

Coca-Cola Life soda, The Coca Cola Co.
Coca-Cola Life is sweetened with cane sugar and stevia leaf extract, containing 35% fewer calories than other leading colas.

“That was an attempt there to say, ‘Okay, we want to give you the classic Coke experience, but let’s reduce the sugar,’” Mr. Jorgensen said. “You would think that’s a compelling proposition, but consumers have not flocked to it. I think tinkering with iconic brands and cleaning them up, it’s almost as though brands have to do it, but will it give them that much more of a sales lift? That’s the big question. And it’s not clear that it will.”

Mr. Jorgensen commended the Kraft Heinz Co.’s approach to quietly reformulating its flagship macaroni and cheese product line this past year.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with no artificial flavors or colors, Kraft-Heinz Co.
Kraft Heinz quietly rolled out its newly formulate macaroni and cheese with no artificial preservatives, flavors or dyes.

“What Kraft did with their mac and cheese is they did not really let consumers know they had taken out artificial colors or flavors until it had been on the market for months,” Mr. Jorgensen said. “I think that was smart because what they were testing was whether they were delivering the same experience. Will people continue to enjoy it in the same way they have in the past, even though they had reformulated it? In that case, it appears to have been a success.

“You see Hershey getting rid of beet sugar, which is genetically modified, and moving toward cane sugar. They’re not making a big deal about that, but I think in the end consumers who care will appreciate it, and eventually Hershey may move to take credit for it. It’s not something you have to trumpet the second you do it or even announce it before you do it. I think brands are learning to use a more stealth approach in this.”

Going organic may not always be the solution to slumping sales. Companies must decide what’s appropriate for a given brand, Mr. Jorgensen said.

Hershey chocolate bars - Hershey switches to cane sugar from G.M.O. beet sugar
Hershey is in the process of removing genetically modified beet sugar from its chocolates and switching to cane sugar.

“I don’t think we should discount how much this will be accepted in the marketplace,” he added. “I think because it’s such new territory, brands really need to design new ways to market this and new ways to communicate it to their customers.

“I think a quiet approach can be a very effective way of doing it.”

Sweet heat takes flight

Sweet and Spicy

Sweet Heat Flavor Takes Flight | Food Business News

by Donna Berry

CHICAGO — Heat and sweet have been attracted to each other since the beginning of time. In the United States, this has traditionally been on an individual basis — a sprinkling of red pepper flakes here and a dash of hot sauce there. But as borders continue to blur, either by real travel or social media, Americans increasingly are craving food adventure. What a better way to surprise them then to marry two very opposite flavor profiles into one culinary sensation?

In many dishes, when spicy ingredients are paired with sweet flavors the heat is mitigated. This enables complex, bold tastes to be enjoyed without burning the taste buds. It is an interesting sensory experience that emerged with the chicken wing category, an American phenomenon.

“Particularly popular is pairing sweet and bold ingredients to create a harmonious balance between opposing flavors,” said Laura McGuire, director, Technomic Inc., Chicago. “Chicken wings were one of the first foods to showcase sweet and bold flavor combinations because the protein pairs well with a variety of tastes.”

A trend-setting combination of sweet and heat is chipotle barbecue sauce, which is often used on wings. The sweetness of the barbecue sauce allows the smoky heat of the chipotle pepper to saunter through the profile without being too hot, said Christopher Warsow, corporate executive chef, Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill.

“When you pair sweetness with peppers, even the hottest peppers become palatable,” he said. “Habanero mango is a popular combination across many product sectors. The habanero pepper is quite flavorful, if you can get over the heat. Adding a dimension of sweetness helps accentuate the citrus notes of the pepper while the sulfurous notes of the mango play out.”

An example is the Screaming Mango Wings from the national chain Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom. These are twice-cooked wings with a sweet mango sauce, habanero and jalapeño.

“While some like food to be spicy, there are many Americans not quite ready for intense heat,” said Felicia Berger, culinary blogger and founder of The Starving Chef, Akron, Ohio. “They find when heat comes with something sweet, the overall taste of the food is much more pleasant.”

Ms. Berger, too, finds that mango pairs well with habanero, especially in her mango salsa.

“When you put these two together, something magical happens,” she said. “With your first bite you are met with a tender sweetness, followed quickly by the fierce spiciness of habanero.”

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Cutting-edge food trends for 2016

10/19/2015 | Source: Food Business News

BOULDER, COLO. — Sugary juices and sweetened yogurts may fall out of favor as consumers increasingly embrace savory flavors in 2016. On the list of culinary trend predictions compiled by the Sterling-Rice Group, Boulder, Colo., are sippable soups, salted yogurt and sour “switchels.”

“We’re really seeing this expansion of our savory palate and how Americans and millennials especially are getting excited about foods that allow them to expand and explore what’s going on in their mouth,” Kara Nielsen, culinary director and trendologist at Sterling-Rice Group, told Food Business News. “(These trends) are really showing that people are more interested in things that are a little more sour and assertive or a little less sweet and a little more balanced. I think that’s going to continue, and a big message for bigger food companies is that they don’t need to keep pandering to a simple taste profile. We are ready for things that are a little more complex and with more umami notes and a little less sugar.”

To compile its annual list, the group collects expertise from food industry experts, publications and trade shows to identify emerging trends in the industry. Not all trends hit the mainstream, but key drivers suggest a shift in consumer behaviors and need states that restaurant operators and food manufacturers may leverage in product development.

Click for a slideshow of cutting-edge culinary trends for 2016.

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