Posts Tagged ‘Manufacturing’

We in the food industry love to figure out the best way to sell a product with a romance description, crisp food photography, and innovative packaging, because these are all the things that affect what you buy, before you have a chance to eat it.  However, there is always a bit of trickery in this process.  This could be hand placed fresh ingredients for the photo, an exaggeration of the flavor profile, and my personal favorite, playing with the standard of identity.

For instance, to call something ‘Greek yogurt,’ it’s traditionally a strained yogurt made with Greek milk with a high protein content, and thicker consistency with less sugar than standard yogurt.  This is the standard of identity which must be submitted and regulated before a product can be labeled as ‘Greek yogurt’.  You can throw all of that our the door if you label it as ‘Greek-style yogurt’.  Now you can add thickening agents, flavors, or other dairy products to have a final yogurt that tastes LIKE Greek yogurt, without having it produced in the standard way. Shenanigans.

There are many examples of this in both foodservice and retail establishments.  Andouille-style sausage, firebaked style flatbreads…the list goes on.  Whenever there is a a regulation in place for a product description, using the word ‘style’ gives us a little leeway.  If you are looking for traditional products or ingredients, avoid items labeled as ‘yada-style yada’.  The advantage of incorporating the word ‘style’ is that the product is usually at a better price point, last longer, better organoleptic properties over shelf-life, and it some cases, consumers aren’t concerned if it is authentic.  I am not saying either is right or wrong, just make sure you know what you are looking for.

There are also food items that have NO standard of identity, which then can use whatever they so desire as a descriptor.

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What are some of your favorite misleading food terms?

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I am a rare breed of culinary professional.  I started my career, like most chefs, working in kitchens. I have worked in fine-dining, country clubs, banquet, and many other facets of the industry, and went to one of the top culinary schools in the nation.  What makes me different is half way through my career, I made the decision to be an R&D chef.  You know…the ones that create consumables for corporate chain restaurants, supermarkets, schools, hospitals, and the military; the ones who blend their knowledge of the culinary arts with food science, manufacturing, sourcing, and consumer science; the ones who research recipes, ingredients, trends, and you (the consumer).  It seems that lately, the food industry has been targeted due to the health and wellness of the products it develops and offers to the general public…but I am here to defend the food industry, and purpose an alternate way for the consumers in the USA to get healthy, natural foods.  BUY THEM!

It is unfortunate that the real demand for healthy, natural food items, usually stem from consumers that already have a healthy diet.  They may have loud voices, but this message does not translate into increased sales of ‘healthy’ food choices.  Most of your top restaurant chains and supermarkets already have great choices in the health and wellness arena, (low sodium, low fat, low calorie, increased fiber, increased nutrients, etc…) but consumers find excuses not to buy them.  Healthy food items are no more expensive than ‘junkfood’, are equally available,   and can be just as convenient as traditional prepared foods.  I have personally developed numerous ‘healthy’ food options that taste great, are affordable, and are easily recognizable, but you don’t buy them.

Although it is fun to play the blame game on the food processing community, it all boils down to consumer preference.  Lets say as soon as I can eat solid food, I am on a steady diet of ‘fastfood’.  Once I get to a place where I need to choose my meals, lets say a school cafeteria, am I going to pick the fresh organic salad or the ‘junkfood’ I am familiar with?  In my opinion, as opposed to taxing ‘junkfood’, removing unhealthy food items from restaurants, a blaming the food industry for being fat, maybe we should teach ourselves to eat healthy from the start.  There are a large number of consumers who utilize convenience foods in their daily lives, and are still considered healthy (me being one of them).  Lets also remember that this does not take into account physical activity, portion size, and a balanced diet.  Is the food we eat unhealthy, or is it our lifestyle?

What are some of your ideas to fight the health problems in America?

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