07 Apr 2022

US blueberries focus the food service industry

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How about a chicken waffle cone at blueberries with cornflakes? Or perhaps you'd like an Avocado Trifle at blueberry? blueberryThese are just a few of the more than two dozen blueberry-based recipes tested and sampled at the USHBC (United States Highbush Blueberry Council) culinary innovation workshop in Boulder, Colorado.

USHBC President Shelly Hartmann, President Kasey Cronquist and Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Sparks joined Jill Overdorf of Naturipe Farms, Stephanie Kleiner of Driscoll's, Thomas Smith of California Giant Berry Farm and Steve Mowat of Field Sweet to test the next wave of innovation and inspiration for USHBC's food service program.

The strategic and appetizing session was hosted by Sterling-Rice Group, USHBC's food service agency, and their talented team of chefs. Together, the assembled group laid out USHBC's 2022 plan to build relationships and bring blueberryinnovation to the menu in compulsory schools, colleges and universities, and commercial restaurants across the nation.

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"Innovation is the lifeblood of the restaurant industry and, now more than ever, short-staffed operators are looking to brands and councils for support in relation to menu ideas," said Sparks. "As a commodity body, we are ideally placed to work with operators across all segments to bring them innovative ideas on the many possibilities for blueberriesinspiration on menus."

USHBC's innovation process begins with a deep understanding of the current issues facing the restaurant industry - from labor to inflation, recovering traffic counts and higher cost of goods - while building on USHBC's proprietary data illustrating where restaurant customers want to see more blueberrieson menus. We then studied which sectors of the industry are growing fastest to identify where to focus for the greatest volume impact for blueberries.

From there, a team of chefs with experience in the desired areas is assembled and a large-scale brainstorming session is conducted, gathering hundreds of ideas on key menu platforms that align with industry and customer trends. We then distilled these ideas based on their adherence to key criteria such as their ability to drive volume of blueberrieswhen incorporated into the menu, suitability for our identified objectives and their ability to drive the use of multiple formats of blueberries(fresh, frozen, canned, juice, etc.).

Culinary innovation culminated in the kitchen when USHBC and key stakeholders sampled the top 26 concepts that passed this rigorous process. A dozen or more of the tested concepts will be professionally photographed and showcased front and centre in communications, presentations, events and advertising to illustrate the best of what blueberriescan do for our foodservice operator partners. Other concepts will be featured in chef-inspired recipes on USHBC's foodservice website.

"USHBC has become a well-respected resource for menu inspiration and innovation support within the foodservice industry," said Sparks. "And it's this in-depth process that provides the high-quality concepts our partners need, and will grow the volume of blueberriesfor the industry."

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