Restaurants: full scale diversification, responsible packaging, fruit ketchup is making a splash, popcorn revolution…
In the spotlight
🍃 The “responsible packaging” trend: four innovators
Recyclable, biodegradable or compostable packaging, and the use of ecological inks... According to the Global Buying Green 2021 report by Trivium Packaging (based on a survey conducted with the Boston Consulting Group among 15,000 individuals in Europe, North America and South America), 67 percent of consumers consider it important that the products they buy be packaged in recyclable packaging. Here is a closer look at five brands that are breaking the code in favor of eco-friendliness.
Chips to sprinkle. For a few months now, Spudos, a company specializing in potato-based snacks, has been renewing the genre. One hundred percent eco-friendly, the chips are grown and cooked by hand in the UK on a sustainable farm that uses solar energy, recycles sunflower oil into biodiesel and plants trees to offset its carbon impact. Delivery? By bike. The concept? Innovative: these plain chips — available online or in Zero Waste stores — are pimped with one of the brand's many kinds of Spud Dust, i.e. powdered flavors dosed according to one's taste. Once the powder shakers are empty, consumers are encouraged to return them for a £1 discount code on their next order. Washed and sterilized, the containers are reused by the company, thus reducing waste. As for the chips, they are sold in bulk in physical stores. Online, they are not packed in a classic bag but in compostable bags of 500 grams or one kilo as well as in reusable trays of two kilos.
Upcycling for glass bottles. True Fruits is a German smoothie brand that sells its juices in glass bottles. Interestingly, even though 83 percent of glass is recycled in Germany, the brand offers its customers the ability to reuse the bottles thanks to a range of 14 stainless steel caps. In addition to the classic models, there are value-added variants such as a spice grinder, soap dispenser or tea strainer, all at a price ranging from 10 to 17 euros. A funnel is also available in order to refill the different bottle sizes endlessly. Smart!
Green and fun labels. Bottle labels can hinder the recycling process if the inks, adhesives and substrate that make them up are not removed, which is why more and more brands are thinking about easy-to-remove alternatives, like water brand Aroma, which has enlisted the Italian company Gentlebrand to design labels made from organic paper and vegetable inks. But it doesn't stop there: some of these labels contain seeds that correspond to the aroma of the drink they accompany. Easily removable, they are destined to find a new life by being planted in pots or in the ground. A clever idea.
Yes we CAN. The coffee brand Manifesto Coffee markets its coffee beans in cans, a choice detailed in an ecological manifesto published on its website. In essence, the manifesto explains that most coffee packaging that says "100% recyclable" or "compostable" fail to tell the whole story. In fact, it should say "100% recyclable if you separate the valve and clasp and place the components in the appropriate garbage cans at your local recycling center.” It is this omission of information that pushed the brand to innovate by using cans, easy to throw in the family waste bins and recycle, all while creating distinctive point-of-sale packaging thanks to clever branding! And the can packaging continues to gain momentum. A few weeks ago, we told you about Atlas Obscura, an international community of food entrepreneurs who, for the launch of their book, designed a pop up vending machine housing a selection of atypical foods and beverages, such as premium canned bread and cakes.
🧑🍳 Restaurants: full scale diversification.
Hit hard by the pandemic over the past two years, restaurants have had to reinvent themselves to keep their heads above water. While increased digitalization and pick-up solutions are part of the basic survival kit, other trends are taking hold in a lasting way and metamorphosing the industry. Is the restaurant as we know it dead? Consider this...
The dark kitchen trend. Also known as a "ghost kitchen" or "cloud kitchen," is a phenomenon that continues to grow around the world with viral variants such as Virtual Dining Concepts that specialize in creating dark restaurants for celebrities. After identifying the ghost kitchens that will fit into the plan, the company invites its culinary director to design menus intended to be replicated with minimal training. Virtual Dining Concepts has already distinguished itself by launching Mariah Carey's cookies, Tyga's bytes and Mr Beast's burgers. But VDC doesn't have a monopoly and other similar concepts are gaining traction. A few days ago, Popchew raised $3.6 million, just six months after its launch. Its motto: allow a creator to develop their own dish or product by focusing on the delivery experience, with discounts and gifts at the end.
Memberships to build loyalty and awe. Going to a restaurant based on a paid membership? The idea may seem far-fetched, but it is slowly gaining market share. Companies such as Table 22 in the US offer all the technical support needed to help restaurant owners deploy subscription programs that will make a difference. For example, the Washington-based Asian restaurant Anju and Chiko offers in-home dining experiences once or twice a month: no ordinary takeaway here, but a unique experience worthy of a great chef in the privacy of one's home. Another example is the Che Fico restaurant, which offers three membership models rooted in exclusivity. The first allows you to receive at home artisanal products selected and/or prepared by the chef himself. The second option allows you to have baskets of local products sourced from the ultra-selective farms that usually supply the restaurant's kitchens. Finally, the third option provides access to a wine tasting club with personalized recommendations, tips and tricks. The phenomenon can even take on a digital aspect and become part of the blockchain, like Flysfish Club, which is presented as the first private dining club with access in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT): the owner of it will be able to access the restaurant and various exclusive dishes and experiences.
The third space coworking? Kindred, a New York restaurant, started renting out its tables during the day to remote workers to make money during the COVID-19 crisis. For $25, it was possible to have a table, free coffee, WiFi and access to the bathroom. An offer that the restaurant has renewed from November to April 2022 and can be found on its site, in the dedicated section "Work from Kindred". A service that could fill the empty seats at many restaurants? To be continued...
Bringing in new DTC brands. Modern Retail recently devoted an article to restaurants that are turning into DTC brands. Among them, the Momofuku chain recorded a waiting list of 70,000 people for the launch of its new noodles, sold via its website. Dessert restaurant Milk Bar also entered the ready-to-eat market last year with cookies and ice cream available at Target, CVS, Wegmans and Whole Foods. The trend can also be seen in France. Since July, Cojean has included a grocery line and offers granola, spices, coffee, and herbal teas. And the phenomenon is expected to grow even stronger with the rise of social commerce platforms in the creator economy, such as Goldbelly and Delli.
360° merchandising. Launching cookbooks or food products is not surprising for a restaurant. What is more unusual, however, is when establishments go off the beaten path to imagine products that are a world away from their core business. This approach, well known to fast food chains, is becoming more widespread. One example? Elena, an Italian restaurant based in Quebec, offers t-shirts, socks, eyeglass cords and other fashion items through its shop, along with traditional cookbooks and hot sauces. But be careful: you won't be able to buy cheap items because you'll have to pay $50 for a string bag.
🍪 Cookie dough turns gourmet
Cookie lovers both young and old already know this. The best part about making cookies? When the dough is raw and you can eat it with a spoon! A concept that ice cream makers have understood well by introducing the dough, since the 80s, to their recipes. At the beginning of the 90's, Ben & Jerry's launched its iconic "Cookie Dough" flavor, which has become one of the brand's bestsellers.
Does this little — not so — guilty pleasure, however, have the potential to become the new star of sweet breaks? That’s Kristen Tomlan’s belief, as she launched the DŌ brand on the American market in 2014, claiming to be the first brand dedicated to the world of "edible" raw cookie dough. It’s a nuance that has nothing to do with a marketing argument since it should be known that eating dough carries risks: raw eggs can be contaminated by bacteria such as salmonella, just like uncooked flour that can be contaminated by E. coli bacteria. The founder's solution? Exit the eggs and make room for flour heat treated to 165°F to exterminate the bacteria. It’s a successful recipe, doubled by the launch of a book in 2019 that counts more than 500 reviews on Amazon.
On Google, the query "Cookie Dough" is typed on average 210,000 times each month with a peak of 368,000 in April 2020 during the lockdown. An unprecedented event that prompted Ben & Jerry's to — again — launch a range of snacks based on half-cooked dough, so that dough addicts no longer have to dig into their ice cream pot to find their favorite pieces. And they're not the only ones. In the U.S., brands in this space are growing: Plants on Fire, The Cookie Dough Cafe, My Cookie Dough Magic… The same goes for France, with We dough: operated by a "meilleur ouvrier de France." The brand is located in Lyon but also has ephemeral shops. Cupkie, for its part, has taken over the rue Monge in Paris with a "French-style" cookie dough store. Distributed at Monoprix, Kook’s takes on the look of yogurt with the particularity of being able to be eaten either raw or slightly heated.
What's next? According to Google queries, healthy variants based on chickpeas, in particular, could make a splash. Particular mention should be made of functional versions such as those offered by the Deux brand with its "mood boost" (maca), "anti-stress" (ashwagandha), "sports" (peas), "immunity" (elderberry and zinc) and "beauty" (aloe vera and vitamin C) recipes. Who knew?
🥑 The avocado, where you least expect it.
In smoothies, in guacamole, on a toast, in pastries and chocolate mousses where it can replace butter, the avocado has carved out a place for itself on our plates and on our Instagram feeds, especially since it is full of nutritional qualities and health benefits: unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamin K, vitamin E ... Superstar of superfood, its consumption has exploded in recent years in the West. In Europe, it has grown by 65 percent between 2016 and 2018 to reach about 650,000 tons. The same is true on the other side of the Atlantic, where its consumption in the United States has increased from about one kilo per capita in 2001 to nearly three and a half kilos in 2018. And the phenomenon is not expected to stop any time soon as analysts predict a global compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 6 percent over the period 2020-2025.
A flourishing context that encourages industrialists and food startups to compete to invent new variations of this green gold. The Avocrazy brand, for example, offers puffed avocado-based chips, while Hippie Snacks is betting on a healthy cracker version and BranchOut on a crunchy chip version. Earnest Eats offers a wide range of "snacking avocados" based on the principle of freeze-drying the food before dehydrating it to extract the water. It’s a method of preservation that offers many advantages: preservation of taste and appearance, while maintaining about 95 percent of the nutritional value and extending the shelf life.
Let's also mention Compartes, which offers an unusual chocolate bar made of avocado and tacos, marking another step towards the diversification of avocado, which can replace bad fats in savory, sweet and dairy recipes... The condiment brand Primal Kitchen, acquired by Kraft Heinz Company in 2019, offers healthier mayonnaises where oil is replaced by avocado. An example that is not isolated, since it is also the commitment of the condiment brand Dr Will’s.
But all is not so bright. The drift of intensive agriculture, the catastrophic carbon footprint, armed conflicts between cartels — while the avocado culture grows more and more, the line between strong and weak signals is very thin. Nevertheless, these critical points are also opportunities for more respectful production methods, such as the "local exotics" we have already mentioned. Also worth following: a tissue culture technology developed by the University of Queensland allows for up to 500 times more plants to be grown from a single cutting in 10-12 months – significantly reducing both resources required and the time to produce a plant for sale in an orchard.
Did you know? The first popcorn machine dates back to 1885. Popularized during the Great Depression because of its cheap price, the famous snack experienced a major boom in the early 1980s with the launch of its microwaveable version in American homes. Forty years of pop culture later, it seems popcorn is still popular with a global market expected to reach $16.1 billion by 2026. And if the USA, Japan, China or Canada are among the most fond of it, Europe — especially Germany — is not far behind.
The undisputed star of movie theaters, popcorn has not always had an easy ride. A few years ago, the press reported on the "popcorn worker's disease," i.e. obliterative bronchiolitis caused by diacetyl, an additive that gives microwaveable popcorn its buttery taste. Since then, the manufacturers have withdrawn it, determined to give the product back all its credentials. Popcorn, cooked in the right conditions and with the right amount of fat, is a healthy snack rich in polyphenols and fiber while promoting satiety. Gone are the old school recipes that are too fatty: make way for the clean compositions imagined by new DTC brands.
Three Dads offers popcorn seasoned with yeast rich in proteins and B vitamins, all cooked in hot air to preserve the nutritional quality and limit the caloric intake. It’s a philosophy that is found at Herbal Green Popcorn, which pushes the "functional" aspect a step further by adding spirulina, known for its detoxifying properties. It’s the same principle at Bjorn Qorn, which distinguishes itself by its method of cooking with the heat of the sun thanks to reflectors with mirrors and other installations with solar energy.
Another interesting example is Rob’s Backstage Popcorn presented as the indulgence enjoyed backstage by the Jonas Brothers. This brand is part of The Naked Market’s portfolio founded in 2019 by Harrison Fugman, Alex Kost and Tim Marbach with a mission to create healthier food offerings to meet the changing interests of consumers, especially GenZ. Through a sharp insourcing process, The Naked Market is able to conceptualize ideas and deploy them to market in just two to three months.
For its part, Opopop has positioned itself in the healthy microwave popcorn segment with carefully studied marketing: the brand has designed a special bowl to accompany original flavors such as "Chedapeno" (jalapeno and cheddar), "Maui heat" (pineapple, paprika, cayenne pepper) or "Cinnalicious" (sweet cinnamon).
Worth mentioning too, Pop Art Snacks brand, whose motto intends to replicate the spirit of Andy Warhol's Campbell's soup for snacks! The brand has illustrated itself by launching glittery popcorns with crystals colored with fruit and vegetable ingredients. A creative positioning that earned the brand an award at Natural Products Expo West 2022, where it was named the Editors' Choice for Most Crave-Worthy Product.
And new variations are constantly being developed. Chasin’ Dreams Farm, for example, replaces corn with sorghum, a gluten-free cereal that has a major advantage: without a film, these snacks do not get stuck in your teeth! Also noteworthy is the rise of water lily seed-based popcorn: AshaPops, Bohana, Taali Foods, Sweet Apricity or Karma Bites. These recipes put the traditional versions back in the closet at a time when water lily and lotus seeds, considered an Ayurvedic superfood, are gaining in popularity.
🍅 Fruit ketchup is making a splash
Ketchup, soon to be sold out? Over the past 12 months, an increase in takeout orders and deliveries has caused a spike in sales of the famous condiment. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the United States, the price of ketchup bags has risen by 13 percent since January 2020, with many customers complaining about the difficulty of obtaining bags of ketchup at drive-throughs... While restaurant owners have begun to study alternatives to the bestseller Heinz — which holds almost 70 percent of the market share in the US — the competition is getting active by surfing on macro-trends: organic, less salty, less sweet or with natural sugars, such as Dr. Will’s, for example, which uses a date-based paste to naturally sweeten its ketchups.
In addition to these cleaner and healthier labels, the trend is also moving towards fruit ketchup, which is growing rapidly and already accounts for 8 percent of the total market. Banana ketchup, a Filipino recipe made from bananas, sugar, spices and vinegar, is making its way into Western kitchens with brands like the British Rubies in the Rubble. On Google, there are more than 30,000 queries per month on the subject, three times more than in 2019. And the concept seems to literally be adaptable to any sauce with, for example, Dr. Wills’ beet ketchup.
In France, Les 3 Chouettes offers two variants with "Orange Splash" (carrot, ginger) and "Violet Olé" (beet, cumin). Special mention for the Swiss Paul, who offers gourmet and artisanal ketchups made with squash, pear-beer, smoked peach or apple-ginger, guaranteed free from concentrates, flavor enhancers, E additives, preservatives, etc. As for the spicy versions, let's mention the Matshi sauces (peach, rhubarb, pear, fig...), which work in the form of drops generally sold out in record time.
But beyond its composition, the ketchup format is also being reinvented: recently in the form of thin square sheets to be slipped into sandwiches, but also in a powder version, which is branded as being more sustainable.
Short stories from the bar counter.
The business of gustatory illusions. We've already told you about AirUp, a company that develops flavored water bottles and pods that trick the brain into flavoring water solely through the sense of smell, allowing you to indulge in a sugar-free, additive-free drink. We've also already mentioned Sweet Victory chewing gum, which is known to stop sugar cravings thanks to a patented technology that works in two minutes by blocking the receptors on the tongue. Its effect can last up to two hours, making sweet products bland — even sour — reducing the desire to eat them. In the same vein, SpoonTEK is a new kind of spoon that uses ionic technology to combine electrical and sensory stimulation. In other words, this accessory generates a light electric current on the tongue to stimulate the taste buds and enhance the flavors of food, a clever device for those looking for ways to make low-calorie foods more palatable. A real issue when you learn, via The World Atlas of Obesity 2022, that one billion people — including one in five women and one in seven men — could be obese by 2030. Ready to give your taste buds a juice boost?
After DIY, FIY? Hello Fresh, Good Food, Cook it, Fredbox, Quitoque, Seazon… Ever more numerous, meal kits offer consumers the ability to indulge in Do It Yourself cooking with a little help. The same dynamic applies to Finish It Yourself, i.e. ready-made products with just a little finishing touch, guaranteeing the satisfaction of doing it yourself. In the USA, the Sprinkles cake brand offers "DYO-TO-GO" muffin kits delivered with icing and sprinkles so you can decorate them yourself at home. Another example is Duff’s Cakemix and its concept store where you can decorate your pre-baked cakes to enjoy them on the spot or take them home. A franchise that founder chef Duff Goldman intends to develop to 250 points of sale across the country and to scale internationally with a goal of 1,000 stores. Food art, an FIY with therapeutic overtones?
Curiosities spotted at Expo West. After two years of pandemic, Natural Products Expo West, the main trade show for the natural, organic and healthy products sector, has returned in its on-site version. Among the curiosities spotted: the brand "Both," which has products half veggies and half meat in order to offer "the best of both worlds." The motto? "We think that it is, without irony, impossible to assume that everyone will stop eating meat. But why not eat less meat? It is possible! So we decided to create a delicious burger so that meat lovers would understand that it's time to start eating less meat... For the sake of our hearts and the planet." Duly noted! Also worth mentioning are 8th Wonder's superfood sparkling tea, Miyoko's Creamery’s vegan liquid mozzarella for pizza or cottage cheese, made from sunflower seed milk and watermelon, and Ithaca Hummus' pickle and dill flavored hummus, which premiered at the show.
A book to read: "Endangered food" by Dan Saladino. A fascinating narrative in which the journalist introduces us to "landrace" foods, born in the heart of the world's regions and handed down from generation to generation. On the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland, for example, there is a barley that bends rather than breaks in the strong winds and thrives in sandy, alkaline soil. In Tanzania, Saladino reports on how Hadza hunter-gatherers collaborate with birds to locate bee nests from which they collect handfuls of honey. The detailed review in the New York Times gives a good overview of this book, which alerts us to the fragility of this food ecosystem, which is subject to climate change but also to geopolitical conflicts.