Focus on: Pickles

Many vegetables can be pickled, but most people think “cucumber” when they hear the word “pickle.” The iconic pickle spears that accompany a sandwich or the slices that top a burger start out as cucumbers before they’re submerged in a pickling solution. And it’s the quality of those cucumbers that makes or breaks the pickle.

“It’s important to source cucumbers that are firm with no interior holes and consistent in width and length,” says Julie Bowman, director of marketing at Pinnacle Foods, parent company of Vlasic pickles. To make processed pickles—also known as cured or fermented—the cucumbers are washed, placed in salt brine and held in tanks for up to a year. The pickles are then desalted and packed. Quality pickles have a bright color, firm skin and texture, slightly curved shape and not too salty flavor. “It’s all about the crunch,” Bowman adds.

Some companies produce refrigerated and fresh pack pickles in addition to processed. For the refrigerated variety, cucumbers are placed directly into jars and covered with a brine solution of vinegar and seasonings, then stored under refrigeration, explains a spokesperson for Bay Valley Foods. Fresh pack pickles start off the same way, but the jars are vacuum-sealed and pasteurized. These types are not tanked.

The explosion of burgers on menus has been good for the pickle business—chips or slices on top and/or spears on the plate are expected. QSRs have traditionally been the major buyers of pickle slices, but with the premium-ization of burgers, Vlasic is in the midst of developing a “casual-dining pickle.” Chunks, gherkins (midget cukes) and whole pickles are other available formats. While burgers and sandwiches are the primary applications, pickles also show up in appetizers, salad bars, relish trays, wraps and deli platters.

The most popular pickle flavors are sweet, dill and sour, with variations within each. Kosher dills, for example, are enhanced with garlic and other spices for a more robust flavor, according to Bay Valley Foods. Bread and Butter pickles are sweetened
and flavored with a clove and cassia blend. Pickle brine may also be infused with hot peppers, honey, ginger, mustard seeds, celery seeds and/or other seasonings.

Most foodservice pickles are packed in pails, cans and jars, but plastic pouches are becoming more prevalent for their sustainability factor. Vlasic’s Flex Pouch packaging, for instance, reduces waste and shipping costs, making it more sustainable and economical. “You pay for the pickle, not the pail,” Bowman notes. The 5½-pound pouches, currently used for pickle chips and pickled jalapeños, are packed four or eight to a carton.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo aims to reduce carbon emissions by 34% at its foodservice and facilities management sites by 2025, a goal it says it will reach through such changes as converting cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and using energy-efficient HVAC systems.

In announcing this endeavor toward sustainability, Sodexo—which manages more than 32,000 sites globally—noted that over 7,200 of its sites in North America recycle aluminum and paper, and 8,640 recycle cardboard.

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

FSD Resources