Focus on: Salad Toppers

In the early days of salad bars, croutons ruled as the “extra” of choice to top a bowl of lettuce and veggies. Since then, salad topping options have expanded exponentially—as have the types of croutons available. Sugar Foods, the self-proclaimed “largest crouton manufacturer on the planet” under its Fresh Gourmet label, offers bite-size croutons in a wide variety of breads (white, multigrain, challah, focaccia and more), cut sizes and styles (homestyle, French, country cut, etc.) and seasonings. Marzetti, another foodservice crouton company, has flavors including Garlic & Butter, Cheese & Garlic and Caesar.

“Croutons were once available only as tiny cubes, plain or seasoned,” says Andrea Brule, general manager of innovative ingredients for Sugar Foods. “But with the growth of entrée salads, the texture component became very important. Now when consumers dine out, they want to find a lot of ‘stuff’ in their salads. And chefs are using salads as a canvas for creativity.”

With a diverse array of crunchy salad toppings available in shelf-stable packages, it’s convenient for operators to add texture, visual appeal and differentiation
to a salad right out of the box. The Fresh Gourmet brand, for example, includes crispy jalapeños, crispy onions, crispy red peppers, wonton strips and tortilla strips. “There’s a trend toward ethnic twists in salads, so we have tortilla, jalapeño and wonton strips to meet that demand,” notes Brule. “There’s also a trend toward incorporating more vegetables. We put onions and peppers through a special process to make them crispy. They are flour dusted, gently fried and oven toasted.” Sugar Foods is also developing hybrid products, such as tortilla chips infused with 40 percent fresh red bell pepper. And crispy nopales—the cactus leaves popular in Mexican cuisine—are available in Mexico.

Although crispy toppers were designed to add texture to salads, they are easily cross-utilized into other menu items. Breakfast egg dishes, burgers, sandwiches, nachos and burritos can be enhanced by the products. They can also be crushed and added to batters and doughs.

Fresh Gourmet offers two size packages of crispy toppings for foodservice: 1-pound bags designed to allow the average operator to get through one package per shift, and ½-ounce portion packets for takeout. The brand’s croutons come in 2-pound bags, while Marzetti offers 20-ounce and 40-ounce bags in their bulk line.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

This semester, the East Quad dining team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is taking steps to offer more authentic global cuisine , Michigan Daily reports.

The team has partnered with the Office of Student Life to start a conversation with students on how best to create and serve Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Additionally, the university invited chefs from Japan and India to campus to help its chefs create more authentic recipes.

The school’s push for more accurate global cuisine was partially inspired by an international food event that got cancelled...

Industry News & Opinion
Madison food truck

The Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis., has partnered with a local organization to debut a food truck that will serve healthy, locally sourced lunch options for Madison high school students, according to The Capital Times .

The truck, which was donated by the Emmi Roth Cheese Co., will visit four high schools Tuesday through Friday, spending a day at each campus. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch can use the food truck as they would the school cafeteria for no-cost or discounted meals.

Members of MMSD and partner organization REAP Food...

Industry News & Opinion

Identifying prospective employees may be less challenging for foodservice operators than getting would-be recruits to complete the hiring process , according to a new study of why job applicants bail.

The report shows that nearly three out of fours applicants (74%) will drop their effort to be hired if they suspect management is racist, and two out of three (62%) will flee if they learn of sexual harassment allegations. Roughly the same proportion (65%) will halt their pursuit if they encounter indications of a gender gap in pay.

About half (45%) of candidates won’t show...

Menu Development
zoodles

Here’s how two operations are spotlighting produce this season.

Oodles of zoodles

Binghamton University underscored its growing focus on plant-based options with a recent zoodle pop-up on campus. The pop-up, which served vegetable noodle bowls in vegan and vegetarian varieties, sold out of the dishes in four hours. The Binghamton, N.Y., school aims to add zoodles to its regular menu in the fall.

A buffet boost

The dining team at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, recently re-evaluated its buffet offerings with an eye toward adding healthy options. It updated the fruit and...

FSD Resources