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

The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association has made public the 2018 recipients of its annual Silver Plate awards.

The nine winners—each of whom was given the top prize in their respective foodservice segment—include four well-known names in noncommercial:

Healthcare: Jim McGrody , director of culinary and nutrition services at UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C. C&U: Dennis Pierce , executive director of dining services at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. B&I: Michiel Bakker , director of global food services for Google K-12: Ken Yant,...
Industry News & Opinion

Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary in Brunswick, Maine, is hosting a mentorship program that brings in local community members to have lunch with second-graders twice a week, The Forecaster reports.

The program is aimed to foster conversation between the students and area adults, and staff say they are happy to have the extra adult supervision during lunch and recess.

Officials would like to find more volunteers to expand the program to the third, fourth and fifth grades in the future.

Read the full story via .

Ideas and Innovation
buying small

Here’s a stunner for noncommercial operators who work with one big supplier: Smith College buys food from more than 50 different suppliers. And only three of those suppliers sell Smith more than 3% of its food. “We know boutique,” says Andy Cox, director of Dining Services at the Northampton, Mass., school. “There are ways to make it work.”

Adding to Smith’s challenges: Dining Services has 12 kitchens and no central receiving, and works to ensure that 20% of its food is fair, local, humane and/or ecologically sound.

Teamwork between a food buyer and financial systems...

Industry News & Opinion

Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., is celebrating National Nutrition Month by offering free weekly samples of plant-based items , as well as hosting produce-centric events around campus, the Indiana Daily Student reports.

Every Wednesday this month, students will be able to sample such dishes as vegetable vindaloo, lemon-herb quinoa salad, and pistachio and apricot couscous. Some of the items featured have been offered previously on campus, while others are new recipes.

The university has also partnered with a culinary training organization to launch two plant-based...

FSD Resources