Winning the flavor pairing game

Chocolate chip cookies milk flavor pair

From Mondelēz International Foodservice.

Flavor pairing is not a mysterious art or science—it’s an everyday activity for anyone who eats, because it’s based on the principle that certain flavors are naturally delightful when consumed together.

Succeeding with flavor pairings in a non-commercial dining room or cafeteria is a matter of determining what products consumers want and presenting them in a visible, appealing and accessible way.

Product placement is critical to stimulating spur-of-the-moment purchases. Set up a cooler with single-serve containers of ice-cold milk next to a display rack of packaged chocolate-cream sandwich cookies to maximize sales of both. Or try bundling a yogurt, an apple and a chilled beverage into a convenient combo meal at the grab-and-go station to save time and steps for customers on the run.

Also, flavor pairings can be fine-tuned to appeal to particular customer needs. For example, to cater to the health-minded crowd, arrange individual packages of celery sticks or baby carrots and light ranch dressing, or prepackaged salads, in proximity to bottled waters and zero-calorie fruit beverages. This is also a great place to display whole-grain crackers or breakfast biscuits that combine crunch, flavor and healthful ingredients along with good-for-you beverages.

However, don’t go overboard with healthful options: Many consumers like to reward themselves with a taste of indulgence when the mood strikes, which can be any time of day. In fact, Technomic’s 2013 Dessert Consumer Trend Report reported that 35 percent of consumers said they eat desserts at least weekly as midmorning snacks and 47 percent eat desserts as midafternoon snacks. Thus, it’s wise to balance healthful offerings with treats that people know and love, such as brand-name cookies, candies, chips and desserts.

Ethnic promotions and holidays open up a world of potential flavor pairings in non-commercial operations. For example, for Cinco de Mayo, it makes perfect sense to tout Mexican bottled soft drinks or house-mixed aguas frescas—fresh fruit beverages—as companions for tacos and burritos. At Halloween or Thanksgiving, it is intuitive to offer pumpkin muffins with pumpkin lattes. The same goes for mint-chocolate cookies and green milkshakes on St. Patrick’s Day. However, because seasonal flavor pairings typically have a strong but relatively brief appeal, they are most effective when used for a limited time. Customers will eagerly anticipate their return.

To encourage takeout sales, make your pairings as portable and convenient as possible. Have takeout bags handy at grab-and-go stations to allow customers to easily bag their own orders. A recent Technomic snacking study found that 60 percent of consumers today consider portability to be an important or extremely important factor when selecting a snack, up from 55 percent in 2012.

Regularly look for new flavors to refresh the product mix. Good choices include French vanilla, mocha, chocolate and caramel, which are currently popular on coffee shop and restaurant dessert menus. But don’t be afraid to be creative and a little edgy in your choices, especially if you have a clientele that is open-minded and experimental, such as millennial consumers. For example, explore the sensations of salted caramel and salted dark chocolate that have become popular in coffee drinks, candy and restaurant desserts. Or add the unique smoky, salty richness of bacon to cookies, brownies or shakes. You can also cater to the growing numbers of people who enjoy spicy foods with chocolate-chipotle brownies and similar lively fare.

It’s challenging to keep up with the parade of new snacks and beverages on the market, and it may be wise to team up with a supplier that shares insights on trending flavors in addition to providing market-leading brands. That sort of support can be a major impetus of success—not only in flavor pairing, but in business in general.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Managing Your Business
hand chip card

Between menu planning, budgets and the other myriad concerns FSDs face, it’s easy to overlook the simple ID and/or cash cards issued to diners. But making the choice to upgrade technology can unlock the potential of these once-humble cards: They can be room keys, event tickets and, perhaps most importantly, a needed additional layer of security.

That’s the future of student IDs at the University of Notre Dame, which will switch from magnetic strip cards to chip-based ones in August 2017. “Traditionally, the ID cards have been used as point-of-entry access for dining operations,”...

Menu Development
salad chicken

Vegetables and grains have stepped into the spotlight, thanks to the “flipping the plate” trend, but protein is still an important part of a balanced diet. Sources including meat, cheese, nuts, and meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh can and should still be on the plate—albeit as a side dish or topping rather than the main event.

“Whatever we do [as FSDs] needs to be rooted in the culture, and today’s culture is all about healthy eating and plant-focused meals,” says Chris Studtmann, executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “A recipe is an idea; culture is...

Menu Development
jackfruit

It emerged as a top food trend on Pinterest’s 2017 predictions, is “the latest miracle food” according to Epicurious, and was called “a nutritional bonanza” by NPR. Jackfruit is the latest superfood garnering buzz, and Even Stevens Sandwiches has gone after the vegetarian-friendly option for a recently launched torta. Here, Culinary Director Brandon Price shares three lessons learned from adding jackfruit to the menu.

Finding the best form

Using fresh jackfruit wasn’t the answer for the chain. It has to be sourced internationally, and breaking it down cuts into labor costs. But...

FSD Resources