TRENDS and INNOVATION from CRFA

Innovation is the lifeblood of a brand. Packaged food brands need to innovative to stay relevant in today’s rapidly changing market. Relying solely on “regular flavour” offerings is not enough, although they typically represent about 80% of a brand’s sales.

For inspiration, look to the restaurant industry, the birthplace of many trends. Here’s a sampling of innovations and trends from the 2014 CRFA show, Canada’s biggest event for the restaurant industry.

IMG_1307MAPLE in beverages and cheese…

KiKi Maple Sweet Water® beverages, made in Canada with our own maple sap, are a refreshing source of 80+ micronutrients, prebiotics and antioxidants. Just slightly sweet, they’re available in maple and 3 maple/fruit blends.

Maple Milk from Natrel® gives kids a tasty reason to drink milk.

IMG_1297TRUFFLES (not the chocolate variety)

Taste for Luxury imports Truffle Pearls from Italy – a gourmet delight with the taste of truffles and texture of caviar. Their NoH2O finely sliced Dehydrated Alba White Truffles awaken when added to warm dishes, releasing the true truffle flavour.

ICE SYRUP®

A truly Canadian innovation from Niagara-on-the-Lake, with the sweetness and flavour of ice wine and versatility of maple syrup.

IMG_1311NATURAL GINGER

More flavourful than Canada Dry, Powell & Mahoney’s Ginger Drink & Mixer makes a refreshing and invigorating beverage with or without alcohol.

Real ginger enlivens Iroquois Cranberry Growers’ Cranberry Juice with Ginger.

IMG_1302BAVARIAN PRETZELS

Backerhaus Veit’s authentic Pretzel Buns, made with traditional pretzel dough, stand up to saucy meat fillings. And they’re great with beer. I see hearty German comfort food on the trend horizon.

IMG_1309ARTISAN GRAINS

InHarvest blends artisan grains like farro and amaranth with coloured rices and legumes, boosting nutrition, colour and texture to elevate side dishes and mains to a whole new level.

BEETS

Healthy, vibrant, colourful and versatile, beets are popping up on menus.

IMG_1315SOUS VIDE

Cooking under vacuum locks in the flavour, colour and nutrients of food. It’s the ideal concept for today’s time-starved consumers. If Canadians could just get over the negative image of “boil-in-bag”. For food service operators, Nobly™ steamed sous vide vegetables, legumes, fruit and grains are fully cooked, taking the time, labour and waste out of prepping.

IMG_1325KALE

Taking the snack category up a notch, kale is the new potato chip. Loaded with nutrients it adds colour, texture and a unique taste to soups, salads, side dishes or mains. Sadly, consumers are intimidated by the prep work required for fresh kale. The solution, skillet-ready COOKIN’ GREENS™, take the work out of prepping and cooking.

IMG_1312TEA

When Starbucks gets in the game with Teavana tea bars, you know it’s a trend with legs. Tea is bursting out of the confines of black, green and herbal. Premium artisan tea brand “Tea Squared” offers over 100 blends of fragrant, sensual and stimulating loose leaf tea. So, sip a cup of artisan tea and envision how the flavour can transcend to other food categories.

Numi® Organic Tea introduced savory teas blended with vegetables, wild herbs, decaf tea and aromatic spices.

MATCHA (not macho)

Convenient pre-mixed Matcha green tea powder invigorates beverages and smoothies. Cooking grade Matcha has a stronger flavour that shines through in desserts and baked goods.

IMG_1305And just for fun, Piller’s® makes HEART-SHAPED SALAMI, a novel Valentine’s gift for those who don’t like chocolate or flowers. The sky’s the limit!

Posted by Birgit Blain, President of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., packaged food specialists providing pain relief for food brands. www.BBandAssoc.com

Stress Management for Health’s Sake

WFIM January Health Event -Eat Play and be Healthy 

Named after the Roman god of the doorway, January signifies the passage into a new year.  And here we are, more than half way through the door.  Hopefully by this point, not all of us have foregone our new year’s resolutions.  Luckily, for those of us focused on health, we had WFIM to keep us motivated.

Last Thursday’s WFIM event with Leah Warner, of Employee Wellness Solutions Network, focused on the importance of stress management for a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  Leah provided us with tips and strategies for successfully managing stress through eating, sleep and exercise.

Among the attendees that evening was Doris Valade, President of Malabar Super Spice Co Ltd.   I caught up with Doris after the event, asking her about her own stress management habits, and how her company promotes healthy habits within the office and beyond.  Here’s my Q&A with her:

Q: Being reactionary to stress is common in the work place as stress can happen any time, any day for a variety of reasons.  What is your proactive approach to minimizing stress?

A: My proactive approach involves a good night’s rest and an early start to the day.  Although I wake up at 5:45 A.M., I average 8 hours of sleep a night.  My daily routine varies as I travel a lot to visit customers, but I ensure consistency on the weekends by attending a Pilates class every Saturday.  It helps me expend some of the stress-induced energy from the week past, while preparing me for the week ahead.

Q: Although stress is often seen as debilitating (an effect), Leah encouraged us to view it as empowering (a cause).  How you deal with a stress-inducing situation is highly dependent on your mindset.  How do you promote a positive mindset/environment in your workplace?

 A: Through regular and open communication.  We hold daily 8 A.M. meetings involving all Malabar team members to allow for quick updates and a bit of fun (humour) to start the day.  We encourage additional, smaller team meetings to discuss and deal with challenges or issues as they arise.  We also engage in team building activities to strengthen cooperation and in turn promote a positive company culture.  Our team building event this month is indoor rock climbing!

Q: In the health workshop, we learned that properly fueling our body, engaging in activity and allowing time for rest are effective ways of reducing the impact of stress.  As a food processor and ingredient supplier to the food industry, how do you promote the development of health conscious products? 

A:  Health conscious formulation begins with making informed decisions.  We communicate industry trends, promote new products and discuss important issues facing food processors, in our bi-monthly newsletter, website and LinkedIn page.  Although we have been a supplier of spices, ingredients and seasonings to the food industry for over 30 years, we strive to offer a variety of natural and dietary specific products.  Some of our new additions include salt replacers for sodium reduction, rice crumbs as gluten-free filler in meat products and natural extracts as flavour enhancers.

The 4 Chairs of WFIM

We asked the present and 3 past Chairs: “What’s it like being the Chair of WFIM?”

Donna Messer: (Past Chair)

Well, considering that I’m probably one of the oldest members of the association, I must like not only being a Chair, but being connected with such a vibrant group of professional women.

I was the Director of Agriculture when I first joined WFIM, and I was a speaker and a board member before I became Chair. I have been Chair more than once. The first time, I took over from Angela Holtham, who was the CFO for Christie Biscuits.

When I was Chair, I was an enabler. I believed in the team, and was always bringing in new board members. I recruited both Barb and Susanne and they have both been awesome Chairs and leaders!

I like WFIM because here we are all equal. There is no them and us, only “we”. We laugh, we work, we support each other and we thoroughly enjoy our time together.

At WFIM, while I was Chair, we grew; we evolved and learned the importance of building relationships. We recognized the importance of succession planning and with each new Chair, our association has grown stronger and more cohesive.

Susanne Mikler: (Chair: May 2007 to July 2009)

WFIM is an organization of extraordinary possibilities and it has enabled me to explore aspects of business and personal interaction that are new and innovative. Through WFIM I have been able to lead and be led, create and observe creativity, plan events and attend events, mentor and be mentored. The value of WFIM cannot be measured by general standards as it gives the gift of possibilities and a friendly, open group in which to share ideas.

Being the Chair of WFIM enabled me to set goals, work towards the end result and see the results implemented. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the final outcome of a worthy project.

Passing along the baton to a new Chair was bittersweet. Knowing that the organization is thriving and watching it grow under the careful, new leadership leaves a sense of well-being and a legacy for the future.

I’m proud of WFIM and our accomplishments. I believe we make a difference and have a positive impact on our membership.

Barbara Onyskow: (Chair: July 2009- June 2013)

I have been an active part of the Women in Food Industry Management board for many years. I’ve always been hands on, and passionately involved in whatever needed to be done as a part of the WFIM team. I am part of WFIM because I care deeply about the food sector and the women who are part of it. My platform as Chair was to “Pay it Forward” – to listen, learn and share what our members need most.

From my perspective the need was greatest in face to face connections. We live in a world of high technology and little contact. Everyone is a name or number with impersonal contact only via email – we need that face to face connection and WFIM provides that with our many networking events. I love the way we can connect and enjoy each other’s company plus make new, lasting and supportive WFIM friends!

My goal was to make WFIM our networking family; to lead a group of women who we can call upon for support and advice. I also hoped that I could inspire everyone, both board and members, to have passion for helping others within our industry, without expecting anything in return.

I love being in an organization where we are not in competition with each other; we are in support of each other. Our role is to give positive karma and a sense of belonging and being special to everyone who is part of the WFIM network. I do miss being Chair, but I know that the reigns are in good hands with Nancy, and she can always count on our support to help her make her mark on the organization.

Nancy Klassen: (Chair: July 2013 – present)

I feel like I am very new to WFIM compared to my predecessors! I became the Director of Volunteers shortly after becoming a member in September 2011. That role fit nicely with my HR career. Then, when Barbara’s term as Chair was coming to a close, she and the board “voluntold” me that I should be the next Chair. I was worried, because I felt like I had such limited experience with the association. But, when I thought about it, being Director of Volunteers (Dec. 2011-June 2013) helped me get to know the members of the organization, and arranging volunteers for all of the events helped me understand a little bit about event planning. I was also on a committee that streamlined our sponsorship program to have annual sponsors, and I made a connection with a winery to be a product sponsor, so I knew a little bit about that role, too.

In a few short months I have been learning the ins and outs of the website (one of my personal goals), and understanding the fine details of event planning & budgeting. As Chair, I am frequently introduced to potential members, sponsors, speakers and other associations that might make a good connection with WFIM.

I am thankful that I have such wonderful mentors to help me along the way! Barbara, Susanne & Donna are a great inspiration, and all of the board members are wonderful assets to the organization. And as well, thanks to everyone who volunteers at our events – it may seem like a small role, but the old saying “Many hands make light work” (John Heywood) is definitely true. I look forward to the rest of my term as Chair, continuing the vision of connecting, developing, and supporting our members to be The Best Women at the Table!