April 1, 2014
by Jeff Gelski
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An ingredient’s place of origin may be pivotal in promotions. Belgian chocolate, Vermont cheddar and Himalayan pink salt all may catch the interest of consumers when used as ingredients and promoted on the label of a product, be it bread, crackers, pizza, or macaroni and cheese.
“The taste of place can be rather specific as in French wine or Vermont maple syrup or Vermont cheese,” said Tom Bivins, executive director, Vermont Cheese Council, Stowe, Vt. “These geographically regional products provide a story that is incredibly valuable in crating your product.”
He said Europeans have known for centuries that geography, along with soil and climate, may affect ingredients.
“Americans are only now becoming aware of their regional flavors and foods,” he said.
Cheese closer to home
Geographic areas in Europe are known for their cheese, like Parmesan, feta and muenster (see related story on Page 32). Food manufacturers may consider cheese made in America, too. Panera Bread, St. Louis, promotes Vermont white cheddar in its fontina grilled cheese sandwich, for example.
Vermont cheese may be produced using local milk sourced from family farms, Mr. Bivins said. They may be aged in caves and aging rooms with Vermont stone and wood.
“It is no small thing that Vermont cheese, as well as other regional cheeses in the United States, are taking a bite out of the international cheese markets,” Mr. Bivins said. “We no longer have to look to Europe for quality, variety or craftsmanship.”
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Madison, Wis., has a Wisconsin cheese logo that may be displayed on products, said Marilyn Wilkinson, manager of national product communications for the board.
“We make over 600 varieties of cheese, but the one people normally think of quickly is cheddar,” she said.
Cheddar may work in macaroni and cheese or may appear in spiral bread similar to cinnamon bread, she said. Cheddar has a smooth, firm texture and becomes more granular and crumbly as it ages. Its rich, nutty, creamy flavor becomes increasingly sharp and complex with age.
Another cheese type, fontina, is a good melting cheese, Ms. Wilkinson said. For example, it might work well alongside provolone and mozzarella in a three-cheese pizza. Fontina has a smooth, supple texture with tiny holes. It is semi-soft and slightly creamy.
Ms. Wilkinson added the Wisconsin cheese identification on a product may ease the concerns of manufacturers and consumers who want to know who made the product, what is in the product and how the cows that helped to create the cheese in the product were treated.
“There’s never been a time when people are more concerned about where their food comes from then now,” she said.
Chocolate as luxury
Creating higher price points for products is another potential benefit of single-origin ingredients. Chocolate is one such example. According to a 2014 Canadean consumer survey of 2,000 adults in the United Kingdom, 38% said they buy premium chocolate either “regularly” or “all the time,” which compared to 35% for coffee, 33% for alcoholic beverages and 32% for ice cream.
“This shows that even as consumers continue to juggle daily finances and manage household budgets, they are still willing to regularly trade up on indulgent groceries such as chocolate,” Canadean said.
According to the survey, 58% of consumers regard a product as superior to an “everyday” item if it promotes the use of the finest ingredients.
“Irrespective of their financial situation, consumers are still willing to trade up on a regular basis in categories inherently associated with treating and indulgence,” said Michael Hughes, research manager at Canadean. “To encourage trading up behavior, manufacturers need to push the concept of ethical luxury in categories such as chocolate and coffee to make consumers feel that they are getting a real treat over everyday items.”
Perhaps consumers might consider a product with Belgian chocolate as a special treat. In 1988 Puratos launched a new brand, Belcolade, that featured product created exclusively in Belgium. The Belcolade Origins range now is a selection of single origin chocolates from around the world. Les Arómes de Cyrano, a sensory analysis tool, describes the unique characteristics of single origin chocolates.
Barry Callebaut promoted its line of Origin chocolate at the ISM trade exhibition in Cologne, Germany, Jan. 26-29. Origin chocolates are made with cocoa beans harvested in one specific country or growing area within one country. The soil, the climate and the habitat make the cocoa beans unique. Cocoa beans from Venezuela or Ghana might work well in dark chocolate while cocoa beans from Mexico might be a better choice for milk chocolate.
Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business on March 19 announced an investment to expand its specialty cocoa liquors capabilities in its plants in France and Germany.
“This major investment in our cocoa liquor capabilities will enable us to meet growing customer demand for premium and organic chocolate products,” said Philippe Huett, managing director-cocoa for Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business. “These liquors are used in our wide range of chocolate recipes and in our organic certified cocoa butter and powders.”
An investment in Rouen, France, will assist Cargill in expanding its Fine Flavor range of cocoa liquors. A production line is dedicated to manufacturing small batch specialty liquors with distinctive characteristics. The cocoa beans come from origin countries. Venezuelan beans feature a mild and creamy taste while beans from Ecuador have a flowery aroma.
Global attention on Brazil
According to Cargill, the Bahia region in Brazil has unique cocoa characteristics. The soil’s profile, the proximity to the coast, the high rainfall level and the artisanal processing all lead to strong aromatic characteristics and a bitter flavor.
The 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics both will take place in Brazil, which should place the country’s cuisine in the spotlight, according to a TrendScape 2014 report from The Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J. Feijoada completa is a national dish in Brazil. The stew of beans and smoked meats is served with rice and sautéed collard greens and then topped with toasted manioc flour known as farofa.
“The World Cup is one of the most heavily attended events in the world, and there are record numbers of attendees projected for this year,” said Shane Maack, senior executive chef for Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings, Omaha. “So it’s safe to assume that more consumers will be exposed to the flavors of Brazilian cuisine for this very reason. I suspect we will be seeing more Brazilian menu items for at least the next year or two. Traditional Brazilian cuisine comes from a blend of culinary backgrounds: European, Asian and Amazonian.”
He said fruits, including guava and cassava, that are indigenous to Brazil may bring an exotic twist to such sweet applications as baked foods, smoothies and ice cream.
“Spices, marinades and rubs also make Brazilian cuisine stand out as unique,” Mr. Maack said. “Tempero habiano (coriander, parsley, cumin and various peppers) might just be the next hot spice blend popping up on menus.”
Tuscany and the Himalayas are other geographic areas of interest for ingredient sources.
Recent new product launches have included Tuscan boule from Pepperidge Farm, reduced-fat Tuscan spice potato chips from Mikesell’s, and a Tuscan chicken pesto bagel thin sandwich from Einstein Bros.
SaltWorks, Woodinville, Wash., now offers Himalayan pink salt that is sourced only from the Himalayan mountain range in northern Pakistan. The company sources the salt from a family-owned supplier that is registered with the Food and Drug Administration.
The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. also has become involved in a Himalayan ingredient. The company recently acquired Tilda Ltd., a 100% branded Basmati and specialty rice products company based in Essex, the United Kingdom. Basmati rice only may be grown in the Himalayan foothills and is known for its aroma and nutty taste.
The use of common cheese names in peril
The European Union seeks to prohibit American dairy processors from using dozens of common cheese names, including asiago, feta, Parmesan and muenster, according to a letter signed by more than 50 U.S. senators. The European Union claims the names are “geographical indicators” and may be displayed appropriately only on products made in certain areas of Europe.
“Can you imagine going into a grocery store, and cheddar and provolone are called something else?” said Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. “Generations of dairy farmers and producers have worked hard to cultivate a product and brand that resonates with consumers. Efforts by the E.U. to establish trade guidelines that would restrict branding are ridiculous and threaten Pennsylvania jobs.”
Senator Toomey and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York composed the letter, which urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative to fight the E.U. efforts, which relate to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The National Milk Producers Federation, the International Dairy Foods Association, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. and Leprino Foods all support the letter’s intention.
“Protecting the ability of U.S. cheese makers to use common cheese names is a top priority for I.D.F.A.,” said Connie Tipton, president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Association. “TTIP is an opportunity to lift trade barriers, not impose new ones.”