Fresh grapes are being used more and more as a staple ingredient in the foodservice sector, giving consumers a wide variety of taste with three grape colors: green, black, and red. Panera Bread recently added the Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich with fresh grapes to their “Signature” sandwich menu.
“We were looking for ways to update our chicken salad sandwich and to utilize ingredients that would add an interesting and fresh twist,” says John Taylor, director of product development for Panera Bread. “Also, as a natural complement to chicken, grapes promote the ‘fresh’ quality our customers expect from all our bakery-café offerings.”
Team Panera, led by Taylor, tested many recipes for the new chicken sandwich as a group and with customers. The winning version features almonds, fresh grapes, and honey in a lighter dressing served on Panera’s Sesame Semolina bread.
“We’re seeing a significant increase in the use of fresh grapes from California in salads, sandwiches, and entrees in restaurants not only here but abroad as well,” says Cindy Plummer, the vice president of domestic marketing for the California Table Grape Commission. “Fresh grapes are becoming recognized as a versatile contemporary ingredient by chefs and menu developers at the same time as consumers are seeking more ways to include fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet.”