Much of the food offerings are the usual suspects, but there are also plenty of new food products, suitable for the quick-serve environment, that play to today's consumer tastes. Here are 10 that intrigued us:
Grilled and pressed sandwiches --- that is, panini --- are all the rage in the sandwich segment. Aladdin Bakers has introduced a line of breads designed specifically for the sandwich press, which is thinner and doesn't get hard when grilled. There are six flavors: plain, whole grain, sundried tomato, spinach, southwestern, and whole wheat.
In the ever-present quest to give consumers healthier options, House of Raeford debuted Gourmet Turkey Burgers, which can be grilled, broiled, or pan-fried, and come in four varieties: Woodfire Grill, Mediterranean Pepper Garlic, Southwest Chili, and Savory Seasoned. The company touts 50 percent less fat than beef hamburgers.
In the same vein, Phillips Foods introduced a tuna burger made of ground yellowfin. A special seasoning blend aims to create a "just off the grill" flavor.
Similar to a burger but not quite the same are new seafood cakes from Stone Silo Foods, which are made of cold-water shrimp, snow crab, and sea scallops, with a bread-crumb coating. The cakes are pre-cooked and flash-frozen and can be sauteed, grilled, deep fried, baked, or broiled.
Food suppliers also continue to improve the health profile of french fries. ConAgra introduced My Fries Gold, which don't absorb as much of the cooking fat --- up to 25 percent less. The "Gold" part of the equation comes from the fact that the fries are made of Yukon Gold potatoes, which tend to have a richer flavor.
Chicken, of course, enjoys a favorable health profile, and Pierce Chicken has introduced a convenient product in the form of its Master Pieces, which are fully cooked, diced, and seasoned pieces of breast meat. Seasonings include Regal Italian, Smoky Chipotle, and Roasted Savory.
As America's Latin population continues to grow --- and we're not getting into an immigration debate here --- so does the nation's taste for Latin foods. McCain is playing to this with an extension to its Latin Latitudes line: South American empanadas. Similar to a turnover, the empanadas from McCain are available in Argentine Style Beef and Onion, and Chorizo, Potato, and Cheese varieties. Another potential winner for quick-serves are McCain's Jalapeno Bottle Caps, which would be a great topping for a burger or chicken sandwich.
Sticking with the Latin theme, J&J Snack Foods expanded its already-impressive line with Quesadilla Pretzel Fillers. These are stuffed soft pretzels made with a corn dough, filled with a mix of Pepper Jack cheese and refried beans, then topped with a blend of shredded Mexican cheeses. Talk about hearty.
Finally, something that is very definitely different: Whyte's Food has introduced a line of flavored and colored cherries. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The flavors include Wild Berry Blue, Lemon Yellow, Passion Fruit Orange, Lime Green, and Milk Chocolate. What would a quick-serve or fast-casual operator do with these? Imagine the fun it might add to your beverage program, ice cream program, or kid's program.
Urp. It's time for a nap.