Tag Archives: Food

New Habits

This Foodie Friday, I’d like you to imagine that you went to bed after a lot of reveling this last New Year’s Eve and have just woken up. In any other year, you might be mildly surprised as to what’s gone on for the first 5 months of the year. 2020? You wouldn’t recognize it.

The pandemic has changed many things and people’s relationship with food is one of them. More than 80% of consumers say the coronavirus pandemic has changed their food habits, driving them to cook, eat, shop, and think about food differently, according to the annual Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council. Obviously, with most restaurants closed, many more people are cooking at home. About 60% of people, in fact. But 85% of people say they’re doing something differently, ranging from snacking more to washing produce more often.

They’re also changing what they’re eating. Generally, people are trying to eat more healthy although both KFC and Pizza Hut saw sales soar into the double-digits last month as consumers stayed home and ate more chicken and delivered pizza. Still, cooking more at home tends to be a little bit more healthy than the choices that we might make when eating out. That’s probably why the stuff we cook at home doesn’t taste as good as restaurant food! That said, three out of five people said they consider how healthy items are. And compared to 10 years ago, more than half said the healthiness of food makes more of a difference to them now.

Why am I bringing all of this up? I guess it’s just another reminder that the world we all knew has changed significantly but therein lies opportunity. The reason that we older folks tend not to be targeted by much marketing is that there’s an assumption that our buying habits are locked in stone. A lot more money is spent going after younger consumers whose shopping habits may be more malleable. I’d suggest to you that at this point everyone is rethinking not just how they buy food and eat but also how they spend their money on other things. People who used to travel a lot may find they’re not doing that now. Do those dollars go to home improvement or a shiny new entertainment center?

Habits are changing. You need to be changing with them if you want your business to continue to thrive. 

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Fresh Picked

A little bit of a detour this Foodie Friday. Instead of talking about how food is prepared and served, this week I want to tell you a bit about where some of my food comes from, and it’s not a supermarket.

One of my favorite things about having moved to NorthCarolina is that I live in the middle of many farms. Most of them produce corn and soybeans and tobacco, but there is also a fairly local farm that offers fruits and vegetables. Each week I go online and can order a box of whatever is in season as well as some fantastic canned goods such as pickled okra or salsa made at the farm. They deliver the box to my house, and most of what’s in it has been picked earlier that day or the day before. That’s a serious flavor upgrade from what you get at the store, which might have been picked a week ago. 

While not organic, the farm is a GAP certified farm (Good Agriculture Practices) and is very careful to maintain a safe and healthy farm. The majority of their plants are started from seeds in the greenhouse. They purchase expensive hybrid seeds, which means they get good quality plants to grow the vegetables. The use of any pesticides or fungicides is closely monitored with all the crops. They use as little as possible, in part for health reasons and in part because chemicals are expensive. While not inexpensive, the produce is less expensive than buying organic produce ar the store and the quality is a huge upgrade.

I’m not alone in my thinking about supporting smaller farms. Maybe you’ve joined a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – near you. If not, you can learn more about it here and search for one near you. It points us to a broader business point as well. There’s often a tendency to focus on the easy and less expensive in business as well as on the “big guys” (you’ve probably heard the expression that no one ever gets fired for buying IBM, ATT, etc.). Now – especially now as we’re beginning to come out of an economic disaster – is a great time to look at smaller options. Maybe the product isn’t as uniform as what the big guys produce, maybe it’s a little more expensive, but it might also taste better and be better for you. It’s almost certainly made with more care.

Something to chew on this weekend!

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That Tonnato Sauce

This Foodie Friday, I want to write about one of my favorite summer dishes, vitello tonnato. When I first had it at some fancy lunch many years ago, I thought it was something thought up by a clever chef. As it turns out, it isn’t a new dish at all. One can find it in the 130-year-old Italian cookbook Science In The Kitchen and the Art Of Eating by Pellegrino Artusi (it’s on page 271 of my edition).

The dish is veal, generally a shoulder or rump portion, that’s been boiled and thinly sliced. It’s topped by a sauce that’s basically a tuna and caper-infused mayonnaise. Trust me – it tastes a lot better than it sounds. The veal is really just a canvas for the sauce in my book.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of my friends emailed my a recipe for a vegetable plate of crudites that was served with a sauce that wasn’t called tonnato sauce but absolutely was the same as what one would put on the veal down to the capers and anchovies in the sauce. The chef described it as a “garlicky aioli bolstered with oil-packed tuna.” Uh, yes, please.

It got me thinking about special sauces since the tonnato sauce is clearly special to me. Every business needs a special sauce if it’s not going to be a commodity. If you’ve not done a competitive set analysis, that’s a great place to start to see how you’re different. Then ask yourself why you exist. What’s the problem you’re solving and why is your solution unique/better? Check your assumptions against what your customers and employees think. 

Is your sauce really yours? Can it be duplicated or is it unique and defensible? Back in the day, we used to call something that you marketed around a USP – Unique Selling Proposition but I think your secret sauce is more than that. It gets to the heart of what your business is, including the culture. It’s what makes you you!

You can put tonnato on sliced pork tenderloin, vegetables, and of course veal. I suspect it’s great on grilled foods – veggies and proteins. As I’m thinking about it, it’s not far from a Caesar Salad dressing but with tuna. You see? Once you have a secret sauce, you can’t really tell how far it will take you!

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