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Plant Power<br>Make Way for the Plant - Based Drinks
Plant Power
Make Way for the Plant - Based Drinks
Monday, February 12, 2018

Plant-based drink consumption is skyrocketing. Data from Innova Market Insights suggests dramatic market growth from $7.4 billion in 2010 to more than $16.3 billion dollars in 2016, while MarketsandMarkets is expecting a growth rate of 15.5% per annum to take that market to US$19.5 billion in 2020. Soy milk is expected to be largest segment at US$13.6 billion by 2020, but almond milk will have the fastest growth rate at 16%. Plain unsweetened dominates the flavor profiles, with projected growth of 15.9% through 2020.

What’s the fuss about?

According to Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, the surge in interest in plant-based beverages has been driven mainly by “consumers increasingly looking for lactose-free, dairy-free and plant-based/vegan options as healthy lifestyle choices, rather than regarding them as simply for those with allergies or intolerances.” “Plant Powered Growth” was one of Innova Market Insights’ Top Trends for 2017, highlighting increased demand from consumers “who don’t want to commit to a full vegan or even vegetarian lifestyle, but would rather pick and choose to suit their lifestyle, social life or health conditions.” For example, some consumers may be allergic to one type of nut or cereal but not another, while others may object to soya products on environmental grounds.

Senior analyst for Euromonitor Hope Lee suggested in an August 2016 podcast that consumption of plant-based foods and beverages is rising because consumers tend to perceive them as natural, safer, and more sustainable than animal products. This has given rise to the “flexitarian” eater: a person who chooses a predominantly vegetarian diet but who does still eat some meat. The emergence of the flexitarian lifestyle, Lee says, “has created opportunities for plant-based food and beverage products in terms of innovation and new-product development.”

As a result, consumers these days can choose from an increasingly varied and sophisticated range of non-dairy milks from nuts (almond, hazelnut, etc.), cereals like rice, oats and barley, and more adventurous options such as quinoa, spelt and buckwheat.

The popularity of plant-based drinks has come amidst an erosion of trust in cow’s milk. Concerns over saturated fat levels, lactose intolerance, hormone content, and antibiotic use in dairy cows, as well as questions on animal treatment, have all weighed on milk demand.

The dairy industry has been quick to point out that plant-based drinks can’t compete with the nutritional composition of milk—particularly calcium, unless the drink is calcium-fortified—but dairy alternatives made from good-quality, organic ingredients can offer are the nutritional advantages of the plants they derive from. “In many ways, plant-based is an addition and an extension to dairy consumption,” suggests Emmanuel Faber, CEO of French multinational dairy brand Danone—which has just secured a  30 million dollar investment in coconut water brand Harmless Harvest. 

As consumers become more conscious than ever about making responsible food choices even as they look for ways to eat and drink more healthily, plant-based drinks seem set to become a fixture in the family fridge.

At the same time, manufacturers will be under pressure to demonstrate the quality of their ingredients and the sustainability of their manufacturing processes, right through from responsible sourcing to recyclable packaging.

On a personal note, we think that our new range of organic, vegan drinks from La Famiglia Organic ticks all those boxes—and a few extra, including a fabulous taste and a great sense of humour!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Let the Festivities Begin
Let the Festivities Begin
Saturday, November 25, 2017

When you spot a huge, festive panettone box on a grocery shelf, it can mean only one thing—Christmas is here.

Panettone (literally “big bread”) has been signaling Christmas for a long time, too. It first became a Milanese Christmas specialty during the Renaissance when bakers were given special license at Christmas time to bake bread with just wheat flour (unmixed with less noble grains).

It wasn’t until 1919, though, that panetonne took on the tall domed shape and light texture of modern times, thanks to Milanese baker Angelo Motta adding yeast and making the dough rise three times for almost 20 hours before cooking. In 1925, his archrival Gioacchino Alemagna adapted the recipe again, and the stiff competition between the two became the spur to industrial production of the famous Christmas loaf. Perhaps Alemagna won, because his name still graces a popular panettone brand in Italy today.

So what’s in a panettone these days? The classic version is usually a fluffy bread concoction made from flour, eggs, butter, yeast, dried raisins, candied oranges, citron and lemon zest, standing around 20 centimeters high and weighing up to a kilo. But if that sounds like too much bread how about a jar of mini-loaves soaked in liqueur? And if bread sounds too much like toast, how about chocolate, or pistachio, or even limoncello?

Panettone is traditionally consumed over Italy’s extended Christmas celebrations and New Year’s festivities—over 100 million loaves every Christmas, in fact, which is an average of two and a half for each family. Groaning Italian Christmas tables don’t necessarily leave enough room for extra dessert, though, so Panettone is usually snacked on during the day. Slightly warmed, it’s fantastic with a morning latte or cappuccino, or with an afternoon  espresso.

Buy it for the box, love it for the tradition, eat it for the taste of Christmas.

Pasta Secca—The Good Stuff
Pasta Secca—The Good Stuff
Thursday, November 09, 2017

The arrival of our new Rummo pasta range has rekindled our love affair with dried pasta (don’t laugh, we’re really that much into good food.)

Blessed with such an amazing natural environment, it’s no wonder that we have such a cult of freshness in New Zealand when it comes to food. And fresh pasta really is fabulous—for simple sauces such as butter and Parmesan or pesto. But for heavier, more rustic sauces, pasta secca—dried pasta—is the better choice. Amatriciana, carbonara and puttanesca, for example, rely on the satisfying bite and wheaty, nutty flavor of a good dried pasta.

Pasta secca has been an institution in Italy for centuries, with a basket of dried pasta carefully recorded in the estate inventory of a Genoese soldier as far back as 1279!

From the time dried pasta became an industry back in the 18th century, Naples has been the preeminent production area.

In the early days, this was primarily due to the region’s unique wind patterns, which were intrinsic to the extremely delicate task of drying pasta.

The alternation of mild sea breezes and hot winds from Mount Vesuvius ensured that the pasta would not dry too slowly and go mouldy, or too fast and crack or break—although this did mean that when the wind changed at midnight, workers had to be tumbled out of their beds by the town crier just to move the pasta to the drying racks.

A few centuries down the track, some things have changed, but when it comes to quality pasta secca, a remarkable amount has stayed the same—starting with the key ingredients of wheat and water.

The best pasta is still made from purest possible water from a carefully selected local source—some pastificio even have their own fiercely-guarded springs.

It will use durum wheat (preferably sourced locally) for the high gluten development required for pasta to retain its texture and shape through the cooking process. This is particularly critical for chefs, as it means that the pasta can be precooked without sacrificing shape and texture, and then finished to perfection back in the pan with the hot sauce. 

The dough will be extruded through the traditional rough bronze dies, giving the pasta that whitish, powdery, almost sandpapery coating that encourages the sauce to emulsify and cling.

Finally, where mass-produced pasta is generally dried in a few hours at a temperature of 185 degrees, artisanal pasta makers still take almost two days to dry their product, at the much lower temperature of around 105 to 115 degrees. The result is a pasta with a more easily digestible starch content and a more complex flavor, so that the pasta actually contributes to the taste of the finished dish.

The earliest pastificio were literally magicians, reading the skies, the sea and the winds for the perfect timing of the drying process. Given the amount of magic that clearly goes into top-quality pasta secca even today, we would certainly recommend spending the extra few cents to give your dish the pasta it deserves.

The New Meal Deliverers
The New Meal Deliverers
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The arrival of Uber Eats in Christchurch is creating a major buzz around an industry that has been booming overseas for the last several years now—“Your favourite restaurants, delivered fast to your door.”

This is the mission statement of Deliveroo, which has managed to develop into a £1.1 billion company in just four years—testament to the strong potential demand for home-delivered, restaurant-quality meals.  The success of Deliveroo, Foodora, and of course Uber Eats lies in their ability to link time-strapped consumers who still want to eat well with a range of cuisines, including higher-end restaurants that have not traditionally delivered, through their own added-value logistics networks.

The way it works is that the meal delivery company operates a website and/or app enabling consumers to compare offerings and order meals from a group of restaurants. The delivery company makes its money by charging a small flat fee from the consumer along with a fixed margin of the order (20-30 percent seems to be norm).  Meals are generally guaranteed to arrive by car, scooter, or bike within around 30 minutes. The restaurant has outreach to not only regular customers who occasionally want to enjoy the same high-quality meal at home, but also to new customers spotting its menu for the first time on the delivery website. Where people may be reluctant to venture out early in the week, or when the weather is bad, access to an easy and quick delivery option can also be a strong growth area for restaurants. And judging by the astronomical growth in the meal delivery market worldwide (market research company McKinsey is predicting more than €20 billion by 2025), consumers love it.

The success—and quality—of the model is demonstrated by its rapid uptake in Paris, where it is challenging deep-seated French dining traditions. Services like Take Eat Easy and Foodora have jumped in with offerings from trendy new restaurants and traditional bistros alike. Berlin-based Foodora came to Paris in June 2015, and its orders have apparently grown by between 20 and 40 percent every week since. Belgium deliverer Take Eat Easy claims to have seen double-digit monthly revenue growth since launching there in October 2014.

To be a successful delivery operation, you have to get in quick (according to McKinsey, once customers sign up, 80 percent never or rarely leave for another platform); ensure speedy delivery (no more than 60 minutes); and present extremely well.  In the States, Uber Eats uses photographers and stylists to make sure that its meal photographs could walk straight on to the pages of Gourmet. Manage all that, and you too could develop into a £1.1 billion company like Deliveroo in just four years.

What about restaurants, though? After all, it’s the reputation of your food that’s on the line.
Do you really trust that your head chef’s signature dish will arrive on time, at the right temperature, and still looking fresh and attractive? Services like Deliveroo and Delivery Hero at least have their own distinctively branded drivers and vehicles; with other businesses, what happens with accountability? And how will the availability of a delivery service impact on your in-house sales? But at the same time, with so many other restaurants jumping on the band wagon, can you afford to miss out?

To deal with the food quality issue, you might consider a tailored offering—either the more robust items on your menu, or new dishes that are designed specifically to travel well but will also maintain your kitchen’s quality standards. Looking carefully at who is ordering and why may also iron out some wrinkles. In places like London, delivery speed is being addressed in some cases by “dark kitchens”—container boxes fitted out by the delivery companies for rent to restaurants wanting a kitchen closer to their customers. But that’s a story for another time …

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