Kroger has opened its Culinary Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Kroger’s new Culinary Innovation Center is an exciting state-of-the-art test kitchen and education center,” said Daniel Hammer, Kroger’s Vice President of Culinary Development and New Business. “As we focus on redefining the customer experience and developing talent through food inspiration and uplift, as outlined in Restock Kroger, this R&D lab will allow us to accelerate product development for Our Brands, produce new recipes for Prep + Pared Meal Kits, explore new restaurant concepts, host food tastings and focus groups, and increase our associates’ culinary knowledge.”
Kroger commenced construction on the 12,000-square-foot, LEED-designed center in March 2017. The commercial kitchen features multiple cooking stations, spaces and capabilities, including technology that allows video streaming of educational sessions to Kroger associates across the country.
Kroger introduced its first restaurant concept Kitchen 1883 in November 2017 and launched its Prep+Pared Meal Kits earlier in the same year, which are available for purchase in stores and through ClickList. Kroger has plans to rapidly grow the footprint of Prep+Pared Meal Kits in 2018.
“Kroger has operated grocery stores since 1883; we know food. People will always eat, but the way they eat will always change. Our new Center is one more tool we have to keep our pulse on customer trends and expand our foodie culture,” said Hammer.
By Lorrie Baumann
KeHE prides itself on offering products to help grocery retailers get out in front of emerging trends, so it was no surprise to see that many of the vendors who came to KeHE’s Holiday Show came prepared with options to help home cooks add a punch of flavor to a meal that’s easy and quick to prepare. The KeHE Holiday Show was held June 12-13 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Meal kit services have been making bank by providing consumers with a scratch-cook experience that doesn’t require a lot of last-minute thought, much time or advanced cooking skills. Grocers have watched aghast as these services have elbowed their way into this market with offerings of premeasured grocery products and a recipe card delivered to customers’ homes. Grocers have responded by finding ways to offer home delivery themselves, but Blue Apron in particular has turned the tables on grocers by marketing itself as a healthier alternative to the food that consumers might otherwise buy in their local supermarket. KeHE’s Holiday Show vendors brought the goods to help grocers ante their way back into that game, proving that there’s more than one way to appeal to a consumer with a sense of adventure and an urge to cook at home along with limited culinary skills and no set recipe repertoire.
The Spice Hunter, for instance, has some good ideas that make it easier for a home cook to roast a moist, flavorful holiday turkey with its Original and new Lemon, Garlic & Herb Turkey Brine & Bag. One 11-ounce pouch that retails for $7.99 to $9.99 provides the necessities for brining a turkey up to 25 pounds. The home cook stirs the brine mix into a gallon of boiling water to dissolve it, then chills the brine before submerging the turkey into it. After the turkey has brined for 12 to 24 hours, it’s ready to be patted dry and roasted, smoked or deep-fried.
The Spice Hunter is also launching this year its new Korean BBQ and Mango Habanero Global Fusion Rubs. These versatile rubs season grilled proteins and vegetables, but they can also be used as seasonings for dips or salad dressings or even as a popcorn topping. These rubs join a line that includes Mild Sriracha, Coriander Lime, Chipotle Cinnamon, Smoky Chile, Smoky Turmeric, Spicy Garlic and Tandoori. The Spice Hunter Global Fusion Rubs offer home cooks a convenient way to add a hit of flavor to everyday foods, and the range of spices has something to appeal to consumers with varying tolerances for heat.
Cook’s All-Natural Pantry offers pickled vegetables that provide an easy side dish, particularly for consumers who are following the trend to include more vegetables in their diets. A line of organic pickled vegetables packed on farms in the area around Krakow, Poland, will appeal to consumers looking for ethnic authenticity and includes Organic Whole Beets, Organic Sliced Beets, Organic Polish Dill Spears, Organic Polish Dill Slices, Organic Polish Dill Pickles (which are packaged whole), Organic Spicy Sauerkraut (spicy with red peppers and garlic), Organic Beet Sauerkraut and Organic Sauerkraut.
Cook’s Pantry also offers Organic Medium Red Enchilada Sauce, Mild Red Enchilada Sauce and Mild Green Enchilada Sauce. The enchilada sauces retail for $7.99 for a 16-ounce jar.
Tasty Bite is offering new hot and spicy Asian vegetarian dishes in pouches that serve two. The dishes are microwaved for just 60 seconds and retail for around $4.
Indian Coconut Vegetables is vegetables and sweet potatoes simmered in a spicy coconut yogurt sauce. Indian Vindaloo has vegetables and tomatoes in a spicy curry sauce. And Thai Vegetable Curry has potatoes and vegetables stewed in a spicy curry. All of them are GMO- and gluten-free.
Tasty Bite is also launching out a line of Spice & Simmer entree kits that takes its inspiration directly from those boxed meal kits. Each Spice & Simmer peggable package includes whole spices, a marinade and a simmer sauce to make an Asian specialty entree by marinating vegetables or protein, heating spices in oil, adding the marinated vegetables and/or protein and then adding the simmer sauce and simmering. The line includes kits for Korma, Tikka Masala, Kashmir Curry, Thai Green Curry, Szechuan and Teriyaki. The kits are all vegan and have an 18-month shelf life. They contain no preservatives, additives or MSG, and they don’t require refrigeration.
Pickled Pink is a line of Southern-style pickles made according to old family recipes of friends and business partners Jim Lawlor and Charlie Stephenson, who both spent many years in the restaurant business. They launched their company in 2013 and pointed out at the KeHE Holiday Show that their pickles have been successful because they sell year-round and are popular for grilling and tailgating season as well as for the winter holidays. They work well as part of a charcuterie platter, as an accompaniment for a pork tenderloin or over vanilla ice cream, Stephenson said. “A lot of them taste like Christmas,” he added.
The line includes Sweet Heat Jalapenos, Spiced Watermelon Pickle, Gourmet Jalapeno Pickle, Smokin’ Okra, Perfectly Pickled Peaches and Vidalia Onion & Peach Relish. Coming later in 2017, we can expect to see Spicy Pickled Green Beans and Garlic Dill Pickles join the line.
Lemon & Vine, offered by Erotas Enterprises, a woman-owned family company in Napa, California, is a line of entrees and appetizers made from Greek family recipes given a modern twist. These will work well either for family meals or for a party. Vegetable Pastichio is pasta layered with savory vegetables and tomatoes and baked in a creamy custard – rather like an Italian lasagna with a custard instead of cheese. Packaged in a family size to serve four or in a one to two serving size. The family package retails for $15.99, and the smaller package retails for $9.99.
Meat Pastichio has pasta layered with beef, lamb and tomato baked in a custard. This is also offered in a family size or a single size. The family size, again serving four, retails for $19.99, while the one to two serving size retails for $11.99.
Lemon & Vine Keftethes are savory beef and lamb entree-size meatballs baked in a red wine tomato sauce. A package that serves four retails for $21.99.
For party appetizers, Lemon & Vine offers Lemon Chicken Triangles, Spanakopita, Cheese Tiropita and Eggplant Artichoke Triangles. Each is made from crisp, flaky fillo dough and a filling that includes feta cheese. A 12-ounce box contains 12 appetizers for each variety, and the retail price for these is about $8.99.
Simply Asia is launching Vietnamese-Inspired Pho Broth that requires only the addition of noodles, beef and vegetables to make an authentic pho and Japanese-Inspired Ramen Soy Ginger Chicken Broth that can be turned into an authentic ramen soup with noodles, chicken and vegetables.
To make home preparation easier, Simply Asia also offers the noodles: Japanese-style Soba, Ramen and Udon noodles and Chinese-style Lo Mein. The Pho and Ramen broths will retail for about $2.99 for a package that serves about three. The 14-ounce boxes of Soba, Udon and Lo Mein noodles and the 8-ounce boxes of Ramen noodles will retail for about $2.49.
Southeastern Mills is offering Louisiana Gold pepper sauces in red and green, both made with tabasco peppers. Bottles holding 5 fluid ounces will retail for $1.99, and 2-ounce bottles will retail for $1.49.
The company also offers Better Than Bouillon food bases, and is launching a new Roasted Garlic flavor. The paste can be used right out of the bottle as a seasoning for meats or for grilled vegetables. The website at www.betterthanbouillon.com offers hundreds of recipes for the products, including a whole section devoted to 30-minute meals.
Marcel’s Culinary Experience a gourmet retailer and recreational cooking school in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, (Chicago suburb), has expanded its private event capabilities with the addition of a chef-driven on-site event option for individuals, businesses and other groups.
Executive Chef Paul Lindemuth, a veteran Chicago area caterer and popular instructor at Marcel’s, leads the new service, called Maison, which means “house or home” in French.
“Whether you’re planning an intimate dinner at home, a casual barbecue in your backyard, or a lavish cocktail party at your office, Maison can provide the quality and experience you’ve come to expect from Marcel’s,” he said. “These events are infinitely customizable so we can create the exact experience that our customers want.”
Maison differentiates itself by doing all cooking at the event location, where hosts and guests are invited to observe and interact with the chef. “It’s like a chef’s table in a restaurant,” Lindemuth said.
The Maison team can provide whatever’s required – including arranging for rental dishes, glassware, or tables and chairs – or they can use items provided by the host. Maison can also arrange for extras such as flowers and favors for guests.
In addition to preparing and serving food and beverages, the Maison team cleans up. “By doing it all, we let the hosts focus on their guests and not the kitchen,” he said. Each event is custom-designed by Lindemuth, along with other Marcel’s/Maison chefs Brandy Fernow, Robin Nathan and Julie Szimon.
For more information, contact Lindemuth at 630.790.8500 or paul(at)marcelsculinaryexperience.com.