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Culinary experiences can reach new heights with imaginative products and menu items that engage all the senses. By connecting flavors, textures, temperatures and aromas with visually appealing presentations, food can transport consumers on a captivating and unforgettable journey that builds brand loyalty.
We’re seeing this play out with unexpected applications in the protein category. For example, using bacon as a taco shell or—at a fast food chain in Singapore—serving fried chicken “popsicles” with a container of fizzy seasoning for the consumer to sprinkle on as they eat. In Brazil, a fine dining restaurant pays homage to all things pork by featuring it in surprising dishes such as sushi and tartare.
The shift from having it all to experiencing it all serves the food industry well. An operator’s ability to provide memorable occasions are cherished dearly by today’s consumers. In fact, 77% of US consumers say experiences are more important to them than material possessions.1 And with current social platforms and technological capabilities, operators should take full advantage of creating immersive experiences, promotions, and events to thrill customers. Playing with color, presentation, texture, and temperature not only excites consumers in the moment, but can live on thanks to image and video-centric platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.
Restaurant operators are demonstrating their ability to capture the imagination of consumers with fully immersive brand and food events that extend beyond the plate. A “dark dining experience” in London gives guests the opportunity to enjoy a meal in complete darkness, allowing for the connection to all other senses beyond sight. In the US, a QSR chain even sold a limited-edition line of clothing that smelled like hickory wood smoke to promote a country-style rib sandwich.
We’re eager to see where operators go next with surprising, unpredictable, and alluring elements both on and off the plate.
Creative plant-based meat analogues will deliver unique sensory experiences, while animal proteins will experiment with new coatings and textural inclusions.
SOCIAL MEDIA-WORTHY SETTINGS:
Drawing guests in will not only depend on great food, but an inspiring ambiance that guests are excited to share.
Operators will enhance the dining experience by presenting food in artful and impactful ways, with social-media-ready touches such as sauce drizzle “drawings” and gravity-defying layers of ingredient toppings.
Molecular gastronomy and immersive visual and sound technology can be used in restaurants to impress diners in unexpected ways, while offering a temporary escape. Innovative and sensory-stimulating dishes live on when posted to social media.
We’ve seen themes play out in Healthcare and C&U cafeterias for decades, but non-commercial sites are pushing the envelope of what is expected. Montana State University hosts its annual Bug Buffet, providing unique experiences for diners with menu items such as pumpkin bread with cricket or mealworm powder and tamales with black ants.2 The University of Kentucky has a 30 by 30 foot mural highlighting its local farmer partners to visually connect diners to what’s on the menu.3 And in Flemington, New Jersey, Hunterdon Medical Center converted part of their small outdoor patio to a grill station that allows employees to enjoy a freshly-grilled burger, the aromas of the grill, and a lovely al fresco setting.4
Just because meal kits are consumed in the home doesn’t mean sensory-loaded experiences aren’t possible. Technology can enhance the home chef’s experience. For instance, curated playlists available on a music provider such as Spotify can help set the mood for cooking and enjoying a meal. Or, teaching-style YouTube videos that coordinate with a specific meal transport a cooking class right into the home kitchen.
When it comes to the sensory adventure trend, expect the unexpected! Watch Chef Jaime Mestan create agedashi tofu, a dish that showcases texture, temperature and eye appeal with ingredients such as silken tofu, crisp tempura, piping-hot dashi and delicate bonito flakes.
“Deliver a memorable multi-sensory experience by adding fresh, raw aromatics like herbs and spices over any sautéed or steamed dish. Pour a small amount of smoking-hot oil over the fresh ingredients, creating sizzle and a whiff of floral steam."
–Chef Mark Serice, Vice President Global Culinary, Griffith Foods*
Get inspired by these on-trend concepts to create innovative offerings using Griffith Foods* products.
A sensory experience from start to finish! Soft silken tofu is coated in a delicate tempura batter and flash-fried, then placed in a shallow pool of umami-rich dashi stock. Daikon delivers a cool, yet slightly bitter punch while gossamer-thin bonito shavings wave back and forth from the heat rising off the tofu.
Featuring: Griffith Foods Rice Tempura Pre-dust and Batter, Griffith Foods Dashi Broth Dipping Sauce and Seasoning
Piping-hot wok-fried hard shell crabs bring a complex textural element to a richly seasoned curry of chilies, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallot and rice wine vinegar. Serve over a bed of makrut-lime-seasoned puffed shrimp crackers that crackle and pop once the hot curry is poured on top.
Featuring: Griffith Foods Singapore Chili Curry Marinade, Griffith Foods Singapore Chili Curry Sauce, Griffith Foods Makrut Lime Snack Seasoning, Griffith Foods Rice Tempura Pre-dust and Batter
"This is where you can let your creativity run wild! It's is all about the total experience that food provides—flavor is just one delightful stop along the way.
Experiment with crunchy textures, using popped grains, crisp-fried cheese and panko coatings, as well as crisp pickled slaws, fermented elements, sous vide and even the intense flavor and texture from dehydrating.
Immerse your customer in the full experience with visual techniques of vibrant ingredients, rough chopped, charred, blistered, golden pan-seared, the sounds of sizzling ingredients, wafting aromas of smoked, oven roasted recipes, fresh baked bread, bubbling warm butter, cinnamon and smoky chili spiced desserts all add to the total modern sensory adventure..."
-Chef Scott Gilbert, CEC, AAC, HGT
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The sensory science team at Custom Culinary uses a rigorous quantitative process for evaluating how ingredients and products are perceived, using the five senses. Their work plays a key role throughout the development process, helping our customers confirm that their product offerings meet consumer needs.
Our team applies an array of sensory techniques to ensure that the defining characteristics of a product—including taste, texture, aroma and appearance—are quantifiably superior, reducing risk and accelerating speed to market for new items. By examining the subtleties among products, we can pinpoint the sensory attributes that may drive consumer preferences. That critical information helps us create unique solutions that provide value for our partners, while satisfying consumers’ preferences and expectations.
© 2022 Custom Culinary, Inc. All rights reserved.
*Custom Culinary® is part of the Griffith Foods family of companies.
1 Mintel, 2022 FlavorIQ® Global Trends and Insights Report, January 2022
2 Datassential Simply Smarter Webinar Spring Trends Extravaganza, March 2022
3 Foodservicedirector.com, Steal This Idea: Make a Mural, July 2020
4 Foodservicedirector.com, Steal This Idea: Fresh Off the Grill, June 2020