By Jeffrey W. Davis, Contributing Editor
Today's restaurant diners are a savvy and critical group. They study the data on nutrition and the other factors impacting their health. They are more aware of food allergies and intolerances, as well as how to cope with them. They expect food and beverage product accountability—and are vocal, whether they enjoy them or not. Satisfying the modern consumer is an ongoing challenge for the restaurant industry, and operators have looked to food-product manufacturers to not only meet consumer demands, but exceed them with truly cutting-edge products that are rooted in overall deliciousness.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) FABI Awards recognize progressive product innovations in food and beverage that are significantly impacting the restaurant industry. At their core, these products address consumer lifestyle trends. We've noticed these trends aren't just a flash in the pan, but rather a paradigm shift in how consumers eat and dine out—including food-allergen awareness, dietary needs and restrictions, and other health concerns.
To spot the trends and select this year’s award recipients, the NRA Show assembled an independent panel of 12 experts, representing a variety of both commercial and non-commercial industry segments. When testing and evaluating the products, the judges looked for breakthrough products that had high marketability, met modern consumer needs, provided operator benefits and convenience, and had an overall appealing smell, look and taste.
The seven FABI Award recipients—among which include the following gluten-free, GMO-free, and reduced-sodium products—will be showcased at the 2013 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show on May 18 to 21 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
• One of the three awarded products designed for the gluten-sensitive diner, Edison Grainer Organic Quinoa Pasta features a blend of organic protein-rich quinoa and rice flour. This pasta helps restaurants satisfy dietary needs and keep pace with culinary trends without sacrificing quality or taste.
• In addition to being consciously prepared to protect the integrity of the pure GMO-free ingredients, including a natural almond crust and organic virgin coconut oil, Hail Merry Snacks Merry’s Chocolate Miracle Mini Tart also provides operators a way to meet several special diet restrictions, including gluten-free, vegan and kosher.
• Using a patented, single-crystal technology, Nu-Tek Food Science Salt for Life™ Sea Salt Blend delivers the true taste of salt with 70 percent less sodium than table salt. This salt blend can be used in restaurants’ recipes like regular salt as a one-to-one replacement.
Restaurant operators who incorporate innovative products, like the ones by this year’s FABI Award recipients, into their menus should see the effects on both customer satisfaction and the bottom line.
A 45-year veteran of the foodservice industry, Jeffrey W. Davis heads United States Beef Corporation, one of the nation’s top-performing fast-food franchisees with more than 275 Arby’s famous roast beef restaurants and five Taco Bueno restaurants. He is also the convention chair for the 2013 National Restaurant Association Show; to learn more about the show and the FABI Awards, visit restaurant.org/show.