Category Archives: New Product

Sustainable Packaging: What’s New?

 

Renewables and reusables were among the new packaging product highlights at the recently concluded NRA (National Restaurant Association) annual show in Chicago.

Among the highlights, as reported by Restaurant Hospitality, were:

A unique system of reusable plastic containers from Ozzi, based in New Kingstown, R.I. This four-year-old company’s latest products are designed to eliminate the need for disposables. Ideal for foodservice programs at universities, military bases, corporate campuses or other settings, the system includes an automated collection box, where guests can return the sturdy, bright-green containers after use.

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If not returned, the guest is charged $5 per container. The containers are washed, sanitized and returned to the foodservice outlet. They can be reused up to 300 times (and at the end of their life they are shredded and recycled into yogurt cups). Ozzi officials said about 100 college campuses across the country are using the system, and some cities, like Truckee, Calif., for example, are starting to launch programs for restaurants.

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Minima, based in Taiwan, supplies compostable straws to chains like Starbucks. New this year, however, is a compostable to-go straw that comes in clear plastic-film wrapper, and that wrapper is also compostable. Minima also makes a line of compostable cutlery free of bisphenol A, or BPA, an industrial chemical in polycarbonate plastics that can leach into food, as well as various other alternative plastics for things like toothbrushes, sunglass frames and packaging tape.

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>             Canada-based Eco Guardian has a new line of Lock n’ Go compostable containers with tabs that glue closed to prevent delivery drivers from tampering with food, which has become a growing concern. Several packaging manufacturers at the show said they also were working on tamper-proofing features for their products.

Eco Guardian’s containers are made from sugarcane fiber or bamboo, with the option of both clear and non-transparent-fiber lids or base. Rather than a hinged clamshell, these containers are separate pieces, which creates less waste if used for dine in, when a hinged top might not be necessary.

That gives operators the option of putting two clear containers together, for example, for a cold item, or two fiber pieces together for something hot — or they can put a clear lid on a fiber base to mix and match. All are certified compostable, including the glue on the tamper-proofing tabs.

>             Japan-based Stalk Market has a new line of certified compostable plates and serving platters designed for dine in called Wasara, made from sugarcane, bamboo and reed pulp.

More like sculpture, these attractive pieces are designed to reflect the elegant lines of Japanese architecture. There are no lids, but they are stackable to create stunning pinwheel-like presentations.

Eco Products, of Boulder, Colo., was promoting its compostable cutlery, including a new line with no added PFAS to comply with upcoming standards. In addition, the company debuted its new “Cutlerease” dispenser that serves up knives, forks or spoons one at a time, with another popping neatly into its place. This eliminates waste and sanitation issues created around traditional cutlery holders which can appear cluttered and messy.

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>             Hay! Straws makes biodegradable straws made from straw stems, a biproduct of wheat production after the grain is harvested. The stems are rinsed, soaked, washed and air dried to create a straw that functions just like plastic, and can be used in hot and cold drinks. New from the San Francisco-based company this year is the addition of three new sizes: Jumbo, Jumbo XL and Boba Hay straws, which are designed for beverages that are thicker and chunkier, like smoothies, shakes or boba teas.

>             Making its first appearance at the show is the recently launched Butterfly Cup, a paper cup that folds into a modified sippy cup of sorts, eliminating the need for plastic lids or straws, though some models include a straw hole, if desired. The Spartansburg, S.C.-based company offers a compostable version that is currently BPI-certified, though CEO Ackshay Vashee said they are working on meeting the new standards for next year.

>             Georgia Pacific was showing off what it calls the first disposable Dixie cup made from 100% recycled post-consumer fiber. In addition, the company also demonstrated its prototype auto-sealing beverage system that puts a sealed leak-proof lid on cups to prevent delivery drivers from taking a sip while the beverage is in transit.

 

Oprah Launching Sides/Soups Range

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Well, why not? She’s done pretty close to everything else. Now Oprah Winfrey is sponsoring a food line under her name. She recently filed for a trademark for her “O, That’s Good!” line of refrigerated side dishes and soups being prepared in collaboration with Kraft Heinz. Announced recently, the line is due to hit stores in October.

As The Daily Meal put it, “It only makes sense that the queen of living well would have an “Aha!” moment and come out with perfectly portioned side dishes and soups, all under 300 calories, that feed your cravings while also feeding your health.

The four sides are recognizable favorites but with discreet healthy twists: The mashed potatoes and garlic mashed potatoes are actually partially made with cauliflower, while the three cheese pasta incorporates butternut squash and the creamy parmesan pasta includes white beans.

The soups come in comforting favorites, too, such as baked potato, tomato basil, butternut squash and broccoli cheddar. Don’t worry about indulging in a bowl — there is cauliflower in the baked potato, and carrots and celery in the tomato basil. Butternut squash features in the broccoli cheddar, and even though you would think butternut squash is the only vegetable in the butternut squash soup, it’s also packed with sweet potatoes and carrots.

Because everything Oprah touches turns to gold, these side dishes and soups are most likely going to be flying off the shelves when they hit stores in October of this year. A portion of the proceeds even go to charities fighting hunger, because duh, it’s Oprah!”

Please also check out our YouSayWHAT.info blog!

TEXT MSSG: “Your milk is starting to spoil. Dump & replace it.”

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Jonathan Coleman (center) and materials science team members at Trinity College, Dublin. (Photo: Trinity)

 

Imagine getting a text on your phone advising you that the milk carton in your fridge is almost empty (so it’s time to order, or pick up, a new one!), or that the milk in that carton is starting to spoil. It is extremely likely that will not only be possible, but be happening before you’ve experienced too many more birthdays.

A team of materials scientists at Trinity College in Dublin have figured out how to make that happen; They just need more time to work out some critical details, Smithsonian.com reported this week. Citing a more technical report published this month in the journal Science, Smithsonian noted that the key is a first-ever 2-D transistor made of a form of graphite – a natural material “that’s dug out of the ground,” said as leader Jonathan Coleman put it. The honeycomb lattice of carbon they’re working with is has a depth of one atom, making it suitable for an “unimaginable” range of potential uses, Coleman said.

One would be that milk carton label. Others could – and likely will – include supermarket price labels that update themselves, wine bottle labels that can warn you when the bottles (and thus the wine) are being stored in too warm a location.

Perhaps best of all, the new 2-D printed electronics are cheaper than current versions, and they don’t have the same performance limitations having to do with stability and energy conversion.

If you can print electronics very cheaply, you can imagine things that are almost unimaginable,” Coleman said.

Micky D is giving Canadians, but NOT Americans, waffle fries

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Product tests aren’t for everyone. They are, being tests, put out to small markets, or a small sector of a market, to gauge customer reactions.

Now while Canada is hardly a ‘small market’, McDonald’s sales there – and I’m guessing at this – are probably a tiny fraction of what that company moves through its thousands of U.S. locations. So, what better place than Canada, where people and their tastes are similar to Americans’, but they – the people and their tastes – are just a bit different, to test market something.

Recently, according to AndNowYouKnow.com, a website focused on trends and developments in the produce industry, Micky D has been testing its version of waffle fries in the country north of the U.S.

Chicago-area-based McDonald’s is offering a couple of other potato-based items: The hash brown potato with bacon pieces, and fries flavored with garlic from Gilroy, CA, the U.S.’s garlic growing/processing capital.

It took me years to get around to getting there, and I knew I’d made it from a mile or more out, when that wonderful just-pressed-garlic smell permeated our car, when the windows were just cracked!) Though I didn’t try more than one, lore says that all of the restaurants in this town feature garlic-enhanced dishes in every category, from starters to desserts. The one I was insure did! (Some places barely ask you if you want fresh garlic on your salad: It’s considered to be an ingredient!)

Pizza ATM Debuts At Xavier U in Ohio

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Universities in Ohio seem to be bending over backward to satisfy supposed ‘needs’ of students: First we reported on a gluten-free dining hall (at Kent State University); Now there’s news of a pizza vending machine at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Like the earlier story, this one was first noted by no-excuse-to-be-hungry reporters at NBC News. In this instance, they declared that “late-night pizza is as much a staple of college life as classes, dorms and exams, but fresh pizza in the middle of the night isn’t always easy to find.” Nor are middle-of-the-night beer-dispensing premises, but no one seems to be working on a work-around for students in that area!

Clearly, there’s a profit-motive for the pizza ATM. But its existence also represents a clear disconnect from the dream of most parents that colleges and universities would make some attempt to encourage their charges to learn and practice some self-control, to get over thinking that their every whim must be satisfied, and to pizza  and beer are not basic food groups.

Sadly, many colleges and universities make it abundantly clear that they have no interest in the better-interests of their students as they both allow and seemingly encourage the existence of beer-fueled fraternities.

That said, the pizza ATM was inevitable: It’s merely a marriage of microwave and money-for-merchandise machines that have been around for decades. (I’m reminded of being able, as long ago as the early 1970’s, to purchase bottles of chilled wine from vending machines in Switzerland and France.)

It’s no wonder that, as Xavier Assistant Vice President Jude Kiah told NBC News, the school has had “almost 700 inquiries about the machine; Many, many other schools are interested in bringing it to their campuses.”

Pizza ATM is made by Paline, a French company. The dispensers have a long history of popularity in Europe, NBC declared.

University officials say the quality of the machine-made pizzas will not differ from dining hall pizzas — they are still hand-prepped by staff in the Xavier dining hall, which has won two national awards for its food in the past three years. But instead of the pizza being cooked by staff, it’s heated up in the machine at 475 degrees.

Pizza ATM delivered its first pizza to the Xavier women’s soccer team, and is still in the testing phase. Kiah said the vending machine will be available for students when they arrive on campus later this month.

 

 

Robotized Restaurants Coming Soon To Somewhere Near You

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A McDonald’s grill station: Soon to be a thing of the past?

A soon-to-open restaurant in the San Francisco area will point the way to a future restaurant owners will love, but some of their workers – soon to be former workers – will hate.

Hinted at in an article in Business Insider, this already-hiring-staff-via-a-Craigslist-ad eatery (see the Business Insider article),is said to be introducing a machine that takes allALL – the labor out of burger production.

Well, almost all: Someone has to load the so-called Momentum Machine with ingredients for the burger (including the to-be-prepared-to-order add-ons) and the bun, which the machine also will shape, bake and deliver, filled, to a customer pick-up station. The original Momentum Machine, introduced several years ago, could produce burgers at the rate of 360 or so an hour. The new version is said to be able to turn out 400 an hour!

One can imagine that prep workers, those who chop the onions and other bits and pieces burgers might be garnished with, will, in the short term, retain their jobs. But, realistically, it’s only a matter of time before one person will be capable of, and empowered to, do all the necessary chopping (via a machine) and feeding of ingredients into a machine that will thoroughly mix and evenly distribute them into portioned salads.

For some fast food restaurants, the cost savings such a machine can mean could mean the difference between barely being profitable and being very comfortably profitable. For future restaurants, not needing space for burger-making and possibly even food-prepping personnel could mean more of a facility’s floor space could be devoted to customers’ use. Or, alternatively, using smaller stores, reducing rent and other costs, as well as the savings machines provide by replacing workers.

Business Insider says the best estimates find that up to 50% of jobs could be automated by the late 2030s, with restaurant workers among the most vulnerable to displacement.

Some locations have already started moving away from human labor in an effort to cut operating costs. In its place, they’ve started relying on machines that are getting more sophisticated every day. Within the next 20 years, experts say, nearly every restaurant job once held by humans could get passed on to robots.

“A lot of what’s done in restaurants is already automated,” Rebecca Chesney, research and partnerships manager at the Institute for the Future, told Business Insider. “Today’s robotics can actually mimic human gestures that you’d need for cooking, for instance, way more than they could years ago.”

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In addition to Momentum Machines and its burger-generating giant – it “essentially works like a printing press for hamburgers, pressing patties, chopping toppings and assembling the ingredients into a sumptuous-looking sandwich,” the magazine said – referred to Eatsa, which FoodTradeTrends.com reported on in March, shortly after Business Insider profiles the new, old automat-style restaurant, where, as our earlier article said:

It’s computer-based ordering system – for the sole specialty, a bowl of quinoa priced at $6.96 and topped with whatever the customer orders, from a wide range of choices – is recorded and stored so when a customer returns, his/her previous preferences are  displayed and alternates are suggested as part of the approach to encouraging repeat visits.

eatsa

Instead of talking to a cashier to order their quinoa bowls, Eatsa diners build their meals on touch screens and pick them up from windows. There are no chefs or servers in sight.

Chesney says places like Eatsa and companies like Momentum Machines are strong signals for where fast food is heading because people crave speed and low cost — two qualities that human-run restaurants can’t offer the way robot-powered restaurants can.

Because not all customers are likely to want that degree of automation as part of their dining-out experience, lesser, significantly different types of automation can be anticipated in restaurants. However that plays out, you can be sure that a lot of staff also will be ‘out’.

 

Promo cost for drug with Million-Dollar Potential: $12.00-18.00

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That $12-18 figure, while it hardly represents the total a pharmaceutical company might spend to promote a new drug, it does, according to Medicare’s Open Payments data for 2013, represent the amount actually spent during information-sharing lunches where doctors heard from big pharma reps about for specific medications.

The information, which came to light in a study reported last month in JAMA Internal Medicine, was a compilation of data on 279,669 doctors who received 63.524 payments relative to one drug to lower cholesterol, two to address symptoms of hypertension (high blood pressure), and an antidepressant.

Any given doctor might, over the course of a medication’s life, prescribe it thousands, if not tens of thousands of times. Collectively, doctors often do prescribe a medication enough times to make it worth millions of dollars, if not tens of millions, to its maker.

The $12-18 figure represents what pharmaceutical reps typically spent on lunch for doctors at those information-sharing sessions. Certainly a modest enough sum, when the potential benefit to the drug’s maker is taken into consideration.

Yes, many patients also benefit from drugs doctors first learn about over lunch with a big pharma rep.

Yet the fact remains that, according to the above-cited study, doctors are significantly more likely to prescribe a lunch-promoted drug than an alternative – even when the alternative might cost the patient (or his/her insurer, or Medicare) considerably less.

Dr. R. Adams Dudley, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the lead author of the study, decried this “system of education for doctors” in a New York Times article on the study.

“The cost of an alternative system of drug education would be paltry,” he said.