School Nutrition assembled an undercover shopping team to identify some revolutionary products at SNA’s Annual National Conference in Boston. They eyed and they spied. They tasted and they tested. Once again, for a fifth straight year, School Nutrition’s special team of volunteer “Secret Shoppers” met the challenge we posed: Seek out the most intriguing items on display in the Exhibit Hall during SNA’s 68th Annual National Conference (ANC). By using an independent team of school nutrition operators to identify the creative innovations they find most exciting, School Nutrition can ensure that we’re highlighting products with genuine potential to excite all our readers. This year’s Secret Shopper team represented districts of all sizes and demographics, located in more than 15 different states! Did our Shoppers discover anything revolutionary in Boston? You bet! Secret Shoppers submitted reports on more than 100 products that stood out in the crowd of offerings showcased by more than 400 vendors. From delicious menu items that meet federal nutrition standards to innovative equipment solutions to helpful resources, the following descriptions of 2014 Secret Shopper finds are sure to grab your attention, too. These are the products and companies that earned multiple citations and passionate shopper comments. Take a look to learn more about school nutrition solutions that could become the next “must-haves” for your school meals operation. As they say in New England, “They are wicked good!” 13 Foods www.13foods.com Two products—Kabuli! Petite Chickpeas and Pardina! Lentils—from 13 Foods caught the attention of our Secret Shopper team, in particular because they do not contain GMOs and are sustainably grown in the United States. Both the chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and lentils are naturally low in sodium, and come frozen rather than canned. With these two nutritious options— both are high in fiber and a good source of protein—operators can menu the flavors of the Mediterranean regularly while meeting key federal nutrition standards. Asian Food Solutions www.asianfoodsolutions.com When a meal looks like it could come from a restaurant, students can’t resist—but most restaurant foods don’t even come close to meeting the nutrition regulations required for K-12 school meals. Whole-Grain Chow Mein Noodles from Asian Food Solutions looks like restaurant food, notes one Secret Shopper, but it’s low in sodium and easy to prepare. It offers protein—6 grams!—in the form of edamame, grains in the form of noodles and carrots for a vegetable, all coming together as a kit. The dish is versatile, as it can be stir-fried, boiled, steamed or baked. The company is making a second-consecutive appearance in our Secret Shopper report. Island Oasis www.islandoasis.com Not one, not two, but three Secret Shoppers made a point to submit details on V8 V-Fusion smoothies from Island Oasis. “It meets the USDA school lunch reimbursable fruit component, but with no sugar added,” noted one Shopper, adding that it “tastes great!” Another reported that “it was cold and fresh.” Each serving of V-Fusion smoothies features a full serving of vegetables. Flavors include Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango and Watermelon Raspberry, with a Tropical variety coming soon. Del Monte Foods www.delmontefoods.com/foodservice If you’re looking for an easy way to serve more fruit, check out a new solution from Del Monte. Noted by Secret Shoppers for its convenience, Del Monte’s Fruit Burst Squeezable Fruit Tubes come in four flavors: Mixed Berry, Strawberry, Mango and Pear Cinnamon. Each tube of fruit puree contains ¼ cup of fruit, but it’s free from high-fructose corn syrup, added sugar, gluten and allergens. The 50- to 60-calorie fruit tubes can be served at room temperature, chilled or even frozen on a hot day. Hubert www.hubert.com One Ohio-based Secret Shopper praised Hubert (making a second-consecutive appearance in SN’s annual Secret Shopper report) for its Mobile Kiosk, calling it “sleek in appearance and lightweight.” The kiosk provides an option for remote breakfast service, as well as a la carte lunch sales. Hubert also sells a variety of accessories for the kiosk, including full-size steamtable pans, cold food pans, tapered baskets and drop-leaf shelves. The same Shopper also was intrigued by Hubert’s Reusable Ice, a new product this year, and commented that it provides a way to keep items cold when ice is not available. The faux ice stays cold for eight hours and comes in 300- and 500-cube packages. It can be used to keep milk, water, yogurt and other perishable items cold while allowing them to be attractively displayed on the line. A Shopper hailing from Utah commented on Hubert’s Allergen Awareness Purple Products. This line of purple-hued smallware products (including knives, cutting boards, utility pails, serving bowls and more) makes it easy to ensure against cross-contamination when prepping meals for students with food allergies. The company offers three different kits—a baking kit, a cooking kit and an all-purpose kit. Creative Food Innovations www.creativefoodinnovations.com Tools for Schools www.toolsforschools.com SN Shoppers went bananas…er, “bonzo’s” for Go’Bonzo’s from Creative Food Innovations and exhibited at ANC 2014 by Tools for Schools. These packaged roasted, flavored chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are a rich source of protein, fiber and iron. Nut-free, gluten-free and a product of the USA, Go’Bonzo’s meet nutrition standards as a meat alternate or legume. Six savory and sweet flavors are available: Lightly Salted, Chili Citrus, Spicy Nacho, It’s Pizza, Cool Ranch and French Toast. They are available in individually wrapped, single-serve portions and in bulk packaging. One Shopper suggested the product might make a good topper for salads. FreTek Food Group www.fretekfoodgroup.com Two Secret Shoppers called out FreTek Food Group for their quality products. One made particular mention of the Quinoa Bites as a “yummy” chocolate and sea salt snack. It has potential, this California Shopper noted, as an afterschool snack, but currently is only available as an a la carte item. Another shopper praised FreTek’s overall line of “clean label products,” as well as for customizing foods for schools. In addition to its foodservice products, FreTek Food Group offers professional instruction and foodservice training, nutrition education and Chefs in the Classroom outreach. Golden Platter www.goldenplatter.com “There are never enough gluten-free products,” observed one Secret Shopper familiar with the struggle of serving students with dietary restrictions. But at ANC 2014, she discovered a gluten-free chicken nugget that’s affordable from Golden Platter. “The appearance and taste were great,” reported another Shopper, adding, “The pricing allows it to be menued for all students.” Yet another Shopper reiterated that the product cost was reasonable and noted that the chicken nugget is all-natural. Golden Platter also offers gluten-free chicken tenders and patties. J.T.M. Food Group www.jtmfoodgroup.com One of the most popular booths with SN Secret Shoppers, J.T.M. Food Group showcased a number of timely solutions at ANC 2014 in Boston. One highlight was its Portion Packed Steel Cut Oatmeal with Brown Sugar, cited with high praise by one Shopper: “There is no other product like this. It’s easy to cook and serve and very trendy. Great-tasting product!” Another Shopper was impressed with its “clean label,” boasting just three ingredients. “It’s nice to see a product for school nutrition be so clean,” said this Maryland-based Shopper. A third member of the Shopper team noted, “I am always looking for new products for breakfast-in-the-classroom. This one excited me!” The frozen product features easy heat-and-serve prep and can be menued with USDA Foods dry fruit. In addition, “J.T.M. has great-tasting beef-and-mushroom products in both meatballs and patties. I’ve been searching for a product like this with a good flavor profile, a cleaner label and a moist finish,” reported one enthusiastic Shopper from Colorado. “All this and the product counts as 2 meat/meat alternates and ¼ cup other/additional vegetables. It’s a great product for speed-scratch applications.” A fellow member of the SN Shopper team agreed, calling it “A nice, moist burger, with a great flavor; easy to bake, allergen-free.” Serv-Pak Corporation www.serv-pak.com Even if your school nutrition operation doesn’t have a large, dedicated central production facility, you may still find yourself in need of some packaging equipment to help you prep items for breakfast-in-the-classroom sites, vending machines, kiosks and even quick-serve lines in the cafeteria. SN’s Secret Shoppers encourage you to check out the “great solutions” from Serv-Pak Corporation. In particular, consider the Quickpak 5 System, with speeds of up to 30 packages per minute. Crystal-clear packaging allows you to showcase your high-quality, scratch-prepared items. With a range of items from cold bags to ovenable, multi-vent hot bags, the packaging system is touted as labor-efficient. School nutrition programs can even use branded text and images with high-definition printing on bags and film. “The Quickpak 5 system with bag blower is genius,” said one enthusiastic Shopper. Power Fresh Kids, LLC www.powerplayte.com Want a “fun and colorful way to teach and encourage young students about healthy eating”? SN Secret Shoppers found an answer in the Power Play’te program from Power Fresh Kids, LLC. At the core of the program are paper plates that offer children a brightly colored reminder that half of their plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Participating schools choose (at least) one day a week as Power Play’te Day. Activities include morning announcements, lesson plans, a video, parent flyers and, of course, the paper plates. “It was a cute nutrition education program,” cited one Shopper, pleased that the curriculum is free with purchase of the plates. In particular, she liked stickers that boast “I’m a taster, not a waster!” Another Shopper thinks this is a great tool that will catch the eye of youngsters. Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Food www.drpraegers.com/foodservice Finding a vegetarian source of protein isn’t always easy, but edamame from Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Food fits the bill. Each half-cup of the edamame in a pod contains 10 grams of protein, while the shelled version contains 8 grams per half-cup. It’s also a good source of fiber and is free from saturated fat and cholesterol. Secret Shoppers also noticed the company’s veggie burgers and veggie balls; one remarked that they were “Flavorful vegetable entree options with flavors that include world cuisine profiles such as Asian, Indian and Thai.” Other flavors include TexMex and Italian. Dr. Praeger’s also offers a gluten-free veggie burger. Fat Cat Scones www.fatcatscones.com From scones to biscuits to “Oat Chewies,” SN’s Secret Shopper team deemed the products from Fat Cat Scones “delicious.” One Shopper especially enjoyed the pumpkin spice scone flavor—although the pastries come in multiple flavors, including banana, chocolate chip and cranberry orange—and appreciated that the scones were available in whole grain. The Oat Chewies are also a “very good” wholegrain option that meets requirements and comes in four flavors: cinnamon apple, cocoa, strawberry and blueberry. Sara Lee Foodservice www.saraleefoodservice.com/k12 Whole-grain sandwich bread is one thing. The acceptability of whole-grain specialty breads is a “whole” other challenge. So, it’s no surprise that SN Secret Shoppers were excited to discover a delicious Whole Grain Croissant from Sara Lee Foodservice. “This is the first whole-grain croissant that I’ve tasted—and it’s fantastic!” hailed a Secret Shopper from Texas, adding, “It meets the need for upscale sandwich options at both breakfast and lunch.” Another Shopper admired the fact that it “looks white, even though [it’s] whole grain,” and concurred that it “tasted great.” Pre-sliced, the 2.35-oz. product provides 2 ozs. equivalent grain. Made with “natural butter flavor,” it contains no trans fat. The SN Shopper team also cited the company’s muffin line. ProHealth Pasta www.prohealthpasta.com Secret Shoppers identified an intriguing new way to go gluten-free when offering ever-popular pasta dishes to students. Red Lentil Pasta from ProHealth Pasta is a “great-tasting, high-protein alternative pasta,” explained a Virginia-based Shopper, adding, “Other gluten-free pastas, such as [those made with] corn or rice, can be gummy and tasteless. This pasta had great taste and texture—with bonus protein.” Available in penne, spiral, elbow and orzo shapes, the Red Lentil Pasta also could be considered a good vegetarian entrée. The company also offers other gluten-free noodles made from black beans, brown-rice and a rice-and-corn blend. [Editors’ Note: School Nutrition is planning to do a deep dive on all things pasta in its February 2015 issue.] Clear Springs www.clearsprings.com/foodservice It’s not always easy to lure students into eating fish, but Fiddlestix Ranch- Flavored Trout Sticks from Clear Springs are “a fun way to promote fish,” said one SN Secret Shopper. The sticks are made with Idaho rainbow trout seasoned with red and green peppers and spices, mixed with potatoes and served as a finger food. Fiddlestix are also gluten-free. Our Secret Shoppers also eyed Clear Springs’ Whole-Grain Citrus Sesame Trout Taco Portions, a new flavor in the company’s trout line-up. “The citrus sesame is a flavor students would enjoy,” noted a participant from the Southwest. The product is portioned perfectly for fish tacos. [Editors’ Note: See the related recipe on page xx.] Both the Fiddlestix and the Citrus Sesame Trout are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. U.S. Department of Agriculture www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/f2s www.teamnutrition.usda.gov There was an abundance of terrific resources to be found in the Exhibit Hall’s USDA Lane and School Nutrition’s Secret Shoppers identified a few specific ones to share with readers. The Farm to School Program had its own booth with helpful “one-pagers” on farm-to-school facts, geographic preference definitions and marketing materials. Other downloadable materials are available online. Another Shopper loved the Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Booklet filled with “creative ideas and how-to instructions for 20 themed events that focus on nutrition and physical activity” that she found at the Team Nutrition booth. It can be ordered from the Team Nutrition website. Land O’ Lakes Dairy Foods www.landolakesfoodservice.com Cowabunga! Secret Shoppers think that Kozy Shack® brand CowRageous® pudding cups from Land O’ Lakes Dairy Foods might ease the transition to new nutrition standards for foods sold on the a la carte line. “It’s a wonderful item that fits the Smart Snacks [regulation],” reported one Shopper, who expects her students to miss some of the sweet offerings that no longer comply. “I am hoping the chocolate pudding will help fill this void.” Another Shopper agreed, citing its “creamy great taste” and noting that it’s gluten-free. The individual 3.75-oz. pudding cups are easy to menu for grab ‘n’ go service and are available in both chocolate and vanilla flavors. Country Pure Foods www.juice4u.com “Wow, this red-orange meal contribution vegetable is delicious!” reported one Secret Shopper about Country Pure Foods’ Sunset Sip V-Blend 100% Vegetable Juice flavor. “What a great way to offer a red-orange vegetable choice that kids will actually consume. Love it!” The 4-oz. juice carton, which is a blend of sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin juices and fortified with vitamins A, C and E, credits as a ½-cup vegetables. Along with Vampire Red, a mixture of tomato concentrate, carrot and sweet potato juices, Sunset Sip is one of Country Pure’s newest juice flavors. The line earned praise from the 2013 Secret Shopper team, as well. In Harvest www.inharvest.com Look beyond the traditional granola bar to In Harvest’s K-12 bars, made from whole-grain rolled oats, puffed quinoa and puffed wholegrain crisp. One Secret Shopper who discovered this product called it a “bar that kids will love.” It’s available in two flavors, Caramel Apple—made with dried apples—and Twin Berry, loaded with dried cranberries and dried blueberries. If you’re in search of an innovative recipe that uses whole grains, In Harvest’s Salad Shaker recipes are great solutions, noted a member of the SN Shopper team. These recipes call for layering the company’s wholegrain options, such as quinoa or barley, with ingredients such as chicken, lettuce and cheese, to create fun entrees that kids can shake up before eating—and they’re reimbursable meals, too! Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt www.yasso.com Looking for a la carte offerings that are both nutritious and delicious? Our Secret Shoppers traveled to the end of the alphabet and discovered a tasty treat from Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt. “Wow! These are simply divine! The flavor is amazing,” asserted one enthusiastic Shopper. The company’s frozen novelty bars are a “great alternative to ice cream,” cited another, detailing such attributes as “low calorie, at least 5 grams of protein, low sugar, incredible flavor, minimal allergens, gluten-free.” Available flavors range from fruit (including Strawberry, Blueberry, Mango) to specialty (including Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Fudge, Sea Caramel) While the product is not yet available in large quantities for foodservice operations, smaller schools and districts can seek it out on retail shelves, noted a Missouri-based Shopper. That may be cost-prohibitive for some, but Shoppers learned that the company is hoping to make the product available to schools soon. Plas-tique Products, Inc www.blooshoo.com Our Shoppers certainly weren’t singing the blues about “Bloos,” a new, “super comfortable” safety shoe exhibited at ANC by Plas-tique Products, Inc. Designed for foodservice operations, healthcare and other professions, one-piece design (with full back) and the shoe features a custom tread that offers durability, slip-resistance and arch support. “I only tried these on for a few minutes, but they seemed very comfortable,” reported one Maryland-based Shopper, adding, “Comfortable, durable, non-slip shoes are hard to find. These seem to meet all the criteria—and are machine washable, too!” Another praised the selection of “great colors,” and called the unisex shoes “very affordable!” Shoppers also liked that Bloos Shoes are a made-in-the-USA product. Cool Tropics www.cool-tropics.com One of the biggest concerns identified by many operators is students throwing away required portions of fruits and vegetables. Cool Tropics attempts to solve that problem by offering Fruit Bits, a simple and effective way to add the nutrition, taste, color and texture of fruit to your menu, and one Secret Shopper felt assured that it’s an item that kids won’t discard. Operators can use Fruit Bits as an ingredient baked into muffins, added to a salad bar or used to top cereal or oatmeal. Each 14-gram serving equals a ½-cup of fruit. Varieties include Apple Watermelon, Apple Strawberry and Mixed Berry. Bolthouse Farms www.bolthouse.com Multiple Secret Shoppers were impressed by the “great variety” of juice and smoothie options available from Bolthouse Farms. One Shopper particularly enjoyed the carrot flavor—“Very yummy!”—and another commented on the interesting array of juice blends. Familiar to some on retail shelves, Bolthouse Farms is a newcomer to the K-12 market; juice flavors include Carrot, Pomegranate, Acai Pomegranate and Mango Coconut Splash. Smoothie options include fruit and vegetable blends such as Green Goodness, Strawberry Banana and Berry Boost. Skeeter Nut Free www.skeeternutfree.com New federal nutrition standards for foods sold a la carte or outside of the cafeteria have meant that school nutrition operators are continually on the lookout for products that will be in compliance—and will earn customer approval. Secret Shoppers were intrigued by the 100% whole-grain, nut-free snack options from Skeeter Nut Free. Chocolate Grahams, Cinnamon Grahams and Chocolate Chip Mini Cookies are “delicious” and “safe” for children with certain food allergies, reported members of the Shopper team. Palmer Hamilton, LLC www.palmerhamilton.com Palmer Hamilton, LLC, provides full-service food court design, furniture and décor to schools and other foodservice operations. Anyone familiar with the latest series of television commercials about “wall-huggers” needing to charge their telephone batteries will understand why SN’s Secret Shoppers were excited about one of the products the company exhibited in Boston: a mobile café table that features an untethered charging station! “We can ‘capture’ students in the cafeteria,” explained one Shopper. “They can charge their electronic devices while they eat lunch or breakfast.” LoveYourLunchroom.com www.loveyourlunchroom.com Ready to transform your dull cafeteria to an energized cafe? Loveyourlunchroom.com is a great source of affordably priced sign kits and custom design assistance. SN Secret Shoppers cited the company’s new Holiday Danglers line of easy-to-hang, -clean and –store signs. They “give serving lines a pop of color and a professional, uniform look,” reported one Shopper of the decoration kits. The company’s Build-a-Tray line of posters, lunchboards, activity books, trays, pockets and danglers also earned praise. Food Play Productions www.foodplay.com Part fashion accessory, part nutrition education, the Fruit+Veggie Tracker Bands from Food Play Productions are a great way to encourage students to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, suggested one Secret Shopper. The colorful bands are worn on your left wrist at the start of the day, but as you eat a rainbow of produce, you move the bands to your right wrist one by one. “[It’s] a good way to supplement the nutrition education we already do,” this Texas-based Shopper noted, adding that a discount on bulk orders is available. A fellow Shopper gave the company high marks for its overall nutrition education services, which include live theatrical shows that showcase sound nutritional messages in an entertaining way. “This puts healthy eating learning in a way that kids will remember and learn while having fun,” this Shopper from Georgia remarked. However, the shows aren’t just for kids—“They would also do well at an employee inservice.” Seapoint Farms www.seapointfarms.com Seapoint Farms calls itself the largest importer and manufacturer of edamame products in the United States, offering a line of frozen edamame varieties, as well as a line of dry roasted edamame snacks. For those yet-to-be-introduced, edamame are little green soybeans that come in pods like peas. Currently touted as a Wonder Veggie®, they offer health benefits associated with lowered risks for cancer and heart disease. In reimbursable meals, edamame can be credited as either a vegetable or a meat/meat alternate component. One SN Shopper was taken by a prepacked 1.5-oz. shelled edamame product. Her eye was caught by the “clever packaging aimed at young children.” Innoseal Systems, Inc. www.innoseal.com The InnoSealer, a tamper-evident bag closure system, from Innoseal Systems, Inc., is “Easy to use and saves time in prep areas,” reported one Secret Shopper. Plus, you can move it anywhere, and it’s easy to clean up. For the operation on a budget, this Shopper says the cost is “reasonable” for such a helpful product. The Innoseal website notes that it’s ideal for sealing items served as part of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, grab ‘n’ go breakfast items and snacks. Shoppers Wanted! Once again, the members of School Nutrition’s 2014 ANC Secret Shopper team had nothing but praise for their participation on our team, reporting that it is a fresh and fun way to see the Exhibit Hall with “new” eyes. Are you interested in being part of the team at ANC 2015 in Salt Lake City? We’re recruiting! For more information or to volunteer, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Shoppers must be active SNA members working for a school or district at the time of the conference. All shoppers are volunteers; there is no discount on ANC registration or other remuneration.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Secret+Shopper%3A+Wicked+Good+Goodies/1828250/227872/article.html.