For a seventh consecutive year, School Nutrition recruited a special team of “Secret Shoppers” to take on an important mission at SNA’s Annual National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Our eager volunteers agreed to identify the most innovative and intriguing products available to K-12 foodservice operators—and share these with our readers! These volunteers come from all levels of the school nutrition profession, from district directors to managers to employees. By gathering intel from experts who come from a variety of backgrounds, regions and district sizes, School Nutrition can present a well-rounded list of products and innovations. Like our host city’s famous Alamo, these new school segment solutions made a memorable mark, and surely one or more will suit your cafeteria’s needs and concerns. Sevillo Fine Foods www.sevillofinefoods.com One product earned the highest number of submissions from SN’s Secret Shoppers: Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Artisan Vegetables from Sevillo Fine Foods. While conceding that it’s an upscale ingredient, Shoppers couldn’t contain their enthusiasm. “The company slow roasts tomatoes and artichokes and sells them frozen in 3-4-lb. pails,” explained one Shopper, going on to add, “The product flavor is amazing. A 1-oz. serving of the tomatoes equals 1⁄4 cup red/orange vegetables.” Other Shoppers echoed this sentiment: “The products are superior. Great for salads and as an entrée enhancer.” “The flavor is great, and you can use a very small amount. It adds a ‘wow’ factor to the meal.” “It’s great for sandwiches and pizza at the high school level.” “Excellent flavor. It’s a little pricey, but to top on pizzas would be outstanding.” “Oh, my goodness! So yummy! I don’t even like tomatoes, and these were great.” MealViewer www.mealviewer.com MealViewer offers a complete digital communication package for school cafeterias. Sleek menu boards make kids take notice of the items being served. Outside the serving/dining area, a “Digital Suite” features website integration, a mobile app (iPhone and Android compatible) that is customizable by school site, email automation to parents and PDF resources for print or website promotions. One Shopper found it “a slick way of presenting information about your menu to parents, students and the community.” Calling the company’s many production solutions “high-tech and diverse,” another Shopper especially admired a merchandising application featuring a video display on the front of the refrigerator. AdvancePierre Foods www.advancepierre.com AdvancePierre returns to the list once again with multiple mentions. Among these are its whole-grain Cheese Loaded Pretzel, an intriguing entrée option. “I don’t know anyone else who makes it,” reported one SN Secret Shopper. The company’s Cheeseburger Meatloaf also attracted attention. “It tastes just like a McDonald’s cheeseburger,” noted another Shopper, always mindful of the appeal of commercial brands with student customers. “It would be a great change-up to serve on a bun.” Shoppers also gave high marks to AdvancePierre’s partnership with Welch’s to produce a line of PB&J sandwiches that are whole grain-rich and free of high fructose corn syrup. Jennie-O Turkey Store www.jennieofoodservice.com/k12 Jennie-O Turkey Store boasts one of the most popular new products identified by SN’s Secret Shoppers in Texas. Individually wrapped Turkey Breast Sticks, said to be similar to jerky, are all-natural, clean label, grab ‘n’ go snacks. Featuring 8 grams of turkey breast meat protein, the product is Smart Snack-compliant. The Turkey Breast Sticks are available in three flavors: Oven Roasted, Smokehouse and Sweet BBQ. The product offers “many possibilities,” said one Shopper, while another cited numerous potential applications, including snacks, field trips, Bento Boxes and more. A West Coast Shopper found it to be a good protein alternative to cheese sticks. Several shoppers also remarked on the eye-catching packaging. Jennie-O also got a shout-out for its white-meat Breaded Chicken Chunk product in the Clux Delux line: “It’s a great product to use either on a salad or as an entrée; it tastes great hot or cold.” K graphics posters www.kgraphicsposters.com Our Secret Shopping team spied the small Texas firm K graphics posters, which specializes in custom posters for school foodservice operations. “For school districts without access to print shops and graphic design professionals, this company provides 36-in. square, colorful, monthly posters at reasonable prices,” explained one West Coast Shopper, going on to call the products “a simple marketing solution.” To pro- vide marketing continuity, the company can provide matching PDF copies of the posters to add to website pages or photocopy to send home to families. Schwan’s Food Service www.schwansfoodservice.com Who’s your daddy? Well, for a few SN Secret Shoppers, it was the Big Daddy’s® product line from Schwan’s Food Service. In particular, they cited the Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Pizza, applauding its “great flavor,” “good cheese coverage,” volume of sauce and “just the right amount of heat.” A Shopper from a Mid-Atlantic state could barely contain her enthusiasm, calling it “a must-add to your National School Lunch Program” offerings! AccuTemp www.accutemp.net School nutrition operators continue to covet combis, and one from AccuTemp attracted particular notice. “The Vision Touch 1221 is truly a 21st century piece of equipment,” said one Shopper. The machine’s “height and rollout rack make it safer for all cooks. It will decrease, if not eliminate, burns,” this Shopper added. “Safety is our vision!” cites product literature that highlights the unusual lower-height profile of the unit. Marzetti Foodservice www.marzettifoodservice.com The Sister Schubert’s line of whole-wheat rolls from Marzetti Foodservice was highlighted as a good option for “schools that may have short labor hours,” explained one Secret Shopper. “This would be a great way to serve a good-tasting whole-grain roll.” Another Shopper praised the company’s Lasagna Cheese Rollup: “a whole-grain version of a classic, easy-to-serve lasagna.” Nu-Health California, LLC www.nuhealthfruit.com Need more creative ways to menu fruit to your students? Nu-Health Fruit has a solution that earned praise from SN Shoppers. Grab ‘n’ go Fruit in Fruit Juice TM beverages have no added sugar, fillers, synthetic ingredients, GMOs, preservatives or artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. Packaged in unique on-the-go cups, the product comes in two sizes (9-oz. and 4.5-oz.) providing 1 cup and ½ cup fruit servings, respectively. Flavors include peach, mandarin orange, pineapple, apple and pear. “Great for sack lunches,” said one Shopper. “Fresh and healthy,” enthused another. “Beautiful packaging,” said a third, adding, “Put a whole apple next to this beautifully packaged sliced apple in fruit juice and which one do you think the students will take?” PanSaver www.pansaver.com Most school nutrition veterans are familiar with PanSaver’s pan liners, making clean-up of messy casseroles or pasta products a simple task. But this year, a member of SN’s Shopping team was intrigued by the company’s new line of pan covers. “It was so nifty how you put the pan in the oven, covered by the Pan Cover, and it immediately shrink-wraps the pan. You can bake and hold moisture in the product,” she reported. Shrink-Tight TM Pan Covers also help to keep the oven clean, make pans without covers stackable for storage and transport and provide 100% food visibility. Avangard Innovative www.avaicg.com “As a school system, we spend thousands of dollars annually on waste and recycled materials removal,” explained one SN Secret Shopper. That’s why the services of Avangard Innovative attracted attention. The company’s business model is to “monetize recyclables—make green while being green!” It uses a proprietary technology to identify, implement and audit school waste and recyclables. “This company can be a partner to help design a system for recycling and assist school systems with the sale of products, earning money back into the budget,” said our Shopper. Avangard Innovative also provides a complete line of equipment to aid in the collection and management of recyclables, from trash bins to a food tray densifier and smart baler. Upstate Farms www.upstatefarmsfs.com Prepackaged yogurt offered grab ‘n’ go-style is an effective approach to menu-ing this protein to students. But if you’re seeking to add yogurt into recipes, our Shopping team discovered some tasty entrée recipe concepts from Upstate Farms. The yogurt company offers savory options for your consideration, including a Layered Pull Pork Parfait and Spicy Sriracha Chicken Parfait, both made with Greek nonfat plain yogurt. Although the recipes are not in foodservice quantities, one Secret Shopper was intrigued: “Savory entrée recipes add another option and use for yogurt on school menus.” Apple & Eve www.appleandeve.com Fruitables Plus from Apple & Eve lets students drink their vegetable servings at school. One SN Secret Shopper was impressed: “They can get 100% of their vitamins A & C—in 4 ounces! Plus, it tastes good. It would be perfect for breakfast in the classroom.” Another approved of the stealth health approach: “It’s hard to get students to eat vegetables. Now, they will drink the juice and not know it is actually counting as a vegetable.” The Gold Rush flavor meets ½ cup of the red/orange vegetable category, while the Tropical Twist and Power Punch flavors count as ½ cup vegetable in the other/additional category. Dippin’ Dots www.dippindots.com “What a wonderful Smart Snack for secondary students,” raved one Shopper of the school line of products from Dippin’ Dots. Offerings include YoDots, frozen yogurt in cookie dough, cotton candy, chocolate/vanilla and other flavors. Also available is a Redberry Sherbet made with Sour Patch Kids. Another Shopper agreed that the taste was “very good” but was concerned that the product was too expensive for many schools. SICO www.sicoinc.com Are you furnishing a new cafeteria? SN Shoppers suggest you might want to check out the school table and display options from SICO to create an attractive dining environment for your students. “Colorful and eye-catching,” commented one Shopper. Many styles of folding tables are available with benches and stools. With almost 200 tabletop and bench laminates to select from in the company’s collection, décor options can match virtually any school colors, themes or other custom looks. Interflex www.interflex.net Procurement is one of the most complex tasks for school nutrition directors, and the variations in the bidding process can be a frustration to vendors. That’s why BidAdvantage and Awardedbids from Interflex earned attention from Shoppers. BidAdvantage is a free-to-schools procurement tool that features more than 1,700 product specs. “You can streamline the bidding process and ensure we have free and open competition,” explained one intrigued Shopper. School districts can create and maintain specifications, as well as access pre-built specification templates. Issued bids, awards and vendor notification can all be managed electronically. Awardedbids allows industry to receive bid opportunities, view awards information, analyze the market, assess competition and research bid history. Kent Precision Foods Group www.getyourflavoron.com Can’t agree on whether your students prefer things super-spicy or more moderate in flavor? Let them decide. SN Secret Shoppers saw great value in The Flavor Lab self-serve seasoning station from Kent Precision Foods Group. “You can make a basic chicken or other entrée and then let the kids add the flavor themselves,” explained one West Coast Shopper. “It increases consumption, while using less-traditional condiments.” Seasonings are from the Mrs. Dash for Foodservice and Foothill Farms lines and include Ranch, Fiesta Lime, Chili Cheese, BBQ Teriyaki, Garlic & Herb, Spicy Jalapeño and more. Tyson Foods www.tysonfoodservice.com/k-12 Tyson Foods is back in our Secret Shopper showcase with a few products. Most exciting to SN’s Shopping team is Honey Sriracha Chicken Boneless Wings, from the company’s Wei Café line. They were praised as “awesome,” “excellent flavor” and “appealing” by multiple Shoppers, who also prized accompanying recipes for a Pineapple-Chicken Bowl and Chicken Po’ Boy. “Very helpful for menu planning!” gushed one Shopper. Other products earning Shopper nods included Tyson’s “excellent” General Tso’s Chicken Lo Mein Salad recipe concept and its barrel-style Chicken Tenders, which “look and taste like they came from a restaurant. Perfect alone or with dipping sauces,” reported another Shopper. Back to the Roots www.backtotheroots.com A mushroom farm in a box? “Growing mushrooms from a box can’t be used in cafeteria meals, but it’s a neat project for teachers in the classroom,” ob served a Secret Shopper of one of the innovative products from Back to the Roots, making a second-consecutive appearance in our Shopper showcase. Others in the line include Garden- in-a-Can and Garden-in-a-Jar for windowsill herb gardening. “A very clever product and a great way to bring nutrition education to the classroom,” agreed another Shopper. Global Foods www.globalfoodslv.com/schools School nutrition operators seek creative ways to encourage students to consume more fruit. Secret Shoppers suggest taking a look at Fruit to go bars from Global Foods. Featuring 100% fruit, these shelf-stable, grab ‘n’ go snacks are peanut-and gluten-free and provide 1⁄2 cup fruit. Flavors include Apple Raspberry, Apple Strawberry, Apple Strawberry Watermelon and Apple Wildberry. Shoppers found them “good quality and very cost effective.” SMART Temps www.smart-temps.com Is your dishmachine heating to appropriate temperatures? Secret Shoppers like the idea of taking the guesswork out of the equation with the SMART Dish Guard from SMART Temps. Simply place the wireless thermometer inside the machine, and it monitors, records and reports the hottest surface temperature for the rinse cycle. “No more temperature logs!” gushed a Midwest Shopper. Another was enthusiastic about the ability to conduct off-site monitoring, as well. Bull’s Eye Brands/Smart Mouth Foods www.smartmouthfoods.com Watch your mouth—your Smart Mouth, that is. Several SN Secret Shoppers raved about the samples they tried of Smart Mouth® Pizza from Bull’s Eye Brands. “Delicious! Not your typical school pizza; it tastes exactly like a pan pizza you would order in a restaurant,” said one Shopper, adding, “I love the versatility of the dough—three products, one dough! Amazing!” Another Shopper agreed: “These were great-tasting pizzas—and it comes with a great marketing program.” While the crust is a whole-grain, “it tasted like white flour—it was very good,” echoed a third Shopper. A fourth Shopper reported that the accompanying merchandising materials “looked like something at a college or a sports arena—and the pizza was good, too!” Foster Farms www.fosterfarmsfoodservice.com/schools “Bold and rolled” is how Foster Farms describes its Grab Wraps, new individually wrapped, hand-rolled sandwiches for school meal programs. School Nutrition’s Secret Shoppers described them as “super,” “new” and “great flavors for our kids.” Four flavors are available, but one Shopper gave a particular shout-out to the Jalapeño Beef Wrap: “This stood out with the flavor profile that kids would like. It could be used in our after-school supper program.” Cool Tropics/Tropical Paradise www.cool-tropics.com In March 2016, Welch’s partnered with Cool Tropics to introduce a new line of 100% juice slush beverages to the company’s RiPS line. SN Secret Shoppers were among the first to try the products, rolled out in July, and they gave the line a big thumb’s up! “This product is going to be awesome to use on the menu to help meet the fruit component. It will draw elementary kids to the line to purchase a reimbursable meal,” predicted one Shopper. Another praised its versatility for meals and Smart Snacks, adding, “The flavor doesn’t leave an after-taste.” Varieties include Concord Grape, Concord Berry, White Grape Cherry and White Grape Peach. Live Smart Manufacturing www.smartkidsbar.com Smart kids deserve a smart snack! Our Shopping team found a good possibility in the Smart Kids Bar from Live Smart Manufacturing. The grab ‘n’ go snack is nut-, soy-and gluten-free and meets standards for Smart Snacks and reimbursable meals. Flavors include Berry Good, Aloha Pineapple, S’mores and Banana Split. Shoppers were wowed by the taste and the colorful, slick, sophisticated packaging! FoodPlay Productions www.foodplay.com What are you doing to make nutrition education a fun activity? FoodPlay Productions offers an interactive program targeted to children “that supports the work we do every day as nutrition professionals,” explained one School Nutrition Secret Shop- per. The company has a variety of programs and resources, including a school assembly performance, curriculum kit, parent news- letter and a DVD. “I have had [the troupe] in my district, and they have an awesome program,” gushed one Shopping team member, adding, “The teachers and students just raved about the performance.” Shoppers were intrigued by FoodPlay Fruit & Veggie Tracker Bands, which empower kids to make healthy choices on their own. National Food Group www.zeezees.com Our Secret Shoppers endorsed the new marketing campaign from National Food Group. They were eager to “meet the ZEE ZEEsTM” and approved of how the kid-friendly approach gave a fun look to familiar products, such as unsweetened and flavored applesauce cups, fruit cups and nutrition bars. “Great marketing! It’s always been a good, solid product, but with boring, dull packaging. This is fun for all ages,” raved one Shopper. “Great idea, with terrific eye appeal for kids,” agreed another. Country Pure Foods www.juice4u.com SN Shoppers praised several vegetable juice beverages, but they were also enthusiastic about frozen vegetable juice products. “It tasted like a sorbet cup,” gushed one Shopper of the Sunset Smooth and Cherry Smooth 100% juice Ridgefield’s Sidekicks® line for Country Pure Foods. Both 4.4-oz. products credit as a ½-cup vegetable serving in the red/orange and “additional” vegetable categories, and they are Smart Snacks-compliant. Los Cabos/MCI Foods www.mcifoods.com ¡Ay, caramba! Interest in Mexican foods and flavors knows no borders with students today. Among the ones that caught the eyes of our Secret Shopping team were burrito products from Los Cabos. One Shopper called out two items from the company’s Clean Label segment: Beef, Bean without Textured Vegetable Protein and Bean, Cheddar Cheese without Textured Vegetable Protein. Another Shopper cited the En Fuego Bean and Cheese Burrito for its layer of beans, cheese and salsa. “Hot, spicy and good flavor,” reported this Shopper. Rich Products www.richs.com Rich Products showed such a wide array of products in San Antonio that it’s not surprising our Secret Shoppers submitted multiple mentions. Among these were the company’s whole-grain donut holes, cited for their “great taste” as “fun finger food for kids.” In fact, said one Shopper, “You would never know they were whole grain.” Similarly, the whole-grain ring yeast donut was praised for its “sweet dough taste.” It will “make a good sandwich for breakfast and lunch,” said one Shopper, adding, “The kids will love it!” Also in the spotlight: Rich’s 5-in. calzone dough was called “versatile,” offering “many possibilities” and having “great flavor.” JTM Food Group www.jtmfoodgroup.com Sous vide (pronounced sue VEED) is a cooking method in which a food is prepared, vacuum-packed and then cooked slowly and precisely in a circulated water bath before being quick-chilled and frozen. It’s said to preserve a homestyle taste but provide an extended shelf life. JTM Food Group has developed a new line of Sous Vide Proteins, including Diced Beef, Diced Pork Roast and Diced Turkey. SN Shoppers were impressed. “They offer a wide variety of menu options. JTM did the work of a central kitchen for me. My staff can use these products in speed-scratch recipes,” reported one Shopper. The company’s Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs also earned notice (“outstanding flavor and low sodium”), as did its Noodle Bowl concept (“it’s a great made-to-order meal for our high school students”). Chef Paul Prudhomme www.chefpaul.com/school Yes, Virginia, you can find flavor with salt-free, sugar-free seasonings from Chef Paul Prudhomme. Six blends of herbs and spices provide a wide array of taste profiles, including Lemon & Cracked Pepper, Toasted Onion & Garlic and Sweet Basil & Tarragon. Secret Shoppers admired the Magic Flavor Station that allows students to customize their own meals. “I think this will boost my participation,” predicted one member of the Shopping team. “The taste was delicious,” agreed another. Wild Mike’s www.wildmikessupersizedpizza.com Our Shoppers went...er...”wild” for multiple offerings from Wild Mike’s Ultimate Pizza. “I’ve never tasted such a light, crispy and flavorful crust,” raved one Shopper of the company’s 51% Whole Grain Pepperoni Pizza, adding, “The pepperoni is not greasy, either!” Another Shopper admired that there was “lots of sauce—good coverage” on the company’s pizza products. A third Shopper praised the Maple Breadsticks: “Great taste, no mess, good breakfast-in-the-classroom item.” Skeeter Nut Free www.skeeternutfree.com Secret Shoppers predict a new phrase might start trending in your cafeteria: “Allsome.” It’s the brand identity for a new line of products from Skeeter Nut Free and stands for “Always Awesome, Always Wholesome.” The first item to reach the market is Allsome! Cinnamon Bitz!, an all-natural, whole-grain, no nuts, no high-fructose corn syrup, no trans fat snack. Available in individual portion-controlled packs or bulk for use in recipes, these crisp, cinnamon bites feature a sweet, cereal-like flavor. Shoppers approved of the clean label and called the product “tasty,” expecting to try it out “as a topper on breakfast parfaits.” Sun-Maid Growers of California email@example.com The Shopping team was pleased to find a flavored raisin snack without added sugar. Sun-Maid’s sour-flavored raisins have “a less-bitter ‘sour’ taste,” cited one Shopper, preferring it to the similar snack product she currently offers on the line. Two items are available: Sour Lemon and Sour Strawberry. Both are flavored golden raisins. They are gluten-and allergen-free and satisfy USDA’s fruit serving requirement. Buena Vista Foods www.bvfoods.com Buena Vista Foods showcased an array of products in San Antonio, and three of them earned special mention by SN Secret Shoppers. The company’s Whole Grain Coffee Cake has been rebranded as a Cinnamon Crumble, available in various flavors and sizes. One Shopper admired the new colorful packaging and praised it for being “moist, delicious and made with real fruit.” Another favorite was Buena Vista’s Whole Grain meatless Italian Sausage Calzone. “Delicious with good spice; it’s a great meatless item,” raved one member of the Shopping team. The company’s Whole Grain Reduced Fat Chocolate Chip Cookie also got a shout-out: “It’s moist and attractive—in fact, they have a variety of cookies that kids would like.”
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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