18 Insane Food Challenges

11 Pound PizzaThis man is about to attempt to eat a 5kg pizza. It costs $50 and would easily feed a family. In a tag team-effort, with one other person, the challenge is to finish the pizza within an hour. If successful they will take home $250.

If pizza isn't your thing, perhaps the KIDZ breakfast might be more appealing (named because it weighs as much as a small kid), or a 2kg steak complete with bread roll, shrimp cocktail and salad. There is even a 'ladies only' challenges - consume a 3kg buritto in one hour and receive free food for life!

This list of 18 Insane Food Challenges popped up in my Twitter stream (@radarinsight) and I felt compelled to share it. I don't know why people undertake these challenges, but I am impressed that kitchens still offer these gargantuan serves for those willing to test themselves.

Click for the full list of 18 Insane Food Challenges

Listening to your consumer

megaphone-hearing-787265 What guides product development at your business? Continual consumer feedback loops, gut feel or the taste preference of senior management?

Many businesses believe they are consumer guided, but without specific effort and know-how, it's easy to skip the part where you ask for consumer input. Here are two examples of companies taking the initiative to remain consumer-centric:

Amazon.com: In all the important meetings at Amazon.com, founder Jeff Bezos insists upon having an empty chair present to represent the consumer or 'the most important person in the room'.

Zara: This fashion retailer uses its store managers to gather data each day from its shoppers by asking questions such as 'What colour should we do this in next?' and 'Is the skirt long enough?' This constant feedback loop has limited Zara's failed product introductions to 1% (the industry average sits around 10%).

Testing your new products with consumers is the best way to hear honest feedback and make meaningful alterations. It used to be a costly, labour intense undertaking but not anymore! Rapid Profiling, and other consumer sensory techniques are available from Radar Insight to enure you're launching products that consumers want.

(Examples sourced from HBR.org)

Food Tech: Fonterra launches 100% light proof bottle

New Zealand milk brand Anchor have launched a new, 'light proof' bottle, after identifying light spoilage to be a key factor in milk deterioration by "breaking down its fresh taste and natural goodness". Parent company Fonterra have found that traditional opaque milk bottles allow between 7% to 25% of light through, kick starting shelf life degradation and producing noticeable flavour differences within 2 days. To combat this, they developed a triple barrier bottle that is 100% light proof.

Radar Insight has the expertise required to help you assess flavour and/or textural changes that occur over a products shelf life. If you're not certain that your products last the distance, contact us and see how we can help.

Click for Fonterra's full media release

Sensory 101 - Product Evaluation

'How can I run an effective internal sensory evaluation?' 

This question pops up regularly, most often when there are different business functions (Procurement, Marketing, Technical) attending a taste session. Time and time again informal tastings lose sight of the objective, become sidetracked with unrelated discussions or everyone ends up just agreeing with most senior person at the meeting.

Sound familiar?

For an internal evaluation to be successful and uncover meaningful insights, a simple framework should be followed. Doing so will maintain focus and ensure everyone's taste buds have an opportunity to have their say!

Here are my top 5 tips for running an effective sensory evaluation.

How can this be tackled?

  1. Begin by clearly articulating the objective(s) of the evaluation.
  2. Highlight and define the key attributes that you want to focus upon - use words and product examples to demonstrate scales.
  3. Instruct each evaluator to systematically work through the Appearance, Aroma, Flavour and Texture of the products - without interacting with other evaluators.
  4. Once complete, discuss as a group each attribute to gaining consensus of how the product is percieved.
  5. Re-visit the objective(s) and define the next stpes for the project.

By following this simple framework, your product discussions will become more meaningful, you will address project objectives with more clarity and your projects will proceed quicker.

Good luck, let me know how it goes!

Food Technology: Presidential home brew

When he is not leading the free world or campaigning for re-election, the President of the United States of America likes to dust off his home brewing kit and (with extensive help from his kitchen staff) make two very special White House beers - White House Honey Porter and White House Honey Ale.

The presidential formulation originated from a local Washington brewmaster and is tweaked by the White House kitchen staff, even incorporating tips from other staffers at the White House who home brew for a hobby.

Most home brewers have their own secret ingredient that they swear by, however the White House happily shares their unique ingredient - honey. But you'll never get your hands on this particular type, the beehives where the honey is collected sit on the pristine White House South Lawn, guarded 24 hours per day by the United States Secret Service.

To see the 7 week presidential brewing process reduced to a 4 minute YouTube clip, follow the link here.

And for a copy of the the recipes, I have them posted here.

Using sensory profiles to define your product

Do you have a new ingredient ready to promote? Maybe you should consider incorporating a sensory profile to set your product apart from the rest. Including a sensory profile allows your customers to clearly see just how your products compare.

Benefits of utilising a sensory profile include:

  • capturing your audiences attention
  • showing superiority over a competitors product
  • demonstrating a specific product advantage, or
  • defining your benchmark for quality.

These specifications combine despcriptive sensory data with nutritional, micro or lab data to give your clients the complete picture.

If your newest product could benefit from a sensory specification to showcase your point of difference, learn more here - RadarSpecs - or have a chat to Radar Insight today!

Creating a Giant Twix

I have a friend and he likes Twix.  Not just a little, but a lot. A whole lot.

So, when it came time for his 30th birthday present, a small team of food scientists in Albury and a designer in Geelong joined forces to  create the perfect gift.

A Giant Twix. Complete with biscuit centre, and caramel filling and crinkle edge wrapping. Check out the gallery below to see it take shape!

 Ingredients: 

  • 25 kg of Nestle Dark Chocolate

Caramel Channel (makes about 1.5 litres)

  • 5 tins of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 700g Butter
  • 12 Tablespoons of golden syrup

Butter Biscuit (makes 2 metres of biscuit)

  • 250g Butter
  • 1 Cup Caster Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 cups Plain Flour
  • 2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Milk

Other items:

  • 1 x 1m drainage pipe for use as mould
  • 1 x 80cm PVC piping (10cm diameter) to create channel for caramel
  • Heaps of non-stick paper
  • Industrial Fridge (for setting the Chocolate mid-summer)
  • Large sheet of white paper
  • Can of gold spray paint
  • Twix logo for packaging

[nggallery id=1]

Spike - perfect for shooting food commercials.

Ever wondered how food commercials capture the magical images of two tomatoes smashing into each other, the slow motion splash made by a hazelnut being dropped into a pool of chocolate or the speeding cork as it ejects from a bottle of champagne?

The answer is simple - precision, repitition, robotics and a high speed camera named Spike.

The Marmalade is a creative agency based in Hamburg, Germany who specialise in high end special effects for commercials. They have put this short video together to show how they shoot their commercials and when I stumble across it, I knew it would be worth sharing with anyone who appreciates food.

The Marmalde - Spike and High Speed Food Photography [VIDEO - 6 mins]

This team spend hours building rigs and robots that can consistently pour in, pour out, flick, splash or spin food products and props. All this work is done to capture on film a fraction of second of action on high speed camera.

Once the desired motion of the food has been achieved (flinging together two tomatoes), a highly maneuverable, high speed camera - 1000 frames per second - nicknamed Spike is programmed to record the exact moment of impact, splash or shatter or swiftly move down the glass as the beer is poured. This split second of action, slowed down ten times displays an artistic angle on everyday food and beverages that you wouldn't even realised occurs.

For a new perspective on food photography and cinematography and the advances being made by some of the leading companies in the world, have a look at the Marmalade's high speed photography video:

The Marmalde - Spike and High Speed Food Photography

And for more examples of their work be sure to check out their gallery.

 

Video and images used with the kind permission of:

THE MARMALADE | HAMBURG |  MAIL@THEMARMALADE.COM

 

Who, in the food industry, is your products toughest critic?

The Quality Manager? The Marketing Director? The CEO?

Perhaps the toughest critic of your products would be your loyal, repeat consumer. Over time they have become so attuned to your product that they can detect even the slightest change. They are the first to complain should they notice any variation to product or packaging. (Some claim even to be able to detect batch to batch variation).

We know that change is necessary to survive in this industry. We need to continue to reduce costs, increase nutritional value and alter processes to innovate, rotate and deliver FMCG products.

So how can you keep your critics happy but still complete product changes?

By testing, reformulating and retesting to ensure that silent changes really are silent changes.

There are a number of sensory evaluation methods available to statistically validate a silent change or determine where the differences are being detected. These tests are usually quick, cost effective and can give your sales team confidence that loyal consumers will remain satisfied.

By making it your objective not to disrupt your loyal consumers, everyone benefits.

Food Technology: Proof - The iPad game for Whiskey drinkers

 

Proof is a scotch whiskey sensory evaluation game designed for the iPad.

To begin, players can complete Scotch 101 to learn what scotch is, where it is made and how it should be consumed. Next, players are invited to test their knowledge while going on a journey through the regions of Scotland, the home of scotch whiskey.

Proof defines 8 sensory attributes of scotch and then challenges the players to shape the whiskey flavour wheel to visually represent the presence and strength of each attribute. Players can then compare their flavour wheels to each other and that of a whiskey expert.

To download Proof for free, head to http://proofwhisky.com/ (from your iPad) and follow the instructions. Proof was created by the team at Zeus Jones, Minneapolis.

Passage Foods trumps market leader

A recent sensory evaluation conducted by Radar Insight has shown Passage Foods' Butter Chicken Simmer Sauce to be more preferred by consumers than the current market leader.  This evaluation showed Passage Foods' Butter Chicken as having:

  • More visual appeal
  • More intense overall flavour
  • A more liked spice intensity, and
  • A more authentic flavour than its competitor.

The research showed that Indian cuisine consumption is increasing with most respondents eating Indian at least once per fortnight. Heating up a simmer sauce at home is the most common method of preparation.

Next time you find yourself looking for a taste escape to India, try Passage Foods' Butter Chicken simmer sauce. It is available at all major retailers.

Violet Crumble vs Crunchie - what's your flavour?

Chocolate covered honeycomb has long been an Australian favourite, but which do you prefer, Cadbury’s Crunchie or Nestle’s Violet Crumble? When spare time presented itself at the office, I put the taste buds to work to decide which I prefer.

Packaging

Both products come in vibrant foil packaging, and neither have a transparent window, instead keeping their contents secret from the world. As you'd expect, the vibrant designs on both packs is similar, although communicated using different colours. You may assume the coveted royal purple product belonged to Cadbury’s, but you'd be wrong. Nestle has continued its long association between Violet Crumble and purple while Cadbury’s Crunchie is is slathered in gold.

Appearance

Strip off the wrapper and the differences become more apparent.  Side by side you notice different coloured chocolate. The Crunchie is enrobed in Cadbury’s iconic Dairy Milk while Violet Crumble has opted for a darker variety. The cross section photo (below) reveals the degree of difference in chocolate coverage thickness; Crunchie (62% chocolate) and Violet Crumble (59% chocolate). The density of the honeycomb differs with fewer air bubbles and a more pale golden coloured Violet Crumble.  But we know that no one buys a chocolate bar to just look at..... lets eat!

Texture

Biting into the Crunchie is best described as biting through a chocolate layer, and then chomping through air. There is no structure or resistance given by the honeycomb. It reminds me of biting through a hollow Easter egg. The Violet Crumble still shatters, but the honeycomb provides greater resistance on first bite. Chewing the honeycomb centre of the Violet Crumble conjures up images of eating chalk, but tasty sweet chalk..

Once in your mouth, they both become a mass of chewy chocolatey goo, but the Crunchie’s Rate of Disappearance is far quicker than that of the Violet Crumble.

Unwrapped
Unwrapped

Chocolate

I tip my hat to Crunchie for using the Cadbury dairy milk chocolate. The combination of superior coverage and a familiar chocolate results in a better overall chocolate experience. Violet Crumble is less concerned with the chocolate flavour, allowing their honeycomb flavour profile to shine. As a chocolate bar, the lack of chocolate does play against them in when compared to the Crunchie.

Honey Comb

This is where the two products differ most. The Violet Crumble has a sweet taste and a simple clean honeycomb flavour. The Crunchie is super sweet. The honeycomb flavour wasn’t “clean” reminding me of overcooked toffee - the type that leaves a bitter, burnt sugar flavour in your mouth. Both bars made me thirsty, so I guess this comparison is best undertake with a glass of water close at hand.

Conclusion

Honestly, I couldn’t split these bars by appearance, was swayed towards the Cadbury Crunchie for its superior chocolate coverage but couldn’t consume the whole bar because its excessive sweetness. The strong the caramelised flavours were also a turn off. Even with less chocolate, the clean flavours of Nestle’s Violet Crumble secures my preference.

Final Thoughts...

I have a friend who swears the best way to eat a Crunchie is by pressing your tongue up against the honeycomb and letting it dissolve away. You are left with a soggy, half melted chocolate tube but it is delicious. Try it, but be warned, it usually ends up a little messy.

What is your favourite? How do you eat your honeycomb? Let me know your thoughts!

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