Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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yet living in senior communities—care deeply about the quality and social nature of their dining options. Olson notes, "They shy away from anything that seems institutional and want minimally processed fresh food." Hospitals are onboard as well, now operating more like res- taurant lines, accommodating made-to-order meals for each room and rotating menus in the cafeterias. "When I started in hospital foodservice, we were asking patients to decide today what they wanted to eat tomorrow," says Liz Hollowell, UCHealth's director of hospitality in northern Colorado, which serves an average of 450 patient meals a day and another 3,500 to 4,000 meals in the cafeteria. "We now offer room service in which patients can order what they want (within the guidelines of the diet their physician has ordered), and when they want to eat it." Everything is made fresh to order. "We have a very savvy Boomer population that wants those extra added-value services," Hollowell says. "Many of the Boomer patients have cooked over the years and want their food to be fresh, healthier, and yet comfort them." The biggest challenge she sees is meeting the needs of patients with food allergies and providing tasty gluten-free selections, a seg- ment that specialty foodservice manufacturers are poised to fill, with products ranging from gluten-free pancake mixes to alternative dairy products. As in the senior community arena, Hollowell sees a different caliber of chef applying. "I just hired an executive chef whose whole career has been in restaurants. Chefs understand we are doing excit- ing things in hospital foodservice, and they're finding their schedule is more conducive to a family life, and healthcare offers benefits." Pleasing the Aging Palate The aging palate is an important element for chefs and produc- ers to understand. "So many things happen with the aging palate," notes Bitter, "like more or less sensitivity to salt, often driven by medications. Many also need to control fat intake." Olson adds, "Chewy and crunchy snacks might be great for younger Boomers, but these can pose a problem for older adults." But creative chefs and producers can offer solutions, whether it be a way to create creamy sauces with potatoes and vegetables, to offering meal replacement drinks that taste good, or a new image for an old favorite, like prune juice. "The one thing to remember with Boomers is that they won't react well to being treated their age. It's essential to call out a product's characteristics in a positive way that would appeal to any generation," comments Olson. Packaging matters too: With 83 percent of seniors yet to join a senior living community saying access to snacks is important, according to Culinary Visions, supplying delicious, easy-to-open, nutritious snacks is key. "Frustration with packaging is real and often happens sooner than we think," Bitter notes, "so a design must work for everyone," she says. "Single-serve items also are ideal as appetites are smaller as you age, and because older Boomers don't want to waste anything." Olson advises, "Easy-open packages that don't look like they were designed for seniors would definitely be a plus. But it's impor- tant not to cross the line of making a product look institutional by making the lettering on the package look too generic or utilitarian." "These new residents are the future," says Lindsay. "The twist is to keep everyone happy, whether they're 63 or 103." Denise Shoukas is a contributing editor to Specialty Food Magazine. TECHNOLOGY & THE BOOMER Thirty percent of U.S. adults over 65 own a smartphone, while nearly one-third own a tablet and more than half own a desktop or laptop computer, according to a 2015 study by Pew Research Center. Foodservice teams have an excellent tool with which to communicate with senior residents, whether with online menus, portals to learn about producers and farmers, or nutritional information. "Seniors are likely to be very interested in the story behind the food," says Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions, a Chicago-based foodservice research and forecasting firm. "The story behind the ingredients often validates the quality and craftsmanship of the product and validates minimal processing."—D.S. 36 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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