Over the years I have had the opportunity to do research and development work for several food processing and consulting firms. My mission with these companies has always been to help bring a chef’s sensibility to nationally distributed foods. Although it can be a challenge at times to work within the parameters of mass production, I am always surprised at how much dedication, research and planning is involved in creating a food product. There are so many variables in developing a product that is designed to be shipped in large volume and still remain fresh tasting. At times, with the constantly changing consumer markets taste and demand for innovation, it almost seems impossible.
Usually I am hired because I am creative and make an effort to keep my ear to the ground for current food trends. This can be an asset to food producers, or at least if feels that way in the beginning. But more often than not, a chef runs into the inevitable constraints dictated by an industry that is often hamstrung by its own systems, equipment, methods of doing things and client base. The trick is to find a way to contribute to what ends up in mass market, by walking the fine line of thinking outside the box and still using the tools that are in it, as much as possible. If that can be done successfully our food in this country will continue to change with the times at a pace that the average American is comfortable with.
One has to understand that a food production facility has to invest literally millions of dollars in high tech equipment in order to supply their customers. When a company such as Cost Co. orders even something as simple as a dip or spread, that order can have an enormous impact on the day to day production schedules of a company. Just the sheer volume of product needed to supply shoppers stores around the country can be daunting to say the least. In order for a food production facility to remain successful they have to be able to supply that demand, and most importantly they have to do it in a clean and efficient manor so as to protect everyone’s liability and keep the customers safe.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to do some research and development work with G&G Foods in Santa Rosa (not the market). G&G, run by founders Rick Goldberg and Chris Glab is a forerunner in the dip, spread and salsa business, to mention a few of their products. Their plant runs virtually around the clock making nationally distributed foods for everyone from Cost Co. and Sam’s Club, to Trader Joe’s and everyone in between. These two men who began only fifteen years ago practically making cream cheese dips in their basement, have become major innovators in helping to raise the bar for how the average, as well as food savvy, consumer eats in this country.