Gourmet food or haute cuisine is expected in high-end restaurants. The dishes served are exotic, pairing unthinkable combinations that tantalize the pallet. Recently this style of cuisine has started to feed into daily cuisine choices, with more processed foods going gourmet. Here, Darcy Simonis, industry network leader for ABB’s food and beverage segment, explains how manufacturers can get on board with this new trend.
There is a recent trend in the food industry of creating gourmet versions of mass-produced products. Reflecting consumer’s desire for products that are familiar but have a new and improved flavor profile, these products don’t have to be perfectly equal to each other, but instead give a unique experience. The growing trend can be seen in shows such as Bon Appetit’s “Chef attempts to make gourmet …” YouTube series where a professional chef attempts to make gourmet versions of snacks and processed foods.
The development has stemmed from the increased access that consumers have to specialty food items. In fact, in 2018, 65 per cent of consumers in the US bought specialty food items, an increase of over 11 per cent since 2015. These figures show that consumers are looking for food products that are special and a level above store cupboard staples.
At first glance, this may seem to be a rebellion against the overt standardization of flavors and products that we have become used to. However, this is not the case. Gourmet processed foods are instead a step forward using a postmodern approach to the structure of food itself. A Postmodernist approach deconstructs what food can and cannot be gourmet, levelling any perceived hierarchical structure around the value of food types. In a postmodern framework, any food can be gourmet from a plate of French fries to a Wagyu steak.
From a producer’s point of view, however, this can cause issues. Consumers are now looking for products that are not homogenous, are still high quality at mass-produced prices and provide a unique experience every single time. The question, therefore, becomes whether it possible to mass produce products with near bespoke levels of quality and innovation.
While this growing trend is not actually a rebellion to food culture, the solution to this problem is not a rebellion away from current methods either. It could be perceived that reducing the amount of control in a production line will increase the randomization of the manufacturing process, making each product unique. This sort of method would, however, be disastrous for the quality of the product. Therefore, it shows that the best method is to increase the levels of control to incorporate manufactured uniqueness to the products in question.
For example, ABB’s manufacturing operations management (MOM) software can give in depth oversite to operations managers, such as tracing products throughout the plant or giving each batch a digital passport. Control over products at this level of details means that the exact tracking where each ingredient has been can be stored. With this level of control production can become much more customizable, as detailed instruction can be fed into the system.
Meaning that, for example, if there was a production line of chocolate biscuits with patterned melted chocolate on top, the system could be fed with instructions to make each pattern was different. The ABB MOM software would be able to track the different patterned biscuits to make sure no duplicates were inserted into the same packet.
Gourmet and haute cuisine were once only available to the ultra-wealthy, but now everyone has access to high-end products and consumers are developing a taste for unique culinary experiences. It is time for producers to embrace this trend and install gourmet levels of control across their production lines so that are required each product is truly unique.