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October 1, 2019

The New Wholesome

I’ve been in the food business longer than I’d care to admit. The earliest parts of my career were spent honing our craft in classical French restaurants. During those days and under those circumstances the use of heavy cream, butter, duck fat etc. was almost unlimited. So as long as the food rocked nobody cared. Later in life, upon entering the manufacturing end of the business, it became clear that consumers wanted “more heathy options” on menus or at least that’s what they said…. lol. Truth be told, although that’s what consumer research suggested, more healthful offerings were not ordered at the rate that would keep them on the menu and so their circle of life was relatively short. More times than not after failure they would be replaced with another “better for you” option whose sales would also pale in comparison to the rest of the menu.

Though as time passed, the demand for foods that taste good and offer more than just basic nutrition are becoming table stakes in different ways within various age groups. You’ll note that first and foremost I mention foods that taste good. The bottom line is that although we want foods to offer more “better for you”, it must still deliver pleasantly on the palate.


Humbly, due to the nature of my job, I get to dine out quite a bit J. Lately, I’ve noticed that chefs and food establishments of all types and levels have started to harness the wonderfully bold and unique flavors of the Middle East and North Africa. Ingredients like Za'atar which has a host of known health benefits, including its ability to improve the immune system, boost skin health, build strong bones, increase circulation, soothe inflammation, boost energy, and more are on the rise. Sumac is yet another. Aside from being an antioxidant superhero, sumac is known to aid in the reduction of blood sugar levels. I myself go out of my way to seek out anything with turmeric to aid my aching joints.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Harissa in this immediate discussion as we, Custom Culinary® has a great one in our branded portfolio. This traditional chili paste adds a unique taste to food. Besides its bright color and spicy taste, harissa in general has many health benefits that are worth noting. For those who want to have a healthy and balanced diet, harissa is a hypocaloric food that has very little carbohydrates and almost no fats. It contains capsaicin that can reduce blood pressure. Its consumption may reduce inflammations, an important trigger for heart issues. It is known to detoxify the body and helps eliminate food waste. These are just a few noteworthy points of this functional ingredient.

Hopefully these simple examples have helped you to get my overhanging point. A significant majority of today’s consumers have a high level of interest in “functional foods”, items that are said to have positive effects on health, beyond delivering basic nutrition.

Healthfully rich culinary gifts from the ocean are yet another great example. Sea vegetables have gone from near obscurity to seaweed snacks in kids' lunch boxes at school. Sea greens are showing up in dishes all over while consumers are experimenting with the superfood properties of many varieties of seaweed, algae and kelp like Arame, Kombu and Hijiki to name only a few.

Another example is the fermented food craze we recently highlighted in our Funky & Fermented” trend spotlight as fermented foods have long been known for being rich in probiotics and therefore good for your gut. Trendy fats are yet another fantastic illustration of my point. Once the naughty boys of the food world, fats are now the darlings, thanks much in part to keto, paleo, grain-free and paleo-vegan diets. As more and more people are transitioning to plant-based eating highlighted last year in our Plant Based Power Blog” we are seeing plant-based meats reach new heights. Now the trend is expected to invade the meat snacks segment as well.

The bottom line, The New Wholesome is ever evolving and here to stay. Consumers of all age groups want it and are seeking it out on menus and more importantly ordering it. Whether it’s an item that contains functional ingredients, low fat low sodium offerings or cleaner labels, Custom Culinary® is here to help. I recommend trying our Gold Label True Foundations™ Bases which were developed with the needs of both operators and patrons in mind, featuring clean and simple ingredient decks for incredible made-from-scratch flavor.

Until next time, keep it Clean and Wholesome

David Russell
Corporate Executive Chef - CEC, CAA
Custom Culinary, Inc.