One of the big challenges food brands face is getting consumers to accept new things. Often, there are misconceptions about foods that need to be overcome. In the case of sous vide, there are a few home cooks who see the new technique as the same as boil-in-a-bag. They couldn't be farther from the truth. Sous vide offers a mouthfeel that boil-in-a-bag products can't touch.
The Problems with Boil-in-a-Bag, and How Sous Vide Avoids Them
Old school boil-in-a-bag meals or side dishes had one thing going for them: convenience. If you could boil water, you could pull them out of the freezer and have food on the table in a matter of minutes. The freezer section at a local grocery store usually would offer vegetables, side dishes and even a few main dish options.
But, the quest for simplicity and convenience came at the price of taste and texture. Boil-in-a-bag meals were often soggy and over-sauced. And being cooked at boiling temperatures meant that most items were overcooked, rendering them either fibrous and tough or pallid and limp. Many options were highly processed and high in sodium and fat.
Sous vide is a completely different ballgame. While the sous vide method of cooking does require a bag, that is where the similarities to boil-in-a-bag end. Sous vide entrees and sides are vacuum packed. Aromatics penetrate the entire package, making every bite full of flavor, and exposure to bacteria that hasten spoilage is minimized which means that sous vide requires fewer additives than boil-in-a-bag products.
Once sealed, the sous vide cooking bag is put into a water bath with a controlled temperature. The temperature in the cooker never exceeds the target temperature for the dish. So, if you want a medium rare meat, you will set the cooker to 135 degrees. Over the cooking time of the dish, collagen in the muscle breaks down, moving throughout the meat for a moist and tender result. With such precise temperature control, there is much less chance that a meat or vegetable will overcook.
When a ready-to-eat meal is bought by a consumer, all the home cook needs to do is quickly finish the dish on the stove or grill for a nice crust. The result is a higher level of flavor and a better mouthfeel than you can accomplish with any other method.
Getting the Good Word to Your Customers
It’s fairly obvious that sous vide is superior to boil-in-a-bag. The big hurdle will be getting customers to understand the value of a ready-to-eat meal that has been cooked sous vide over frozen or refrigerated meals that have been initially cooked using other methods.
One great way to start is by doing in-store demonstrations of sous vide meals. When customers get a chance to see, firsthand, how the process works—and that it isn’t simply a fancy way of saying “boil-in-a-bag”— and the results that you can get from sous vide cooking, it is much easier to convince them of the value of a meal prepared in such a way.
Next, create a series of learning aids showing consumers just how easy—and, possibly even more critically, time saving— it is to finish a ready-to-eat sous vide meal. Create a mix of written tutorials, recipes and videos to appeal to customers of all tastes. Such readily available instructional content can help cement your brand as the go-to source for quick and convenient meals.
Home cooks are even busier than they were in the past, and convenience is still a big draw. With sous vide meals, they don't need to sacrifice flavor for speed and simplicity like they did in the boil-in-a-bag days. Give them ways to enjoy the best flavors and mouthfeel while simplifying preparation even more. Your customers will appreciate this attention to their wants and needs and keep coming back to your brand.