These days, grocery shoppers want foods that are fresh, convenient, munchable and full of protein. So how can producers best address these food industry trends? Ready-to-eat (RTE) sous vide-prepped meals and snacks may be just what the industry needs to fulfill demand.
The case for marrying sous vide and snackification.
We know what you're thinking. How can sous vide — a low-temp, slow-cooking method — meet the demand for quick eats? The answer is two-fold:
1. It's economical. Sous vide is an ideal configuration for high-capacity batching. It also results in low energy costs during the cooking phase.
That's good for prepackaged meal and snack producers who need to spend more than the average food manufacturer on their packaging process. With careful design, a sous vide snack or meal could hypothetically be cooked right in its end-user packaging.
2. Sous vide-prepped foods typically have longer shelf lives, even though they require fewer preservatives. Sous vide cooking is accomplished under vacuum seal — without oxygen, aerobic bacteria can't live, and they can't spoil food.
As long as cooking times are long enough to ensure that anaerobic bacteria and parasites are eliminated, a sous vide protein snack can stay fresh and safe for a longer time than traditional RTE meals.
Protein-based snacks are big right now.
And sous vide is a perfect protein prep method. Meats prepared under sous vide conditions come out tender and juicy. Since everything is sealed in during the cook, no flavors are lost to the process.
But sous vide isn't just excellent for preparing protein-based foods. It's a great method for desserts, veggies, starches and more. Let's take a quick look at some surprising sous vide applications that you should consider when developing your next hit snack product:
- Eggs. Imagine a line of gourmet hard-boiled egg snacks with various flavorings added — Western omelet-style, sriracha, habanero, eggs Benedict and more. It's a whole breakfast in a mouthful.
- Custards. Crème brulée on the go? Single-serving boiled custard or egg nog drinks during the winter holidays? Sure to put some jingle in your cash till.
- Seafood. Oysters, clams, scallops, shrimp and lobster are all amazing when prepped under sous vide conditions. Squid is incredibly difficult for even the best cooks to get right — it gets undesirably chewy even if slightly overcooked. Imagine tender, delicious RTE calamari rings!
- French fries. Another snack food that is notoriously difficult to get right at home. Sous vide-prepped fries could ensure the interior portion of your pre-packaged fries will be soft and light. All your customer would have to worry about would be a quick pan-fry to crisp up the outside and turn them that perfect shade of golden-brown.
- RTE meat entrees. Pre-cooked, pre-flavored burgers that can be eaten right out of the package? Chicken fillets? How about turkey or fish? Imagine fresh, preservative-free, healthy, lean meats that a busy Millennial could slap right down on top of a salad and eat on the go.
- Exotic meats. We've talked before about how big the jerky market has gotten of late. But why stick to the usual beef base? How about farmed ostrich? Buffalo? Rabbit? Millennials love exploring new tastes and textures. Here's a way you can play to their adventurous nature.
- Vegan and vegetarian snacks. Proteins don't have to come just from animal sources. In fact, plant-based proteins have become increasingly popular. How about RTE seitan or tempeh-based snacks? Tofu? Pea protein-based fillets, a la Gardein but minus the cook time? You could make a lot of hungry vegans — who typically have few healthy snack options at rest stops and gas stations while on long road trips — very, very happy.
Is sous vide your company's snackification solution?
Innovating to meet food industry trends isn't easy. You need a good chef, a good plan and plenty of kitchen time.
Sous vide preparation methods may be the right way to go when developing your next snackified product. Give it a try today. In the meantime, we wish you good luck and good cooking.