Need for flexibility

Flexibility, that's what the ub market is demanding now.

Hand held snacks, flexible ham options and 'half-timer' English beef rolls for World Cup viewers to enjoy in pubs are expected to lead foodservice trends this year.

In response to demand for more hand held snacks in the pub sector, the British Pig Executive (BPEX) has published a specification for quick-cook pork minute steaks, taken from the topside of the leg, which is ideal for sandwiches, paninis and baguettes. Of course, ham has tremendous profit potential in this sector, says Tony Goodger, BPEX foodservice trade manager, given its flexibility. "We see a lot of summer mileage in ham as it offers flexibility as a hot and cold weather meal," he says. "It fits consumer requirements for both a lighter meal and 'healthy' choice and it is adaptable to differing tastes through speciality cures, smokes and accompaniments.

Another product likely to do well in pubs is ham hocks. BPEX has produced a ham hock terrine specification, to be added to its web site over the next few weeks. Fact sheets on production of Continental-style cooked meats are also planned, to capitalise on another growth sector. Meanwhile, BPEX has collaborated with the British Potato Council to create a downloadable pack allowing pubs to put on sausage and mash nights.

The pack, available later this month, will include PR templates which can be sent out to local papers. The pork promotional body recommends that pubs and other eating outlets take advantage of public holidays and national sporting events, such as bank holidays, Fathers' Day or World Cup matches, to host barbecues.

"Sausages always feature highly with consumers," says Goodger, who also recommended pork as another excellent choice for the barbecue. "Cooked properly, it is extremely succulent, tender and full of flavour."

According to IGD research, 73% of consumers surveyed felt it is important for pubs and restaurants to highlight locally sourced food on their menus. Also looking to help the trade make the most of the summer using beef and lamb is EBLEX, which is highlighting barbecue and other opportunities. Hugh Judd, EBLEX foodservice project manager, says: "Customers who choose the barbecue option when dining out want to enjoy something that they wouldn't typically cook in their back gardens. This is when creative, yet, simple lamb and beef dishes really come into their own. When planning red meat dishes for a barbecue menu, several factors must come into play. Ease of eating, preparation time, presentation options and cost are all issues that need to be addressed. Marinades play a vital role in locking in flavours, colour and succulence into red meat on the barbecue and are great way to offer customers variety with the same cuts and specifications of meat.

"Marinated skewers of lamb leg cubes or diced chuck, are not only easy to eat and prep but can also be cooked inside. Steaks are also a natural choice for anyone planning a barbecue."

The beef and lamb promotional body is also launching a World Cup summer promotion for pubs and other caterers signed up to its quality standard mark. Encouraging pubs to offer a 'half-timer' snack during matches, the promotion includes a recipe for a slow cooked chuck roast that can be served in rolls. Kits will include a specification caterers can send to their suppliers for a 5kg boneless, seam-butchered joint, serving suggestions, cooking instructions, pump wobblers with an empty pricing slot and 200 beer mats.

"The idea is to offer your customers a half time snack that requires no special skill, equipment or labour to prepare," says Judd. "It's as quick to serve as a pint and by using a cost effective cut, cooked very slowly to reduce shrinkage and maximise tenderness, delivers great profit margins."

THIS LOVE AFFAIR IS SET TO RUN AND RUN

RECENT REPORTS by research service Mintel indicate summer markets for barbecue products and cooked meats will only continue to grow. 'Future rises in barbecue ownership, improved summer weather, and the popularity of casual eating point towards continued progress as consumers increasingly cook and eat meals outdoors,' reads the report.

The sector is seeing new developments in premium and healthy food products, and a growth in international flavour profiles and exotic recipes. In another Mintel report, focusing on the US, innovations in dual-fuel barbecues and infrared technology are spurring sales, particularly in the high-end barbecue market, with the UK likely to follow its lead. Growth in sales are likely to come from consumers trading up to improved models, or building 'outdoor rooms' with built-in outdoor grills, according to the report.

Pro?les identi?ed as ideal to target include retirees; younger, ?rst-time homeowners; women; and ethnic groups. Mintel's cooked meats report, meanwhile, notes sales increases are driven by value rather than volume. Recommendations include extending the category beyond sandwiches and salads to encompass international and added value dishes. 'While the pre-packed market is ahead in value terms, sliced to order meat from the deli counter is the more popular option,' reads the report. 'The look of the deli counter is an important factor to almost half of respondents tying in with retailer perceptions that the counter can make a positive contribution to store environment.'

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