Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Reindeer Were Schvitzing (or, Holiday Recipe Testing in the Dog Days of Summer)

Much like the fashion industry, many food companies plan ahead for their seasonal offerings. While my friends in the fashion world are figuring out what’s going to be hot in Spring 2011, we’re (literally) getting hot over recipe ideas for our holiday 2010 projects.

In the past couple of years, we’ve been creating holiday specific products for a well loved grocery store chain in town. Until the plans are set (and the favorites chosen), I can’t spill the apples beans too much about the project.

We’ve been spending the past couple of weeks revising recipes from last season as well as working out and refining some new ideas, and if my staff isn’t tired to eating apples and cranberries in 90 degree heat, they will be. (Either that or I will have gotten clobbered with a rolling pin before the next test batch makes it out of the oven).

There are always challenges when thinking about what customers will be interested in eating/purchasing in the coming months. As someone who struggles to meal plan for the week ahead, it’s tough to imagine what I’m going to be eating in October. So we use our best guess, a bit of creativity, sales data from the prior year and put some ideas out there.

Additionally, we find ourselves work out recipes sometimes with less than seasonal (or local) ingredients to get to our decisions. It’s definitely not apple season yet here in Oregon, but I needed a couple of fresh (erm not frozen) ones and was grateful I could find them, even if they were from last year’s crop.

At the end of the day, it’s also a good team building and learning experience. Everyone has a different palate and likes & dislikes. I try to give everyone a chance to input their ideas and feedback and I enjoy watching the process evolve to arrive our final recipes. Obviously not every idea is marketable, but it gets us thinking about the various elements of a recipe.
Besides having an opportunity to contribute, if there’s a chance we’re going to be baking a few hundred of any of these, the process is smoother if we’re excited about the outcome.

Now I need to get back to my costing spreadsheets and finalize the ingredients pricing. I know leather is a hot item in fashion for fall 2010, but how much do you think cranberries will cost?

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