Posts tagged "culinary skills"

Mainlining Umami Deliciousness to Secretly Drive Growth

June 24th, 2018 Posted by Consumer insight, Culinary inspiration, Culinary lifestyle, Food and wine, food experiences, Food Trend 0 comments on “Mainlining Umami Deliciousness to Secretly Drive Growth”

Yes, the Secret Sauce IS the Sauce

To our friends in the food and restaurant business: want to know how to get people to, in effect, eat out of your hands morning, noon and night? Turns out delicious and umami are littermates and keys to the culinary kingdom of eating satisfaction, smiles and happiness. These attributes sit knocking at the front door of repeat purchase and visits.

Yes, the path to great taste is regularly paved with umami, the fifth taste sense (friend to sour, sweet, salty, bitter) discovered and minted in Japan around 1908 by chemist Kikunae Ikeda. His work determined glutamic acid lies at the foundation of great taste experiences. Ikeda then set about commercializing this epiphany by designing it in crystalline form as a flavor enhancer ̶ commonly known as MSG.

The so-called Glutamate was a shot across the bow in refining and defining what it is that humans experience and love about deeper, crave-able flavor. This discovery helps explain why there are more burger and pizza chains than any other form of foodservice business. A cheeseburger with tomato and ketchup is an umami flavor bomb. Thus, perhaps, explaining its lasting popularity across both geography and generations. Ditto pizza.

How Umami found me

It was in a Galaxy Far, Far Away – the Pacific Northwest’s city of Seattle, where my journey begins as a junior home chef on a mission to apprentice the culinary arts. I discovered a cookbook titled The Sixty Minute Gourmet, published by the food editor team at the New York Times. It famously promised to impart basic French technique to the Yankee reader in short order.

I made every dish in the book. Perhaps the chief skill gleaned in the process was saucing and caramelizing. And thus I witnessed how reduction sauces, for instance, could be created to take a plain hamburger patty to an absurdly elevated and refined taste experience. It quickly became clear that any protein or vegetable could climb the deliciousness ladder if a compatible savory sauce pooled above or below.

The sheer act of reducing stocks – vegetable, beef, fish or veal – with butter, wine and in some cases (a little bit of) cream was literally a set-up for injecting umami flavor formally described as concentrated savory, brothy and meaty-ness. Relatively neutral tasting chicken could become a culinary tour de force with a proper sauce.

On commoner ground

Umami isn’t just a highbrow culinary concept. The ubiquitous bottle of ketchup also sits high on the umami ladder, and also probably explains why $8.6 billion of the common red condiment is sold every year in America, a per capita spend of $17.85 per person per year, according to Statista. No surprise Heinz owns about $1.4 billion of that lucre. What’s at work here, in addition to the brothy meaty-ness, is flavor intensity, mouth feel and a redolent savory-ness. When savory is combined with a creamy-like carrier that takes up residence on the tongue, magic happens.

  • The intense salty, nutty richness of correctly aged Parmesan cheese provides another umami-bite example; hence why cheese is, in many ways, king of the umami empire. Translating this understanding into business opportunity can be summed in an innovation cornucopia of opportunity.

Condiments, sauces, toppings and marinades can be employed as umami revitalizers, providing transformative power to reinvent otherwise bland and less interesting foods and menu items. Flavor enhancers impart what the senses want in appetizing taste experiences. It can alter the perception of value in the consumer’s passion for food adventures. Such as:

  1. Bone broth instead of stocks due to its inherent richness, mouth-feel and flavor depth.
  2. Soy, Teriyaki, sesame oil and other Asian sauces that drive the experience of a noodle way past its hereditary plain and maybe boring self.
  3. Sauces and proteins are a marriage made in heaven and allow not only for amping the delicious quotient but also bringing global flavors for an adventurous twist.

In short – bowls, pasta dishes, proteins, salads, vegetables and sandwiches can all be elevated by cranking up the umami index.

Quick innovations

Sauces and toppings can be a faster path to reinvention and reengineering packaged foods and dishes. Think of umami as flavor paint that accompanies anything it sits on or near, to bring the glutamic acid punch that sends ordinary to extraordinary.

The novel use of fresh real-food ingredients to form the basis of umami richness adds to the alchemy of creating flavor without resorting to the chemistry set. In the end, it is deliciousness that wins. Umami is the envelope that enrobes common foods in something special. The outcome is business growth because of the surprise and delight it imparts.

I know because here at the Wheatley house, Hamburger Soopreez as we call it is one of the most popular dishes on the family menu due to its umami bath. Thanks for getting us on the road Ikeda-san.

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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.



Is Food Retail Held Captive by Mental Comfort Food?

June 17th, 2016 Posted by Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, shopper behavior, shopper experience, Uncategorized 0 comments on “Is Food Retail Held Captive by Mental Comfort Food?”
Old beliefs vs. a different future for food retailing.

What’s not to like about the past? We reflect on our understandings on what we think we know based on what’s happened over time – what’s behind us. It feels confident, warm and knowable.


Hartman Home Cooking Facts

The Dawn of Culinary Culture

June 6th, 2016 Posted by food experiences, Food Trend, retail brand relevance, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “The Dawn of Culinary Culture”
A new era of upgraded home cooking has arrived.

A recent infographic from the Hartman Group (shown above) reveals that 77% of consumers across various generational segments – from Millennial to Boomer – prefer having home cooked meals whenever possible.


Couple Cooking

8 Food Culture Trends Transforming the Food and Beverage Business

April 28th, 2016 Posted by food experiences, Food Trend, Insight, Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, shopper behavior, shopper experience, Supermarket strategy, Uncategorized 0 comments on “8 Food Culture Trends Transforming the Food and Beverage Business”
Here is a true statement about securing the right path to growth whether you’re running a food company or food retail business:

The future of food and beverage belongs to solution-based specialists whose business operates from a platform of deep consumer insight.

Relevance to lifestyle interests and behaviors is paramount. Achieving alignment and integration with the things people care about is vital. It’s no longer just what you make or sell as much as it is about your ability to be meaningful and to matter.



April 6th, 2015 Posted by food experiences, Food Trend, Insight, shopper behavior, Transformation 0 comments on “LEADING TRENDS IMPACTING THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY – FOURTH OF A FIVE PART SERIES”

The Grand Ingredient Play

This is the fourth installment in our “2015 Emerging Food Trend Forecast” series exploring food and beverage mega-trends.

4. The grand ingredient play – exotic spices, salts, sauces and other flavor enhancers to entice adventurous palates in the cupboard and fridge

For years we’ve watched the craft beer industry grow by leaps and bounds while factory beer sales erode. We’re now at the edge of the craft food movement as specialized, smaller scale food and beverage ideas gain notoriety. The U.S. food industry in many cases is built to serve scale. Bigger is better. However…