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Thirty great ideas: Part 2 in a five-part series

By  Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Large or small, an “a-ha” moment can change your business, your momentum and your morale. Inspired by the ideation stage of the innovation process, Fare has pulled together a list of great ideas from all corners of the foodservice and retail industries.

This collection is meant to inspire action for your next great idea. Whenever you’re feeling creatively stumped, just open this up and start ideating.

Following is the second installment of our 30 Great Ideas. Watch for the next issue of Fare Digest for the continuation, and get the March issue of Fare for the complete collection.

Click here for Part 1. 

7. More Cluck for Your Buck
Kettle Cuisine tipped us off to a clever use for leftover rotisserie chickens. The company noticed supermarket clients shredding the meat and adding it to their hot-soup offerings. Other retailers shred the meat and sell it in the cold case as a convenient component for a weeknight recipe.

8. What’s Your McRib?
The Hartman Group finds that consumers are increasingly prizing scarcity over ubiquity, novelty over sameness. Just look at the buzz generated over McDonald’s McRib, or the cult-like Twitter hunt for food trucks. Social media is perfect for exclusivity buzz. Heinz made its limited-edition balsamic ketchup available only on Facebook for the first month. The promo brought tens of thousands of new “Likes” to its page.

9. Veggie Might
A number of trends are meeting at the intersection of produce ubiquity. C-stores are growing sales of fresh-cut fruit cups, and many schools (including Baltimore Public Schools) have adopted meat-free Mondays. Walgreens is fighting food deserts by bringing fresh produce into 1,000 stores in the next five years.

On the high-end side, gourmet food hall Eataly in New York has a full-time “vegetable butcher” who will wash and cut your produce and offer cooking tips. Spice company McCormick & Co. included “veggies in vogue” among its six flavor trends for 2012, pointing to fresh, seasonal vegetables paired with inventive flavors such as eggplant with honey and harissa, a spicy North African chili sauce.

10. More Maple
Maple is one of those great flavors that’s right under our noses, making it novel yet familiar. It was the 2008 SIAL Show in Montreal where we first noticed maple as a trend, appearing on the show floor as a sweet/savory sauce, butter, jelly and even maple flakes for topping beverages and sweets.

Four years later, it’s hit everyday food occasions while still maintaining popularity in high-end restaurants and gourmet shops. In December, 7-Eleven rolled out a maple pancake sausage item for the roller grill, McDonald’s puts the flavor front and center in its oatmeal offering, and coffee company Boyd paired it with a smoky element in its seasonal maple bacon cappuccino flavor.

11. Pickled Punch
Food trucks and “fine casual” restaurants have helped bring the spicy, pungent Korean condiment kimchee into the American food lexicon. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchee, but most consist of fermented napa cabbage, radish or cucumber. Shops slinging sandwiches and tacos are using kimchee to add a punch to more traditional offerings.

If kimchee is too far out of your customers’ wheelhouse, experiment with the more familiar giardiniera. In the Midwest, the pickled vegetable mixture (typically peppers, carrots and celery) is used copiously on the Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich. Burger joint Kuma’s Corner in Chicago even mixes diced giardiniera into its ketchup for a spicy, acidic twist.

12. Selling Wellness
Drug chain Walgreens and its sister brand Duane Reade in New York have found a way to make healthy aspirational. Newly opened flagship stores in Chicago and New York feature what the company calls the “Well Experience” with airport-type kiosks for prescription refills, on-hand beauty assistants for advice and manicures, and pharmacists who are encouraged to mill around and interact with guests.

On the food side is a wide range of better-for-you products with more social cachet than health food of fads past. Sushi made on site, salads, Greek yogurt, bottled smoothies, alternative chips such as Popchips and sea-salt-seasoned everything make being healthy a pleasurable lifestyle.

Watch for the next issue of Fare Digest for Nos. 13-18. A special thanks goes to our team of innovators who helped us create this list: Joseph Bona of CBX in New York; Melissa Abbott and her fellow consumer-trends gurus at The Hartman Group in Bellevue, Wash.; Ken Toong of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Chris Koetke at Kendall College in Chicago; Dan Chiado and the rest of the team at Olson Communications in Chicago; and Aaron Noveshen and Judy Hsu at The Culinary Edge, San Francisco.

By Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products
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