Canadian Pizza Magazine

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Withstanding winds of change

Ottawa food show a precursor of things to come


Trends in the foodservice industry are constantly
changing. Pizza operators must be able to determine if these changes
are sensible, long-term improvements, or if what they’re seeing is
simply change for change’s sake.

Ottawa food show a precursor of things to come

Trends in the foodservice industry are constantly changing. Pizza operators must be able to determine if these changes are sensible, long-term improvements, or if what they’re seeing is simply change for change’s sake.

Canadian operators got a taste of changes to come at the recent “Taste of the Future” food show organized by Ottawa-based Tannis Food Distributors. It was a packed house at the one-day show in October and one thing was certainly made clear: they do things a little different – even progressive – in the eastern Ontario and western Quebec regions. According to Kammal Tannis, vice president of sales, these are changes operators across the country should be paying attention to.

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“We reinvent the pizza wheel in Ottawa,” said Kammal. He explained that pizza cheese blends like brick and mozzarella – not just mozza – and pizzerias offering more ethnic “fast foods” like schwarmas (a Middle Eastern-style pita made of shaved lamb, chicken, turkey, or beef) alongside their traditional pies are the norm in his region of Canada.

The trend has traditionally been pizza and subs, explained Kammal. “But everywhere you go in Ottawa, they’re selling schwarmas … it’s healthy, has less carbs, and it’s ethnic.”

And what about the pizza cheese blend? Well, blends are often more expensive than straight mozzarella. Once people get a taste, however, “They’re hooked,” Kammal’s brother, Eli, vice president of purchasing, added with unbridled pizza enthusiasm.

A lot of operators are buying shredded cheese blends to reduce labour costs, added Eli, who was happy to see Parmalat showcase its newest blend at the same price as its regular mozza. Tom McMahon, Parmalat’s account manager of foodservice in eastern Ontario, said to target the high-volume pizzerias, the company had to price the new pizza cheese blend competitively.

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Market development manager for Nestle Waters, Jeff Pinck, said it is important for foodservice operators to learn about the different types of bottled water that are available.

As suppliers of food products to the region’s restaurant operators, the Tannis brothers, and their three siblings who together run the family-based business, have been supplying pizzerias in eastern Ottawa and western Quebec since the early 1970s. Kammal said there must have been a need at the time; they’ve been supplying a majority of the region’s family-based pizzerias and small chains ever since.

The family has stayed abreast of changes in the food industry, particularly pizza, for a long time. It’s important, he advised, that operators take a disciplined approach to researching new products for their establishment. Some trends are here to stay, he said. But with others, it can be hard tell.

Bottled water will continue to grow, he said. And Nestle Waters’ market development manager, Jeff Pinck, agrees: “the 500 ml water bottles are big, big business … the largest growing segment in all of foodservice.”

Pinck added it’s important for operators to understand the basics of this seemingly simple beverage category. Operators should know whether the bottled water they’re selling is spring water (filtered, not from the tap) or drinking water (filtered, from the tap).

Darcy Stober, Pepsi-QTG, said people who are not traditional bottled water drinkers are really getting into the flavoured water. But the Tannis brothers agree – the fate of the increasingly popular flavoured water category is still to be seen.

Flavoured coffee is another trend that deserves careful consideration. The Brazilian Coffee Company showcased their latest flavour dispenser at the Tannis food show. The flavour dispenser adds a variety of different flavours to any cup of coffee by delivering a pure extract (such as hazelnut and vanilla), without any messy syrup, sugars or questionable aspartame or other sweeteners.

Flavour dispensers allow foodservice operators to get into the flavoured coffee business at a much lower entry point, said Eli.
“Why send them down to Starbucks when you can sell it yourself,” said Tom Varvaresos, coffee and beverage manager for Tannis Distributors. He said flavoured coffee can be somewhat of an inventory nightmare. Boxes of flavoured coffee require that extra bit of inventory space most operators can’t afford to spare. Also, a lot of operators who would like to sell flavoured coffees don’t want to run an extra pot. Thermoses for flavoured coffee have to be kept separate in order to avoid cross-contamination.

Whether it’s flavoured coffee, flavoured water or a new pizza cheese blend, all trends aside, the Tannis show reinforced the importance of selling a good, quality product.

“You can go out and spend 100 dollars on a meal, but if you’re left at the end with a bad cup of coffee, it leaves you wanting,” said Varvaresos.

It’s the same with any product offered in a restaurant. One bad taste can ruin the whole experience. Or as they say, one bad apple spoils the bunch. And that’s one lesson that is never going to change. •