Brakes has launched its Winter Collection 2018/19 as part of a four day event held at its Covent Garden HQ during which the company also shared its insight into the rapidly growing Free From/Vegan/Vegetarian category.
The event showcased a wide range of innovative and on trend products either recently introduced or earmarked for launch in the last quarter of 2018, which are ideal for the care home sector – for example, individual microwavable pre-poached eggs which guarantee a runny yolk every time and can transform mealtimes from breakfast onwards.
Brakes’ Healthcare Development Chef Danny Silcock told Care Home Catering his focus has been on raising standards in the sector generally and more specifically for residents who need fortified or texture modified meals. One of the key products he believes will give care caterers the opportunity to create better meal solutions is a new tapioca-based thickener which can be added to any liquid, hot or cold, and prevents the potentially dangerous leaching that can occur with a strict ‘food first’ approach to thickening. The Ultra-Sperse product is something of a trail-blazer. “In simple terms it works like cornflour,” he said, “but for foodservice the hot and cold application is a first.”
Danny is also particularly pleased with the new range of top-end Carte D’Or mousse products from Unilever, which he says are really simple to make up, can be easily fortified and are suitable for dysphagia diets. “What’s more, the brand creates nostalgia, helping residents to reminisce,” he added. The mousse desserts come in four flavours, including Panna Cotta and Crème Brulée.
Danny believes the business has a really good range for care across all categories: “It’s now a question of looking at the different day parts and how we can adapt our products to care needs,” he said. “Take out-of-hours food, for example. Residents may be offered biscuits or a yoghurt, but by keeping some grab & go pots in the freezer, which can be microwaved in one-and-a-half minutes, staff could offer a comforting hot snack.”
The rise of the Free From/Vegan/Vegetarian category on the high street, which has yet to fully filter through to the elderly care sector, was evident in many of the different products showcased at the event and care home caterers would do well to be prepared for an increase in demand as their demographic changes.
Brakes shared the latest statistics on the category which showed that there was a 987% increase in demand for vegetarian options in 2017 compared to 2016, with 28% of the population looking to reduce their meat consumption during the same period. The figures also revealed that there are now more than a million vegetarians and 500,000 vegans in the UK, whilst 11% of UK adults have tried to follow a vegan diet. Perhaps unsurprisingly, young adults are the ones predominantly adopting permanent vegetarian diets, with half of all vegans in the UK aged 15-34 and 1 in 10 16-24 year olds describing themselves as vegan.
“Whilst healthy eating has been high on young people’s agenda for some time, this is now helping drive growth of those avoiding meat and following a vegan diet, with numbers doubling in three years,” said Brakes’ Food Marketing Manager, Becky Hover. “The biggest contribution is actually coming from consumers choosing veggie dishes, even if they’re not strictly vegetarian. This goes some way to explaining the fact that there were 200m more meat-free meals consumed in 2017 compared to the previous year – a 7% growth in a single year alone.”
Given this data it’s no coincidence that Brakes has been working hard to increase its already extensive Free From/Vegan/Vegetarian range with the launch of products such as gluten free sausages, vegan cheese, veggie burgers, and main courses such as Pumpkin & Sage Tortelloni (V), Lentil & Chickpea Dhal (VE) and Butternut & Lentil Wellington (VE), alongside a wide selection of desserts including Blackcurrant Bavarois (VE) and Raspberry & Frangipane Tart (VE)(GF).