Western Grower & Shipper 2018 11Nov-Dec

Agricultural R&D is on the Move as Restaurant Menus Get Healthier

By Stephanie Metzinger M cDonald’s iconic burgers are getting more “real.” The fast food giant recently announced that it plans to strip artificial ingredients from two-thirds of its menu. This announcement comes on the heels of a commitment earlier this year to market more balanced kids meals by offering new fruit and vegetables options in its Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals. American eating habits are changing and to keep up, legacy brands such as McDonald’s are revamping their menus. Deloitte recently revealed that more than 75 percent of Americans self-reported they had healthy eating habits, and 83 percent said that traditional fast food menus failed to offer enough healthy choices. In an effort to meet consumers’ demand for more low-calorie ingredients

and fresh produce, restaurants are getting more creative with their food. McDonald’s has already introduced apple slices and easy-peel mandarins as kids meal options, and now its Australia team “is currently exploring new vegetable and lean protein options and McDonald’s France is looking at new vegetable offerings,” according to a company statement. McDonald’s is not the only one that is trying to deliver cleaner and healthier food. Wendy’s, which has showcased its “start to fresh” partnership with Church Brothers Farms in the past, is focusing on growing its posh line of fresh salads. Sit-down restaurants are looking to inspire by incorporating new fresh produce varieties resulting from research and development (R&D) efforts. For example, the Cheesecake Factory is building many of its meals around broccolini, and Lazy

Dog Restaurant & Bar launched a Roasted Street Carrots menu item which featured organic, rainbow heirloom carrots with a Mexican street-corn flare. In fact, more and more niche food chains are popping up around the country to bring more of these new, creative fresh produce dishes that go beyond the “garden variety” (pun intended). While these brands are making headlines and being lauded for the healthy changes in their menu items, the man behind the curtain is often overlooked. Farmers and agricultural professionals are the real innovators and concept creators behind new fruit and vegetable varieties. Take Driscoll’s, for example, which has created a legacy of reinventing the “typical” berry. Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry company, has a team of agronomists, breeders, sensory analysts, plant health scientists and entomologists who are constantly researching and developing new flavor profiles for its berries. Based out of Driscoll’s R&D campus in Watsonville, known as Cassin Ranch, the team of “Joy Makers” are using natural traditional breeding processes such as hand cross-pollination to bring about new and improved varieties. This includes the company’s recently released Sunshine Raspberries—gold raspberries that are honeyed with peach and apricot notes— and Blush Berries—pale pink berries that are sweeter and rounder than the typical strawberry. The Joy Makers are also working hard to improve current varieties of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, making them sweeter, bigger, juicier, hardier and more resistant to pests and diseases. Farmers continue to bring R&D to the forefront to enhance existing fruits and

McDonald’s is moving to make its kids menu healthier by adding more fresh produce options.

12   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2018

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