Inside… Santa Maria Foodservice

05/11/2015 - 15:38
In Cost Sector Catering’s series of Q&As with suppliers, we talk to Eimear Owens, country sales manager UK and Ireland at Santa Maria Foodservice.

Cost Sector Catering: What are the main challenges for your business?

Eimear Owens: As well as operating in a highly competitive marketplace, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of herbs and spices. They’re often just seen as commodities, so price can be a customer’s main focus. Through our products, insight-driven concepts and expertise in spices, we show how important taste, flavour and quality are. We’re very end-user focused, and like to work with clients to give them a point of difference and help grow their businesses.

Do you have any thoughts on Which?’s report about food fraud in the herbs and spices sector?

Our suppliers are carefully selected and must follow our strict hygiene, health and safety guidelines, which are regularly monitored by site inspections as well as random audits of the product sample tested for quality control purposes to ensure our ingredients meet the highest standards.

We also have BRC Grade A certification – an audit programme that independently assesses our food safety and quality management systems, and in accordance with the food industry, we apply Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles in all our factories.

Which sector are you particularly working with? What are your bestsellers?

The education sector is a key focus for us – schools and universities – and, along with tortilla wraps, our biggest sellers include Indian and Thai spice blends for making curries, and organic herbs and spices. These help schools achieve from-scratch-cooking targets and meet the needs of Food for Life.

We’re all about making it easier to deliver great-tasting healthy food. By tapping into consumer trends and insight, and putting flavours together innovatively, we’ve created recipes using spices and concepts to help create appealing nutritious meals that students want to eat.

What advice are you offering these operators?

Our Healthy & Simple brochure has been designed for school caterers. It includes cost-effective dishes that are quick wins on menus and features recipes with many protein bases, including Quorn, chicken and fish.

To keep children interested in school meals, we can help caterers tap into trends, like street food, so they can produce dishes that keep menus bang up to date. Street-food-influenced dishes work well in schools by using wraps or tacos, which children can eat with their hands. By changing flavourings of chicken wraps or tacos with different spice blends and vegetables, dishes can be continually reinvigorated cost-effectively, which makes them ideal for menu rotations.

University caterers have a challenge; competing with the high street to offer innovative food experiences while controlling costs and providing a balance of food and flavour to cater for different diners isn’t easy.

Our Age Cohort research into eating-out habits and taste preferences found that the needs of millennials are different from other generations, and caterers who don’t account for this when planning menus risk losing out. ‘What’s new’, freshness and customisation are important factors for higher education students that will help keep them on campus, and drive traffic and overall sales. Our research shows lunch is important to them – they want fast, convenient food to go. They also like bolder flavours more than they did two to three years ago.

What trends do you see emerging?

Spicier flavours on menus, street-food-driven product development and the growth of breakfast out of home, while barbecue is a huge trend that’s set to get bigger. Demand for US flavours is perfectly met with our Santa Maria American Cajun, a spice blend with bell pepper sweetness, a hit of garlic and chilli heat. Healthy eating and premium burgers are also expected to be fast-growing trends over the next three to five years, at 43 and 29% respectively.

Our team travels the world to research spices and flavourings, and seek out the best ingredients, and they use this insight to develop exciting spice blends and products. Street food vendors globally have influenced our World Spice range, plus our World To Go and World Wrap concepts. Whatever cuisine is required, we’ve got the blend to maximise the popularity of street food and global flavours.

What is your objective for the next 12 months?

To continue working with caterers to help them serve tasty, good-value, healthy food while helping them future-proof and grow their businesses. By sharing our expertise and continually innovating with concepts and products that meet demand, we can offer unrivalled added value to help our clients stay ahead of the competition.

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