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Buying 101: Custom and signature salad dressing

Even the dressing on your salad can help you stand apart from the crowd.

The road to custom-made dressings 

Poised for expansion, the 7-unit MarketPlace Concepts in Arkansas, known for its fresh, homestyle menu, was searching for a way to streamline its distribution chain. The parent company includes both full-service MarketPlace Grills and fast-casual MarketPlace Express stores. The concept’s signature salad dressings (creamy herb, honey mustard and blueberry poppy seed) had always been made from scratch at each MarketPlace Grill, forcing the Express locations to be completely dependent on the Grill’s commissary services.

To get out of this bind, purchasing manager Andy Caron hunted for a dressing manufacturer that could custom develop recipes in quantity. “By manufacturing in bulk, we aimed to eliminate costly labor hours while at the same time maintain consistency,” Caron explains. MarketPlace eventually partnered with Arcobasso; the former’s culinary team and the latter’s food chemists worked together and after many revisions, Arcobasso was able to match the flavor and quality of the original dressings while extending their shelf life. Arcobasso ships and delivers the products through Sysco.

The dressings held up beautifully in blind taste tests and our guests never even noticed that they were not made onsite,” Caron says. He reports that the manufactured dressings have relieved pressure on the full-service kitchens and even though they are more expensive to produce, the price is recouped in labor costs. In addition, the Express locations can now be built as stand-alone units and MarketPlace can expand to other sites without planting a commissary in each area.

New house specialties

A signature house dressing can set your salad program apart. Paul Fiorentino, VP of culinary and operator support services at Ventura Foods, identifies the trends that are currently driving salad dressing development with his customers.

  • Ranch, Italian and Caesar are still the top three dressings, but twists on these classics are starting to emerge. “Chipotle Caesar and Santa Fe Ranch, for example, reflect our current preference for more intense flavors.”
  • Health and wellness is boosting the popularity of vinaigrettes. “They are perceived as a lighter product,” Fiorentino says. He’s experimenting with Chianti, Chardonnay and other wines along with vinegars.
  • Reducing fat while preserving flavor and mouthfeel is a goal. “The industry is exploring starch systems that can replace some of the oil in traditional formulas.”
  • Fruit flavors are gaining ground. “We’ve been focusing on pomegranate, blueberry and cherry—the superfoods—which also tie into health and wellness,” Fiorentino reports. He’s also drilling down from the familiar, substituting Meyer lemons in lemon-tarragon vinaigrette and blood oranges in orange-poppy seed dressing.

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