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By: Varris Holmes, Marketing Manager
In this article, you will find:
How our culture is always pushing us towards continuous improvement
How our FruitBlendz™ Fruit Purées continues to set new quality and convenience standards
How the Leahy-IFP team always strives to keep getting better
You won’t hear the old saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” on the lips of Leahy-IFP team members, and it isn’t just because we don’t like the word ain’t. While that approach might work for some, we think of it as a tell-tale sign of a fixed mindset (“old tapes” – iykyk), which is an approach that we strive to avoid.
This 3rd generation, family-owned company is committed to innovation so thoroughly that no product is off the table when we discuss how we can grow and improve. Even our beloved, flagship brand, Carbotrol® Canned Fruit, is always being evaluated (update: at last check, it was still near-perfect – see our previous blog called, Carbotrol® Fruit—Setting the Highest Standard from QA Technician, Renata Schaad, for more detailed information on how we maintain our canned fruit quality).
It could have been argued that our FruitBlendz™ Fruit Purées in bulk 68oz tubs were in a strong place, needing little to no improvements. Packed with the highest quality fruit available, free of artificial flavors and filling a large industry need for texture-modified fruit products for people with dysphagia and other swallowing conditions, FruitBlendz™ has always been a successful product line for Leahy-IFP.
A “no need to tamper with it” sentiment might have existed because we had already completely reformulated this product line in 2018. At that time, we removed the artificial sweetener previously used in favor of real sugar and boosted the mouthfeel by tweaking our formula to include a blend of pectin and starches instead of gums. Arguably, the key enhancement in that reformulation project was a vast improvement in flavor; we upgraded the raw fruit purées we used and tweaked the natural flavors in the formula to heighten the taste.
Food packaged in large containers is not unusual in foodservice – it’s mostly the norm. Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant kitchen has seen huge buckets full of salad dressing or marinades, for example. But while healthcare operators do employ commercial kitchens, the workers serving FruitBlendz™ Fruit Purées and the patients eating them have unique needs, different than in a typical restaurant.
During the pandemic, operators started to express how expensive and scarce labor had become, and how good, loyal workers became harder to come by– even harder to retain. If there was anything an operator could do to utilize their existing workforce better, they needed to do it now.
This was a large contributing factor to the creation of FruitBlendz™ 4oz. ready-to-serve fruit purées. It was a direction we wanted to go in and a response to customer requests. We knew healthcare operators would appreciate this new format, and we knew the change wouldn’t impact the end user’s experience of the product. Whether served in a bowl or eaten directly out of the cup, FruitBlendz™ Fruit Purées are still the best texture-modified food available.
How does the new 4oz. ready-to-serve product benefit operators? First, let’s go over how FruitBlendz™ began and the need it filled in its original 68oz tub.
For years, healthcare operators had very limited choices when it came to serving fruit purées to their patients with swallowing disorders. Most operators took the DIY approach which required puréeing and thickening fresh or canned fruit. Both time- and labor-intensive, the process was difficult to replicate from kitchen crew to kitchen crew as it involved the straining, blending, and thickening of product, which then had to be tested, stored, and dated. Some fruit was easier to work with than others. Waste from the process was significant and the clean-up from the resulting mess was always a chore.
All of this work was time-consuming and allowed for potentially dangerous variations in quality and textural consistency. Also, with the development and adoption of IDDSI standards, operators felt more pressure to adhere to guidelines for patient safety. FruitBlendz™ is manufactured to be compliant with IDDSI standards (we do, however, strongly recommend that operators still perform in-house testing before serving to ensure proper texture consistency) and removes a lot of the steps needed to provide texture-modified fruit to those in need. FruitBlendz™ in bulk allowed operators to simply open, scoop out, reseal, write the date on the tub, and then refrigerate.
Time and labor savings
Bulk tubs removed a lot of the work needed to serve puréed foods. Operators could then direct their staff to other responsibilities and increase patient interaction instead of time spent preparing DIY thickened fruit. The new 4oz packaging of the ready-to-eat cups works even better for everyone involved in the process. Also, operators can now more easily switch among the six flavors.
Best By dates
Health codes require foodservice operators to manually date any bulk-packaged product they open. You’ve likely seen the color-coded stickers labeled with a day of the week used in most commercial kitchens. This is so everyone knows exactly how many days that product has been in rotation and when to dispose of it. We’ve stamped a best by date on each 4oz cup. While not a true expiration date, most operators use the “Best By” Date to indicate to staff when to stop using said product. This saves time (time = money) and helps eliminate the risk of a customer receiving a product that is out of date.
Less food waste
The ready-to-serve portion-controlled cups also lower the risk of food waste. With the larger tubs, there was always the chance that an operator would not be able to serve it all within the 10–14-day window that started once the tub was opened. Like the bulk tubs, the ready-to-serve cups have a one-year shelf life, so even in the unlikely event that an operator is not using them up quickly, they will have plenty of time to do so before unused cups need to be discarded. And of course, 4oz FruitBlendz™ Fruit Purée Cups (as well as the previous 68oz bulk tubs) are shelf-stable, needing no refrigeration. Besides daily patient needs, FruitBlendz™ Cups are great to have on the shelf for emergency food, as each 4oz cup equals a full serving of fruit.
The bulk tubs eliminated a lot of the labor-intense requirements of hand-making thickened fruit; however, we knew that moving to 4oz cups could make that process even easier. Bulk tubs were much more convenient than making your own puree or using a frozen puree product, but they still required a person to scoop out a serving, place it in a bowl, and then wash all the associated utensils and bowl it was served in—but not before waiting hours for it to thaw. Now, workers need only to remove the lid and provide a spoon. That’s it. In our testing, we were able to open and prepare to serve 9 containers in under 1 minute. Meanwhile, it took us almost 10 minutes to prepare and serve a DIY purée. The time recorded in our testing didn’t even include time for cleanup or set-up. Even if you have a very efficient kitchen staff, one minute is a long way from the 10-20 minutes needed for the entire process.
The International Dysphagia Standardization Initiative (IDDSI) was formed in 2013 to set a new global standard for texture-modified foods. The goal is to keep texture-modified food guidelines and testing procedures consistent from facility to facility and country to country. Leahy-IFP is proud to be among the sponsors of this initiative because we believe standardization is key to the safety and well-being of those with swallowing disorders.
While the packaging changed, the product inside it did not. When you serve FruitBlendz purées in 4oz. cups, you can be confident you’re serving the same quality product you’ve come to expect from Leahy-IFP. We source only the best fruit (again, we direct you to Carbotrol® Canned Fruit, which has the highest product spec in the marketplace) so you can be confident you’re getting the tastiest product available. With several varieties to choose from, you’ll be able to match your texture-modified fruit to the conventional fruit you are serving. We feel certain that all six flavors are delicious, and your clientele will love them all. The mouthfeel is natural and consistent and avoids any of the grainy or stringy texture that often comes with DIY purées.
Because of the move to real sugar, FruitBlendz™ purées have no strange aftertaste and just the right amount of sweetness. Starch and pectin are used to thicken the product, rather than gums, which can more directly impact the flavor of the product and can be harder to digest.
“Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” — Michelle Obama