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Feeding my Apple Addiction

I am an Apple(R) addict.  I am an early adopter of all Apple products and I see nothing wrong with owning all iPhone generations and the iPad and iPad2, at the same time.  A forage into my closet doesn’t yield designer shoes, but rather, vintage Apple products, like the Powerbook 145B, and multiple colors of interchangeable track balls that were sold that year.

Is it any wonder then, that Eagle Beverage now was an App for the iPad? You can download the app at the App Store.  An App?  For Private Label?  But of course.  How else can our sales team remember each detail of a custom private label program?  The app is designed for food service professionals who are interested in selling a custom private label program for speciality beverages.  It’s nifty because you can see more detail of flavors and actually create your own program.  Do you want to match a brand?  Enter the info in the field.  Do you want choose your capsule color?  Click your color.  Need to print the sales sheets or email directly to the person across the table from you?  Select print, email or download to PDF reader.

I’m not recommending that everyone downloads the app.  It is a very specific app for a specific market segment.  In addition to helping our sales team promote private label programs, this app asks the question… how useful are apps for business to business generation?  Or is the market share for one billion plus apps predominantly B to C?  Or did I miss the platform of where B2B apps belong?

I should point out that the app is not free and Eagle Beverage does NOT offer refunds for those who download the app because they download everything there is out there whether they need it or not (yes, I know I have 650 apps of which I only actually use about 20).  But we will refund the price of the app if someone actually uses it to create and buy a private label program from us!

I am enjoying the process of learning how to integrate technology into the selling of custom foodservice items.  And I have enjoyed learning how Apple has developed a whole platform for the creation, maintenance and distribution of apps.  The reviews from the sales team who have seen the app working have been great.  I really hope I don’t have to buy them all iPads now…!

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Conducting a Blind Tasting

Conducting a blind tasting takes an assortment of skills and a variety of characters.  First, the skills:

  1. Analytical – what do you present to the taster in order to showcase your specialty or unique opportunity?
  2. Organization – how do you present the items to the taster so all items have an equal opportunity to be tasted and evaluated?
  3. Evaluation – how can the taster record and reflect on what they are tasting in order to articulate why they prefer one taste over another?
  4. Presentation – How do you keep it engaging and interesting to the taster?

Now, to the characters

  1. The Innovator – This person likes to “play it by ear” and prepare the tasting on the go.  They typically have a passion for creating something and showing everyone how good it can be.
  2. The Measurer – This person will measure every ¼ ounce using some measuring tool.  They are precision oriented and need each quantity to come out the same.
  3. The Planner – This person will plan the tasting down to last sip and may have a problem if the order needs to be adjusted or changed

Over the next few posts, we will evaluate these issues.  Conducting a taste test is fun and engaging, but it takes a lot of work.

Reasons to be Thankful

Sometimes, we move too fast.  One May day, I was excited to be presenting a margarita mix to a local Mexican chain that has about 60 stores.  I arrived at the location, picked up the box of samples out of the truck, turned and landed on the ground.  The samples (fortunately plastic bottles), went rolling.  A colleague was with me, and luckily, he was able to retrieve the bottles, help me to my feet and get help.  In the end, I suffered two breaks in my left foot and an ugly elbow.

During the process, however, two things became apparent quickly.  One, I need to slow down and accept help when offered and two, I must always be thankful.  Not knowing how I fell, the injury could have been more severe and everyday, I am thankful that I am being looked after.

Having been literally chaired (grounded, or otherwise told to stay put), I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with many of our customers and really understand how our team does such an excellent job of getting their work done.  I’m sure that they would rather not have me scrutinizing everything, but there is always room for improvement and hopefully they recognize the value of having another perspective to solving problems and exceeding on customer care.  Being at the office for such an extended period of time, brings home to realization that a company that does not have direct oversight and management by owners runs the risk of having decisions made for the company instead of company management making decisions for the company.   The flipside is micromanagement tends to make the team nervous or suddenly unsure of themselves.  I have tried to find a balance, but I do believe everyone is ready for me to start visiting customers again!

Vodka Neat or in a Cocktail

The origin of vodka is heavily debated between Poles and Russians as no one can for sure say when the knowledge of distilling spirits spread from France and northern Italy to Poland and Russia.  Nevertheless, both countries make great vodkas.  And during a trip to Poland, I found myself enjoying a few sips of vodka at Qube, Poland’s first specialty Vodka bar.

Vodka was originally considered to be a medicinal drink, supposedly curing ailments and promoting longevity and youthfulness.  My take on that would be that if you drank enough you didn’t feel anything and therefore appeared to die healthy.  But back to vodka.  Polish vodka is typically distiller from rye, while Russia and Sweden distill from wheat and Finland from barley.  The East and Scandinavian countries tend to have more flavor in their vodkas than those distilled “neutral” or flavorless.  

Since we specialize in Flavors, I had the Wisniowka Cherry Cordial in an ice glass. One sip at a time was delicious.  Not fruity, not sweet and very balanced.  But I have to admit I prefer cocktails.  And vodka’s strength in the cocktail market is king.  It is a completely versatile drink, with enough price points to make it affordable to all and a luxury to some.  All of the mixers we manufacture and many of the syrups find themselves paired in alocholic drinks, typically made with vodka.  So drink up but drink responsibly and be safe.

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Dubai, late 2010

I’ve been to Dubai about five times in as many years and this most recent trip in November was definitely different.  In years past, Dubai was a city under construction.  Building shells outlined the “new Downtown” looming like spectres over the city.  Construction workers were everywhere, prices were high and business were bursting with business.

This trip, however, was dfiffernt.  Glorious buildings are finished, yet empty.  The massive number of construction workers are fewer but I was happy to see, that people were still buying.

The specialty beverage market in Dubai, and in the Middle East, is growing rapidly, largely in part because of the heat and the limitation on alcoholic beverages.  But the drinks are expensive.  At Colors Café I ordered a Mocha Frappe, made with Stasero’s Mocha Frappe.  It cost 17 dirhams, or $5.50 for a 16 oz glass.  At Starbucks, a tall decaf latte and tall caramel latte cost 32 dirhams, just under $10.

Specialty coffee shops are abundant; unfortunately the customers were not and at these prices, not likely to be.   As I make the tour around the Middle East, I am keeping my eyes open for new trends, current flavors and sellings concepts that will benefit all our customers.

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Inside and outside of the Box

Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In competition, this is key because most of the time, people only see what they want to see. This is commonly known as “inside the box” and when we all want to highlight our strengths, we identify ourselves as “out of the box thinkers.” I have sat through many interviews discussing with candidates their work ethic and the value they could bring only to hear “I always find solutions, and I think out of the box.” I would like to know what it means to think “out of the box” and to be prepared in the changing landscape of commerce and capitalism. If we are continuously thinking outside the box and preparing our minds for eventualities, will our business be favored?

In a product driven company, there are three dimensions of competition – product leadership (otherwise known as innovation), customer knowledge and operational efficiency. If we just look at product innovation, the sad truth is that no-matter what innovative or ground breaking product you are able to bring to market, eventually, someone else will copy it, and most likely do it better. I mention this because recently Sony announced that after 30 years, it was stopping production of the Walkman as it is no longer relevant in the world in iPods and MP3 players. Truthfully, I was surprised it took them this long to make the announcement. In our industry, we watch our competitors and see what new and innovative products they believe will be the “next big flavor” and prepare ourselves for creating innovative and relevant flavors. And then we will watch someone else do it!

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The Flavors of Provence

The south of France is a a delight to the senses.  Visually exquisite, cuisine that is simple, fresh and flavorful, sounds of wildlife, birds and rustling trees, and the sweet fragrance of lavender, olives and grapes.   It is easy to want to sit back and let nature take over your senses. 

On my last visit, I did a lot of sensory tasting.  The south of France makes some of the best products in the world… Wine, olive oil and honey and I tried them all.  Here are a few of my most favorites tastes.

Wine…because I prefer white wine, I visited Cassis,, a small fishing village near Marseilles,  known for its exquisite whites I ordered a bottle of wine and paired it with battered sole.  The wine was crisp, with a golden hue and an aroma that brought to mind the fresh outdoors.  The taste was a delicate flowery, with hints of Cherry and cassis.  Domaine du Paternel is a very fine house and each sip was delicious.  

Olive oil…. Now here is where things get complicated.  There are many, many types of olive oil, but you don’t  fully appreciate how much effort goes into each bottle of olive oil until you have been to the vineyards and seen the olives on the trees.   They are treated almost as delicately as grapes and have a processing that was brought over by the romans centuries ago.  Typically we pour olive oil over dishes.   The new technique is to use a sprayer to spritz, instead of pouring.   It is less wasteful.  

Pastis…  Never having really tasted pastis, I decided to linger over one on a sunny afternoon in Marseilles.  Generaly, pastis is a licorice flavored drink.  It arrived to the table as a concentrate, to which I added water.  I decided for the slightly sweeter version, which had orgeat in it, giving it a very almondy flavor, similar to sambuco, or ouzo.  Paired with a tomato and mozzarella salad, the pastis went down very smoothly.

Lavendar grows in abundance in Provence, but I had not figured out how to use it in a culinary setting.  Well, I found two delicious examples of it.  The first was a goat cheese spring roll with lavender honey.  This was amazing – the sweet and sour taste, combined with the crunchiness of the spring roll set off the lavender honey.  It was not too sweet as the cheese mellowed it, but you clearly had the sweet and sour sensations.  The other yummy taste was a Lavender creme brûlée.  The first thing I noticed was the creme brûlée was 1) not as thick and firm as our Amercian version and 2) not as sweet.  The  brûlée had the pods of the vanilla bean and a carmalezed lavender layer.  The whole dish was devoured within minutes.  I have brought lavender home to use in cooking and we will see how that turns out.

I hope you have enjoyed the culinary tour of Provence.  I can’t wait to taste more.

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A-A-T-M-F

I recently attended a beer tasting at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, TX. As an aside, Cowboy Stadium is amazing. It is high tech, has great food and very clearly, is a new standard in American Stadiums. We had the opportunity to take a tour and it was incredible to see the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders practicing their routines directly from the field sidelines. I found the entire experience infectious and would enjoy watching a game live.

But back to the Beer Tasting… I am not much of a beer drinker, but our tasting guides had an acromym to describe the evaluation of each beer and I found the simplicity of their sensory evaluation to be something that I could pass on: AATMF. These five letters stand for Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Mouthfeel and Finish.

Appearance – Appearance can reflect the color, the consistency, smoothness of texture and generally all the visual elements that are common in determining the appeal of the product.

Aroma – Over 70% of taste perception is attributed to aroma, or smell. If it smells good, chances are, it tastes good!
Taste – Taste and aroma account for most of the perception of a product. Our taste buds allow us to taste bitter, salty, sweet, and sour flavors. There is a huge body of research done on taste and smell and we will go into that later.

Mouthfeel – With beverages, some people can feel the product in their mouth and they can describe food and beverage a variety of ways: creamy, thick, thin, coating, and a number of other ways. This attribute is how you perceive the texture of the product in the mouth. One simple example is sugar and HFCS. While we don’t manufacture anything using High Fructose Corn Syrup anymore, we had a hard time getting out of it because it has a thicker viscosity than sugar, and therefore, our customers felt it was a creamier, richer taste. In order to achieve that same feeling with sugar, we had to add more sugar to increase the viscosity and create a similar mouthfeel.

Finsh – The finish is essential. Once the product has left your mouth, the sensation it evokes afterwards can either linger of end quickly. If it ends quickly, the perception tends to be that it is not very strong. If it lingers at the back of the mouth and in the air passages (due to the aroma), the sensation is one of satisfaction and fullness.

So, now you know the 5 different evaluative areas, try something. Enjoy a glass a wine, your favorite flavored cocktail or a cup of coffee and evaluate how the beverage looks, smells, tastes, feels, and lingers in your mouth. Feel free to share your results here!

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The Jerk/Sucker Tradeoff

I was at a class recently taught by Professor Sonia Marciano a Clinical Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at the New York University Stern School of Business. She had a story to tell about the the jerk/sucker tradeoff. She highlighted professors at university who have to decide on summer schedules and projects. She said everyone usually keeps their head down, mumbles incoherently and prays that they are not asked to take on any more responsibility. Within the group, there emerges two types of people – the Jerk, who says no to projects and building school value and the sucker, who will always say yes, but won’t be happy about it. She illustrates that the problem is that the sucker knows that doing the job will bring more value to the school (in the form of grants, research opportunities, etc.), while little to no personal value. The Jerk recognizes that their lack of contribution does not enhance the schools image, but also feels no reason to go out on a limb since there is no gratitude in doing so. These are two very common emotions towards a workplace and this same scenario is found in companies around the globe. There are always some employees that will do whatever it takes, because it is the job but they know that their work may go unnoticed or unrecognized. Others will do the minimum to keep their job, but nothing more. The sweet spot is to eliminate the feeling of the jerk/sucker tradeoff. Empowering employees to do more, recognizing their value and promoting their efforts energizes the company as a whole and in the long run, brings more value and satisfaction to the place where we spend our days.

Blue Hawaiian Mix

We recently had a request for a Blue Hawaiian Mix and discussions started flying around the office as to what made good Blue Hawaiian. One of our customer service reps, Mike Jones, is an Islander and was considered our “authority” when tasting the finished beverage.

In looking it up on the ever informative Wikipedia, “The Blue Hawaii was invented in 1957 by Harry Yee, legendary head bartender of the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, Hawaii when a sales representative of Dutch distiller Bols asked him to design a drink that featured their blue color of Curaçao liqueur.”

We knew two things about a Blue Hawaiian… 1) It uses Blue Curacao (a delicate orange flavor) and 2) It is similar to a pina colada. When we verified this, we found there are two different types of Blue Hawaiians… The first is a simple mix that is similar to a margarita and uses rum or vodka. The other type incorporates coconut syrup, milk or cream and is only made with Rum. The color is blue.

I know that there are others who are more informed than I am about creating a hand crafted mixed drink, so I sent a querry to Linked-in’s US Bartender’s Directory, asking if anyone knew of a good recipe for a Blue Hawaiian. This is why I love networking on Linked-In…I immediately received a couple of replies.

Here’s one recipe that you might enjoy, courtesy of member Chris Milligan:
1 1/2 oz light rum

3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

1 oz coconut syrup

1/2 oz blue curaçao

1/2 oz lemon juice

Crushed ice



Method: Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine. Don’t turn it into a slushy. Garnish with pineapple flag, fruit stick and/or mint sprig.

Another member, Mark Drummond, provided some insight into the rum itself. He offered a couple of suggestions to use, such as a spice rum, dark maple rum or an oak cask rum. However, he cautions, it will change the flavor.

I hope that you all enjoy trying a Blue Hawaiian, and hopefully our customer will like the mix we prepared. Nothing beats a field trip to Hawaii to soak in the sun and sip on an authentic Blue Hawaiian, though. Maybe in the winter!

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Aisha Kabani - Eagle Beverage
Ever wanted to know what goes on in a food manufacturing company? Read the newest blog by Aisha Kabani and see how a family owned manufacturing company manages the different facets of creating spectacular products and sharing them with the world.