On the track of food trends

He creates what is later displayed in the show cases of BackWerk, Brezelkönig und Caffè Spettacolo in Switzerland; Riccardo Brunet is Food Developer at Valora. Together with his team he scouts tomorrow’s trends and writes new recipes.

As his name lets you guess, Riccardo Brunet has Italian-French roots. His love of cooking was passed on to him by his parents. As Food Developer with Valora he analyses the latest food trends and tinkers with the pretzels, sandwiches and cornetti which are later displayed in the show cases of BackWerk, Brezelkönig and Caffè Spettacolo in Switzerland.

It’s a grey autumn day at the Brezelkönig headquarters in Emmenbrücke near Lucerne. Riccardo Brunet is bustling around and filling the big kitchen island with delicacies. Dried tomatoes, cranberries, fresh rocket, beef – he keeps on adding ingredients to create a colourful presentation. When the appliances in his development kitchen are humming in harmony and the smell of freshly-baked bread fills the air, the 34-year old Riccardo is in his element. As Food Developer with Valora, he takes off on an inspirational tour around the world twice a year to look for the latest food trends. “To find out where the sector is heading, you have to investigate what the world’s master chefs are working on,” says Riccardo.

While the US mostly set the tone in earlier years, Italy, France and the Scandinavian countries have come to the fore in the last few years. “As Switzerland generally lags a bit behind when it comes to food trends, we can track developments abroad for a longer period before we introduce something here.” This also allows him to take a good look at the creations of his foreign colleagues at BackWerk. André Schroeder, Dominik Knöpke, Raymond Delsing and Benjamin Merkader are the names of the Food Developers in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Together they form BackWerk’s “culinary network”.

Natural, regional, healthy –
and “instagrammable”

Back in his development kitchen in Emmenbrücke, Riccardo thinks about how to integrate all his impressions into new products. “The current food trend is healthy, authentic and regional products. Many cereals and superfoods will be with us for a long time still.” Adaptation to the Swiss market is important, but this involves a constant process of testing: while Mr and Mrs Switzerland have been passionately in love with Riccardo’s avocado pretzel rolls for the last three years, they hated his chia pretzels and his pretzel Bircher müesli for reasons that are beyond him. The way that products look is also becoming increasingly important – they have to be “instagrammable”.

BackWerk, Brezelkönig, Caffè Spettacolo, Brezeln, Food Developer
Garnished with Swiss Alpine herbs and flowers, Riccardo’s newest creation not only titillates the taste buds …

From the meadow to the pretzel

Riccardo works with Swiss Alpine herbs and flowers, for example, to put the finishing touches to his new and all-natural pretzel composition. Every six weeks, Riccardo presents his new creations for Brezelkönig, BackWerk and Caffè Spettacolo to a selected group of colleagues. The products are then tasted and assessed: are the taste and consistency good? Do they look attractive and can they be packed safely for transport? And last but not least: how much would the tasters pay for a product? Some compositions immediately pass the first test, and others need to be tweaked a little. Either with regard to their composition, presentation or production-related processing aspects.

BackWerk, Brezelkönig, Caffè Spettacolo, Brezeln, Food Developer
…but also pleases the eye, because Riccardo interprets a composition as the interplay of tasty ingredients and visual presentation.

Via video in the sales outlets

After a product has been approved, it takes around six months before it can be displayed in Swiss shop windows. To make sure the products are prepared exactly the same way at all locations, everybody receives an instruction video from Riccardo. “For me, it’s the greatest thing ever to express my creativity at Valora. The growing mobility of the population means that ever more people eat on the go, and I’m pleased that they enjoy my creations for Brezelkönig, BackWerk and Caffè Spettacolo.”

Brezelkönig, BackWerk, Caffè Spettacolo, Food Developer
Can Riccardo’s new creations make it on the market? A team of experts do the test.

Riccardo’s fitness sandwich –
Recipe for slimming down in the New Year

Guacamole (to spread on bread)
150g avocado (skinned)
15g Italian olive oil
25g lemon or lime juice
10g chives or parsley
1-2g chilli powder or fresh chillies (to taste)
2g Alpine salt (season to taste)

Mix all ingredients and season to taste with Alpine salt and chilli powder

Chicken breast (as topping)
1 Swiss chicken breast
2g paprika
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Italian olive oil (to taste)

Mix the olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper and rub the mixture into the chicken breast

Other ingredients
1 carrot
1 tomato
Some rocket
Alternatively: Mango and Parmesan

Prepare the chicken breast the previous day and leave it in the marinade overnight so that it stays juicy. Grill in the oven for 4 minutes at 180° C. Reduce the temperature to 100° C and wait until the chicken breast’s core temperature reaches 72° C. Let it cool.

For the bread, any kind of baguette is good – whole wheat, for example. Spread two tablespoons of guacamole on the baguette. Cut the chicken breast into thin slices and lay them on the baguette. Add grated carrot, two slices of tomato and fresh rocket. If you want something more exotic, replace the carrot and tomato with thin mango slices and Parmesan.

Enjoy your meal!

The kitchen think tank

Valora’s food developers aren’t alone when it comes to developing new products. BackWerk in Germany first came up with the concept of a kitchen think tank in 2018, calling on the employees at headquarters and its franchise partners to submit their ideas for developing a “super product”. They sent in some 250 ideas for products. After a quality check was carried out, the voting phase started. In the end, a fresh watermelon juice bowl and the steak’n’cheese panini made it to the market.

A different kind of laboratory emerged in Hilversum in the Netherlands, where a BackWerk Concept Store with a product kitchen to develop products specifically for the Dutch market was opened recently. New products are being developed and thoroughly checked here before they move on to the test phase. The new creations are tested directly with the customers in the shop’s welcoming atmosphere. The results can be monitored and assessed very accurately.

Photo and video clip: Noë Flum
This article was first published on 10 January 2019.

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