Aaron Dixon Moy Park1 Frozen Food Week


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Interview with a chef – Moy Park part 2

At Fresh from the Freezer we aim to give you as much insight into the world of frozen food as possible, and so far we’ve taken you from field to fork with frozen peas, been given the low down on lesser known frozen products by blogger Slummy Single Mummy and been inundated with top tips for using frozen from you, the Fresh from the Freezer community.

In part one of our interview with Aaron Dixon, executive chef at top ten food company Moy Park, he discussed where he finds inspiration for new dishes and the process taken to develop a new product.

Moy Park logoHere’s part two of our chat with him:

How do you identify which food trends aren’t going to last very long and which food trends will work well for your customers?

There’s so much data and insight available nowadays that we can be fairly confident right way whether something will work or not. The classic mainstay cuisines such as Chinese, Indian and Mexican will always be popular and the retailers also give us guidance on the trends they are seeing grow in popularity, which helps.

It’s a team effort, every element of the development and sale needs to work, from the product itself to packaging, marketing and even where it is placed on the shelf can be the difference between a product that flies off the shelves and one that doesn’t move.

Timing is part of it, definitely. I’ve learned to slow down a little in my approach to putting new cuisines of the shelf, sometimes the market just isn’t ready. But there’s rarely an idea that doesn’t make the next step to the consumer. Even if some of our ideas are ‘banked’ for another day, they will always be worth revisiting when the time is right, development work is always taken forward at some point.

Can you go into a bit of detail about how new recipes are chosen?

Each customer tends to have a different process, some ask us to send the product to them ‘blind’ to home cook themselves, some ask for a paper concept and we take them through the stages of our vision. It’s rare that we just create one product, we tend to develop the whole range, for example a BBQ grill range for one customer.Chef interview

Consumers are becoming more complicated in the tastes which challenges us to stretch ourselves and see how we can reach these expectations. At Moy Park we’re definitely not ones to rest on our laurels and keep rolling out the same ranges, we adapt and innovate every year.

What’s your favourite product that you’ve developed and why?

There’s been so many over the years but we recently developed a product for the Moy Park brand, which performs very well in Northern Ireland. The product was a multi-award winning, first to market, no-touch, cook-in-the-bag whole chicken.

A unique piece of packaging was developed allowing the chicken to go straight-to-oven, producing an incredibly succulent bird which won six industry awards. This product is held in high regard with me as it really was a whole team effort and a really clever piece of work that showed off the innovation we do here at Moy Park and created a truly quality product.

Chef interview

Another proud moment was the development of a chicken escalope—style product for a major retailer. It was an incredibly simple product but became a market benchmark, with other retailers coming to us asking for something similar and even in different protein variants such as pork. Seeing our product lead the market in this way and influence other big retailers was really satisfying.

Have you ever developed a product that you thought would work be really popular and wasn’t?

One product which I thought was excellent and had outstanding feedback from taste tests was a Christmas product from last year. It was a turkey joint with a ‘magic’ stock. The stock was in a ‘stained glass window’ gelatine panel with pink peppercorns, cinnamon and candied orange inside it, which when placed on the turkey for the final part of cooking, melted into a beautiful jus leaving the herb elements on top of the turkey creating a stunning centre piece.

It was incredibly innovative and first to market, but we find Christmas to be quite a safe time as no one wants to risk Christmas dinner (!) so it just didn’t seem to take off, which was a real shame.

What are the benefits you find from working with frozen?Chef interview

The main thing about frozen food development is that the process is no different to that of fresh. Everything we produce is about vibrancy, freshness, colour and making products that really stand out on shelf or in the freezer. The beauty of frozen is that the herbs and spices retain their vibrancy due to the freezing process and keep their flavour extremely well.

I’m a big fan of frozen and have watched its evolution in the last few years as the quality has only increased and is now on par with fresh. Consumers are definitely not downgrading when it comes to frozen and it just adds a convenience that fits into people’s changing lives really easily. Families can grab something healthy and tasty from the fridge in that same way that single person households can benefit from portion control and quick and easy options.

Innovation is evident across the frozen food industry and is starting to influence us in some of the decisions we make with our fresh lines. Particularly in packaging, frozen is ahead of fresh and formats such as steam bags will no doubt be seen in fresh lines in the future.

We need to look at frozen retailers in particular as they are without a doubt more innovative and can offer the fresh sector some lessons on creativity with their almost artisan approach. There’s definitely much more to come.

For more information on defrosting turkey, check out our guide on how to defrost turkey.

Find out more about Aaron and his team, as well as helpful recipes at moyparkchicken.com.


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