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Stanford study shows diners respond favorably to grape options on menus

FRESNO, CA -- The California Table Grape Commission, here, will be releasing shortly a report on a Stanford University study that tested grapes in various usages within its own foodservice system.

According to Courtney Romano, a foodservice consultant to the commission, Palo Alto, CA- based Stanford University "looked at a couple of different things" in the study and found that diners responded favorably to options that include grapes, either on their own or as an ingredient.

Stanford's award-winning dining services, which according to Stanford News Service serve "about 18,000 meals a day in 22 dining locations during the academic year," with a focus on "quality of food" and "programs that encourage environmental sustainability."

One of the concepts tested by Stanford for fresh grapes was "grapes to go," said Ms. Romano. Stanford Dining executives were "just amazed at the success ... of grapes to go in general. They found that the grapes met the need for something that was affordable, attractive, and a healthy choice."

The grapes to go were packaged in "[environmentally] sustainable clear containers" in different sizes and offered both in the student dining areas and in "their retail caf?." In student dining, grapes were offered in two package sizes: four-ounce and eight-ounce. "In retail, then went even a little bigger," offering a nine-ounce size and a 13-ounce package. In both cases, "they found that the larger package sizes sold better," Ms. Romano said.

The grapes were also offered both with a single variety in each package and with multiple varieties in each package, and the packs with multiple varieties outsold the single-variety option, she said.

Stanford "also looked at grapes as an alternative" side dish along with burgers, sub sandwiches and chicken tenders at its hot grill stations, and the results were found to be "very significant," she said. "Basically, for every two students who chose fries or chips, one was choosing grapes."

Also, "they looked at grapes in salads," she said. "They offered a new tossed salad with grapes, called their Farmers Market salad, against a classic chicken Cobb salad without grapes, and the market salad with grapes garnered 36 percent of those sales." Significantly, overall salad sales increased about 10 percent, she said.

"Overall, I think the take-away from their experience is grapes sell very well as a to-go item, and they meet that need for having a healthy side selection with burgers and sandwiches, and they work well as a salad ingredient," she said.

The California Table Grape Commission has developed several new materials this year specifically for foodservice. Among them are a foodservice guide and recipe cards.

"The foodservice guide is ... created specifically for chefs and menu developers in both commercial and non-commercial operations," Ms. Romano said. "It is about 114 pages, full color, and it has new menu concepts featuring fresh grapes. It talks about dining trends, handling tips, and the latest on grape nutrition and health."

The recipe cards are designed to provide chefs and menu planners with "timely ideas that are in line with today's trend of the global cuisine," she said. They also capitalize on "the popularity of entr?e salads and party sandwiches."

Among the recipes included on the cards are a shrimp and grape salad with lemon grass vinaigrette, masala chicken salad with grapes, roasted turkey and grapes with a mole sauce, chopped salad with grapes and feta, and a tuna salad with grapes and lemon tarragon.

(For more on foodservice, see the July 16 issue of The Produce News.)