Inch by inch. Starbucks relentless moves in on the core foods served at quick-service, coffee/doughnut and retail (convenience store) restaurants. The company that changed how we drink has an awfully keen nose for food trends, but it bides its time. It may not be first in, but it will be in.
Starting Feb. 16, Starbucks taps into several trendy and surprisingly spicy flavors with new foods in all participating U.S. stores. The Spicy Chorizo, Monterey Jack & Egg Breakfast Sandwich has a spiced chorizo sausage patty, Monterey Jack cheese and a fluffy egg with caramelized onion in a potato-bread roll.
For lunch there is a new Ancho-Chipotle Chicken Panini sandwich (below, l.). The build is shredded chicken breast in ancho-chipotle sauce with fire-roasted poblano peppers, red onion, Gouda cheese and spicy cilantro pesto on a ciabatta roll. How many on-trend ingredients did you count?
“We saw an opportunity to create sandwiches with bold flavors,” Sita Kacker, Starbucks product development manager, said in a release. “Chorizo is popular right now and spicy is on trend, so this guided our direction.”
“The breakfast sandwich is presented on artisan potato bread made with whole roasted potatoes and potato flour that has a unique bite to it,” said Kacker. “It was the perfect way to incorporate the idea of potatoes at breakfast.”
Starbucks gave burger and sandwich chains a scare last summer when it showed capabilities it wasn’t known to have. The BBQ Beef Brisket on Sourdough showed it can do meat entrees. It also introduced a Chicken Santa Fe Sandwich on flatbread, tapping the flatbread craze.
An important announcement last week got less attention than it deserves. Contract-foodservice leader Sodexo announced it will switch the all-beef burgers sold to their K-12 school district accounts (250+ school districts) to the meat and mushroom Blend burger championed by the Mushroom Council. “The mushrooms blend seamlessly with the meat making the burger absolutely kid approved—in fact, most students are either happy with the change or don’t even notice it,” Lisa Feldman, director of culinary services for Sodexo Culinary Solutions, said in a release. “Also, parents are thrilled we are serving a healthier, natural burger to their kids.”
Sodexo says the Blend burger has fewer calories, fewer grams of saturated fat and fewer milligrams of sodium compared to the standard school burger. The unmentioned advantage is that mushrooms are a cost-effective patty partner. If the Blend spreads to Sodexo’s college/university accounts, young adults could be looking for similar mushroom-beef blend burgers when they graduate.
Last May, The James Beard Foundation and the Mushroom Council sponsored the “Better Burger Project,” encouraging burger bars to create mushroom-beef blend burger. The winner was Chef Dan Nichols at Quaff On! restaurant in Bloomington, Ind. His winning Triple B Burger patty blended chuck, short rib and sirloin with crimini mushrooms, porcini mushroom powder, pimentos and roasted green chiles. It was topped with arugula, sliced tomato, caramelized onion, demi-glace, triple-cream Brie and beer-infused mustard and served on a brioche bun.