Restaurant operators are facing numerous headwinds this year. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry report, 92 percent of operators say higher food costs pose a significant challenge. Eighty-nine percent say the same of labor costs, and 90 percent of inflation. Sixty-two percent of operators also report being unable to meet current customer demand due to understaffing.
Many operators are now considering adding frozen vegetables to menu items or even switching out fresh for frozen altogether. Frozen vegetables offer time and labor savings over fresh items without sacrificing recipe quality or taste.
With today’s technology, it’s possible to get all the benefits of better flavor, color, and nutritional value with the convenience of frozen. Some might even say that frozen is the new fresh.
Frozen Is the New Fresh
Individual quick freezing at very low temperatures (-31 degrees F) is an entirely natural process that allows operators to use frozen vegetables at their peak freshness, not to mention ensuring a very long shelf life. “Multiple studies show that frozen products have a higher nutritional value than raw or fresh,” says Kelley Martin, vice president of North American foodservice sales at Nortera Foods. “Frozen locks in color, flavor, nutritional value, and texture at the time of harvesting.”
Frozen is also more cost-effective with less price volatility than seen in the fresh market. Indeed, two pounds of flash-frozen vegetables equals two pounds on the plate.
On-Trend, Cost-Effective Menu Solutions
Meeting the demands of today’s consumers for affordable plant-based options, branded homemade recipes, and international cuisines requires careful menu planning. “Convenient access to healthy food aligns with frozen vegetables. There are no additives. There are no preservatives,” Martin says. “It’s just peas, corn, broccoli, or whatever you’re buying.”
Quebec-based Nortera Foods has introduced its number-one brand of frozen vegetables—Arctic Gardens®—to the U.S. market in the last year. It offers numerous mixes designed to enhance chefs’ creations. Its Fusion blend, for instance, made up of black beans, corn, and edamame, is a unique mix on its own, but when a chef adds baby tomatoes, red peppers, and great seasoning, suddenly it becomes a beautiful salsa. Add a trending protein—salmon, lamb, or chicken thighs—and the operator has the chance to customize an entrée for any daypart or any season.
Save Time and Labor
Arctic Gardens’ products are crafted to ease many common foodservice issues, such as availability of product, labor, and food costs.
Arctic Gardens’ Mirepoix Mix is another notable game-changer for restaurants. The classic base for soups, stews, casseroles, marinades, or braises, mirepoix can take hours to prep. With this mix, all kitchen staff needs to do is open up a bag. Employees need only be trained once to prepare multiple menu items, because that one ingredient is found in several recipes. Further, operators also eliminate food and labor costs because frozen vegetables are 100 percent usable, with no waste.
Stewardship with Care
Practicing regenerative agriculture, 800 partner growers help Nortera produce 750 million pounds of frozen food annually, covering 120,500 acres of land and 13 processing plants across Canada and the U.S. Its seven newly launched Arctic Gardens blends—Romanesco, Kalebanzo, Fusion, Riced Cauliflower, Rice Pilaf, Mirepoix, and Roasting Vegetables—are primed to benefit U.S. restaurant operators.
“We’re in a business that truly supplies people with more plant-based and healthier eating options. Our company is very focused on people, planet, and product,” says Martin.
For more on how frozen blends can enhance a menu, visit the Arctic Gardens website.