We’ve grown more flexibly remote of late as we seek to connect as an industry. In some ways, moving forward, these new communication tools—like improved video conferencing—will add new dynamics to remote teams, building a welcome level of flexibility into a number of key industry segments (a topic we plan to address in some depth in 2022).

But anyone who launched a new product over the past 20 months knows exactly what we have been missing: product sampling. Nothing compares to getting the product in a consumer’s hands—and mouth.

In a recent virtual presentation from sweetener gurus ASR Group, a chef baked multiple types of sugar cookies with one variable: the type of sugar used in the mix. They then sent the cookies to the participants, along with samples of the sugar:

  • White Granulated
  • Baker’s Special
  • Organic Raw Cane
  • Light Brown
  • Dark Brown
  • Turbinado

ASR Group leadership then walked us through the different sugars, with input from foodservice operators and product developers, and eventually the vertical cookie tasting. The results were revealing, demonstrating how one variable—the type of sugar—can change so much about a cookie’s crispiness, chew, color, flavor, shelf life, and more.

The Baker’s Special sugar featured in the cookie tasting is worth mentioning in more detail. Highlights include:

  • Ultra-fine grain size
  • Perfect grain size for meringues, mousses, and whipped creams
  • For cakes, it can provide higher rise and more-consistent texture
  • Great grain size for enrobing churros and doughnuts
  • Dissolves and melts almost immediately

I’ve participated in a number of video-guided tastings, with samples sent ahead of time for use during the event, including honey (National Honey Board), watermelon (National Watermelon Promotion Board), almonds (Almond Board of California), and avocados (California Avocado Commission). While nothing compares to the atmosphere of live group tastings, these virtual events provided welcome interactivity.