The new kebab marinade is just one of many contributions to the food industry made by Kerry Foods, a company that is a global leader in the development of taste and nutrition solutions for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets.
The story of the marinade began with a visit to several London kebab restaurants by Kerry account manager Shihaz Siddik and Sales director Brian MacNeice. They noticed something important, these were popular, high-capacity businesses that chose to prepare food using traditional techniques that rely almost entirely on the knowledge and experience of the chef they employ.
Indeed, this is a model used by most takeaway and kebab businesses to prepare their food. The chefs are mostly experts who learned the trade from their parents and elders. They do not even, for instance, measure out spices and oils when preparing meats; they instinctively know the correct quantities in pinches and bunches.
This means that while all restaurants will order the ingredients needed to make a marinade – yogurt, puree, spices, salt and pepper among them – the actual application of the marinade depends on the individual chef’s recipe and preferences.
That can create problems for a restaurant or takeaway business; the quality of the food can vary from day to day. A more significant problem is the disruption caused by a chef deciding to leave the business.
At a meeting with restaurant owners, the directors at Kerry explained that many restaurant and takeaway businesses struggle both with finding experienced staff, and ensuring the existing workforce can maintain a consistent flavour and standard of dishes on offer. Some smaller restaurants even take certain kebab dishes off the menu because of a lack of experienced chefs.
It is the absence of standardisation here, they say, that means even restaurants with strong local brands can receive complaints from loyal customers, saying that the taste of their food has changed. Some restaurant owners go further and say the inconsistency and an adequate workforce is why most businesses struggle to expand or become chain operations.
That is where Brian and Shihaz come in. They understood that pre-prepared kebab marinade sauces would meet the needs of thousands of businesses around the country.
Richard Troman, who is responsible for product development at the firm, later joined his Kerry colleagues for visits to many businesses over two years – and not just to Turkish restaurants, but those serving Asian and Greek cuisine too. They held individual meetings with restaurant chefs, conducted interviews and listened carefully to all the experts before creating a marinade inspired by everyone they talked to.
That was how the firm created a product that is innovative for this sector.
It was presented to restaurants and takeaway owners and their chefs for a taste test in London’s Selale Restaurant last year. Lamb and chicken marinated and grilled with the Kerry Kebab Base marinade were compared to meats prepared using the restaurants’ home-made marinades – and the response was positive.
The Kerry marinade, was then taken to restaurant and takeaway businesses around the country for further testing on site.
The result: a liquid marinade sauce sold in two-litre jerry cans for use by food businesses under the familiar “Chicken Train” brand. Chefs can still put a signature spin on the product by supplementing it with spices and yoghurt, if they so wish.
It is the latest sign of innovation in Britain’s Kebab Industry.