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A blockchain/IoT combo could reduce food fraud by $131B in five years

Using blockchain and IoT tracking technology to trace the journey food takes from farms to grocery store shelves will “revolutionize” the food industry, reducing retailers’ costs by streamlining supply chains and simplifying regulatory compliance, according to a new study by UK-based Juniper Research.

The report said blockchain’s immutable ledger, combined with IoT sensors and trackers, is key to creating a more efficient food recall process.

Food fraud relates to mislabelled, diluted or substituted food and ingredients.

“For example, extra virgin olive oil labelled as originating from Greece when in fact it comes from somewhere else,” said Juniper analyst Morgane Kimmich. “Much of the interest in the technology also comes from the fact that blockchain has the potential to give more control to all actors involved in the process, from farmers to retailers, by providing them with a transparent and immutable platform offering full visibility of the supply chain.”

[ Read the Download: Beginner’s guide to blockchain special report ]

With adoption increasing in the supply chain industry, blockchain and IoT will create $31 billion in food fraud savings globally by 2024 by immutably tracking food across the supply chain. Substantial savings in food fraud will be realized as early as 2021 and compliance costs will be reduced by 30% by 2024.

Currently, food tracking systems heavily rely on paper-based transactions to manually track assets throughout the supply chain, an inefficient system that allows records to be lost or unreconciled, Kimmich said. Additionally, paper-based records cannot be shared by all supply chain users, which reduces the overall visibility of the supply chain.

Starbucks mobile app Starbucks

Starbucks’ and Microsoft are creating a mobile “bean to cup” tracking app that may look like this and enable customers to see where their coffee was grown and the journey it took to their cup.

“Furthermore, companies often have to rely on intermediaries to perform these tasks. All of this adds a level of complexity to the supply chain, which in turn increases inefficiency, fraud and waste,” Kimmich said.

Private or “permissioned” blockchains can be created within a company’s four walls or between trusted partners and centrally administered while retaining control over who has access to information on the network.

Blockchain can also be used between business partners, such as a cloud vendor, a financial services provider and its clients.

While IoT devices shipped with goods link the physical and digital worlds primarily via location tracking sensors and temperature and humidity monitoring, blockchain provides a place where the data can be stored and accessed by everyone on the ledger. Ledger users can also be segmented so sensitive business data isn’t exposed to competitors, the report said.

The distributed ledger technology’s innate capabilities have not been lost on enterprises as pilots and proofs of concept are sprouting up across the industry. Twenty percent of the top 10 global grocers will use blockchain by 2025, according to a Gartner study.

“Blockchain can help deliver confidence to grocer’s customers, and build and retain trust and loyalty,” Joanne Joliet, a senior research director at Gartner, said in a statement. “Grocery retailers are trialing and looking to adopt blockchain technology to provide transparency for their products. Additionally, understanding and pinpointing the product source quickly may be used internally, for example to identify products included in a recall.”

Juniper’s research found IoT and blockchain will add significant value to players in the supply chain, from farmers to retailers and consumers. By replacing lengthy procedures with automated smart contracts, blockchain and the IoT save money, reduce risk and bring transparency to supply chains.

Juniper Research recommended that blockchain vendors seek IoT partnerships to appeal to stakeholders across the food production market. In some cases, that’s already happening.

The supply chain industry has been active in the blockchain space for the past two years, according to Kimmich.

In 2017, IBM launched Food Trust, a blockchain network based on the Hyperledger protocol; since then, it’s attracted a large group of leading food suppliers who are piloting it as part of a consortium. The group includesDole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, and Unilever.

In October, IBM announced a blockchain-based supply chain service with AI and IoT integration, adding to the company’s existing blockchain cloud offering.

Last year, Walmart completed two pilots using suppliers of mangoes and pork; after a proof-of-concept, the food-tracking blockchain network is now in production. Walmart told suppliers of produce to get onto its blockchain by the September of this year. The products on the blockchain-based supply chain also powered by IBM’s Food Trust Solution range from poultry and berries to yogurt and lettuce. And Walmart Canada just launched the “world’s largest” blockchain-based freight-and-payment network.

“While IBM’s Food Trust is the current market leader in blockchain-powered food tracking with 188 organizations shaping its network, other players are building on their solutions this year,” Kimmich said.

Oracle plans on strengthening its existing asset tracking solutions with supply chain temperature monitoring along with warranty and usage tracking, Kimmich added, while SAP currently supports 565 different products and engages with 70% of the US market.

walmart shoot bison winnipeg blockchain Walmart

Bison Transport was a carrier partner in the Walmart Canada’s pilot for a new freight and payment network based on blockchain and IoT. According to Rod Hendrickson, vice president of finance for Bison Transport, the end result is “a mutually beneficial solution.”

Meanwhile, Starbucks has partnered with Microsoft to build a blockchain supply chain aimed at tracking coffee beans from farms to stores and create a mobile app that lets customers track the supply chain journey of the beans they buy and the coffee they drink.

GrainChain, a blockchain-based supply chain service based in McAllen, Texas, is also being piloted by roughly 10% of Honduras coffee growers, or about 12,000 farmers, with an eye on going into full production around April 2020.

“When coffee farmers don’t have access to formal financial systems and formal contracts for purchase, they are the ones pushed down in the industry,” Macias said. “One of the larger focuses in the overall industry…is to find solutions to not only have more financial inclusion but enhance the ability for coffee producers to have a marketplace.”

supply chain blockchain coffee beans hand with coffee cup of coffee by nathan dumlao via unsplash Frankie / Gerson Cifuentes / Nathan Dumlao / Modified by IDG Comm. (CC0)

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Food fight: Slack and Microsoft trade barbs, sling stats in collaboration app battle

Competition between Slack and Microsoft over their respective chat apps has intensified recently, as the two companies clash over new usage stats – with Slack’s share price tumbling last week in the wake of new adoption figures for Teams.

Even so, analysts say Slack’s stickiness and strong user engagement offer it an advantage as businesses begin to adopt workstream collaboration software more widely.

Microsoft last week announced that Teams now has 20 million daily active users, up more than 50% from 13 million in June. The publication of those user figures appeared to have an immediate impact on Slack’s share price, which saw an 11% drop the following day. In fact, Slack’s share price has fallen by more than half since its public listing in June – an apparent sign of investor concern over its ability to compete with Microsoft long-term. 

Launched by Microsoft in 2017, Teams is available at no extra cost with certain subscriptions of Office 365; the suite has more than 200 million monthly active users. It competes with Slack and others in a team collaboration software market worth $3.5 billion this year, according to IDC analysts.

However Slack – which announced it has 12 million daily active users in October (up from 10 million in January) – has frequently called Microsoft’s user metrics into question, claiming it does not measure daily use the same way.

Daily active use and the battle of stats

The upstart contends that its customers spend more time using its application productively each day, with individuals logged in for more than nine hours, on average. This includes 90 minutes of active interaction, the company said, such as sending direct messages or reading posts in public channels. 

“As we’ve said before, you can’t transform a workplace if people aren’t actually using your product,” a Slack spokesperson said in response to Microsoft’s user figures, which it claims are overinflated. 

Microsoft said it defines daily active use as “the maximum daily users performing an intentional action in the last 28-day period across the desktop client, mobile client and web client.” 

Examples of such actions include “starting a chat, placing a call, sharing a file, editing a document within Teams, participating in a meeting, etc.”  Microsoft said it removes “passive actions” like auto-boot, minimizing a screen, or closing the app from its calculations, and de-dupes all actions across a single user ID. 

The spokesperson added there were 27 million voice or video meetings held in Teams in October, and 220 million “open, edit, or download actions” on files held in Teams. That equates to 11 such actions per user each month, on average.

Slack meanwhile said there are more than 5 billion user actions each week, such as reading and writing messages, uploading and commenting on files and interacting with apps.

Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at CCS Insight, said that the focus on granular levels of app use amounts to more than just posturing by Slack, serving to highlight how central the app can be to team workflows.

As Slack contends, its app is often central to a range of team interactions and workflows.

Ashenden said that, while Microsoft’s adoption figures are certainly impressive, much of Teams’ traction appears to center on meetings, thanks to Microsoft’s decision to essentially move Skype for Business Online and its users into Teams, rather than supporting employee workflow, as Slack claims to do.

“At the moment, Slack definitely has the edge in true workstream collaboration, both in terms of capabilities and customer usage,” said Ashenden. 

“Slack’s discussion about active interaction on the platform might sound pedantic, but it does highlight how central its platform is to its users’ daily activities – it’s part of their workflow, and this makes it very sticky.”

She added that, while Microsoft has made moves to improve Teams as a workstream collaboration tool, with renewed focus on integrations and automation tools such as PowerApps and Power Automate, it still lags behind Slack. 

“Until Microsoft gets a better story here, in terms of its communication to customers as well as its third party integration and developer/partner support, Slack’s position remains strong,” she said.

The gloves come off

Rivalry between the two companies has existed since Microsoft first announced the creation of Teams in 2016. Slack’s response was to take out a full page ad in the New York Times, to “welcome” Microsoft as a competitor.

CEO Stewart Butterfield has been more publicly critical of the Microsoft in recent weeks. During an on-stage interview with WSJ Tech Live last month, Butterfield accused Microsoft of “surprisingly unsportsmanlike conduct,” claiming the company has offered to pay businesses to use Teams, and took Microsoft to task for releasing Teams adoption stats soon after Slack’s post-public listing, a federally mandated quiet period for the company.

“The bigger point is that’s kind of crazy for Microsoft to do, especially during the quiet period,” he said. He added that “I think they feel like we’re an existential threat.”

Butterfield also questioned the popularity of Teams among users, noting that most the popular Google searches for Microsoft Teams relate to ways to uninstall the application.

“All of the top searches are how to uninstall, how to stop it from popping up, how to get rid of it,” he said. “So there is a very aggressive push to get people in there.”

On Thursday, Slack’s PR team also hit back at Microsoft on social media, tweeting a video that compared promotional videos for their respective products to show clear similarities. The tweet text read “OK, boomer,” referencing a meme in order to mock the perception of Microsoft as old and out of touch.

Microsoft has also fired broadsides recently. In an interview with The Verge, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, said that Slack lacks the “breadth and depth” of Teams.

During a pre-recorded press briefing for Microsoft’s Ignite conference last month, Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of communications, also made a thinly-veiled reference to Slack when discussing Teams usage with Spataro.

“Everybody has a different way of measuring things; what success looks like for us might be different to somebody else. But I have wonder if, hypothetically, spending nine hours a day in a chat app is a good productive use of time,” said Shaw.

“We are not trying to replace email with chat,” responded Spataro. “If someone is spending nine hours in a communications tool, we wonder is that really where you should be? We look at Teams as this hub where its strength undoubtedly is the underlying Microsoft 365 workloads. That is what is all about.”

How will Teams’ growth affect Slack?

While such talk is par for the course between two competing companies, it shows how seriously the two firms are throwing rhetorical elbows. Last year, Microsoft, with a market cap of more than $1 trillion, listed Slack as an official competitor to its Office suite in its annual 10K report, placing it alongside Apple, Cisco, Google and IBM. 

And it reportedly put Slack on a list of internally banned apps, ostensibly for security concerns. (Slack’s CEO claims there are still pockets of use within the company.)

Perhaps the most significant sign of competition between the two  is the scale of Microsoft’s investments in building out Teams. In addition to deepening integrations with Office 365 tools, it has introduced a wide range of features, including capabilities to support “frontline” workers. At its Ignite event, there was a notable increase in the volume of Teams announcements, including the launch of private channels, an important feature Slack has had for some time.

And Teams has plenty of room to grow, too, with only a small proportion of Office 365 customers currently using the app.

Despite Slack’s swift uptake – it has claimed to be  the fastest growing business app of all time – and growing revenues, the company has yet to make a profit. It reported an annual loss of $138.9 million for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31 on revenues of $400.6 million. In its most recent quarterly results, Slack posted higher-than-expected revenues of $145 million. 

Slack has struggled at times since its public listing in June. Despite its swift uptake – it’s regarded as the fastest growing business app of all time – and growing revenues, it has yet to make a profit. It reported an annual loss of $138.9 million for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2019 on revenues of $400.6 million. In its most recent quarterly results, it posted higher-than-expected revenues of $145 million. 

Nevertheless, it has continued to attract more users in the past year as it has added automation capabilities, improved links with email (including Microsoft’s Outlook), while boosting security and management capabilities in Enterprise Grid, which is aimed at large businesses. Slack sees big potential in the long term, and estimated in its S-1 filing that the market has a potential value of $28 billion

While Slack and Teams play in the same market, the impact of Teams on Slack’s growth can easily be overstated, said Larry Cannell, a research director at Gartner. 

“Certainly, users in Office 365 enterprises are getting exposed to Teams, but that alone does not guarantee success,” he said. “Also, Slack has a fair amount of momentum all its own with some extremely passionate users.”

For many companies, this is not necessarily an “either/or” scenario; in many cases, businesses are using both apps.  (Computerworld employees have access to both apps.) According to Slack’s CEO, the majority of its customers also pay for Office 365 too.

Cannell added that, while it is natural for any company to be concerned when Microsoft offers up a successful competing product it is too early to see who will come out on top.  

“Successfully using either product requires changes in how groups operate on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “Each vendor is taking different approaches to encouraging or enabling this behavioral change and is too early to tell who will be successful.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Mastercard partners on blockchain-based food supply chain

Mastercard is partnering with food track-and-trace software provider Envisible to create a blockchain-based supply chain platform to help supermarkets trace the origin of seafood.

Envisible’s new Wholechain traceability system will be powered by Mastercard’s blockchain-based Provenance service; it’s designed to give grocery partners more insight into the ethical sourcing and environmental compliance of the seafood sold at their stores.

Topco‘s member grocery chains, starting with Food City, will be the first to use the supply chain ledger. The first of several species to be tracked will be salmon, cod and shrimp.

“Companies in fragmented supply chains make it harder to see end-to-end traceability,” said Deborah Barta, senior vice president, Innovation and Startup Engagement, at Mastercard. “We thought, what if we brought blockchain in to track from the origin of goods to consumer’s hands and give the ability to see ethical sourcing, compliance and enable consumers to discover the journey of the products they’re buying.”

Wholechain is a “production-grade system” – not a proof of concept or pilot, Barta said.

Customers at Topco’s stores will begin seeing QR codes on seafood and by scanning the codes with their smartphone’s camera, they can access background information about where the fish were caught and the journey to the store.

Mastercard has plans to extend its provenance solution to designer wear, luxury goods and more, the company said. When the company launched its Provenance blockchain service in April, it was initially aimed at tracking and monitoring the production chain for some in the fashion industry.

“Mastercard is trying to be in the middle of the lucrative $125 trillion business-to-business payment market by establishing a foothold in one of the most successful and promising use cases for blockchain, i.e. provenance – and in this case provenance for seafood that is prone to spoilage and must be handled super carefully in transit,” said Avivah Litan, a Gartner vice president of research.

Mastercard is also taking Visa head on in the competition for new age B2B payments, as Visa has already launched a blockchain product to support B2B payments, Litan noted.

It is also in seeming competition with JP Morgan Chase’s stablecoin blockchain and other similar bank initiatives, Litan said.

Businesses on the Wholechain supply chain will, through a set of APIs, be able to also connect to Mastercard’s payment system, Barta said, meaning they’ll not only be able to track shipments but pay for them, too.

Mastercard’s payment system can support up to 25,000 payments per second.

“Blockchain has the potential to support much more efficient and rapid payments than is possible today on legacy networks,” Litan said. “Blockchain also gives participants much needed visibility into the end-to-end payment stream, helping to eliminate most of the time spent on costly disputes and resolutions.”

Mastercard and Envisible’s supply chain is an example of a hybrid blockchain, where B2B data is transmitted across a permissioned blockchain and the consumer-facing information resides on a public or open blockchain that can be downloaded as a mobile application. Hybrid blockchains are expected to dominate in the ecommerce arena.

IBM has been piloting its Food Trust blockchain-based supply chain for more than a year. Those pilots also involved Topco, Carrefour and retailers such as Walmart.

Earlier this month, IBM signed a partnership with Raw Seafoods Inc. to launch a blockchain-based seafood supply chain that includes stakeholders like fisheries, distributors, retailers and restaurateurs. It will initially track scallops.

“Of the different niche segments within supply chains, the seafood industry stands to gain a great deal from visibility into its product movement, as it remains one of the most counterfeited products within the food supply chain,” IBM said in a statement.

Earlier this year, a study by ocean-conservation foundation Oceana found that one in every five seafood products tested had been mislabeled – making 20% of all seafood in the supply chain at any given moment fraudulent. Oceana’s sample set ranged over 400 samples collected from 250 locations in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

This is far from Mastercard’s first foray into blockchain.

In 2017, Mastercard opened access to its blockchain platform via APIs published on the Mastercard Developers site. The company has tested and validated its blockchain and is using its platform in the business-to-business (B2B) market to address “challenges of speed, transparency and costs in cross-border payments.

“The Mastercard blockchain technology will complement the company’s existing capabilities including virtual cards, Mastercard Send and Vocalink to support all types of cross-border, B2B payment flows – account-based, blockchain-based and card-based,” the company said in a statement.

In September, Mastercard partnered with R3, a blockchain company created by a consortium of 300 banks and other companies, to build a cross-border payment system based on the distributed ledger technology.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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What Do Food Expiration Dates Really Mean? – LifeSavvy

woman scrutinizing the expiration date on a container of food
lightpoet/Shutterstock

Food expiration dates appear on nearly all food items. It’s likely you’ve eaten foods past their listed expiration date and not noticed anything different. When something expires, should you throw it out right away?

Understanding the Expiration Date on Foods

Many foods contain a “sell by” date, which tells the store when to take that item off the shelf and stop selling it. It doesn’t mean that food is expired and unsafe to eat. In fact, according to the FDA, confusion over the dates on food and what the labeling actually means accounts for roughly one-fifth of consumer food waste.

Many of these types of labels are on food items. Bakery items often have a “best if used by” date, which alerts you to how long your pastries and bread will still be at their freshest.

A “use by” date might sound like a locked-in expiration date, but even that title doesn’t mean the food is instantly going to go bad. Like the “best if used by” on bread, “use by” means that’s the date at which the product may start to lose quality and freshness.

In fact, the very phrasing “best if used by,” “used by,” etc., aren’t even officially mandated, although the FDA encourages companies to use “best if used by” on their packaging.

Speaking of the FDA, according to them the biggest consideration is proper storage—it doesn’t matter if the “best by” date on your jug of milk is three days ago if the milk still smells fresh and has been refrigerated properly.

When to Get Rid of Food

Most food items are good for a few days to a few weeks past their “sell by” dates. Meat, poultry, and fish should be used or frozen on or within a few days of that date (make sure to cook immediately after thawing). Eggs are fine up to a month past their “sell by” date. Milk should be used within the following week. Canned goods and shelf-stable foods like cereal and grains are safe to eat well beyond the date on the container as long as they have been stored properly.

That said, if something smells bad, is discolored, or has mold growing on it, then it has definitely reached its expiration date. At this point, it’s safer to throw it out than to test it.





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Six Food Seasoning Mistakes to Avoid – LifeSavvy

a chef seasoning chicken before cooking it
Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Ever taken a bite of a meal you’ve worked so hard on only to find it’s way too salty, or hardly has flavor at all? Avoid these seasoning mistakes and learn how to balance your flavors with these simple techniques.

Not Sampling as You Cook

If you’ve gone through the trouble of chopping your veggies, sautéing chicken and adding all sorts of fun colors to your meal you want your efforts to be rewarded right? Sitting down to eat only to discover the flavor is way off can be discouraging.

Avoid this by testing your food out during the cooking process. A great way of getting yourself in the habit is by using the two-spoon trick, which also prevents double-dipping.

When you have a recipe to follow, putting all of your ingredients out on the counter is a great way to prepare for cooking your dish. Add a side plate with two different spoons too.

Using two different looking spoons works excellent to ensure you don’t mix them up. Always use one spoon to pick up the food you want to try and place it into the other spoon for tasting.  Make sure your two spoons never touch. That way, you are never cross-contaminating your food with germs, and you won’t have to wash multiple spoons.

Not Using Enough Salt

Understanding that everyone has a unique preference for taste is essential, but did you know that a balanced meal should have these five types of tastes? They are salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Umami is Japanese for “delicious taste.”

Sprinkling kosher salt on raw chicken breast with vegetables in the background.

Salt is one of the most integral parts of your meal. Not only is it an essential nutrient, but it interacts with the food and helps release molecules in the air—giving your food a lovely aroma and contributing to your enjoyment of the meal. If done right, salt should enhance your meal, but if done wrong, your food will be bland or extremely briny.

When cooking, adding too little salt or choosing not to add salt can be a huge mistake. While some ingredients have a specific role of providing their natural flavors to the dish, some foods need that extra kick of flavor to stand out.

Try using Kosher salt instead of table salt for your cooking needs from now on. It is flakier and coarser than table salt, but it’s perfect for throwing into your pot of boiling pasta and goes great on meat before searing.

Overseasoning Your Food

Overseasoning your food is a simple mistake (and it’s easy to add too much too quickly), so remember to test your food as you go. It’s never fun to fight through a meal that tastes too strong, but what’s worst is throwing it out because the seasoning is outright overwhelming

This happens to most of us at some point, so if you happen to shake that seasoning shaker a bit too hard, here are a few tricks you can do to fix it.

Depending on your meal, sometimes a squeeze of lemon or drizzled honey will help. Using sweetness or sourness to counter the other intense flavors usually does the trick. If your soup or sauce is too salty, dilute it with water or cream.

Remember, to prevent over seasoning sample as you go to ensure you hit that sweet spot without overpowering the dish.

Not Using Fresh and Dry Herbs

Dry herbs and fresh herbs each have an essential purpose that differs from one another, and understanding when to use each will exponentially benefit your cooking.

Fresh and dried herbs including parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, and bay leavesSummertime is a great time to make a mini herb garden, so you have fresh herbs on hand throughout the warm months. Not only will you have a selection of herbal ingredients, but you’ll save money by having them right outside your door. Using fresh herbs to finish or garnish a dish is the best way to reach all the natural flavors, so make sure it’s added towards the end of cooking.

Dried herbs are much more convenient and cheaper to buy, and if used correctly, the flavor will be just right. Make sure your dried herbs are added early on in the cooking process if you want the robust flavors to stand out. Anything that needs to simmer for over an hour does better with dried herbs.

Not Using Lemons

Lemons can do so much to a meal, especially when it lacks something extra. Making a pan sauce for chicken? Add some freshly squeezed lemon right at the end, and you’ll be taking that sauce to the next level.

Fresh lemon juice also does wonders to fish entrees and takes away the “fishy” taste that many people don’t enjoy.

Don’t forget to squeeze some lemon juice on your fresh veggies either. It goes great on asparagus, green beans, broccoli, and salads.

Not Using Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Cracked black pepper is made by hand using a pepper mill to grind peppercorns at the time you need them. Regular ground pepper, the stuff you buy in the tin at the grocery store, is ground weeks to months before you buy it.

Why does it matter? When you use cracked black pepper not only are you creating a more pungent flavor to your dish, but you are also adding texture that regular ground cannot offer.

Cracked pepper is great for meat rubs, and makes an excellent finish for most savory meals. If you’re in a pinch and only have ground pepper, it’ll do, but we recommend you keep a pepper mill by your stove to take advantage of the rich flavor of fresh ground pepper.


There are many ways to create a delectable dish and so many ways to ruin what could be a delicious meal. But with these tips under your belt, you’ll avoid ruining your dish by over or under seasoning it.





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7 Food Presentation Tricks to Bring the Restaurant Experience Home – LifeSavvy

A steak on a plate, covered in garnishes on a white tablecloth in a restaurant.
Pietruszka/Shutterstock

How to create a tasty meal is a skill, but so is bringing ingredients together to present an indulgent look. These seven presentation tricks will help you bring the restaurant experience home.

Plating Tools

Before we talk about technique, let’s talk about tools. The right tools help you take your decorating skills to the next level. You probably already have some of these items, but if not, they’re all pretty inexpensive:

  • A squeeze bottle: If you’ve ever wondered how a chef got that precisely drizzled chocolate swirl on your dessert, it most likely came from a squeeze bottle. You can use these to create more intricate designs or more intentionally place sauces and purees on a plate.
  • A saucier spoon: These are handy when you need to drag sauce across a plate to create the right look. A fancy spoon is nice, but if you don’t have one or can’t spring for one now, you can use a humble tablespoon (we did in the example photos in the next section).
  • Tongs: When you need to place food on a dish carefully, tongs are the answer. Use smaller tongs for meals with delicate components.

7 Presentation Tricks

You have the tools—now you need the tricks. Here are some really simple but effective ways to up your presentation game.

Plate Size, Shape, and Color

The color, shape, and size of the plate impact the way your meal looks. Sometimes, you have to experiment until you find the size or shape that looks best.

Generally, a white plate makes a bright-colored meal stand out, and a larger plate puts the focus on the final design. A rectangular plate might work for one meal, but a square plate might look more appealing paired with your dinner entrée, so try some different combinations.

Always Plate in Odd Numbers

When you plate your dish with odd quantities, it provides more visual appeal. This is why restaurants typically serve appetizers in odd-number groupings. You can bring that trick right home to your own kitchen.

Also, when you serve an odd number of helpings, it makes the dish look like there’s more on it, even if it’s only one extra stuffed mushroom.

Make Small Portions

Eggplant Parmesan on a white square plate next to a glass of red wine.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Small portions tend to stick out nicely—especially when they’re on a dish that’s a bit larger. You want eyes focused on the central part of the meal, but also to take in the contrast between the food and plate.

This can be tricky, though, because you also want to avoid too much white space. Play around with different combinations until it looks just right.

Use Colorful Ingredients

The protein in your entrée is always your focal point, but you can use bright-colored vegetables and sauces to create a lovely background. Choose colors that work well together as this enhances the appearance of your plate. People might just think you’re a chef!

Wear Gloves

When you prepare ready-to-eat food, be sure to wear gloves. This prevents any germs on your hands from contaminating the meal. You also won’t leave any fingerprints on the plate borders.

Before you send a dish out to your guests, check it carefully for any food marks that don’t belong. You can use a damp washcloth to carefully remove any imperfections. Most restaurants do this to ensure your plate is perfect before it hits your table.

Embellish Your Plate with Sauce

When you use sauce intentionally, it makes a world of difference when it comes to serving a gorgeous plate of food. Use a soup (or saucier) spoon to smear or drag sauce across the plate and create a stunning design. Check out the examples below we created with a strawberry coulis.

To replicate this design, plop down a spoonful of puree, and drag it across the plate with the side of your spoon. This is a neat way to add some flavor and visual appeal to your next dessert.

A spoonful of strawberry puree dragged across a white plate to create a design.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Use the same technique described above, but this time, use the bottom of your spoon to drag it across the plate. This design is more substantial, as shown below.

Strawberry puree design created by dragging the bottom part of a spoon across the white plate.

You can also create a simple design if you spread the puree to follow the shape of your plate. When you use this technique on a traditional round plate, you get a nice comet-like arc, like the one below.

Strawberry puree design created by dragging the bottom of a spoon following the shape of a round, white plate.
Emilee Unterkoefler

If you drizzle a thin amount of puree, you can use the tip of your spoon to drag the sauce in a zigzag pattern, as shown below. This fun design can add a little excitement to a plain-looking dessert.

Strawberry puree design created by drizzling the sauce, and then dragging it with the tip of a spoon in a zigzag pattern over a white plate.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Something as simple as creating a pattern out of a splash of sauce offers an immediate (and low effort) visual boost to your dish.

Complement Your Dish with a Garnish

Garnishes should always be edible, complement the flavors of your meal, and provide more appeal to your entrée without distracting from the focal point.

Before you select a garnish for a plate, make sure it nicely accompanies the meal and is small enough to eat in a single bite. Here are some easy garnishes you can use on various entrees:

  • Fish and seafood: Place a lemon wedge on top.
  • Savory poultry: Add a sprig of parsley.
  • Pasta with a red sauce: Place three basil leaves.
  • Enchiladas or a pico de gallo: Add a sprig of cilantro.
  • Pot roast or roasted turkey: Add a sprig of thyme or a sage leaf.
  • Desserts: Use bright berries or shaved chocolate.

Even if your guests don’t eat the garnish, the visual punch is substantial and really dresses up the plate.


Decorating your plate is a great way to bring fun into your kitchen. Next time you plan a dinner party, select your menu weeks ahead of time and practice some of these techniques before the big day.

Not only will you wow your guests, but you might even impress yourself!





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Which Incredibly Shelf-Stable Food Was Once Quite Perishable?

Twinkie snack cakes, with one broken open to reveal the cream filling
Hostess Brands, Inc.

Answer: Twinkies

Twinkies have quite the reputation as an indestructible treat where the expiration date is more of a legal necessity than any sort of actual caution against eating them. While that reputation might be well deserved, Twinkies do eventually go bad (officially, the shelf life of a Twinkie is 45 days). Historically, however, the first Twinkie recipe was quite delicate, and early Twinkies spoiled after mere days.

Introduced in 1930, the original Twinkie had a shelf life of only two days because of the eggs, milk, and butter used. Salesman were continually dispatched to replenish the stock on local shelves. A shortage of ingredients, especially the bananas that made up the original cream filling, led to a restructuring of the recipe. In the process, Hostess opted to make Twinkies more shelf stable to cut down on the expense of constantly restocking them.





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What Food Was It Once Possible To Buy In Cheese-Like Prepackaged Slices?

A promotional photo for P.B. Slices, laid on top of a pile of peanuts.
P.B. Slices

Answer: Peanut Butter

For a brief and strange time during the 2000s, you could purchase a culinary oddity never seen before (and, outside of very limited markets in places like Hawaii and Arizona, unseen since): prepackaged slices of peanut butter.

The product was the brainchild of Stewart Kennedy, formerly a business and marketing specialist in the agricultural and food product industry. He pitched the idea to a food engineer, and they, in turn, pitched the idea to the Oklahoma Peanut Commission (peanuts are serious business in Oklahoma). After burning through hundreds of pounds of peanut butter and a huge number of failed formulas, they produced a slice of peanut butter that was shelf stable, could be wrapped in plastic and released cleanly when preparing a sandwich and, well, was entirely peculiar.

It was that peculiarity that led to low market adoption. Unlike products such as cheese, wherein being sliced and wrapped is a fairly normal extension of how one would eat the food anyway, people simply didn’t associate peanut butter with slices and, no matter how clever it might have been, the product never took off.





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Would You Let Walmart Put Food Directly Into Your Fridge? – Review Geek

Walmart InHome
Walmart

Walmart announced a new service this morning called “InHome” that will allow orders to be placed online and delivered directly to your fridge. Not your doorstep—an employee will come into your house and put your groceries away for you. Yeah.

So here’s the thing, the knee-jerk reaction in, well, nearly everyone is “What? No!”—myself included. But after thinking about this a bit more, I think there’s a use-case for a service like this, even if it’s incredibly niche.

I think the biggest argument in favor of this type of service is for the handicapped. It’s hard for immobile people to do things like this for themselves, so a service that can help simplify any small part of their life is worth exploring at the very least. Sure, those people also have caretakers that can do this kind of thing for them, but even marginally lightening the load of those caretakers would be helpful.

There’s also the case of immunocompromised people—chemotherapy patients, transplant recipients, and the like. These folks can’t be around large groups of people (especially early on during treatment when the immune system is at its weakest), so this type of service could also benefit them. There’s the argument that a simple deliver-to-your-door grocery service would suffice, which is also true. But oftentimes people dealing with a weakened immune system are also ill or may not have the strength to physically pick up grocery bags and carry them into another room.

But yeah, for most people, this is probably a bad idea. Walmart says that employees will have to be with the company for “at least a year” before they’ll let them step through your door, but even then I’m skeptical. If you’re into at least trying it out, the service launches later this year in Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; and Vero Beach, FL.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this—would you let Walmart (or any company, for that matter) into your home to put groceries away for you?

 [Walmart via Engadget]





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FDA to pilot A.I., consider blockchain, to track and trace food

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today a “new era of smarter food safety” under which it will test artificial intelligence and machine learning to better assess foodborne illness risks from imports and explore blockchain for tracking all foods before they hit grocery store shelves.

In February, the FDA announced pilot programs focused on tracking the movement of medicines throughout the supply chain undere the authority of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act of 2013. The pilots include the use of blockchain.

The agency’s latest moves are part of an effort to standardize and implement “new and emerging” technologies in food tracking systems in accordance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, which vastly expanded FDA oversight, including giving it recall authority. FSMA was the direct result of a number of foodborne illness incidents during the 2000s.

When it comes to food traceability, many suppliers rely on a largely paper-based system of taking one step forward to identify where the food has gone and one step back to identify the source. But rarely is food traceable to its origin.

Last year, 210 people from 36 states became ill – and five died – from an E. coli bacteria outbreak traced to romaine lettuce. Because the origin of the lettuce could not immediately be ascertained, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning for consumers to avoid all types of romaine lettuce; hundreds of stores threw out millions of dollars worth of produce. It was weeks before the tainted lettuce was eventually traced back to Yuma, Ariz.

“We’re at this inflection point in society where many of these technologies emerging have been used in the private sector around us and now we’re looking at what role they can play to help us address some of the remaining health challenges that we have,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response. “For blockchain, the area that jumps out at me most quickly is the role it could play to enhance tracking and tracing food.”

Frank Yiannas Walmart Walmart

Frank Yiannis, FDA deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response.

Part of the FDA’s job it so assess the risks of food imported into the U.S., something that has increased “exponentially” over the past several years.

“Imported foods are increasing because we’ve gone from a place where you went to a concrete structure [to get your groceries] to the world becoming your grocery store; you’re able to order foods from around the world,” Yiannas said.

The FDA has an electronic tracking system that evaluates risk using a database screening system that combs through every distribution line of imported food, ranking risk based on historical data input by people who classify foods as higher or lower risk. Higher-risk foods get more scrutiny at ports of entry.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can strengthen the FDA’s predictive capabilities to evaluate which imported foods pose the greatest risks and, thus, require additional inspections.

Turning to new tools, Yiannas said, means the FDA can analyze more data than ever before and make screening and risk predictions more dynamic instead of relying heavily on people with subject-matter expertise.

“The idea is…we’re working a little smarter,” Yiannas said.

Prior to taking on his role at the FDA in December, Yiannas was Walmart’s vice president in charge of food safety where he oversaw the implementation of large-scale pilots of a blockchain-based food tracking system based on IBM’s Food Trust cloud service.

Walmart’s pilots showed the amount of time needed to trace a food item from store to farm was reduced from seven days (using a legacy system) to just 2.2 seconds (with a blockchain ledger).

Walmart blockchain Walmart, MIT, IDG

Frank Yiannas, former Walmart vice president in charge of food safety, and now the deputy commissioner of Food Policy & Response at the FDA, explains how blockchain cut the time to track the origin of a package of mangoes.

Last fall, Walmart asked its food suppliers to upload their produce data to a corporate blockchain ledger within a year to enable end-to-end traceability of vegetables back to the farm where they were grown.

Earlier this month, grocery chain Albertson’s announced it’s joining dozens of retailers and suppliers on the blockchain-based IBM Food Trust network to keep track of items in the food supply chain such as romaine lettuce.

Blockchain networks, such as GrainChain, have also been used to increase the efficiency of agricultural settlement payments to farmers and suppliers while providing the immediate availability of tradable commodities to buyers.

The FDA is involved in overseeing the safety of about 80% of food products in the U.S. So while the agency is looking to new technologies to update its own internal systems, it’s also seeking help the private sector standardize on methods that will scale its ability to track and trace food supply chains.

Consumers, Yiannas said, are driving the conversation around traceability as they voice concerns about the origin of what they eat.

The FDA plans to hold a public meeting later this year to discuss smarter food safety, seek industry input and share ideas on its overall strategy and initiatives. The agency  will be considering the role standards play in scaling food traceability systems and how those systems can be made more interoperable because there are many blockchain platforms in the market today.

“Our role is to be a guide and a thought partner on how these things scale so that both the public and private sectors, and ultimately consumers, can benefit and trust it,” Yiannas said. “We believe there won’t be a one solution that dominates the entire food system, so for this to scale they will truly have to be interoperable.”

Most critical to expanding food traceability among private growers, shippers and retailers through a blockchain-based network will be setting the rules around self-governance. Blockchains are built around a consensus mechanism where users determine what transactions can be added to a ledger as well as how to address business process issues when they arise.

Getting an agreement on an appropriate governance model is one of the biggest challenges for any enterprise blockchain initiative, according to Martha Bennett, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. ” I know of projects that have been halted or never took off due to failure to agree on one,” she said.

While there’s no set timeline for rolling out a production screening system that employs AI and blockchain, Yiannas said he expects the technology, once piloted, to catch on quickly.

“Over the years, I’ve learned these things can scale more rapidly than what people used to think. We’ve seen how some of these technologies can emerge pretty quickly, whether it’s ride sharing or Airbnb,” Yiannas said. “I think the key is once you figure out how to get ecosystems to collaborate, once we figure out the role of the public sector and the standards of interoperability, solutions can escalate.”



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