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How to dial hotel-quality frozen foods to your home

DeliFrance baked  products during their unveiling into the Kenyan market recently. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
DeliFrance baked products during their unveiling into the Kenyan market recently. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

To make the perfect, soft, fluffy, melt-in-your mouth croissant, you need the right ingredients, from the finest butter down to the finest grain of flour.

Once the ingredients are in, you have to develop the multiple layers, bake to get the golden flaky crust with the layers melting in your mouth like butter.

To achieve this takes time and a very high level of expertise, if you are lucky to have the most suited ingredients on hand.

It is this problem that had Arjun Patel and Paras Shah, directors at Kalon Kapital, thinking of a solution to cater for the exacting needs of hotels, coffee houses and retail stores that are setting up and expanding across the country, faster than the existing supply chain.

While travelling around Europe, the duo came across Delifrance, a bakery that supplies chains like Carlson Rezidor, Carrefour, and Starbucks among others, with ready-made pastries and f fresh French desserts across the world.

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The duo approached Delifrance, and after a tour of the facilities and product line, they were sold on the idea of bringing the same products to Kenya, targeting coffee house chains and the booming hospitality industry.

Carrefour

The partnership, says Lucas Crespy, director east Europe, Russia, Africa and Middle East for Delifrance, was fitting as their clients including Rezidor and Carrefour, were in the process of setting up locally.

The initial product line by Kalon Kapital included the croissants, pain chocolate, raisin whirls, macaroons, eclairs and paninis, all for the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Now, two years later, the increasing demand by retail has pushed the duo to introduce part of the line, particularly the croissants, for retail at local green grocery chain Zucchini. In addition, the product line has also expanded to include cheese pies, American-style cookies, a variety of cakes, doughnuts and breads.

Blast-freezing

All the treats are baked partially or fully in France by DeliFrance followed by a blast freezing process which is to preserve the pastry for up to six months in the freezer.

The croissants and breads are usually freeze to bake, which means that they can be taken straight from the freezer into the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes and they are ready for consumption.

The cakes and macaroons as well as the doughnuts and eclairs are ready-to-eat. They are taken out of the freezer into the fridge between four to six hours before consumption.

The reason the thawing is done in the fridge rather than at room temperature, says Arjun, is to ensure that it thaws evenly and to prevent some of the components like the chocolate on the eclairs from melting.

Retail frozen foods have been gaining popularity abroad and now locally over the years, with the freezers in supermarkets having more products in there apart from just the just cold meats.

The offerings have grown to include samosas, burgers, chapatis, fish fingers, fries, pizzas and even marinated meats just to mention a few.

For busy residents living in the city, who are becoming increasingly busy and spending more time on the road and in the offices, cooking does not seem to sit at the top of the priority list in these households.

Supermarket chains including Tuskys and Naivas and Nakumatt are sustaining palates with offerings of ready-made and ready-to-cook meals respectively for the home.

However, with the erratic hours and gridlocks that make Nairobi roads infamous, even freshly made food does not always meeting the demand. This is why more and more households are opting for pre-made frozen foods.

Ready-to-serve

The foods, like the fish fingers, come already portioned, cleaned and breaded, just waiting for a quick fry and they are ready to serve.

Others like the samosas and chapatis come in two variations, pre-cooked and ready to cook. This gives the option of warming them for a minute or less in the microwave or frying them yourself without the hassle of preparing the individual components.

The growing demand for quick and easy meals has also spurred the expansion of restaurants, particularly fast food as well as the home delivery system.

The middle-class Kenyan has embraced home delivery with most households having the contacts of their favourite restaurants on speed dial or using portals including Hellofoods and Dial-a-delivery to get their meals.

Chandarana supermarket has also introduced online shopping including delivery to customers right at their doorstep.

Other players in frozen food for retail include Alpha Foods and Sous Chef.

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