This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player and subscribe in iTunes or the Podcasts app.
Think a can of soup is simple?
Before a big food company like Campbell's rolls out a new product, it undergoes years of development and testing by food scientists, chefs, and market researchers who all want to make the food as delicious (and profitable) as possible. That means food companies spend a lot of time and money trying to answer the same kinds of questions about food that we ponder here on The Sporkful all the time.
The culinary innovation process is extremely secretive, but this week on The Sporkful we pull back the curtain on the kitchen wizards at the Campbell's Soup Company.
In this episode, I tour the test kitchens at Campbell's world headquarters, near Philadelphia, and talk with their chefs and researchers.
Is soup actually better in cold weather? Will Ethiopian food someday be as common as Italian? How did a trendy Korean food truck in LA inspire a product that's now on shelves across the country? Listen in to find out.
Plus, what kind of kitchen are you? Campbell's researchers divide home cooks into five key market segments. Each type of cook has its own test kitchen at Campbell's world headquarters -- complete with fully stocked pantries, kitchen gadgets, and even refrigerator art.
"We have these kitchens set up to replicate the in-home experience to help [our] teams understand...what are
consumers faced with day to day when they think about meal planning," says Jane Freiman, director of Campbell's consumer test kitchen.
Jane shows me around the five kitchens and explains the differences between them.
Whether you want to cook but struggle to find the time (aka, "Constrained Wishful Eater") or if you struggle to find cabinet space for your army of cooking gadgets (aka, "Passionate Kitchen Master"), Campbell's has a kitchen for you.
Listen along and take our poll: "What kind of kitchen are you?"
Also in this show, we explore a Crock-Pot conundrum: 80 percent of U.S. households own slow cookers, but only two percent of dinners are made with them. Even Michelin-starred Chef Grant Achatz says he loves his Crock-Pot. He gave Food and Wine his slow cooker recipes for seafood and chicken gumbo and chicken "potpie" with stuffing crust. (We also like these recipes for slow cooker Chex mix, jalapeno popper taquitos, and soy and lime wings.)
Eaters, why are we snubbing this idiot-proof source of easy, delicious winter comfort food?
Not surprisingly, the researchers at Campbell's have some ideas about this, too.
"Consumers simply don't know what to do with their slow cooker," says Michael Goodman, director of innovation commercialization at Campbell's. "It sits under the cupboard until once a year at Super Bowl time it might come out to make a crock pot full of chili for their guests."
Photos by Anne Noyes Saini