6 July, 2023
Did you know that Coles sensory chefs blind taste every one of Coles Own Brand products as part of the brand’s commitment to providing quality for customers?
Coles chef Jason Oven learnt long ago that he needn’t bother packing lunch for work. After all, on any given day, he tastes up to 60 different foods that his team have prepared, as they work tirelessly to ensure that Coles Own Brand products offer a great eating experience for customers.
The chefs take to the test kitchen, cooking up the latest Coles idea, then sensory experts like Jason sample a number of variations. “We go through taste, texture, appearance and aroma for all of them,” he explains. “So if it was a tomato soup, I’d be drawing on my chef knowledge of what a tomato soup should be and what our customers would want – is it creamy, with a nice red-orange colour and enough tomato acidity?”
If they’re happy with a product they’ve created, it will be ready for production. If it fails against other variations, then Jason and his team go back to the drawing board to tweak the recipe until it triumphs in the next blind testing. “We continue to re-evaluate our products every six to 12 months to make sure the quality remains,” Jason adds.
You’ve probably noticed how much supermarket products have changed over the past 10 years, with new convenience and gourmet options continuously popping up. These tasty new options are ours for the eating, thanks largely to the research and development Jason and his team are forever undertaking. “We look at what’s trending in restaurants, on social media and in overseas supermarkets,” he says. “Recipe development takes lots of research, and not only do you need to develop something that’s delicious, but we have to take into account the availability of ingredients and the capabilities of our manufacturers to make a product [on a mass scale].”
Case in point is Coles Dreams Crumb True chocolate chip cookies. “We saw all these cafes opening up selling cupcakes and loaded doughnuts and we wanted to tap into that market to give our customers a really indulgent cookie,” Jason says. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we make the greatest chocolate chip cookie you can get your hands on? It was about the size and the texture – we went for one that’s soft and gooey.” And customers already can’t get enough. “Demand is so high, that we’re looking at incorporating another couple of flavours into the range,” Jason adds.
Jason and his team’s hard work was validated when Coles Own cleaned up at the 2023 Product of the Year Awards, with 11 products voted by consumers as best in class, including the frozen sweet potato chips, Vienna Stick ice-creams and 1L extra virgin olive oil. “My kids love the frozen sweet potato chips – just seven minutes in the air fryer and they’re crispy with that great sweet potato sweetness,” Jason says. “The Salted Caramel Vienna Sticks are our take on the classic Viennetta [dessert] with wafer thin chocolate throughout layered ice-cream with really good flavour on a portable stick.”
As interest rates rise and more Australians look to reduce their expenses, Jason sees Coles Own products as more important than ever. “People are conscious about money and that’s why supermarkets need to listen to customers and try to help them in every possible way,” he says. “We’re seeing that trend called ‘fakeaway’, which is people wanting a takeaway experience at home with food that tastes like restaurant quality with that ease of cooking at home.”
Indeed, Jason says his own home pantry is stocked with about 90 percent Coles Own Brand products. “Some of my family’s personal favourites are the Mexican tortillas and spices for Taco Tuesdays, as well as the Coles Own ketchup and the chef-developed convenience meals, like the butter chicken and Thai green curry,” he says. “I breathe the Coles Own Brand and am proud to say that we don’t use any artificial colours or flavours, and they’re mostly lower in sugar and sodium [than competitors].”