Veggies Turn into Noodles At Wegmans

wegmans-veggie-noodelsVegetables at Wegmans Food Markets are taking new shapes – some like little ribbons and others like nuggets no bigger than a grain of rice. These novel cuts of squash, beets and cauliflower easily replace starches like noodles, pasta or rice and pair nicely with dozens of different ingredients and sauces. Now families who want to eat more veggies can reach for one of these private brand veggie kits to get a great-tasting meal on the table, often in less time than it would take to cook traditional starches.

Sweet Potato Noodles, Beet Noodles and Butternut Squash Noodles are the newest members of a growing selection of prepped vegetable kits found in the produce departments at Wegmans. There are no grains in these “noodles.” They are actually thin spiral cuts of an uncooked sweet potato, beet or butternut squash. When cut this way, the vegetable acquires a fresh personality. Sautéing takes about 5 minutes, roasting takes 10-12 minutes.

Another recent arrival in fresh-cut veggies is cauliflower “rice,” featured in the fall 2016 issue of Wegmans Menu magazine with an array of serving ideas. Extremely versatile, cauliflower rice is delicious when replacing rice in favorite dishes such as beans and rice or peppers stuffed with meat and rice, and also tastes great cooked by itself with just a little basting oil.  Cauliflower rice is also delicious cold, making a great crunchy addition to a salad.

Other fresh-cut veggie noodle kits include:

Nutritionists couldn’t be happier with the new product line.

“Most Americans don’t eat enough vegetables,” says Wegmans Nutritionist Kirby Branciforte, RDN. “That’s true for both genders, across all age groups. Most people know they should eat more vegetables, and the kits make it easy to do that. I think the kits are here to stay, because the vegetables taste great in so many different preparations.”

The veggie kits make a great substitute for pasta or rice, without having to sacrifice taste and satisfaction. “Roughly speaking,” says Branciforte, “if you compare same-size portions of one of these veggies with a grain-based food like rice or pasta, the veggie serving will have about half of the calories. Of course, grain-based foods, especially those from whole grains, can also be part of a healthy diet. But these veggie kits are just one more way to help people keep a check on calories when they want to.”

How the veggie kit family grew

Wegmans focuses on ways to help families put easy, healthy, delicious meals on the table, and vegetables have been at the center of many culinary innovations.

“We’ve experimented with new ways to cut and finish vegetables so they pack a lot of taste appeal,” says Wegmans Produce Category Merchant Joe Pucci. “We started with squash planks — squash cut the long way and thin that you can grill or use to replace broad noodles in lasagna. That idea set off a chain reaction of new ideas from different areas of the company. Our Harrisburg team started making veggie spaghetti. Our New Jersey team came up with the cauliflower rice.”

When the spiral vegetable slicer called “Veggetti” arrived at Wegmans stores, it sparked a fresh surge of interest in these cuts of vegetables among customers, so Wegmans chefs took the idea to other vegetables, and pretty soon sweet potatoes, butternut squash and beets had joined the “noodle” family.

The new vegetable kits have been a solid success with customers, Pucci says. “I give a lot of the credit to our people in the stores who demonstrate easy ways to finish the veggies, so customers have the confidence to do it at home themselves.” Wegmans chefs have been working on new recipes for upcoming seasons so their fresh appeal will remain high. Stay tuned!

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.