Suppliers of commercial fryers insist business is still brisk in their part of the market despite greater scrutiny on healthy eating leading some to suggest that operators could be inclined to turn their back on fried food.
Growing awareness around better diets and the issue of obesity is well-documented, with many foodservice operators – including those in the fast food sector – focusing heavily on developing healthier options for customers.
But leading suppliers, such as Middleby, which owns the Pitco and FriFri brands, claims this has not translated into lower overall fryer sales.
UK sales manager, Kenny Smith, said: “There is no doubt that there is an opposition to fried food, but in our experience it’s mainly in public sector. In the private sector, burger chains and high-class steak restaurants are growing and both accompany their products with chips or fries. Most people do not fry at home so they see buying a fried product as a treat when they are out.”
Helen Applewhite, marketing manager Lincat, concurs that some sectors have moved away from heavy fryer usage but said this was balanced out by demand elsewhere.
“We have seen the demise of fryers in schools, but this hasn’t followed into the wider foodservice industry,” she says. “The majority of restaurants still offer some fried food, and there’s a greater understanding that it can be eaten as part of a healthy diet, which is why people are beginning to adopt healthier frying methods,” she said.
Mrs Applewhite said many chefs were now choosing to steam their chips prior to frying, allowing the product to be fried just once, in hotter oil. This has the effect of reducing the quantity of oil which is absorbed by the potato and therefore produces a healthier, less fatty chip.
“The evidence that we see from the operators suggests that their customers demand a balanced menu with some non-fried options. If people want a fried food choice, it needs to be of the best quality and cooked so that the ingress of oil into the food is minimised,” she added.
Suppliers also noted that fried food doesn’t necessarily have to be unhealthy, citing the growing number of chefs that are now making the switch to healthier oils, such as rapeseed oil, which contains omegas 3, 6 and 9.
Michael Eyre, product director at Jestic, said that while anti-fried food campaigns have become more vociferous, they tend to have focused more on lowering individual consumption of fried food rather than eliminating it completely.
“The majority of consumers will expect fried food such as chips, onion rings and breaded chicken to be widely available on a menu and while this is the case, there is much less reason for a chef or business owner to consider changing equipment,” he said.
Read the full article on the trends and challenges facing the fryer market in the latest issue of FEJ, available to view as a free digital edition HERE.