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How Senior Living Facilities Are Taking Food to The Forefront

February 16, 2021


The continued growth in senior living facilities has made it a darling of the foodservice industry. Projected to grow by more than 6% in 2020, senior living’s growth will far outpace fast food and casual dining restaurants according to Technomic.

Offering superior dining options are not only important to the well-being of residents but has become a key differentiator in marketing to new residents by senior living operators. The key is to provide higher quality food in environments as varied as coffee bars, exhibition cooking areas and upscale dining in a restaurant setting that promotes a feeling of community.

A case in point is The Garlands of Barrington, IL. Rated by U.S. News as one of the Best “Nursing Homes” of 2019, The Garlands offers a solution for those in various stages of a resident’s “life plan” from independent living in single family homes to memory care, skilled nursing, rehab services and respite care.

The Garlands can cater chef-prepared meals for a party at a resident’s home by its private golf course; offers a wine club for monthly tastings; a “jacket and reservations required” Roycroft elegant dining restaurant or host a resident’s friends over for wine and fine dining in the Eastlake private dining room.

At the John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, MO, the menu and how residents can access great food are much the same. Spanning 400 acres and with 1,000 residents, the facility operates 10 kitchens. Venues range from a Fireside cafeteria to the Courtyard Café with a full bar and patio seating. There, a certified chef introduce patrons to everything from microgreens and croissants served with lavender butter, to Jamaican jerk chicken. While the fare can be elegant at one venue, residents can also enjoy a hot dog during a game night celebration while viewing the big game with friends in another.

While the population at either of these senior living facilities may range from recent retirees to the greatest generation, all want foods that are mostly healthy but always delicious and of high quality that belies stereotypes from the past.

“We are seeing more and more senior living facilities that are interested in our Better Nutrition Made SimpleTM (BNMS) products, says Jodi Batten, Red Gold’s National Sales & Marketing Director for Education and Government. The BNMS line includes prepared sauces such as marinara and spaghetti sauces, salsa and even condiments, such as ketchup. All are made with natural sugar and are 70% lower in sodium. “Great taste was our first priority in creating this unique line of products offering better nutrition.”

Frequently termed “red sauce” by chefs, tomato-based sauces are a mainstay of almost every foodservice operation, including senior living. A recent Datassential survey found that a red sauce was featured on at least one item on 60% of all U.S. menus, whether they were commercial or non-commercial operations. Because Italian cuisine is so popular with consumers of all ages, red sauce-centric dishes are also easy hits. In fact, Datassential says 8 of the top 10 Italian dishes use a red sauce – whether it be pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce. Marinara sauce is also an ingredient for creating “community” within senior living facilities because of its ease in heating and serving as a dip for cheese sticks, pizza bites or other appetizers on game nights or at the bar.

Whether the sauce be one of Red Gold’s BNMS products or one of its traditional sauces, all are clean label and can be considered superfoods. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that by heating tomatoes for 30 minutes at 190.4° F, that is part of Red Gold’s manufacturing process, unlocks additional antioxidants, such as lycopene and beta-carotene, that boost disease-fighting goodness by as much as 62%. Even the ketchup for hot dogs on game night or tomato juice in the bloody mary at the bar in an upscale senior living facility will be welcomed. Residents will embrace the menu that chefs and marketers of the facility will love. The nutritionist will love the beneficial qualities of tomato products. Thus, a major upgrade in satisfaction is ahead for senior living facilities that add more tomato products to their menus.

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