Muffins hold steady

first_imgWidespread innovation is keeping the muffin category very much alive, as Andrew Williams discoversIt has been a good year for muffins. So much so, that they may even provide an answer to world peace and not many bakery products can claim that. The US military is reportedly tempting captured Taliban insurgents into talking with chocolate nut muffins (true story).This year saw one in 10 more households buying muffins and by that, we mean the UK, not Afghanistan. Spend on in-store bakery muffins has been a runaway success in 2010 and volumes have shot up by a quarter. While much of this is down to price discounts and promotions on packs, a 15% value rise is nonetheless impressive. Plant-manufactured muffins also posted steady growth.Retail is winning the war with foodservice. Figures supplied by NPD Group, which tracks the foodservice market, showed a strong decrease in the number of out-of-home servings of muffins, down 12.2% (52 w/e September 10, 2010). However, it should be noted that much of that decline is accounted for by fewer muffins supplied into education and the workplace; the share of the market supplying into quick service retail outlets actually increased by 2.9% over this time. More people are eating muffins as a late snack, while afternoon consumption, which by far dominates out-of-home consumption of muffins, declined.So where next for market innovation? “I have started catering for the non-sweet-toothed person and found that my range of savoury muffins has really taken off and sells out very quickly everywhere I go,” says National Cupcake Week finalist Angie Townsend of The Tiny Cake Company. “They are proving very popular with our male customers, who tend to shy away from the girlie buttercream swirls and glitter.” Savoury muffins lend themselves to creative flavour combinations such as farmhouse cheddar & bacon, savoury Italian and asparagus and cheese, she adds.For those of us sick of the sight of blueberry and chocolate muffins, there is thankfully some innovation emerging in the category. “We’ve seen a move away from chocolatey options seen in so many cafés,” says Charlotte Pike, MD of free-from specialists Go Free Foods. “Our streusel toppings and simple icings are popular, as are fruity, nutty options. One other thing is the size of the muffin. We have found our smaller-sized muffins a good choice, rather than the huge, bulging muffins sold in many coffee shops.”Inclusions and toppings are very much a trend, believes Jacqui Passmore of Dawn Foods. “For example, our Victoria sponge muffin, which has a jammy, creamy taste sensation, is something that is increasing in sales, as well as flavours like treacle coffee or toffee chocolate crumble topping.”The boundaries between cake-type products and muffins are set to blur further, says Adrian Apodace, marketing director of Honeyrose Bakery. “With muffins we are seeing customers experiment more, asking for more bold flavours, including superfoods, exotic fruits, and hybrids between a muffin and cupcake: a muffcake. But you may not be allowed to print that name due to decency laws.” Press Complaints Commission, do your worst.l Puratos has relaunched its Satin Muffin Mix to meet 2010 salt reduction targets; it has no azo dyes or trans fats and gives improved flavour and appearancel If you’re strapped for time, Macphie is now offering thaw-and-serve muffins in four flavours: blueberry, lemon, double chocolate, and raspberry and white chocolatel CSM has a Chocolate Creme Cake Mix, characterised by a rich chocolate flavour and dark colour that can be customised with chocolate chips, fruit, nuts or dark cherry pieces; there is also Plain Creme Cake Mixl Mitchell & Cooper is supplying a range of Silikomart Professional moulds in shapes from traditional muffin cases through to hearts, pyramids and volcanoeslast_img read more

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The $3 million suit

first_imgIn a current prototype, a series of webbing straps around the lower half of the body contain a low-power microprocessor and a network of supple strain sensors. These act as the “brain” and “nervous system” of the Soft Exosuit, respectively, continuously monitoring various data signals, including suit tension, wearer position (walking, running, crouched), and more.“Over just a couple of short years, Conor and his team will work to fundamentally shift the paradigm of what is possible in wearable robotics,” said Wyss Institute director Don Ingber. “Their work is a great example of the power of bringing together people from multiple disciplines with focused resources to translate what first seems like a dream into a product that could transform people’s lives.”In addition to its military application, the team will collaborate with clinical partners to develop a medical version of the suit that could greatly benefit stroke victims, for example, whose gait often becomes slow and inefficient.Collaborators include Wyss Institute and SEAS faculty member Robert Wood and visiting professor Ken Holt, and Terry Ellis at Boston University’s College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Critical to this project’s success to date has been a team of Harvard postdoctoral fellows (Alan Asbeck, Stefano de Rossi, Ignacio Galiana, Yigit Menguc) and graduate students (Ye Ding, Jaehyun Bae, Kai Schmidt, Brendan Quinlivan), and staff from the Wyss Institute (Zivthan Dubrovsky, Robert Dyer, Mike Mogenson, Diana Wagner, Kathleen O’Donnell). Boston-based New Balance also will be a key collaborator on this new phase of the project, bringing expertise in textile and apparel innovation.Under the terms of the contract with DARPA, the Wyss Institute will receive up to $2.9 million for its work on Warrior Web, with full funding contingent on meeting a series of technical milestones. <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azSpdF8CGPw” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/azSpdF8CGPw/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> A biologically inspired smart suit that fits under clothing and could help soldiers walk farther, tire less easily, and carry heavy loads more safely has been given a boost that could be as much as $2.9 million.The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced today that it has been awarded a first-phase, follow-on contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further develop its Soft Exosuit — a wearable robot — alternative versions of which could eventually help those with limited mobility as well.Technologies developed by DARPA’s Warrior Web program aim to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries for military personnel, but can have civilian applications, too. The suit could reduce long-term health care costs and enhance the quality of life for people on and off the battlefield.The award is the first of what could be a two-phase contract, and it enables Wyss Institute core faculty member Conor Walsh and his team to build upon their earlier work (also funded by DARPA) demonstrating the proof-of-concept of this radically new approach to wearable robot design and fabrication. Inspired by a deep understanding of the biomechanics of human walking, Soft Exosuit technology is spawning development of entirely new forms of functional textiles, flexible power systems, soft sensors, and control strategies that enable intuitive and seamless human-machine interaction.The lightweight Soft Exosuit overcomes the drawbacks of traditional, heavier exoskeleton systems, such as power-hungry battery packs and rigid components that can interfere with natural joint movement.“While the idea of a wearable robot is not new, our design approach certainly is,” said Walsh, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab.The lightweight Soft Exosuit overcomes the drawbacks of traditional, heavier exoskeleton systems, such as power-hungry battery packs and rigid components that can interfere with natural joint movement. It is made of soft, functional textiles woven into a piece of smart clothing that is pulled on like a pair of pants, and is intended to be worn under a soldier’s regular gear. The suit mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons when a person walks, and provides small but carefully timed assistance at the leg joints without restricting the wearer’s movement.last_img read more

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