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QSR Feature
A Man on a Mission

Is your new HFCS-free menu more expensive for the customer or is Jason’s Deli absorbing that cost? We’re absorbing it, and it’s not easy. It shouldn’t be more expensive but yes, for us to go to a pure product it does cost us more. We are absorbing it, and we’re doing it incrementally. We’re not able to just turn the whole ship around on a dime. We’re taking a bit at a time. We’ve had our vendors work with us, recognizing that we’re not a massive company but we do have some purchasing power. …

Instead of educating [customers] and telling them it’s still caloric if its sucrose or corn syrup, we’d rather take the stuff out.

We’re absorbing it in some cases and in other cases these companies want to maintain the relationship with us so they’re doing everything they can to hold the point down. But at this point in time it is more money.

Do you think we could see a dramatic shift away from HFCS in the future? I think we’re at a whole new era of people understanding food and good food. These young X and Y Gen people are educated; they know. They’re not going to let people shove stuff down their throats.…

It’s a campaign that cannot stop until we are delivering good food at a decent price to the American people. They buy into a lot of stuff because they’re exposed to so many commercials, so much false advertising that they believe. But it’s time the FDA and people stand up, and the restaurant people. When we converted to no trans fat we made a statement in the paper: “Come to us. We’ll help you go trans fat free. We’ll show you our suppliers.” We’re not trying to beat the heck out of our competition. We’re trying to do the right thing for the American people. And we’re not perfect. We’ve got hurdles in our menu and our food product, but we think we’re on the right road. It just takes time. Any help we can get from huge companies like soft drink companies and federal agencies and the NRA, come on! Come aboard. Give people the right kind of food so we won’t be faced with a generation that’s sick.

Will it ever be possible to offer HFCS-free soft drinks? We’re looking to do it. We have the fountain and we’re close to delivering a fountain drink that has cane sugar and no HFCS. And we’re really excited. There are companies out there doing that. We went to a major company two weeks ago and said: “You may lose our business. And we may lose some of our business because we’re going to make such a strong statement, but we wish that you guys would deliver to us a HFCS-free [product]. Is that on your radar?” And, you know what? They don’t act like it’s on their radar. They act like they’re going to have to wait until they’re pushed in a corner because of costs to deliver what’s really right for the consumer. So that’s going to be a slow one. That’s what frustrates us, the soft drink side.

The most important question is how have your customers reacted to your switch? There’s this one soft drink that we put cane sugar in and took the HFCS out, it seems like there’s a following for this type of stuff that we didn’t even realize was out there. On our comment cards we’ve had nothing but positive reactions about this one particular product.

… Now we have had some negative because we’re in your face with our signage and we’re saying some stuff that people are probably afraid to say. We’ve had a little rebuttal from some of the corn industry like, ‘It really isn’t what you think it is.’ But we’re going to just try to move forward because we think it’s the right thing to do.

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