Restaurateur-turned-processor Charles Dale believes shelf-stable foodservice products are poised to replace frozen and refrigerated ingredients, and his new Stock-in-a-Box soup stocks will ride that wave into the nation's restaurants.

Charles Dale poses with containers of Stock-in-a-Box, aseptically processed and packaged soup stocks for foodservice and club-store customers. Source: International Dispensing Corp.

Dale is president and cofounder of Dale's Kitchen, a commissary startup in Denver that is preparing 150 gal. batches of all-natural stocks, then filling and packaging them aseptically in vacuum-packed, high barrier polypropylene bags fitted with a single-fitment Fresh Flow tap from International Dispensing Corp. (IDC). "Stocks are the basis of Western cuisine," reasons Dale, who sold his three Aspen, CO, restaurants two years ago and began looking for opportunities to serve chefs' unmet operational needs. "But stock preparation is time consuming, takes a lot of space, and there are safety issues in cooling and storage." Stackable boxes with 2.5 and 5 gallon bags of aseptic product address those needs, and Dale's Kitchen started filling orders this spring in selected markets.

The choice of IDC's tap was predicated in part on Dale's business partner, Gregg Abbott, who also is IDC's chairman. A single fitment reduces packaging costs, because sterility is maintained during filling, eliminating the need for a separate aseptic fitment for dispensing. Though IDC officials believe sterility is maintained even after dispensing begins, no testing protocol to validate sterility has been devised. A recommendation to refrigerate after opening is imprinted on the box.

"A lot of caterers, bed-and-breakfasts and small restaurateurs shop at club stores, and we're looking at distributing the same package through those outlets," says Dale. If Stock-in-a-Box appears on a club-store pallet, it could be an aisle away from aseptic orange juice, lemonade or iced tea using the same packaging: IDC President Gary Allanson says shelf stability studies involving those beverages are concluding, and he expects a fall launch for private-label bag-in-box in at least one club-store chain.