The latest buzz making waves about Greek yogurt isn’t about innovative flavors or fresh products. Unfortunately, as of the last few weeks, internet chatter about the trendiest of foods has been focused on how companies are disposing of acid whey, a natural bi-product of the Greek yogurt production process.
It’s hard to believe that another Innovation Roadshow® has come and gone. With 18 months of planning, our annual event was over quicker than you can even say the word “Roadshow.”
Throughout 26 booths, our global technical staff showcased almost 100 new concepts, flavors and technologies that got our attendees’ creative juices flowing.
All that noshing built up energy for presentations on food & beverage trends, alternative natural sweeteners and new EU flavor legislation. And the day culminated with a keynote presentation from Mary Wagner, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Global Research & Development/Quality for Starbucks Coffee Company. Her presentation educated our attendees on how to remain authentic to your brand, yet appeal to the local market to which you are selling.
But back to the food! When it comes to the products we show at our Innovation Showcase, the tabletop exhibit mentioned above, everyone has their favorites – based on personal preference, uniqueness and applicability – but let me share with you some of mine….
- Varietal Mint Ice Creams – Inspired by chewing gum, we explored the use of spearmint (paired with blackberry) and wintergreen (paired with vanilla) in ice cream, as well as a new texture. Utilizing David Michael’s Michtex® technology, we were able to replicate the “stretchy” texture of Turkish-style ice cream, also known as dondurma.
- Fortified Fruity Chicken Nuggets – For the picky eater in need of a nutritional boost, these nuggets boast vitamins and minerals, or deliver a serving of fruit. Choose from Cherry Lime or Apple Pie a la Mode (coated with real pie crust and vanilla ice cream flavored icing!).
- Aloe Beverages – Each year at the Fancy Foods Show, the number of vendors showing aloe beverages grows and grows. With their sweet taste and flavorful adaptability, why haven’t these taken off? One theory is the large pulp. Our beverage group addressed this with three flavors with varying degrees of pulp. And the flavors! The beverages were shown in Borojo Rooibos Tea, Old Fashioned Lemonade, and Spiced Peach (with cinnamon, vanilla and mastic).
- Mood Truffles – As in get-in-the-mood truffles. We’ve spotted some trends lately pointing toward aphrodisiac foods gaining favor with baby boomers. Anti-aging foods that enhance energy and vitality, are going a step further. The flavors also test our level of comfort, another emerging trend, with oyster and uni (sea urchin roe).
- Maghreb Fruit & Almond Smoothie – Not only does this fruit and almond milk smoothie highlight dairy alternatives, and North African flavors (honey fig, and honey fig with orange blossom and cumin), but it’s also a multi-purpose beverage. The smoothies can also be used as sauces for meats.
But these are just a few of the amazing items showcased this year. Learn more about the Innovation Roadshow. To taste samples from this year’s show, or get copies of the presentations, please contact your account manager.
So much food, so little time…
I was pleasantly surprised at the 479° Popcorn booth. How exciting can flavored popcorn be? That’s what you’re thinking, right? Me too. But their flavors –Vietnamese Cinnamon Sugar, Madras Curry Coconut & Cashews, and Black Truffle & White Cheddar – were both creative and delicious.
And speaking of creative, I just loved the breakfast pitas, with real fruit pieces, from Ozery Bakery. Available in apple cinnamon, cranberry orange, and breakfast muesli, they make a fabulous substitute for your usual morning bagel, toast, etc. (I’m thinking the cranberry orange wouldn’t be too shabby with a lunchtime turkey sandwich either!)
Granola Flats weren’t much more than an ultra-thin flattened granola bar (Nature Valley type), but they were darn tasty! Plus, they’re sold as a “chip” rather than a bar which means I have something to snack on now when hubby dives into the Fritos during a baseball game.
When it comes to food, I’ll try anything once. (Whether I’ll try it again is a different story.) But there is the occasional product that my brain just won’t allow past my lips. That’s been true in the past of vinegar drinks brought to me by my wonderful co-workers at David Michael Beijing. I love vinegar – so much, that I load it up on my salads to the point of mouth numbing. But the idea of drinking it, like juice – I just couldn’t get past that. So, when I spotted Hong Cho’s pomegranate vinegar drink, I decided to go for it. And you know what? It’s pretty good! The vinegar is noticeable, but not overwhelming. Since there are a number of health-benefits linked to vinegar drinks, I’m officially adding this to my radar. With the right marketing (a downplay of the word “vinegar” I’m thinking) this could be a future trend to watch.
Other fun finds at this year’s show? I was excited to spot macqui berry at Honest Tea’s booth in the new Macqui Berry Mate – keep your eyes peeled for more of this superfruit. There was lots of prickly pear and blood orange flavored goodies, mostly drinks. I found Parisian macarons at a number of booths, including the frozen macarons at Galaxy Desserts – perfect for foodservice. The Naan Pizza at Tandoor Chef was awesome – it’s about darn time we had something like this on the market. And, Chobani Greek Yogurt now offers Chobani Champions, said to be the only Greek yogurt made for kids.
And my favorite product of the show? Nothing too crazy here – my personal favorite were the falafels at Falafel Republic. Lightly fried balls of ground chick peas, falafels are typically served in a pita from your favorite street vendor. This version needs only seconds in the microwave to heat up, and the falafels are satisfyingly savory and filling. Served with tzatziki sauce, I could eat them every day, with or without the pita.
Just this past Friday, I read a great article in Nation’s Restaurant News on innovative flavors in foodservice soft-serve. Among the flavors mentioned, olive oil intrigued me most, especially since it had proven as the best selling for one restauranteur.
So, on Saturday night, when our waiter mentioned olive oil as one of the home-made gelatos available at Philadelphia’s Pizzeria Stella, I was sold.
While the other ladies in our group opted for chocolate or hazelnut (which were amazing themselves), myself and one other brave friend ordered the olive oil. We each received one perfect scoop swimming in a small sea of yellow-green oil. The taste was creamy, sweet, fatty and fruity, and reminded me of (solid) spreadable olive oil I have sampled in the past.
What struck me most, though, was that it seemed the perfect base for more…. like an alternative to vanilla, but a bit less complex.
Almost the entire table sampled our olive oil gelato, and I saw some mixed faces and reactions. From the “well, it tastes just like olive oil,” to “no, I don’t like that at all,” and the “wow, that’s not as bad as I thought.” (I’m pretty sure that last one was a compliment.)
Despite the reaction from our friends, although most of them liked it or were ambivalent, myself and my adventurous ordering buddy were pleased.
Next up on the fancy brigade is a stop in Peru. Last month, we took you on a little journey through Peru, with flavor chemist Yuko Nodo. But at the Fancy Foods Show, the flavors of Peru came to me.
So often, I avoid the international pavilions. The mind (and feet) can only take in so much in a day, and typically the pavilions are filled with a lot of commodity products. And let’s face it, there are only so many nuts and so much olive oil a girl can take.
But Peru did it right. At a large endcap of the pavilion I was drawn in by the call of Pisco Sours…delish! After one turn around this overly crowded display, I found out that the trade organization PromPeru had joined forces with a local Peruvian restaurant, Oh! Calamares (Kearny, NJ), to present an amazing spread of goodies. I snacked on potato pastries and chocolate flan! The lucuma fruit was heavily promoted through samples and signage, as were Peruvian potatoes and purple corn. Elderberry, amaranth and quinoa were also displayed in the pavilion. With all of the foodie interest in Peruvian cuisine recently, it was no surprise to see this was the absolute busiest booth at the show.
And, speaking of crowded booths, Ciao Bella Gelato had its fair share of traffic, too! I sampled the Key Lime Graham Cracker Gelato – a 2009 Sofi Award Winner in the Perishable Foodservice Product category. There’s no question why this product won! So often, key lime flavored products don’t translate as well into non-pie applications. If not done right, they can taste, well, artificial. But this was right on – authentic and refreshing, like a frozen slice of fresh pie.
Last fall, I read about Skyr - a strained Icelandic yogurt that’s been slowly making a name for itself. Plus, it’s non-fat and sugar-free. So when I happened upon the Siggi’s booth at the show, I was excited to taste! I tried the plain first, to experience the true flavor of skyr. It tastes quite a bit like traditional yogurt, only much thicker and creamier. It’s very filling, and sour. They had a number of flavors on hand to sample, and I went immediately for the grapefruit. The flavored varieties are sweetened with agave nectar. The grapefruit seemed a bit thinner than the plain, and was more tart, or course, but quite good. I wish I hadn’t been so full at the time, or else I would have tried more of their flavors – they all sounded delicious!
In an issue of Fast Track Fast Trends last year, we explored Coneinn Pizza, which is basically, a pizza in a cone! The product heats in the microwave, in an upright package. Sounds great, doesn’t it! Problem is – it’s a European product. That’s why I was so excited to see the Coneinn booth at the show! I was pretty sad that they didn’t have any samples to try (I’ve been drooling over it for a year, after all!), but I did find out that they’re looking for stateside distributors. They will be mine…oh yes, they will be mine.
One more installment to go! Next time we’ll talk alcohol-free wine and flavored dulce de leche!
On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the Fancy Foods Show in New York City!
But, a little more on that later – first I want to talk a bit about my post-show, pre-train detour to Pinkberry!
Sure, Pinkberry is old news…and yes, I’ve had it before. But with a lack of fro-yo joints in the Philly area, a gal gets a little excited when the opportunity to visit a Pinkberry arises.
An added bonus this trip was the addition of flavors to the fro-yo menu since the last time I visited. (At that time, they only boasted plain and green tea.) This trip, I sampled the pomegranate yogurt, topped with blueberries (aren’t I healthy) and Oreos (well, just a little).
The whole experience got me wondering about the fro-yo craze, and eventual fall, only a mere two decades ago. And, as fate would have it, the infamous frozen yogurt episode of Seinfeld was on re-run that night when I got home.
Watching that episode got me concerned. Does frozen yogurt have the legs make it this time? What’s so different? Well, first of all, there seems to be a better focus on health and nutrition this time. Not just as a fat-free/low fat alternative to ice cream (although, Seinfeld fans may believe differently!), new fro-yo promises certified cultures, just like in “real” yogurt, as well as low calories and natural ingredients.
The refreshing taste and encouragement to top with fresh cut fruit only adds to its perception. (Ok, so the occasional Oreo winds up in there too!) Plus, it’s even tastier, now that the tartness of yogurt has seemed to catch on with consumers.
And, according to USA Today, even though Pinkberry and Red Mango have had to close some shops in an overcrowded southern California market in the past year, both are still growing rapidly – with an estimated 1,000 shops between the two to open in the next five years.
Fro-yo certainly has a better a chance of survival this time around…or, at least, I hope so!
Well, it is finally (FINALLY!) looking like summer here in the Philly area (what is that big yellow orb in the sky?). And now that I can leave my cardigans at home, I’m looking for some hot weather treats with a little mojo.
Tasting Table L.A. recently featured a number of Los Angeles area shops that are taking ice cream sandwiches in a whole new direction. Imagine a homemade Meyer lemon cookie with lavender honey ice cream, or fudgie chocolate cookies with salted caramel ice cream. I’m drooling in my mango water ice right now.
Just the other day, I read that both Sun-In and Zinc Oxide are back in for the summer. Now right there are two things that I never imagined to see in my beach bag again.
But then there are classics that endure – like macaroni & cheese. I actually used to hate the stuff…but with a husband that practically lives on the blue box, I’ve not only grown to appreciate it, but love it.
So when I recently read about Good Tastes Kitchen’s Mac & Cheese of the Month Club, I began to drool. Customers can sign up for one, three, six or 12 month subscriptions that deliver “Bliss in the Mail.”
Ranging from the typical All American variety, to Cajun, Pancetta & Pea, or even Pumpkin & Sage, recipients explore seasonal and ethnic flavors through and American classic.
And while the price seems, admittedly, a little high, each month feeds a family of four for a total bill comparable to a casual restaurant. So that you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home, with your orange hair, and your neon green nose!!!