Monday, February 6, 2017

Top 5 Beverages Trends Seen at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show

I was pleased to attend the Winter Fancy Food Show held by the Specialty Foods Association from January 22 to 24, 2017 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. The trade show hosted over 1,400 exhibitors representing specialty food and beverages producers from over 25 countries. In this article, I will highlight noteworthy trends in beverages that I saw at the show. You can read my previous article on top 5 food trends seen at the show.

Drinking vinegars as cocktail mixer, health tonic, and soda alternative

The use of fruit-flavored vinegars goes back to colonial America when shrubs were used to preserve fruit for the winter. More recently, drinking vinegar mixed with water has been popular in parts of Asia as a digestive aid. At the show, Crafted Cocktails targeted at-home mixologists with its shrubs that they call a “cocktail enhancer” in Asian Pear, Blackberry, Ginger, Pineapple, and Strawberry flavors.
Andy Ricker, Chef/Owner of Pok Pok restaurants, has helped to popularize drinking vinegar in the United States, by introducing drinking vinegar-based sodas in his Thai restaurants. After they proved popular, he introduced line of Pok Pok Som drinking vinegars and sodas for retail sale. At the Fancy Food Show, Pok Pok offered the drinking sodas in ginger, grapefruit, Thai basil, and turmeric flavors as a healthier alternative to soda with less sugar than traditional soda and 90-100 calories per 12oz bottle. Cold-press juice maker Suja Life, LLC, partly owned by The Coca-Cola Co, introduced new flavors to its line of drinking vinegars: cucumber ginger, hibiscus ancho chile, lemongrass lime, and peach ginger.The Suja vinegars also contain vegan probiotics - Ganeden Inc's Bacillus Coagulans GBI-30 6086.  
Makers of drinking vinegar in the concentrate format seek to promote its products as health tonic, cocktail mixer, and soda alternative. As US consumers increasingly out spicy flavors such as Sriracha and gochujang hot sauces, beverage makers are introducing more spicier varieties. At the show, Fire Cider offered a number of products including Fire Cider Original which contains garlic, onions, and horseradish in addition to apple cider vinegar, raw wildflower honey, oranges, lemons, ginger, turmeric, habanero pepper). Fire Brew’s apple cider vinegar-based health tonics also contain raw organic vinegar, garlic, onions, and horseradish in addition to herbs and spices.

Cold brew coffee options multiply

The rising popularity of cold brew coffee, produced by immersing coffee grounds in cold water for 12 hours or more, in coffee shops has led to a large number of cold brew coffee products for the retail market. At the show, producers of cold brew coffee offered numerous options including liquid concentrates in glass and bag-in-box, pitcher filter packs, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee, and RTD coffee with nitrogen. Fogdog Cold Brew Coffee and Tea offered cold brew RTD coffees and teas produced using a patent-pending hydrodynamic brewing process. The hydrodynamic cold-extraction process uses very cold, fast-moving water and is able to extract flavor notes from both coffee and tea. Chameleon Cold-Brew offered a cold-brew coffee ale, developed in cooperation with Shiner Brewery, in honor of Shiner’s 108th birthday.

Within cold brew coffee, nitro coffee with a creamy foam, similar to Guinness, has become popular among millennials. Offering nitrogenated coffee has required coffee shops to use a tap machine, nitrogen tank, and kegs. Califia Farms showed a prototype of its Nitro Cold Brew & Draft Latte on Tap machine that is keg-less and tank-less. Without using a keg and nitrogen tank, the Califia Farms nitro tap system uses a 1 gallon bag-in-box Cold Brew, connects to a waterline, and uses proprietary technology to create nitro coffee.

Gazpacho as juice alternative and drinkable soup

Gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup, has long been popular in Spain while Americans are more familiar with hot chicken noodle and tomato soups. A number of companies at the Fancy Food Show sought to appeal to consumers looking for a lower-sugar alternative to juice. Sonoma Brands’ ZUPA NOMA focused on the low-sugar and high-fiber message with signs showing its slogans, “Sugar is out. Soup is in.” and “We blend all the seeds & skins in to pack the fiber in.”

While most gazpacho including ZUPA NOMA are refrigerated products, Mucho Gazpacho and Spain’s BioEcoNija, S.L.’s Bioterraneo offers the convenience of being shelf-stable. The packaging for Mucho Gazpacho emphasizes that it contains 2 full servings of vegetables.

Pour over coffee in a single-use format

Pour over coffee has become widespread in “third wave” coffee shops in urban areas as a way to bring out individual flavor notes of single-origin coffees through the use of Chemex or ceramic drippers. At-home adoption of the pour over method has been slow because it is seen as a fussy coffee brewing method. Two companies at the Fancy Food Show offered a convenient way to make pour over coffee through the use of single-use paper filter packs that are placed inside a coffee cup. Both products aim to blend the convenience of instant coffee with the taste of pour over coffee.
Lee’s Sandwiches, a chain of fast food restaurants serving Vietnamese-style sandwiches and iced coffee showcased its pour over coffee in New Orleans and Parisian varieties. The folks at Copper Cow Coffee offered a kit with premium Vietnamese ground coffee, a pour over coffee bag, sweetened condensed milk packet using milk from California, and a spoon.

Superfood teas: moringa and mushrooms

Teas with their high level of antioxidants are already viewed as healthy beverages. Producers of tea are further raising teas’ health profile by adding superfood ingredients such as baobab, moringa, mushrooms and pitaya (cactus fruit). Choice Organic Teas introduced four mushroom-based Wellness Teas at the show including Reishi Detox, Reishi Matcha, Shiitake Mate, and Shiitake Turmeric varieties. The Republic of Tea offered a number of superfood-enhanced teas including Organic Mushroom SuperHerb Tea in baobab and Reishi mushroom varieties.

Companies are also introducing moringa-based teas and promoting moringa as the latest superfood that offers a complete plant protein and can anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits. Moringa is a plant whose leaves offer high levels of nutrients including protein, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. Though few Americans are familiar with moringa, knowledge about moringa is likely to increase as exhibitor Kuli Kuli received $4.25 million funding from eighteen94 capital, Kellogg Company’s venture capital fund, in January 2017. Kuli Kuli offered moringa in the form of tea bags, vegetable powders, energy shots, and snack bars. Miracle Tree offered moringa-based tea bags and powders.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Top 5 Food Trends Seen at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show

I was pleased to attend the Winter Fancy Food Show held by the Specialty Foods Association from January 22 to 24, 2017 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. The trade show hosted over 1,400 exhibitors representing specialty food and beverages producers from over 25 countries. In this article, I will highlight noteworthy trends in food that I saw at the show. A separate article on beverage trends will be published.

1. Chickpeas go beyond hummus

Year 2016 was proclaimed the International Year of Pulses by the United Nations. The 12 pulses include chickpeas, lentils, dry beans, and dry peas and are good sources of plant-based protein as well as being gluten-free. Exhibitors showcased chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, in snacks and pasta in addition to hummus. Hummus is the best known food made of chickpeas in the US, with the majority of users buying the pre-made refrigerated hummus from supermarkets instead of making it at home. Baruvi Fresh LLC’s Hummustir won the inaugural Frontburner Foodservice Pitch Competition at the Fancy Food Show by offering a kit that allows consumers and foodservice operators to easily make fresh hummus. Using Hummustir, home cooks can make hummus by combining packets of organic chickpea puree, organic tahini, and spices, and stirring it with the enclosed stir stick.

Snack companies are also increasingly using chickpeas to appeal to consumers looking for snacks with the health benefits of protein and fiber. Biena Foods offered its Biena Chickpea Snacks as a better-for-you alternative to chips and nuts with its snacks offering 5g of protein and 6g of fiber per 1oz serving in flavors including Barbecue, Cinnamon Crunch, Habanero, and Sea Salt. American Halal Co. introduced Saffron Road ChickBean Crisps that are certified gluten-free, Halal, and kosher, with 4g of protein and 2g of fiber in a 1oz serving. The Saffron Road ChickBean Crisps are made with lentils, yellow peas, chickpeas, and sweet potato flours and come in Sea Salt, White Cheddar, and Zesty Ranch varieties. Even pasta companies are incorporating chickpeas to offer high protein in a gluten-free format. Tolerant Foods introduced Tolerant Balanced Blend Organic Chickpea Pasta that is made with chickpeas and rice to offer 14g of protein in a 3oz serving along with being certified gluten-free.

2. Gluten-free expands options with cauliflower and tapioca flour

Numerous companies offered gluten-free options as many Americans look to avoid gluten even if they do not suffer from celiac disease. Brazi Bites are likely to appeal to lovers of Brazilian food because Brazilian cheese bread (Pao de Queijo) is one of the most popular items served at Brazilian restaurants. The frozen Brazi Bites bake in 20 minutes and are naturally gluten-free because they are made with tapioca flour, cheese, and yucca root. Another company offering a gluten-free “bread” at the Fancy Food Show was Outer Aisle Gourmet that showcased its Cauliflower Sandwich Thins and Cauliflower Pizza Crusts as being gluten free, Paleo friendly, low carb, and low calorie. Outer Aisle Gourmet is able to transform cauliflower into a “bread” product by combining it with cottage cheese, skim milk, cage-free egg whites, and parmesan cheese. Another cauliflower company also seeks to address the market of consumers looking for low-calorie as well as gluten-free products. Some consumers have been using cauliflower and zucchini as substitutes for rice and pasta, respectively. Cauli Rice, made of parcooked cauliflower and seasonings, is marketed as having fewer calories than white rice as well as being gluten-free. Cauli Rice also stands out from competing cauliflower products that are refrigerated or frozen because the Cauli Rice pouches are shelf-stable.

3. Ice cream becomes healthier

Multiple companies offered better-for-you alternatives to ice cream at the show as Americans are looking for healthy indulgence. Companies took different approaches, with some targeting vegan consumers, and others focusing on its functional benefits. Food bloggers, including Paleo dieters, have embraced banana “ice cream” because it is vegan, dairy-free, and contains no added sugars. Snow Monkey uses frozen bananas as a base, adding apple puree, hemp seed powder, and either cacao or goji berry to create what it calls a “Superfood Ice Treat” that is marketed as all-natural, non-dairy, non-GMO, vegan, paleo, and gluten-free. Mr. E’s Freeze Coconut Banana Frozen Dessert similarly uses frozen bananas but combines it with coconut milk. At the functional end, Arctic Zero Fit Frozen Desserts are marketed as containing 3g of protein and 2g of fiber per 60g serving through the use of hormone-free whey protein and monk fruit. Arctic Zero is also low glycemic, lactose free, gluten free, and GMO free. Similar to Arctic Zero, Brio! uses whey protein to raise the protein content but differentiates itself from other BFY ice creams through the use of Ganeden, Inc’s probiotic, Bacillus Coagulans GBI-30 6086. Brio! touts its ice creams as containing 5g of protein, antioxidants, probiotics, and 24 vitamins & minerals with less fat and fewer calories than super premium ice cream per 82g serving.

4. Meat snacks offer protein and a Paleo-friendly option

Premium meat jerky and meat bars have been more visible as a high-protein, minimally processed snack, boosted by the rising popularity of the Paleo diet. Both Epic Provisions, owned by General Mills, and Krave, owned by The Hershey Co, introduced meat sticks at the show. The single-serve meat sticks offer the advantage of portion control compared to meat jerky that comes in multi-serve pouches. Krave worked with the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley to create Krave Sticks in three unique flavors: Rosemary Lemon Turkey with White Beans, Spicy Red Pepper Pork with Black Beans, and Sesame Garlic Beef with Sweet Potato. Epic’s new Waygu Beef Steak Strip is marketed as being the first shelf stable Waygu beef snack in wide distribution. Many of the meat snacks producers are using Asian-inspired flavors. Little Red Dot Kitchen offered its Singapore-style Bak Kwa in Lemongrass Beef and Spicy Chipotle Beef. Lorissa’s Kitchen offered Korean Barbecue Beef and Szechuan Peppercorn Beef for its meat snacks. Even pork rinds are becoming more gourmet. EPIC showed pork rinds that use organic, non-GMO, pastured, and antibiotic-free pork skins with spices in Sea Salt and Texas BBQ Pork Rinds varieties.

5. Turmeric goes beyond Indian food

The turmeric herb has expanded beyond use as a spice in Indian food and Ayurvedic medicine into many different applications as food, beverage, and spice companies take note of its superfood positioning. Spice makers are taking advantage of growing health awareness about turmeric. The Spice Lab introduced a line of Healing Spices that includes turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric & black pepper, and turmeric tea. Pranayums offered Daily Super Spice Shots single-serve packets that contain turmeric, black pepper, cardamom, ginger, and other spices as “a daily home remedy” inspired by the Ayurvedic science of healing. The pre-measured spice shot packets are designed for consumers to sprinkle on oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, tea, or coffee. Turmeric is increasingly being used in beverages. Califia Farms featured a Ginger and Turmeric Spice Blend into its line of Enhanced Almondmilk. The use of turmeric and ginger in a dairy-free drink is noteworthy as most almond milk and soy milk producers in the US have focused on vanilla and chocolate flavors. Though turmeric has not yet been widely seen in snacks, we are likely to see more in the future. At the show, RW Garcia offered Lentil & Turmeric pulse tortilla chips.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bento Boxes To Lose Weight

My New Year's resolution is to lose weight and eat more healthfully. Yes, I know it is March 1 but better late than never. In addition to regular exercise I plan to pack more lunches to the office. I purchased The Just Bento Cookbook to get ideas.

I have not yet tried any of the recipes in the book but they look good. I was inspired to create three bento dishes today. At left is tofu fried in a wok with bottled teriyaki sauce and green onions. Next to it is rice with fried egg (eggs beaten with green onions and salt). Behind it is a chicken stir fry made with a packaged stir fry mix in the produce aisle with sprouts, soy sauce, and honey (I didn't have sugar.). The stir fry mixed vegetables helpfully provided the recipe. All three dishes were delicious.

The lunch containers were all available at the 2012 International Housewares Show in Chicago. The red and green Aladdin Insulated To-Go Food Containers were designed to look like deli containers. The white OXO bowl with lid is from their children's collection. I cannot wait to see what I see at this year's show.

Disclosure: I received a sample of the red Aladdin container at the Housewares Show. The other two containers were purchased by me.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Korean Gochujang Tasting Menu

I am trying to catch up on blogging which is why I am blogging about the National Restaurant Association Show which took place back in May 2012. At the show, I had the opportunity to enjoy a gochujang tasting menu at the CJ Foods booth. For those of you not familiar with go-chu-jang, it is a Korean hot pepper paste made from red chili peppers, rice, soybeans, and salt that is fermented. CJ Foods, a huge food producer in South Korea, has developed a partnership with Annie Chun's, a California-based all natural pan-Asian food company that markets instant noodles and the gochujang sauce.

At the booth, they served samples of bulgogi (Korean grilled beef) with chapchae (made with sweet potato noodles) and ahi tuna tartare on crispy wonton. They also served a five-course gochujang tasting menu created by executive chef David Yeo. We were also treated to a short visit from celebrity chef Akira Back, a Korean-American chef at Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant and Lounge at the Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

The tasting started off with a soju Bloody Mary shooter: soju is a distilled rice spirit and gochujang provided the kick. Steak tartar was the first item: Waygu beef, quail egg, micro sprouts, nori (seaweed) topped with gochujang mustard. Popcorn shrimp was next with jicama, fresh cucumber kimchi, soy bean leaf, and gochujang aioli.

The risotto was my favorite course. They stuffed the gochujang-risotto inside a piquillo pepper and served it with spring vegetables and herbed sesame oil. Cioppino contained shrimp, mussels, clams, seaweed, and kimchi in a gochujang-dashida broth. Pork belly was the final course: doenjang-soju marinated pork belly, salsify, baby carrots with sweet and spicy gochujang sauce. Doenjang is Korean fermented soybean paste, very similar to Japanese miso.

Disclosure: I received a gift bag with product samples from CJ Foods.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Campbell's Go Soup Events

On November 15, 2012, I had the opportunity to attend two Campbell Soup events in Chicago. Both events promoted the company’s launch of Go line of soups – the first soup designed for the Millennial generation. Everything about the soup – flavors, packaging, and marketing has been designed to appeal to 18 – 34 year-old consumers. At 10am, the company held a media event for Campbell Soup’s new Go line of soups. Following a short break, the company hosted local celebrities and consumers for the Campbell’s Go Communal Tables program.

At the media event, several Campbell Soup executives spoke to bloggers and journalists including Miss Lori (@misslori) and Jim Dudlicek (editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer). We had the opportunity to try six different soups including Spicy Chorizo & Pulled Chicken, Golden Lentil with Madras Curry, Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas inside the beautiful Floating World Gallery at 1925 N. Halsted Street. Darren Serrao, VP and General Manager, Innovation and Business Development, talked about how the company assembled breakthrough teams that included chefs, research, package engineer, marketing, and R&D.

Charles “Chuck” Vila, VP Consumer and Customer Insights Department, spoke of how Campbell Soup wanted to design the Go soup to minimize pain points and maximize pleasure points (humor, music, gaming) of Millennials (numbering 65 to 80 million consumers). To figure out what Millennials want, the Campbell team “engaged in immersion with the Millennial generation: We cooked with them, we shopped with them, we played with them.” The consumer insights team went to hipster hubs – Boston, Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C., London. They also went to the less glamorous Millennial Middle America Markets: Des Moines, Iowa; San Antonio, Texas; Springfield, Illinois, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

They found that Millennials who “grew up with sushi and Mexican”, are “inspired by cuisine from all over the world”, and “want authentic taste, love traditional foods”. This generation also has “an incredible affinity for sharing food, dinner gatherings usually arranged by text”. The Go soup went through 50 iterations. End result: soups with bolder, spicier flavors and a microwaveable pouch instead of a metal can that features close-up photos of Millennials.

Nelson Warley, Senior Brand Manager, Start-Up, spoke about the marketing plan for Go soup. One key element are the Communal Tables which were held in New York City on November 13 and then in Chicago. The Communal Tables are “a way to connect with consumers and passion points” with key influencers coming in to talk. The core target are 25-26 year-olds who are “getting into workplace, highly social, craving adventurous tastes” Campbell Soup wants to provide “bold adventurous tastes that they seek when they are outside the store” – i.e., compete against take-out and fast casual restaurants.

Marketing goals include raising awareness through online advertising, content, and product sampling beyond traditional weekend times. Since Millennials are digital natives, the company decided to focus on social media and digital advertising instead of print and TV advertising to reach this group. Digital and social media initiatives include BuzzFeed (humor, custom content), Spotify (music, custom play lists offering $1 off coupons), Angry Birds and Star Wars (in-game advertising), Facebook, and Tumblr.

During the Campbell’s Go Communal Tables program in Chicago, five Communal Table sessions were hosted by local celebrities. Millennial consumers were invited on Facebook and Twitter (#CampbellsGo) to attend the hour-long, six-course sampling of the Go soups. In Chicago, the local influencers were Chicago Sun-Times’ Splash Editor Susanna Negovan, Second City’s Katie Rich, eDrop Off Founder Corri McFadden, jazz musician Milton Suggs and The Exports’ lead singer Archie Powell.

I attended the 12pm Corri McFadden (@CorriMcFadden) lunch. My group included a student who came in from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; fashion bloggers, and two entrepreneurs involved in social media. We talked about a wide variety of topics – entrepreneurship, value of hard work, fashion, reality TV (Corri is the star of VH1’s “House of Consignment”), and ramen noodles.

You can read even more about the inspiration behind the Go soup at

Disclosure: I received a gift bag with six Go soup pouches.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl Launch in Chicago

Reality star/entrepreneur/author/natural foods chef/mom Bethenny Frankel came to Chicago last Thursday to promote her new line of Skinnygirl vodkas. The star of "Bethenny Ever After" and "The Real Housewives of New York City" launched her company Skinnygirl Cocktails in 2009 and sold it to Fortune Brands' Beam Inc for a reported $120 million. An enthusiastic crowd of her fans (mostly stylish women including moms, a few men) came to pose for pictures with her

(they're on Skinnygirl's Facebook page). She talked about her life (daughter Bryn, her upcoming talk show "bethenny" on Fox, her apartment renovation) while making cocktails using Skinnygirl vodka.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gourmet Chocolates at Walgreens

Chocolate fans visiting downtown Chicago have another choice beyond Macy's State Street lower level which carries a full line of giftable chocolates including its famous Frango mints. Walgreens on State and Randolph has a chocolate wall featuring gourmet chocolates like Chuao panko and firecracker bars, a chai bar, and Wild Ophelia New Orleans Chili bar. In the next aisle are the Hershey and Mars chocolates.