Friday, June 30, 2017

Meat Snacks Offer Breakfast, Gourmet, and Kosher Options at the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo

I attended the Sweets & Snacks Expo (aka, The Candy Show) which was held May 23-25 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The trade show organized by the National Confectioners Association hosted over 800 exhibitors representing candy, chocolate, and snacks companies. In this article, I will talk about how meat snacks have expanded beyond beef jerky to premium breakfast, gourmet, and kosher options. In other articles, I discuss other trends seen at the show: coffee meets chocolate, chickpeas and lentils in the snack aisle; spicy flavors; and popcorn appeals to both health and indulgence seekers.

The number of meat snacks continues to grow as companies introduce new products to appeal to consumers beyond the traditional audience of hunters and fishermen buying beef jerky at convenience stores. Premium meat jerky, meat bars, and meat sticks have become more visible as a high-protein, minimally processed snack, boosted by the popularity of the Paleo diet and a desire for fewer, simpler ingredients in foods. To appeal to a broader audience and continue growing sales, meat snacks companies are using a wide variety of meats beyond beef, incorporating premium ingredients, and turning to chefs and celebrities. The $2.8 billion meat snack category has been a positive performer in the total snack category, with compound annual sales growth of over 7% over the past four years and 3.5% growth for the year ended February 25, 2017 according to Nielsen.

Using premium ingredients and meats beyond beef is a way for meat snacks companies to appeal to a wider group of consumers looking for a healthy snack. Genius Jerky calls itself an “ultra-premium artisan jerky company” through the use of ingredients such as grass-fed and grass-finished beef, premium spices, honey, and roasted garlic. Field Trip Jerky seeks to appeal to active foodies by using grass fed beef, vegetarian fed pork, free range turkey, and ingredients such as apple juice, pineapple juice, and rice wine. Duke’s Meats emphasizes the use of real, whole ingredients such as hickory smoked peaches, freshly chopped cilantro, and real lime juice in its slogan: “Smoked Meats Crafted with real, whole ingredients, not a lot of sugar”. The brand also emphasizes that its products are “Small Batch Crafted” with the batch case qty number stamped on the back of each Duke’s Meats package. Conagra Brands, Inc, owner of the Slim Jim meat snack brand, acquired Thanasi Foods, maker of Duke's Meats in April 2017.

In the case of Oberto Brands, they have identified four consumer segments in meat snacks – Gourmet, Better For You, Traditional, and With Jerky – so that they have products designed to appeal to each segment. In the Gourmet segment, Oberto offers its Oberto’s Pacific Gold brand that is sold in club channels and positioned as a “Delicious snack to reward myself and family”.

To reach the Gourmet segment, some players are using a chef-created message to target foodies and women. Think Jerky was created by Ricky Hirsch who partnered with famous chefs such as Michelin star chefs Gale Gand (a Food Network star) and Laurent Gras to develop the recipes. Hirsch calls his products “Healthy Chef-Created Jerky” through the use of 100-calorie packs, minimal use of sugar and salt, and use of grass-fed beef or free-range turkey. Chef's Cut Real Jerky, created by Chef Blair Swiler and Dennis Riedel, touts features such as "Chef-Created Marinade", "Real Ingredients", and "Cut By Hand" in addition to being certified gluten free. At the Sweets & Snacks Expo, Chef's Cut Real Jerky introduced shelf-stable Protein Packs that combine its meat jerky with dehydrated cheese (using a patented process) in Real Steak Jerky - Original Recipe & Cheddar Cheese and Real Turkey Jerky - Teriyaki & Pepper Jack Cheese varieties. Following the show, actress Olivia Munn announced on June 12, National Jerky Day, that she is the newest investor in Chef's Cut Real Jerky. This development is likely to bring more female attention to the brand and to meat snacks overall. 

Sugar content in meat snacks has historically not been a big factor in consumer purchasing decisions. However, it looks like that could change in the premium segment of meat snacks as health conscious consumers increasingly seek to reduce sugar consumption not just in beverages but in snacks. Think Jerky’s website talks about its founder’s focus on minimizing the use of sugar and salt but does not call its sugar content on the front of the packaging. In contrast, Duke’s Meats features a low-sugar message in its slogan: “Smoked Meats Crafted with real, whole ingredients, not a lot of sugar” and calls out the sugar content on the front of the pack. Without naming names, Duke’s Meats calls out a leading “gourmet” jerky for containing 11g of sugar and a leading meat bar for containing 9g of sugar. In contrast, Duke’s Meats products contain only 0-5g of sugar per serving.

Women have not been a traditional consumer of meat snacks. But Link Snacks, Inc, the number one player in meat snacks with its Jack Link’s brand, created the Lorissa’s Kitchen brand in 2016 to appeal to active, upscale women looking for a healthy snack with varieties such as Ginger Teriyaki and Korean Barbecue Beef. Lorissa’s Kitchen is differentiated from other meat snacks brands through the use of attractive packaging that features photos of ingredients such as ginger, sesame seeds, and soy sauce. The packaging also touts that Lorissa’s Kitchen is “100% Grass-Fed Beef”, “Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics”, No Added MSG, and No Preservatives to reassure women that the meat snacks are premium.

Even consumers eating kosher are now being targeted. Tomer Kosher offered Kosher Beef Sticks that are kosher certified, made with 100% angus chuck, and free of dairy, gluten, and soy.

Among new initiatives, the traditional outdoorsy male audience for meat snacks is not being ignored. Three Star Brands licensed the Coleman outdoor brand to create Coleman Premium Steak Snacks for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Oberto Brands uses its Cattlemen’s Cut brand to target the Traditional consumer segment and its Oberto brand to reach the Better For You segment.  The company hired sports personalities including Rob Gronkowski (NFL All-Pro), Richard Sherman (NFL All-Pro), and Travis Pastrana (action sports) to spread the message that “Oberto is the jerky brand for those who lead an active lifestyle”.

Among other consumer segments, breakfast lovers and campers are being targeted. Link Snacks Inc extended its Jack Link’s brand to Jack Link’s A.M. to create Breakfast Bacon in Applewood Smoked and Brown Sugar & Maple and Breakfast Sausage in Original and Hot & Spicy varieties as a hearty morning offering. The introduction of a morning-positioned meat snack provides another snacking occasion beyond afternoon snacking and ties in well with the concept of more Americans having a second breakfast as reported by The Wall Street Journal in April 2017.

Popcorn Appeals to Both Health and Indulgence Seekers at the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo

Popcorn products were in abundance at the Sweets & Snacks Expo which took place May 23-25 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The trade show organized by the National Confectioners Association hosted over 800 exhibitors representing candy, chocolate, and snacks companies. I will talk about how popcorn makers are targeting both health and indulgence seekers in this article. Other articles will highlight the following trends in snacking that I saw at the show – coffee meets chocolate, chickpeas and lentils in the snack aisle; spicy flavors; and meat snacks offer breakfast, gourmet, and kosher options. 

Popcorn’s neutral taste and low calorie content provides a versatile platform that allows companies to offer one of the lowest calorie snacking options (on a per cup basis) or the indulgence of caramel, cheese, and chocolate mixed in. In turn, popcorn along with meat snacks has been one of the fastest growers in the U.S. snack industry. The RTE (ready-to-eat) popcorn category grew by 10.9% to reach $1.3 billion for the 52 weeks ending April 16, 2017 according to IRI POS, MULO and C & MULO data cited in Amplify Snack Brands, Inc’s June 13, 2017 presentation. A large portion of the double-digit growth has been driven by the company’s SkinnyPop brand, the number two brand in RTE popcorn after PepsiCo’s Smartfood brand.

SkinnyPop and other better for you (BFY) popcorn brands have leveraged growing interest in healthier snacking. The SkinnyPop brand has grown sales by highlighting features such as 39 calories per cup (in the Original Popped Popcorn), Non-GMO Project certification, gluten free certification as well only using only three ingredients (popcorn, sunflower oil, and salt). Going beyond its Original RTE popcorn, the company introduced microwaveable popcorn and popcorn cakes in February and is rolling out RTE popcorn in Real Cheese Aged White Cheddar & Pepper Jack varieties (47 calories per cup) this month.

A number of other companies also highlighted the low number of calories for their RTE popcorn at the show. SHRED Brands LLC highlighted “SHRED Snack approved at 33 calories/cup” on its SHRED Pop package. SHRED Pop is targeted towards calorie-counters and fans of Dr. Ian K. Smith, best-selling author and creator of the SHRED diet. I had a chance to meet Dr. Smith at SHRED Brands' booth at the Good Food Festival held in Chicago in March 2017.

Gaslamp Popcorn Co notes that its Sea Salt & Olive Oil Hand Made Popcorn contains 37 calories per cup. This popcorn is targeted at foodies with a small batch, kettle-popped process and the use of California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Open Road Snacks notes 43 calories per cup and 18g whole grain for its Sinfully Thin SuperPop Popcorn Herb & Spice Popcorn with Kale & Pomegranate. By using dehydrated kale flakes and pomegranate powder, the company seeks to position its popcorn as not just BFY but as a superfood. Karen Bradley, VP of National Sales at Open Road Snacks, told me that her company targets a wide range of consumers by offering both BFY Sinfully Thin Popcorn range as well as indulgent Rocky Mountain Popcorn (with the "taste HUGE" slogan) in flavors like caramel, kettle, and white cheddar. Open Road Snacks was acquired by Fresca Foods Inc in February 2017. By using a 0.625oz bag instead of a 1oz bag, Herr Foods Inc is able to claim 80 calories per bag for its Go Lite! Himalayan Salt popcorn. In addition to using Himalayan salt that is popular among foodies, the company uses coconut oil, currently viewed as one of the healthiest cooking oils.

There were plenty of indulgent items featuring popcorn at the show. The Hershey Company offered its Hershey’s Popped Snack Mix (with chocolate, pretzels, and popcorn) and Reese’s Popped Snack Mix. Gaslamp Popcorn Co offered up its Malibu Mix that combines sweet kettle corn, white cheddar flavored popcorn, and sea salt & olive oil popcorn. Hello Delicious! Brands combined the indulgence of caramel with the health benefits of dried Montmorency tart cherries in its Popcorn Thins Handcrafted Popcorn Snacks With Cranberries, Almonds, Cherries & Caramel.

Also offering indulgence was Harry & David who introduced two new varieties of its Moose Munch Premium Popcorn featuring Nestlé’s confections - Moose Munch Popcorn made with Nestlé Butterfinger Bites and Moose Munch Popcorn made with Nestlé Buncha Crunch. I spoke with Harry & David’s President Steven Lightman and Midwest Gourmet Food Group’s President Steve Druckman at the booth at the show. acquired Harry & David in 2014 and also owns The Popcorn Factory, Cheryl’s Cookies, Wolferman’s,, Stockyards, and Moose Munch and The Popcorn Factory primarily sell their products directly to the consumer. Lightman talked about how the company is seeking to position Moose Munch as an everyday snacking item instead of holiday gifting only. Consumers are familiar with Moose Munch from its availability in department and home stores such as Macy’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond during the Christmas shopping season as well as on the Harry & David’s catalog and website. To reposition the Moose Munch brand and reach younger consumers, the company has decided to go after self-consumption and snacking occasions through new products such as the Nestlé collaboration, smaller package sizes, and an expansion of retail channels. Using smaller single-serve 4oz bags and share-size 8oz bags instead of tins and drums allows Harry & David to sell their premium items into convenience stores such as 7-Eleven which receive more foot traffic than department stores.

Similar to Lightman’s goal at Harry & David, Druckman wants to expand the number of eating and buying occasions for The Popcorn Factory’s popcorn. The Popcorn Factory is known as a source for decorated popcorn tins during the holidays through its website and catalog. Druckman seeks to expand its wholesale business and to increase the number of orders on The Popcorn Factory’s website. At the show, the company’s Wholesale Shared Bag Line offered multiple indulgent options including Bacon Cheddar Popcorn, Butter Toffee With Sea Salt Popcorn, and Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn in packages ranging from 3oz to 8oz. The Popcorn Factory also offered Single Flavor Clear Canisters of popcorn in a wide variety of flavors including Peanut Brittle and Sour Green Apple. In terms of e-commerce, Druckman wants to get more and more gifting occasions beyond birthdays, sympathy, thank you, and graduation. To aid this effort, parent company offers the Celebrations Passport membership program similar to Amazon Prime where consumers receive free unlimited standard 2 business shipping with no minimum purchase across all of the company’s brands for an annual fee of $30.

Candy and snack manufacturers are increasingly interested in using e-commerce to grow sales. At the show, One Click Retail’s VP of E-Commerce, Nathan Rigby, stressed the need to compete on effectively in his “State of the Market: E-Commerce for Candy and Snacks” presentation. Rigby stated that grocery sales on Amazon U.S. passed the $1 billion mark in 2016 and totaled $350 million in the first quarter of 2017, up 30% year-over-year.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Spicy Flavors at the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo

I attended the Sweets & Snacks Expo which was held May 23-25 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The trade show organized by the National Confectioners Association hosted over 800 exhibitors representing candy, chocolate, and snacks companies. In this article, I will talk about how candy and snack companies are injecting spicy flavors into their products. Other articles will highlight the following trends in snacking that I saw at the show – coffee meets chocolate, chickpeas and lentils in the snack aisle; meat snacks offer breakfast, gourmet, and kosher options; and popcorn appeals to both health and indulgence seekers.

Spicy flavors such sriracha and chili, habanero, jalapeno, and serrano peppers featured in many candies and snacks seen at the show. Most of the spicy products offered a mild to medium heat level, unlike the famously fiery Paqui Haunted Ghost Pepper tortilla chips from Amplify Snack Brands, Inc. Sriracha hot sauce’s growing popularity has moved it beyond Asian restaurant tables to savory snacks, candies, and even nut butters. Pop! Gourmet Foods offered The Original Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce Kettle Cooked Potato Chips that has been created in partnership with Huy Fong Foods, the producer of the original Sriracha Chili Sauce.

The sriracha flavor notes of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt are increasingly being combined with other flavors such as honey and fruits. Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs offered a Sriracha Sunshine flavor variety at the show while Think Jerky offered Sriracha Honey Free-Range Turkey Jerky. Koko’s Confectionery & Novelty, owned by A&A Global Industries, Inc., offered the youth-targeted Sweet Fire sriracha candy line that includes cotton candy, gumballs, and popping candy (with a strawberry lollipop). For active, health conscious consumers, snack bar maker PROBAR LLC offered PROBAR Organic Sriracha Peanut Butter Blend made with organic peanuts, coconut oil, vinegar, and pineapple in single-serve 1.15oz squeeze packs for on-the-go snacking.

Beyond sriracha, companies are combining the taste of sweet fruit with spicy notes to appeal to young consumers. Impact Confections Inc is known for its WARHEADS Extreme Sour Hard Candy products. At the show, the company introduced HOTHEADS Extreme Heat Worms to offer a multi-layered flavor experience of puckering sour, sweet fruit, and fiery heat. American Licorice Company extended its Sour Punch brand with new Sour Punch Pineapple Mango Chili Straws. Use of spicy fruity flavors is not limited to small and medium size companies. Wrigley extended its fruit flavored Skittles and Starburst lines with Skittles and Starburst Sweet Heat that combine “fruity flavors with a spicy kick”. Starburst Sweet Heat will feature Fiery Watermelon, Strawberry Mango, Flamin’ Orange and Pipin’ Pineapple.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Chickpeas and Lentils at the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo

I attended the Sweets & Snacks Expo (aka, The Candy Show) which was held May 23-25 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The trade show organized by the National Confectioners Association hosted over 800 exhibitors representing candy, chocolate, and snacks companies. In this article, I will talk about chickpeas and lentils (pulses) in the snack aisle. I previously wrote about the “Coffee Meets Chocolate” trend at the show.

If year 2016 was the International Year of Pulses as proclaimed by the United Nations, could 2017 turn out to be the year of pulse-based snacks? Numerous exhibitors spotlighted the use of chickpeas, lentils, dry beans, and other pulsesin snacks to promote themselves as healthier options to traditional chips. Using pulses allows snack companies to offer the nutritional benefits of being high in protein and fiber while being naturally gluten-free.

Chickpeas, best known for its use in hummus, are likely to be the biggest star among pulses in snacks. Green Park Brands, the makers of HIPPEAS organic chickpea puffs, announced on May 23 that Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Strand Equity Partners were new investors in the company. HIPPEAS are certified gluten-free, kosher, vegan, and USDA certified organic. HIPPEAS are aimed at health and socially conscious millennials with bright packaging, the call-outs of 3g of fiber and 4g of protein per 1oz serving, and its partnership with Farm Africa, where a portion of proceeds go to supporting chickpea farmers in eastern Africa economically. HIPPEAS also made an appearance at the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show as shown in the photo above.

Numerous other companies featured chickpeas, best known in the U.S. for its use in hummus. Rare Fare Foods, offered Off the Eaten Path Hummus Crisps made with chickpeas and rice flour. GLK Foods introduced GoBitos, a line of seasoned roasted chickpeas, as a high fiber, high protein, “satisfying meal replacement”. Saffron Road’s Saffron Road ChickBean Crisps offered 5g of protein per 1oz serving in addition to being certified gluten-free and Halal. The Saffron Road ChickBean Crisps are made with chickpeas, lentils, yellow and green split peas, and rice and sweet potato flours.

In addition to chickpeas, lentils were another popular pulse at the show. Enjoy Life Foods, a division of Mondelez International, offered its Plentils lentil chips that are marketed as having 40% less fat than the leading potato chip, certified gluten-free, free of the eight major food allergens, and vegan. By combining lentils with high-protein edamame (immature soybeans), Harvested For You Baked Multi-Grain Chips by Hello Delicious! Brands offers 4g of protein per 1oz serving. The package for Daily Crave Spicy Sriracha Lentil Crisps from Natural Intentions, Inc touts its 3g of protein, vegan, kosher, and non GMO among its features. 

Coffee Meets Chocolate at the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo

I attended the Sweets & Snacks Expo (aka, The Candy Show) which was held May 23-25 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The trade show organized by the National Confectioners Association hosted over 800 exhibitors representing candy, chocolate, and snacks companies. In this article, I will talk about the "coffee meets chocolate" trend while other articles will highlight other trends in snacking that I saw at the show – chickpeas and lentils in the snack aisle; spicy and fruity notes; meat snacks offer breakfast, gourmet, and kosher options: and popcorn appeals to both health and indulgence seekers.

Combining coffee with chocolate is not a new practice as chocolate covered espresso beans have been around for a long time. Woodstock Foods offered Organic Dark Chocolate Coffee Beans at the show. However, I saw many more confectionery items using coffee as an ingredient at this year’s show than previous shows as chocolate makers seek to capitalize on the growing interest in drinking specialty coffee, especially among millennials. One new launch is Wild Ophelia Cold Brew Chocolate Bites from Vosges Ltd. that features cold brew coffee and chocolate fudge centers covered with solid chocolate. Vosges highlighted the growing awareness and popularity of cold brew coffee in its sell sheet by citing research firm Mintel’s data that estimated cold brew coffee sales grew by 338.9% from 2010-2015. Cold brew coffee sales have skyrocketed in the U.S. because it offers a smoother, less acidic coffee through the process of steeping ground coffee in water for about 12-18 hours without using heat.

In addition to a love of cold brew coffee, many millennial consumers have an interest in products made in a sustainable manner that supports farmers and the community. Wild Ophelia’s Cold Brew Chocolate Bites are Fair Trade certified, and a portion of the proceeds go to supporting female food entrepreneurs. Amore di Mona uses fair trade and organic ingredients including Dutch cocoa butter, Madhava agave nectar, and La Semeuse coffee beans in its Chocolate With Crunchy Coffee Beans that is also gluten, soy & nut free. 

These coffee-filled products offer a quick burst of caffeinated energy for on-the-go consumers in a portable format. CoffeeSnacks, Inc touts its Java Me Up! Coffee Bars as “Coffee That Never Spills”. Its Java Me Up! Café Mocha Coffee Bar is a caffeinated energy bar with 35 mg of caffeine, 6g of protein, and 5g of fiber and is made with organic, shade-grown, direct trade coffee; dark chocolate; rolled oats; almonds; sunflower seeds; flaxseed; and chicory root fiber. Awake Chocolate says that one Awake Caffeinated Chocolate Bar contains 100mg of caffeine, equivalent to a cup of coffee. An even higher caffeine content is claimed by the GET UP and GO Energy Shot Cookie from Get Up and Go Ventures that is aimed at energy shot drinkers with 180mg of caffeine in a 3oz cookie (two servings in each cookie) to “Knock Out the 3pm Slump”.

In terms of portability, the smallest caffeinated item at the show was Coffee Thins in a 0.35oz package from Tierra Nueva Fine Cocoa. The Coffee Thins look like little chocolate squares and are made with 100% arabica coffee beans and cocoa butter. The company’s licensed Krispy Kreme Coffee Thins “Your On-The-Go Coffee Snack” were created to taste like the coffee from the popular doughnut shop chain. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Top Non-Alcoholic Drinks Trends Seen at the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show

The National Restaurant Association Show hosted its 98th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel  Show and Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants (BAR) at NRA Show from May 20–23, 2017 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. In this article, I will highlight noteworthy trends in non-alcoholic drinks that I saw at the show. I previously wrote about alcoholic drinks trends and food trends seen at the NRA Show.

1. Cold Brew Coffee Is Hot

Cold brew coffee is one of the fastest growing segments in U.S. beverages in retail and foodservice channels. Retail sales of ready-to-drink (RTD) cold brew coffee grew by 580% from 2011-2016 while cold brew menu penetration grew by +300% from 2014-2016 according to data from Datassential presented by John Buckner of S&D Coffee & Tea. In his “Cold Brew Coffee: Why Is Hot?” presentation, Buckner told the NRA Show audience that cold brew coffee offers an opportunity for foodservice operators to grow beverage sales, reach millennials, and charge more on a per cup basis than traditional iced coffee by offering a premium, smooth tasting product.S&D Coffee & Tea offered multiple cold brew coffee variants including black, flavored, nitro, and soft serve ice cream at its booth. 

There was no shortage of cold brew coffee at the show as numerous exhibitors offered up bean bags, liquid concentrate, kegged, and RTD versions. Tradecraft Outfitters  hosted a mobile pop-up that featured Metropolis, Stumptown, and Stumptown nitro cold brew coffees on tap as well as a stand offering  RTD cold brew coffees from La Colombe, Limitless, Metropolis, Passion House Coffee Roasters, Stumptown, and Zingerman’s.  Califia Farms and High Brew Coffee showed their RTD cold brew coffees while BUNN showcased their Nitron Cold Draft Dispenser that uses one gallon concentrate BIBs (beverage-in-boxes) or caddy packs instead of kegs. Royal Cup Coffee and Tea offered personalized coffee by allowing visitors to create “Nitro Art” with the Ripple Maker that prints image or text onto coffee foam. The company offered two nitro cold brew options: Royal Cup French Roast Cold Brew Coffee and HC Valentine Aztec Organic Cold Brew.

2. Rising Interest in Gourmet and Specialty Coffees

Not only are millennials driving growth in cold brew coffee, they are also driving growth in gourmet and specialty coffees. Millennial coffee drinkers are highly interested in handcrafted beverages, unusual flavor combinations, and learning the stories behind the coffee growers and roasters. I had a chance to speak to Lavazza North America’s CEO and EVP, Davide Riboni at the show. Riboni discussed how American consumers are looking for a higher quality product and increasing their consumption of espresso-based beverages (EBBs) such as cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos, especially away from home. He said that EBBs have about 20% market penetration in the US and thinks it can get to 50% penetration. In addition to competition from espresso, drip filter coffee is decreasing in popularity in the U.S. because of the convenience offered by single-serve pods from Keurig and Nespresso.

To appeal to consumers looking for gourmet coffees and help its hotel and restaurant customers grow their coffee business, Lavazza is providing more single-origin coffees that offer storytelling potential. At the show, the company showcased its new Lavazza KAFA Forest Coffee from Ethiopia as well as relaunching the Tierra Single Origins line of Rainforest Alliance, sustainably produced coffees from Brazil and Tanzania. KAFA offers uniqueness due to its limited production and geographic origin as arabica coffee is thought to have originated in this region. Unesco has acknowledged Kafa as a “biosphere reserve”. To emphasize the luxury aspect of Lavazza KAFA, the company offered workshops that served KAFA in three different ways including a pour over with cinnamon and ginger (and served with a side dish of popcorn as done in Ethiopian coffee ceremonies) and as a coffee mocktail with cold brew coffee and Monin cherry syrup to bring out the cherry notes in the coffee.

Lavazza was not the only coffee company at the show emphasizing the origin of its coffees. Coffee Planet’s booth signage stated that the company “was born in Arabia where Arabica coffee was first roasted over 500 years ago”. After starting up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2005, Coffee Planet signed partnerships to serve its coffee in highway convenience stores, expanded into hotels and supermarkets, and developed a franchised café concept in the UAE before expanding into international markets. Coffee Planet now wants to expand into the US foodservice market. 

3. Healthier Sodas and Soda Alternatives

Volume sales of carbonated soft drinks have been declining in recent years as health conscious consumers seek to reduce consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners. To retain consumers, soft drinks companies are turning to new product launches and acquisitions to offer “healthier” sodas and soda alternatives that provide flavor and bubbles minus the high fructose corn syrup. The Coca-Cola Company introduced the Barrilitos Aguas Frescas line of fountain drinks that contains 50-60 calories per 8oz serving. Modeled after Mexican aguas frescas, the Barrilitos Aguas Frescas in Horchata and Tamarind varieties are flavored with fruit juices, purees and/or spices. PepsiCo sampled its line of Stubborn Soda that was launched in select foodservice channels in a fountain format in 2015. Stubborn Soda contains 90-100 calories per 12oz serving and is made with Fair Trade certified cane sugar and stevia.

After completing its purchase of Bai Brands LLC in January 2017, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. showcased Bai's 5-calorie drinks (per 11.5oz serving) including Bai Bubbles that are sweetened with erythritol and stevia leaf extract). Tractor Soda Co offered Tractor Organic Crafted Soda that is USDA-certified organic and made with organic raw cane sugar, organic fruits, herbs, and spices. Another organic soda offering at the show was Brooklyn Organics Craft Ginger Ale that contains 5-10 calories per 8.4oz serving that is sweetened with organic stevia leaf extract. 

4. Iced Teas Aim to Attract Health Conscious

Tea companies are aiming to pull away consumers from soft drinks by emphasizing its refreshing and healthy properties. Tiesta Tea has been selling loose leaf tea blends in retail channels.  At the show, Tiesta Tea noted how “tea attracts millennials” and that its loose-leaf tea blends offer functionality such as slenderizing (Lean Green Machine Light Citrus Green Tea) and age defying (Blueberry Wild Child Blueberry Hibiscus Fruit Tea). Rishi Tea launched its Craft Brew Sparkling Tea & Botanicals line of sparkling tea and botanicals in one-way recyclable PET kegs. Rishi Craft Brew was created to offer the energy boost of cold brew coffee and the health benefits of kombucha in a product that contains no added sugar or preservatives. The Runner’s High Sparkling Tea contains yerba mate and green tea for the uplift and organic schizandra berries, an adaptogenic herb to restore the body.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Alcoholic Drinks Trends Seen at the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show

The National Restaurant Association Show hosted its 98th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants (BAR) at NRA Show from May 20–23, 2017 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. In this article, I will highlight noteworthy trends in alcoholic drinks that I saw at the show. A separate article on non-alcoholic drinks trends will be published at a later time.

1. Alcoholic Drinks Get Technology Infusion

Bars and restaurants experience many “pain points” according to many beverage technology exhibitors at the NRA Show and the BAR Pavilion. A major pain point is speed of service – consumers want their cocktails and jello shots immediately. One possible solution to wait times is having consumers serve their own cocktails. DraftServ Technologies in partnership with Micro Matic and RIPE Bar Juice created a Cold Pressed Craft Margaritas Self-Serve Machine where a patron uses a DraftServ card (after age verification) to pour a cocktail. The Micro Matic machine holds a bag-in-box of cold-pressed HPP (high pressure processing) mixer and the spirit such as tequila and combines it for the patron. DraftServ also offers advanced consumer analytics by allowing owners and managers to review what pours best, at what time, and by demographic segments.

For high-volume bars serving jello shots, they have had to wait several hours for the gelatin shots to “set” in the refrigerator as well as messes created by mixing gelatin mix with liquor. The makers of Jevo The Automated Gelatin Shot Maker claim that bartenders can make up to 300 gelatin shots an hour by using the Ready-To-Eat mode that takes 15 minutes or the Quick Prep mode that takes 2.5 minutes before finishing in the refrigerator. Billed as the Keurig of gelatin shots, the Jevo is a machine that uses proprietary flavor pods and any liquor. The flavor pods are produced by Jel Sert, makers of Royal gelatin dessert mixes and Fla-Vor-Ice Freezer Pops. Jevo has partnered with alcoholic drinks producer Beam Suntory, makers of Pinnacle vodka, Cruzan rum, and Jim Beam Kentucky Fire. Jevo tracks usage of the flavor pods and can automatically place a replenishment order through Wi-Fi.

Another pain point for bars is watered down drinks as ice melts. It was previously thought that liquor could not be frozen. To maintain the taste of “on the rocks” drinks from first sip to last sip, Beyond Zero was developed to be able to freeze liquor into ice cubes. Patrons no longer have to worry about the dilution factor as frozen liquor melts into liquid liquor.

2. Kombucha and Tea as Cocktail Mixers

Kombucha and tea have traditionally been viewed as healthy beverages with antioxidants and less sugar than soda. But kombucha and tea have not been seen as cocktail mixers. Bartenders and drinkers are turning to a wider range of mixers as they go beyond tonic water to include bolder flavors such as ginger beer. In turn, makers of kombucha and tea see an opening in the cocktail space.

Health-Ade Kombucha, Pure Steeps (Wonder Drink), and Owl’s Brew exhibited at the BAR Pavilion to market themselves as cocktail mixers to bar and restaurant operators. At the NRA Show, Health-Ade Kombucha served kombucha on tap and from glass bottles. Health-Ade offered four cocktails recipes including for PCH Mojito and Beet Sangria. Stephen Lee, CEO of Pure Steeps sampled his Kombucha Wonder Drinks. He explained how kombucha makes a good mixer in cocktails. He offers several kombucha cocktail recipes including one for the Blood Orange Kombucharita in his book, Kombucha Revolution: 75 Recipes for Homemade Brews, Fixers, Elixirs, and Mixers.

Owl’s Brew offered its “Tea Crafted for Cocktails”. The company’s liquid tea concentrates are loose leaf teas and spices that have been fresh-brewed and sweetened before bottling. The Owl’s Brew products designed to be two parts Owl’s Brew and one part liquor were designed to provide a fresh, lightly sweetened alternative to existing mixers.