Monday, May 31, 2021

National Restaurant Association Show’s 2021 Food and Beverage Awards Part 1


Photo: 2019 Restaurant Show by Virginia Lee

I’m back to blogging again after taking a break in 2020 when in-person trade shows were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Although the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is prompting the return of in-person trade shows, the National Restaurant Association was unable to hold its annual Restaurant Show at Chicago’s McCormick Place this year. Though the National Restaurant Association shifted to a digital marketplace for 2021 with The Show To Go, the association continued with its annual Food and Beverage (FABI Awards) in May 2021. One of my favorite activities at the show has been attending the FABI Awards tasting events. At the last show I attended in 2019, the FABI Awards Tastings allowed me a chance to try many of the award-winning food and beverages and learn about the product from the company representatives. Common themes among the 24 winning foodservice products are plant-based foods, clean labels, gluten-free options, and grab-and-go formats. In this post, I will look at some of the FABI Award winners in beverages and cover the food winners in part 2.

La Colombe Draft Chocolate Milk

Photo: Virginia Lee

Although I was only able to try one of this year’s FABI beverage winners, the La Colombe Draft Chocolate Milk, I look forward to trying to many of the other winners during restaurant visits or at next year’s National Restaurant Association Show. I was able to find the La Colombe Draft Chocolate Milk at a Target. This is chocolate milk for adults as it combines the same high quality cocoa served in La Colombe’s cafes with lactose-free, nonfat milk and nitrous oxide in a patented InnoValve can to offer a frothy, creamy drink similar to nitro coffees served at coffee shops. The beverage with no added caffeine contains 10 grams of protein, 130 calories, 4 grams of added sugars, and 18 grams of total sugars in a 9 oz. can. La Colombe Coffee Roasters, based in Philadelphia, has 30 cafes nationwide and has been offering canned draft latte products since 2016. I remember talking to La Colombe CEO and co-founder Todd Carmichael back in 2016 as he was beginning to launch the canned draft latte coffees beyond the cafes.

RISE Original Oat Milk

Photo: 2019 Restaurant Show by Virginia Lee

Consumers are looking for plant-based alternatives with a short list of ingredients that they recognize and can pronounce. RISE Brewing Co.'s RISE Original Oat Milk addresses the clean label and the plant-based milk alternative trend by using only four ingredients: organic oats, organic sunflower oil, water, and a dash of salt.  Sales of plant-based milk alternatives have been growing steadily while that of dairy milk has declined. Retail value sales of plant-based milks grew by 20% in 2020 to reach $2.5 billion according to SPINS data. Oat milk was the fastest grower among the plant-based milks, more than tripling its sales in 2020. 

Moshi Yuzu Sparkling Water Unsweetened White Peach

Photo: Brooklyn Food & Beverage

Brooklyn Food & Beverage's Moshi Yuzu Sparkling Water Unsweetened White Peach offers consumers a clean label beverage with no added sugar. This unsweetened variety in the Moshi Sparkling Water line contains carbonated water, yuzu juice, white peach juice concentrate, and natural flavors, with 20 calories in a 12 oz. bottle. Yuzu fruit is native to Japan and offers an aromatic citrusy flavor. The company's co-founder Bruce Cost popularized the craft ginger ale category through the launch of his Bruce Cost Ginger Ales. I have been a big fan of Bruce Cost's ginger ales ever since Cost introduced his fresh, unfiltered ginger ales into Lettuce Entertain You's Big Bowl and Wow Bao restaurants in Chicago. 

Sarah's Homegrown Agua Frescas 

Photo: Frey Farms, LLC

Frey Farms' Sarah's Homegrown Agua Frescas are another clean label beverage with a short list of ingredients. The three Agua Frescas in Mango, Strawberry, and Watermelon varieties contain water, fruit purees, fruit and vegetable juices, cane sugar, and natural flavors. Each 12 oz. bottle contains 60 calories and 14 to 15 grams of sugar. Founded in 1992 by Sarah Frey, Frey Farms is based in Keenes, Illinois and uses sustainable farming practices including using imperfect "ugly fruits" in its beverages to reduce food waste. Frey is not only an entrepreneur and the United Fresh Produce Association's 2020 Women in Produce honoree but an author. She writes about growing as the youngest of 21 children on a struggling farm in southern Illinois, taking over the family farm when it faced foreclosure, and becoming one of America's largest fresh produce growers and shippers in her autobiography, The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life -- and Saved an American Farm

Natalie's Pineapple, Kale, Zinc & Vitamin D Juice

Photo: Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Co.

Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Co.'s Natalie's Pineapple, Kale, Zinc & Vitamin D Juice targets consumers who are increasingly looking to build immunity through its use of multiple ingredients associated with immunity - vitamin C-rich pineapples, zinc, and vitamin D. The clean label juice also offers an antioxidant-rich blend of spinach and kale along with celery. COVID-19 has led to growing demand for immunity-boosting foods and beverages, with the global immunity-strengthening food products market expected to grow from $16.31 billion in 2019 to $22.76 billion in 2020 according to The Business Research Company

For a look at all 24 FABI Award winners, check out Restaurant Business's article on the FABI Awards and a webinar where two 2021 FABI Awards judges discuss today's top food & beverage trends. In part 2, I will cover some of the FABI Award winners in food. 

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