Editor's Plate: Five great food ideas from Europe

Editor in Chief Dave Fusaro discusses some of the most innovative products from the SIAL food show in Paris.

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I recently had the great fortune to travel through Europe, including a week split between SIAL, the world’s largest food show, and touring food plants in northern France. It wasn’t my first visit to Europe. I suspect anyone who’s been overseas remarks at the differences in food and food packaging, even from a simple trip to a grocery store.

SIAL is a show every food processor and marketer ought to take in sometime. It’s held every other year and draws an estimated 135,000 people from all around the world. Most admittedly come from Europe – which means there are a lot of diverse cultures that can get there easily.

There’s a lot to be learned simply by observing how other cultures live. Apply that thinking to food marketing, and the upside is huge. Sure, there are cultural differences that carry over into what we eat, but we all have the same four (or five) senses of taste. So something that tastes great in France should have a pretty good shot at impressing an American palate. Sometimes even the commonplace in one country can be the next big thing somewhere else.

I sampled a lot of unusual things there, some of which would never work over here. But there was a handful of products with the perfect combination of novelty and great taste that I think would have great potential here in the States. Maybe there’s an idea or two in here for you:

  • Flavors of ketchup: I know Heinz and Hunt’s have experimented with variations on this familiar condiment, but the products didn’t catch on here. Magro Brothers of Malta showed several ketchups, including a brown sauce that was a fruity cross between our familiar ketchup and barbecue sauce. Polimark of Serbia displayed three, including a mild (closest to Heinz), hot and pizza.
  • Cranberries in powdered sugar: Rather than altering the natural tartness of these little fruits, Mandor Riga of Latvia slathered them in powdered sugar. Each of the two taste extremes remained evident, yet they balanced each other nicely. (Ocean Spray and Northland, take note.)
  • Speaking of sugar-coating things, Fratelli Marullo of Bronte, Italy, used a crystalline sugar coating on pistachios – a simple variation but one that transformed the nuts into candy.
  • Beer with apple flavor: On previous visits to Europe, I discovered Belgian beers with several berry flavors. At the SIAL show, Dohler Group, a German flavor company, demonstrated beer with an apple base. The company also makes beer bases with strawberry and mango, although the spokesperson admitted those haven’t caught on yet. (On my own at a Parisian bar, I discovered beer with banana flavoring. Don’t wince -- it was great!)
  • While Anheuser-Busch was launching Budweiser B-to-the-E (BE) over here, Propaganda Products from Monaco was showing off its own guarana-fortified red beer. “It’s a mix between beer and the energy drinks the younger set is drinking so they can party all night,” said the spokesperson in the booth. It came in a spun aluminum bottle with a crown-style (but pull-off) cap -- not unlike the Iron City bottle we feature this month in Rollout.
Traveling the world is as much an education as it is fun. Maybe somewhere in this list is a future food product of the year.

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