Although trade show attendance has been down for the past two years, we found many innovative offerings to whet our appetite with the "va va voom" factor at this year’s combined Food Marketing Institute, Fancy Food Show, Produce Expo & Conference, All Things Organic and the U.S. Food Export Showcase trade shows. All were held in May in Chicago.
- Flipping expectations: I noticed a lot of reverse combinations and swirling of different flavors. Hershey put the chocolate on the inside and the peanut butter on the outside for Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers. The candy company also debuted a line of Hershey’s cookies in four varieties - Hershey’s, Reese’s, Almond Joy and York - as well as double chocolate and chocolate and vanilla and peanut butter Kisses.
As for swirling, Nestle blended peanut butter, caramel or white chocolate into its Toll House Swirled chocolate bits. Kraft swirled together cream cheese and flavors (such as peaches & cream or brown sugar, cinnamon & spice) to make Philadelphia Swirls cream cheese. Kellogg’s Eggo Flip Flop (chocolate on one side, vanilla on the other) gives consumers two options with one meal.
- Organics: Organic alternatives of popular, big-brand products were in abundance. ConAgra will soon launch Hunt’s Organic Tomatoes as well as Orville Redenbacher’s Organic Microwave Popcorn. Campbell Soup showed organic Swanson Beef Broth, Prego pasta sauce, Pace Picante sauce and V8 100% vegetable juice. Unilever debuted Skippy Natural Peanut Butter. Coleman Natural Foods has a new line of natural and organic sausages.
- Speed and convenience: To helping mom in the kitchen, Tyson showcased a line of Tyson Meal kits in a stand up pouch. McCormick launched Slow Cookers seasonings packets and Skillet Paste cooking sauces to make dinner preparation a snap. Dad will appreciate Grill Mates Spice Rubs and Marinades, and, for grilling at high temperatures, ConAgra’s new Pam for Grilling. On the dessert front, Smucker’s rolled out Sundae Singles, individually portioned microwaveable topping in Hot Fudge and Caramel, and General Mills’ Betty Crocker made everyone smile with samples of its Warm Delights, single-serve microwave cakes.
- Wellness: There were many options for improving heart health and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, including Quaker Take Heart Instant Oatmeal, General Mills’ Yoplait Healthy Heart yogurt and Egg-Land’s Best eggs with 100 mg of omega-3. Kashi debuted Mighty Bites, a whole-grain cereal aimed at kids. Kraft, with more than 70 new products and the largest booth, unveiled its South Beach Diet foods (the pizza and wraps were outstanding). Lipton’s cool sugar-free Green Tea To Go (just add a little packet to a bottle of water and you’re all set) supplies 80 mgs of flavonoid antioxidants per serving.
With the focus on adding vegetables to the American diet, McCormick’s Veggie Steamers makes possible a tasty, healthy side dish for the cooking impaired. Just add vegetables and water to the microwavable bag containing the perfect spice mix. Sunkist’s Fun Fruits - sliced oranges, apples, pineapples and red grapes with no stems packaged in half-cup serving packages - from Dole are a great option in kids’ lunch packs. Stonyfield Farm reduced sugar by half in its Moove Over Sugar yogurt, which has a zero glycemic index.
Coca-Cola debuted Powerade Option in strawberry, lemon and black cherry flavors. It has fewer carbs and calories, but the same vitamin and electrolyte formulation as regular Powerade. And if you want a carbonated soft drink with zero calories and zero sugar, Coca-Cola Zero, sweetened with a blend of aspartame and ace-K hit the spot.
- International fare: Menu Fresh, a small company based in Texas, launched a ready-to-eat line of fresh meal kits - chicken and beef fajitas, enchiladas and quesadillas, complete with guacamole and salsa. It’s regional fare at the moment, but plans are to go national. Thai and Latin flavors appeared to be big. McCormick introduced eight popular Latin American-inspired spices, herbs and seasonings including Sazón, Adobo, Completa, Whole Mexican Oregano, Annatto and Chili with lime. Speaking of lime, it was in abundance, as were coconut and peanut butter.
- Indulgence: Baby boomers love small indulgences, and Campbell Soup responded with Select Gold Label, a line of aseptically packaged, ready-to-eat, restaurant-quality vegetarian soups. Redbone Foods, Florence, S.C., introduced five organic aioli (traditionally a French garlic-flavored mayonnaise-type sauce), developed by restaurant chef Dale Barth. You can use them as a cooking or dipping sauce. Brooklyn-based Alexia debuted Fresh Baked Artisan Breads - from freezer to table in eight minutes in five varieties: French, Ciabatta, Whole Grain, Three Cheese and Garlic Baguette.
HBH Pet Products thinks dogs should also have indulgent treats. Made with carob, dogs can now enjoy Chocolick Chips, Brownie Bites, and my favorite Chocolick Mints to freshen their breath.