With Cajun flavor enjoying a revival in the retail sector, New Orleans was a timely, albeit sizzling, venue for the 2005 Institute of Food Technologists’ IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo in July.
The annual expo brings out a variety of food industry suppliers, including equipment manufacturers, software houses and service providers. But it remains predominantly an ingredient showcase.
Wellness ingredients appeared to be the focus this year, but bold flavors also sizzled. Hispanic, Latin American and Asian influences appeared in unique and innovative ways. Chipotle, ginger, grilled flavors and dark chocolate jazzed up many of the offerings.
In order to showcase their ingredients, most of the exhibitors cook foods on site, and some also create packaged food products, many of which are good enough for grocery shelves, in my opinion. Every year, I’m impressed by the effort many ingredient vendors go to in creating prototype products just to show off their ingredients. Following are my picks for the tastiest and most innovative products at the show. Our apologies to those we couldn’t include because of space.Fitness frenzy
Zero trans fat labeling is the industry’s greatest current challenge. Mild cheddar-flavored Zero Trans Fat Cheddar Snack Crackers, served by Edlong Dairy Flavors (www.edlong.com
), Elk Grove Village, Ill., prove that zero trans fat savory delights are possible. And although it’s only a local delight, Spicy Beer-Battered Alligator with Remoulade Sauce was a divine homage to New Orleans cuisine. Yes, alligator does taste like chicken.
|Wild Flavors' Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette blended sweet cocoa with balsamic vinegar for a surprisingly yummy zing.
Wild Flavors (www.wildflavors.com
), Erlanger, Ky., showcased a panoply of healthy ingredient prototypes, including Tropical Heart-Health Beverage (pineapple, orange, passion fruit, peach and acerola) brimming with “cardio-licious” antioxidants, phytosterol esters, Co-Q10, apple polyphenols, vitamins and minerals. With Americans spending $12 billion on cosmeceutical products last year, Wild has lots of potential in Mango Ginger Cosmeceutical Spritzer. The drink contained vitamins A, C and E, which protects against UV radiation, reduces premature aging and neutralizes free radicals. It also had ginkgo biloba, gotu kola, ginger oil, rosemary and aloe vera. Or, to calm the nerves, try chill with Relaxing Creamy Cucumber Soup with herbal ingredients. My favorite prototype, however, was Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette, a combination of unexpected flavors – sweet cocoa blended with balsamic vinegar – that gives salad greens a spectacular flavor boost.
Snack foods continue to gain share for on-the-go Americans. We loved Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc.’s bite-sized Protein Enriched Savory Cheese Snack. This whey protein concentrate and WPCrisp (textured whey protein isolate) -containing Cheddar-flavored snack is crunchy and buttery tasting. Although the media recently declared low-carb dead, consumers continue to modify their carbs, and whey can replace some of the carbs in food formulations. We also enjoyed a refreshing Mango-Flavored Isotonic Protein Beverage with 25 percent less sugar than a typical carbonated soft drink. Many isotonic drinks offer electrolytes for muscle recovery, but very few deliver protein. Incidentally, if you need some new product inspiration, DMI’s new website www.innovatewithdairy.com
contains “Innovation Station,” which provides information, resources and tools for new product development.
), Schenectady, N.Y., incorporated its custom nutrient premixes in multicolored and multi-flavored (raspberry, lemon, grape and cherry) Fortified Freeze Pops. This cool application, containing vitamins A, E and C, is a great idea for processors and adds an antioxidant profile to an otherwise nutrient-empty kid food. Parents would enjoy Fortitech’s prototype Fortified Chocolate Pudding containing vitamins A, B, and D.
It took Archer Daniels Midland (www.admworld.com
) chefs Brian Yager and Eric White a year and a half to develop Nola Gumbo, a sensational tasting main course made with NutriSoy Next soy meat analog, NovaXan xanthan gum, Sweet ‘N Neat molasses powder and Enova brand oil. Even consumers who normally don’t buy soy products would salivate over this creation from the Decatur, Ill., company.
Land O'Lakes Dairy Proteins (www.landolakesfid.com
), St. Paul, Minn., exhibited Textured Whey Protein Crispies Brownies. “The crispies featured in the brownie contain 50 percent protein,” says Mike Kothbauer, sales and marketing manager, dairy proteins. “They’re designed for incorporation into foods to increase the protein content.” The crispies can be used as an ingredient in baking mixes, sports nutrition bars, candy bars, granola and trail mixes, or salad toppings.
Cone-coxions were bite-sized crispy almond waffle cones made with almond meal and skins, coated with dark chocolate, and then sprinkled with diced almonds. Concocted by a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they won the 2005 Almond Innovations Contest, sponsored by the Modesto-based Almond Board of California (www.almondboard.com
). Almonds are a nutrient powerhouse, an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium plus protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and monounsaturated fat – all without cholesterol.