For a report focusing on the All Things Organic and Fancy Food shows, click here.
The May 6-8 Food Marketing Institute FMI Show may have been the end of an era. After 31 annual events, the last 23 in Chicago, the show will be changing its location, format and frequency next year. With 13 of the 20 largest food processors skipping the show this year, perhaps the writing was on the wall.
The annual spring celebration of new grocery products nevertheless was resplendent with 30,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors spread among five shows. In addition to mainline FMI grocery show, the event also housed the Fancy Food Show, All Things Organic, United Fresh Marketplace and U.S. Food Export Showcase, as it has for the past four years.
Missing this year from the main show (for the first time) were Tyson, Pepsico, ConAgra, Kellogg, Cadbury Schweppes and Cargill. Dole, Hormel, Maple Leaf, Pilgrim's Pride, Sara Lee, Smithfield and Swift skipped this year and last year.
Next year, the grocery show will keep the same format - billed as "FMI Show Plus Marketechnics" - but it will be in Las Vegas May 5-7. The following year it will be replaced by the FMI Leadership Education Forum in Dallas, with those two formats alternating. Different locations are being considered, and FMI officials say it's likely one of the shows will return to Chicago.
The United Fresh Marketplace will follow FMI to Las Vegas next year. On the other hand, All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show, Spring Fancy Food Show and National Assn. of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) U.S. Food Export Showcase will return to Chicago in late April 2008.
Healthy and energetic
Health and wellness, energy enhancement and upscale ingredients (all in convenient formats) were the most notable trends at the FMI show.
Ensconced in the largest booth at the show, Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods Inc. showcased more than 70 new foods and beverages in a novel, Internet-based, interactive, virtual world it called Second Life.
Although three in four Americans haven't heard of probiotics, which help support digestive health, Kraft rolled out LiveActive Cheese Sticks and Cheese Cubes with probiotics ... and Breakstone's and Knudsen LiveActive Cottage Cheese with prebiotic fiber are coming in September. Calorie-watchers can satisfy their snack craving with Jell-O Fruit Passions Cups (individual 6 oz. cups combine sugar-free Jell-O gelatin with a full serving of fruit) and South Beach Diet Chicken Salad Kits, where you simply mix up Louis Rich chicken, Kraft dressings, Kraft cheese, Planters nuts and fruit.
One of the most popular destinations in the Kraft booth was DiGiorno Ultimate Pizza, a superpremium pizzeria-style pie with crushed vine-ripened tomatoes, julienne vegetables and specialty meats and cheeses. Baby boomers enjoyed Kraft's homage to mac and cheese with adult version Kraft Bistro Deluxe Pastas - made with sundried tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms and Asiago cheese. Philadelphia Cracker Spreads, with an actual crunch of natural cheeses, herbs and vegetables for premium snacking, also were a hot commodity. Oscar Mayer Deli Creations Hot Sandwich Melts are microwavable sandwiches that combine Kraft dough technology with brands like Oscar Mayer meats, Kraft cheeses and Grey Poupon mustard.
A neat innovation is Oscar Mayer Center Cut Bacon in Stay Fresh Reclosable Tray, developed after consumers asked for it. Kraft also expanded its Oreo franchise with Nabisco Oreo Cakesters Soft Snack Cake, Oreo crème sandwiched between two chocolate cakes for more indulgent consumers.
Minneapolis-based General Mills is on a rollout as well. Healthier options include Yoplait Yo-Plus Yogurt with Optibalance, a blend of cultures and natural fiber for digestive health, and Go-Gurt Fizzix fizzy yogurt snack in a tube in three intense fusion flavors. Although targeted to tweens, that fizzy experience is fun for geezers as well. Green Giant Health Blends - Healthy Weight, Healthy Vision and Immunity Boost - are microwavable frozen vegetables.
General Mills also partnered with the Curves fitness franchise for four Curves weight management products (two cereals and two chewy granola bars). Also new are General Mills' Fiber One bars with 35 percent of the DV of fiber; Cascadian Farm organic Purely Steam Frozen Vegetables, and Organic Chewy Granola and Vanilla Chip Bars; and Muir Glen Chef Inspirations, canned organic soups. Coming in July is Cheerio's Crunch with Oat Clusters and whole grain Chocolate Chex cereals.
And while there was no Betty Crocker Cookbook this year, that General Mills division debuted Betty Crocker Microwaveable Warm Delights Minis (only 150 calories). A more indulgent offering was Simply Bake Bars in Turtle Supreme and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk.
Stock up the pantry
Unilever USA, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., added three new flavors -- Caesar Delight, Asian Silk and French Flair -- to its Wishbone Spritzers line, and soon will be extending it's Bertolli Dinner for Two Meals options (think Mediterranean).
Camden, N.J.-based Campbell Soup Co.'s Pepperidge Farm brand unveiled four Artisan bread varieties: Sourdough Petite Loaves, Rosemary Olive Oil Petite Loaves, Hearty Wheat Rolls and French Demi-Baguettes
Sunsweet Growers Inc., Yuba City, Calif., makes munching fun with Sunsweet Ones, individually wrapped California prunes, and Sunsweet Premium Varietal Berry Blend (wild Blueberries, Bing Cherries, Raspberries, Cranberries and Red Tart Cherries), which combine sweet and tart flavors. Also yummy are Sunsweet PlumSweets, dark chocolate-coated antioxidant-rich plum bites.
Snyder's of Hanover, Hanover, Pa., introduces whole grain snacks including MultiGrain Sunflower Chips, MultiGrain Cheese Puffs, MultiGrain Pretzel Nibblers and MultiGrain Tortilla Strips, shaped for dipping in Jalapeno Red, Savory Blue and Flaxseed Gold.