The 2018 National Restaurant Association Show brought together almost 67,000 foodservice professionals at Chicago’s McCormick Place for the Association’s 99th annual expo that ran May 19-22. Here’s a look at three of the trends that stood out on the show floor, which featured more than 2,300 exhibitors.
Plant-based meats continue to evolve
Plant-based meats were a top trend at last year’s show, and the category continued to evolve this year. Impossible Foods showed off its textured wheat protein-based burger blend, which uses a plant product called heme to emulate the rich flavor of beef. The Impossible Burger is showing up on menus at a growing list of restaurants, including White Castle, which recently launched a slider version in three states. The Impossible Burger is the company’s sole product, but the beef analog can be used to replace ground meat in a range of dishes, from tacos to pizza.
Another major player in the plant-based meat space is Beyond Meat, which won a FABI Award from the National Restaurant Association for its new Beyond Sausage product. Building on the success of its Beyond Burger, the company launched Beyond Sausage in April with three flavors: Brat Original, Hot Italian and Sweet Italian. Made with a blend of pea protein, ground rice and fava beans that is different than the mix used in the burger, the sausages are encased in an algae-based casing that gives them a look and texture that’s indistinguishable from meat sausage. The sausages are already on the menu at several restaurants in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, including the concession stand at Yankee Stadium, according to Allison Aronoff, communications manager for Beyond Meat. She said the brand aims to bring a new product to market every year, and a new breakfast sausage patty is set to debut this fall.
The next wave of cold coffee
Cold brew and nitro coffee have proven to be much more than a fad, and just about every restaurant that sells coffee now also offers a cold version. A new crop of products are making cold coffee even more accessible, and in the case of La Colombe’s Draft Latte consumers can even enjoy it on the go. The line of canned coffees (another 2018 FABI Award winner) hit the market in 2017 with five flavors, and there are now 11 flavors including seasonal options such as Pumpkin Spice and Honeysuckle. The Philadelphia-based company is the first to bring this type of product to market, and has a 20 year patent on the technology that allows the mix of coffee and milk to pour from the can with a frothy texture, according to Siobhan Collins, field marketing manager for La Colombe.
Another coffee innovation on display this year was frozen coffees that allow convenience stores or concessions operators to capitalize on the cold coffee trend. The ICEE Company showed off its new Twisted Chill Nitro Cold Brew, a frozen beverage made with brewed coffee that comes in a variety of flavors. Coca-Cola featured a frozen version of its Georgia Coffee, a Japanese brand that is the World’s highest-grossing, ready-to-drink coffee brand.
A cold coffee product that blends convenience with functional attributes is available in three formats from California-based Joe FroYo. The ready-to-drink, fresh bulk and frozen beverages feature cold press coffee and protein and probiotics from yogurt made with Real California Milk. The company has been around since 2015, but rising awareness of probiotics driven by the popularity of kombucha is helping drive sales, JoeFroyo President and CEO Zach Miller said.
Chefs play up yogurt’s savory side
While Greek yogurt is certainly nothing new, the way chefs are using it and other forms of yogurt is evolving. Grecian Delight Foods won a FABI Award for its garlic sauce made with the strained Lebanese yogurt called labna. The rich sauce is a traditional accompaniment to shawarma, and can also be used as a vegetable dip, sandwich spread or in many other culinary applications.
Culinary uses for yogurt were also on display at Chobani’s booth, where chefs used Greek yogurt to create savory snacks such as white bean, kale and bacon dip. The company’s Vice President of Foodservice, Lisa Fisher, said more education is needed around Greek yogurt to showcase its culinary possibilities as an ingredient. She said the company will focus on this effort in the second half of 2018, when it will release a retail product called Chobani Savor, which packages Greek yogurt in a squeezable tube for use in recipes or as a topping.
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