More than 2,100 exhibiting companies demonstrated their goods and services to a crowd of more than 63,000 chefs, restaurant owners and other foodservice professionals at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago last week. The show floor was a great place to spot new trends. Several trends from years past — such as gluten-free and spicy flavors — are still going strong. Here’s a look at three concepts that were among the most buzzed-about at this year’s show.
Time for Tea
Specialty iced tea was among the top trends named by American Culinary Federation chefs in NRA’s What’s Hot Forecast for 2015. Teas of all types were represented on the show floor this year, from artisanal loose teas to flavored iced teas that are gaining popularity as more diners seek out healthier beverage choices.
Art of Tea was one of nearly 50 companies featuring tea at the show. The 10-year-old company produces more than 140 blends and restaurants account for 80% of its business, Business Development Executive Chelsea Gutierrez said. The third-wave tea and coffee trend is pushing restaurants to stock more premium teas, she said.
Mediterranean diet fuels popularity of hummus, flatbreads
The Mediterranean diet — another trend from NRA’s What’s Hot Forecast — is still gaining popularity as more research is released about its myriad benefits including increased cognitive function and heart health. The staples of the Mediterranean diet — which include hummus, olive oil and Greek yogurt — are not new to foodservice, but Show exhibitors put these products front and center and played up their health benefits to take advantage of the diet’s trendy status.
Kronos Foods has been around since 1975, but the Illinois-based company has seen a surge in the popularity of its hummus since the Mediterranean diet craze began, Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Michaels said. The company gave classic Mediterranean ingredients a modern makeover with the Mediterranean street tacos at its booth on the show floor.
Pure Mediterranean Foods has also seen increased interest in its hummus and flatbreads, and the company recently launched Hummus Plus, a line of hummus and chicken products that capitalizes on both the Mediterranean trend and consumers’ increasing demand for protein-filled meals and snacks. The product, which comes in five varieties including roasted red pepper hummus with BBQ seasoned chicken breast and garlic hummus with chipotle chicken breast, has received a “phenomenal” response from consumers, President and CEO Peter Parthenis said.
3D printer creates high-tech treats
3D printing for foodservice is still in its infancy, but the high-tech process captivated attendees who flocked to the Show’s 3D Printing Zone to see 3D Systems‘ ChefJet Pro in action. The company’s creative directors of food sat on a panel about the technology with Tom Vaccaro, dean of baking and pastry arts for the Culinary Institute of America, which is partnering with the 3D printing company to discover new culinary applications for the technology.
Attendees could sample rainbow-colored candies made by the printer. 3D Systems plans to have a larger presence at next year’s Show, with a more interactive exhibit following the commercial release of the ChefJet Pro, Marketing and Events Manager Sandy Villetti said.
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