The NRA Show took over Chicago’s McCormick place this week for its 97th year, and more than 2,200 exhibitors came to showcase their products and services. Three massive exhibit halls spread across more than 650,000 square feet housed rows upon rows of booths featuring enduring trends, such as tea and plant-based proteins, and noteworthy new entries to the foodservice landscape. Here’s a look at what was hot and new at this year’s NRA Show.
Sweet meets heat
Another company pairing sweetness and spice is Mike’s Hot Honey out of Brooklyn, N.Y. While Chobani’s spicy flavors are a new addition meant to tap a growing trend, Mike’s got its start in 2003 when founder Michael Kurtz was introduced to the concept of chili pepper-infused honey while living in Brazil. Kurtz returned to the US and began working at Brooklyn pizza shop Paulie Gee’s, where he used his homemade hot honey as a pizza topping.
Now Mike’s Hot Honey has fans across the US who use it in everything from fried chicken to cocktails. “The younger generation is into spicier foods,” said Kurtz. “That gives me faith in the future of the brand.”
Non-GMO is the new gluten-free
A few years ago, gluten-free seemed to be the hottest “free-from” qualifier at the show. This year non-GMO products took the title, with more than 120 products and companies touting their lack of genetically modified ingredients.
Some, such as Earnest Eats, built their entire product range around non-GMO. The brand sources only non-GMO and organic ingredients for all of its hot cereals and other grain products, said Andrew Aussie, co-Founder and co-president of parent company Purely Righteous Brands.
Other companies are adding non-GMO lines to their existing product portfolios in an effort to appeal to consumers who are increasingly interested in clean labels. Sweet Street Desserts displayed its new Manifesto line of eight cookies and four bars made with non-GMO ingredients. The company has historically been quick to jump on new formulation trends. It has several gluten-free products and was one of the first dessert brands to cut trans-fats from its products, said Regional Sales Manager Steve Biddle.
A new kind of delivery driver
Finding new ways to get their food to customers faster is a top concern for restaurateurs, and a few companies at the NRA Show offered a new solution: turning taxi and Uber drivers into delivery drivers.
Uber Eats operates in 14 US cities to connect users with their food in about 30 minutes. The company teams with restaurant clients to curate menus that offer dishes that will hold up after a short car ride. “When you’re making food 30 feet away and delivering it in 30 seconds from the time it’s up, that’s very different than having it consumed maybe 30 minutes to an hour later…we work with restaurants to figure out how far their food should be delivered,” Jason Droege, head of Uber Everything, said during the NRA Show Signature ‘16 keynote.
Delivery.com, which has been operating in the food delivery space for about 13 years, is also tapping an existing network of drivers to deliver meals. The company recently became the first in the US to team with a city’s taxi service to deliver food through a test run with the Washington, D.C., Taxicab Commission.
Aquafaba hits the big time
You’ve probably heard the buzz about aquafaba — the chickpea liquid that’s gaining popularity as an egg white substitute. Chefs and home cooks are turning to the protein-rich liquid to whip up fluffy meringues, sauces and egg white cocktails, and condiment brand Sir Kensington’s is the first to launch a commercial spread made with aquafaba. The company showcased its Fabanaise, which it produces through a partnership with a New York hummus company that donates its leftover chickpea liquid.
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