The Institute of Food Technologists show is a weird place to grab a bite to eat. Everything being sampled looks totally normal until you taste it and realize that the brownie you just grabbed is made with cricket powder, green tea and acid whey.
At one point, while walking the aisles of the show floor this week with a co-worker, Pete Sienkiewicz, one of Candy Industry Magazine’s advertising reps, we spotted what looked like a delicious slice of pizza. But immediately after we both tried it, Pete turned to me and said, “That pizza didn’t taste like pizza.” Turns out it was gluten-free.
As you probably figured out, I just got back from covering the show, which is one of my favorites each year. The event gives me and everyone else on the show floor an up-close glimpse into the back end of the how-our-food-gets-made process. And since ingredients are such a foundational part of food manufacturing, the companies that make them tend to be on the cutting edge of trends in the industry.
Below is a look at some of the things I saw at the show, and you can determine whether or not they were actually as strange as I thought they would be.
This stuff was everywhere. And I confess, when I first got to IFT, I didn’t even know what it was. Apparently, it’s “finely milled green tea leaves,” according to a handout from ITO EN, which featured its Culinary Matcha powder at the show.
That company claims matcha is rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C, with a natural “calming” energy boost. And, it offers a “fresh balance of sweetness and herbaceous grassiness” that’s perfect for “creative cooking, baking and smoothies”
Mintel even featured the ingredient on informational displays at its booth.
The consumer research company says, “a growing awareness of matcha’s enhanced health punch will fuel interest in the tea and ingredient.” And it suggests companies using the ingredient, “should call out their ability to deliver slow energy to appeal to consumers wanting a longer, more sustained hit of energy.”
As for how this applies to candy makers, Mintel’s data showed that of all the products recently launched globally with matcha as an ingredient, 10 percent were chocolate confectionery, 4 percent were sugar and gum confectionery, and 3 percent were snacks.
They also highlighted the Matcha and Yuza Mint White Chocolate with Bourbon Vanilla from Germany as an example of a new product featuring the green-tea ingredient.
The Almond Board of California was actually sampling a matcha almond fudge bar at their booth.
I had a chance to try a square, and I confess, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea (pun intended). I’m just not a huge fan of green tea flavor, even if it is drizzled with fudge. But maybe it’s an acquired taste. Who knows, by this time next year, I could be snacking on matcha chips while I write my column.
Again, I couldn’t go 10 feet without seeing some sort of display mentioning pea protein at the show.
Mintel’s booth revealed that plant-based proteins in general are gaining popularity, with 19 percent of North American food and drinks launched between 2010 and 2014 featuring a plant-based protein, while 36 percent featured one in Europe.
For proof, they pointed to the Roasted Jalapeno Protein Bar launched in the United States, which features pea crisp, a blend of pea protein isolate, rice flour, rice starch.
And, Roquette highlighted it’s Nutralys pea XF exp, the company’s pea protein isolate. Claiming it can be used in everything from powdered soups to protein bars, the company even featured a chocolate coconut protein bar made with the ingredient.
Roquette claims the bars are excellent source of protein at less than 100 calories. And, pea protein also offers a clean label ingredient that’s easy for consumers to understand. How popular the ingredient will actually become, however, remains to be seen.
The thing about fiber is that everyone is always trying to use it as a bulking agent to replace sugar, but the only thing that can actually replace sugar is more sugar — at least for me anyway.
While I was at the show, I got the chance to try a few different confections made with extra fiber, and I have to say, they tasted a bit too healthy for me. But then again, I literally eat candy for a living.
Roquette was showing off its reduced-sugar gummies, made with its Nutriose, a soluble fiber. They claim the better-for-you gummies are an excellent source of fiber, featuring 35 percent less sugar.
And, Sensus also featured a reduced-sugar gummy, this one made with the company’s Frutalose SFP, a sweet fiber powder chicory root.
The company says the chicory root fiber has an advantage over other fibers because it’s 55 percent as sweet as sugar, offers a clean label option, and invokes a low glycemic response while improving the taste profile of stevia.
As a consumer, I totally try to convince myself to buy things with more fiber in them, so maybe these types of things will catch on. And while a high-fiber gummy bear will probably never taste quite like a regular gummy bear, companies seem to be getting closer to making them taste more delicious with each passing year.
In the end, that’s progress.