Chicago — What's new in food, set out in colorful variety, vied for the attention of visitors to the Food Marketing Institute's recent show. There were also forecasts of new ways of shopping.
The annual meeting drew 35,000 food manufacturers and retail buyers from throughout the world to Chicago. Here's a preview of some of the products seen there that manufacturers hope may take their place among the 34,000 items stocked by the typical American supermarket.
Meal kits complete packages of ingredients ready to heat and eat are currently a more than $350 million business, according to Tyson, one of the manufacturers.
Among this year's new products is a line of Prego's Pasta Bake Sauces. You take five minutes to mix the sauce with uncooked pasta, water and cheese, then bake 40 minutes.
Also widely seen at the show were precooked beef, chicken, pork and turkey products, ready to heat and eat. Even raw meats are being made more convenient by premarinating or preseasoning (see sausage story below).
On the gourmet front
With more exposure to restaurant dining and widespread travel, Americans are acquiring a taste for bigger, bolder flavors.
McCormick's new Gourmet Collection features 22 new herbs, spices and blends, including garam masala (an Indian spice blend), lemon grass, wasabi powder, chipotle chili pepper and red curry seasoning.
Bell-Carter Foods, makers of Lindsay olives, is breaking new ground with Lindsay Olivada (olive spreads) in three flavors: Taste of Tuscany, Taste of Sicily and Taste of Greece. Not as intense as European tapenades, these spreads are designed for mass-market appeal.
Just in time to capitalize on the current interest in exotic fruits, papayas from Hawaii are back in supermarkets. A new variety called Rainbow has been genetically modified to resist a virus that nearly wiped out the papaya industry in Hawaii.
The papaya is sweet, with a pleasing texture, and is now the preferred variety in Hawaii, making up 50 percent of the crop. The original Kapoho Solo variety also is available, making up the other half of production. Hawaiian papayas are available year-round, with peak shipments from September to November.
Ukuva iAfrica is introducing a line of four authentic African sauces: Zulu Fire Sauce, Swazi Mamma Mamba, Malawi Gold and Xhosa Umsobo Iyababa. The sauces, sold in handsome bottles with handcrafted stoppers, can be used for dipping, in marinades and in salad dressings.
Drinks enhanced with ginseng, echinacea, yerba mate and other supplements are many and diverse, with a wide range of brands, flavors and supplements available.
Soybeans are found in many forms. Several suppliers offer edamame, boiled soybeans in the pod, a popular Japanese bar snack. Other forms of soybeans at the show included shelled soybeans, roasted soy nuts and soy butter, which tastes quite like peanut butter.
Spectrum Foods Inc. introduced a collection of new soy products under the Premier Harvest brand name. The collection includes breakfast cereals, meatless meal kits, soy-enriched baking mixes, and unrefined soybean cooking oil and nonstick spray.
Fran's Healthy Helpings produces frozen meals for children. The packaging is colorful and foods come in whimsical shapes. Designed for kids ages 2 to 8, the microwavable meals adhere to the Food and Drug Administration's definition of healthy. New at the show were Dino Chicken Chompers Nuggets breaded, baked chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs.
Amy's Kitchen maker of frozen natural and organic vegetarian meals introduced Toaster Pops. These frozen pastries will be sold in four varieties: strawberry, apple, cheese pizza and grilled cheese. They go from freezer to toaster to plate in minutes.