The Pizza Expo was held in Las Vegas this March and foretold a few trends that are trickling down to the pizza chains.

Customization was a big theme; here are a few companies that I felt had interesting products at the Pizza Expo:

Pizza Packet– this company was offering individual spice and flavor packets to customize your pie or slice.  While their flavors were pretty mainstream (Italian Spice, Garlic, Red Pepper, Oregano, and Parmesan), the potential for really great flavors is in the idea.  A Muhammarra sprinkle on?  Hot sauce dry seasoning shake on?  Tandoori flavor?  The possibilities are endless and could make a cheese pizza something really unique.

Onion Crunch (Loeb’s)- I am a huge fan of contrasting textures in a dish, and while these French fried onions are not new, they are packaged in a single serving packets to allow someone to make a slice of pizza something special.  They also mention the product is low in carbohydrates and low in cholesterol.

Conocopia- this was the most interesting new item I saw at the show.  Conocopia is a system created to make an edible cone out of a dough ball.  Conewich® has been making wonderful edible bread cones for foodservice for years, and I am a huge fan of their products.  Conocopia is a different company, for a restaurant that wants to make their own cones.  The machine allows the use of a signature flavor cone that is made on site.  I thought it was innovative technology and I hope to see fun cones popping up on more menus.

There were many ingredients that hit on sustainability, such as Zoe Meats.  They offer products described by many trendy buzz words: sustainably raised, artisanal, environmentally conscious and community friendly just to mention a few.  I was also happy to see they also mentioned they feel their product tastes great.  Many companies have jumped on various trend bandwagons only to forget that flavor is key to product success.

I still found a growing number of gluten free offerings.  Until this year, I had a very bad taste in my mouth (yes, literally) about gluten free products.  I have tasted gluten free products for many years, I had never come across any items that I felt were not a sacrifice to the real thing.  BUT… I can admit when I am wrong, and I was wrong to think that no one would be able to make wonderful gluten free items that traditionally contain a lot of gluten, that also taste great at the same time.  Hats off to Smart Flour Foods for changing my way of thinking.  They make a gluten free pizza crust out of ancient grains that I think is a great crust, gluten free or not.  The brownies and blondies are amazing; I challenge anyone to be able to tell they are gluten free.  I appreciate the engineering of these products using wholesome, quality ingredients.  I am not sure how they created these products, but they did, and did it well.  They are also based in my home town of Austin, TX so I am twice as happy to sing their praises!

 I just touched on a few of the trends I witnessed at the recent Pizza Expo, and I plan to write in the future about more shows I am attending, including the National Restaurant Show and the Fancy Food Show, to continue to bring food trends your way.  This fall, I will be taking a trip to the very large Sial food show and doing a little exploring in Scandinavia, a hot spot for the culinary movement right now.  Should be an exciting trip and I know I will return with some great ideas, and share them with you!

Happy Eating,

Chef Allison

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