2017 Fancy Food Show Review

I spent three days wandering around the winter fancy food show in San Francisco this week! Saw lots of the same old same old (popcorn, chocolate, olive oil, cheese, Italian imports) but like every show, there are always a few unique items and up and coming trends that we hope will make it and hit mainstream!

Wellness Tonics
Tonics are beverages or syrups that are based on traditional or ancient methods for natural self healing. Some interesting products at the show included Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks like Sonoma Syrup, Tuber Tonics and African Bronz Honey Tonic.

DIY Kits 

Why buy something ready to eat when you can sort of put it together yourself. Lots of DIY (do it yourself) kits at the show for both adults and kids! My favorite was HummisStir– a package containing three shelf stable sterilized packs of chic peas, tahini and dry seasoning- that you blend together with a cute wooden spoon. The hummus wasn’t bad– although it needed some fresh lemon juice in there.  Home Cranked Ice Cream Mix eliminates one having to combine their own sugar, cream and milk–the base is right in the box so you can be like professional and dump the mixture into your ice cream machine– press go- and impress everyone with your secret non-blending skills! In the health and wellness DIY space, there are now companies that will sell you their special Kefir starter cultures to make your own Kefir at home! You can also go to Berkeley and just ask around town and someone will probably “gift” you some of theirs but its nice to know there is a reliable clean workable version on the market.  And of course Bagels–the company Everything Bagel and Cream Cheese DIY instructs you on how to make both the bagel and the cream cheese.

An Apple Every Day

Apples are showing up more than ever in products from syrups to freeze dried snacks to BBQ sauce. Some examples I saw at Fancy Food show included Gia Russa Buttered Apple Barbecue Sauce  and Apple Butter Syrup from Blackberry Patch. Stonewall kitchen was also demo’ing their Apple Cider Syrup.

Better For You Snacks-Naturally

Lots of snacks out there made from ingredients that are “healthy” for you. The definition of healthy of course varies, but according to those who are selling it– includes Chickpeas (Chick Bean Crisps), ProTato Crisps, which combines potato with rice protein to make a protein rich crunchy snack. Ticky Rice Chips which  they make by steaming thai sticky rice, soaking it in watermelon (??!!) and then crisping it up so it tastes like the brown bottom of the pan rice that is scraped up. They have 30% less fat than regular potato chips. Also saw Chia Cassava Chips. These products combine both our desire to crunch and snack, but provide us with fiber and protein from the ingredients used.

Decadence Never Dies 

The Fancy Food Show would not be what it is without the usual slew of olive oil, chocolate, cheese and other rich not necessarily good for you but tastes great selection! Chocolate products will always be there for us- and this year was no exception. Some unique items included Torn Ranch Chocolate Covered Banana Chips– that are truly “taste inspired”. The chocolate pate from Guthries— AKA “Sin In A Tin”.

The Products We Still Need To Get Used To

Crickets are hot now but we still need to get used to eating bugs as a protein source. Don Bugito has been around for a few years now– helping to increase awareness about bugs– as a protein source.

The Weirdest Product I saw at the 2017 Fancy Food Show

The strangest thing I saw was a beverage called Eggurt– made from fermented egg white. I don’t quite understand the history of this idea (it is not something that is done in other countries, nor is it something that existed in the past) but it tasted good– like a yogurt drink.  I did find the masters thesis of a food scientist who developed a very similar beverage in 1978, I wonder if there is a connection!










AIMG_6886nother IFT has come and gone – as I get older my show navigation skills have improved! I noticed this year that all the long timer booths (like David Michael, Kerry and Tate & Lyle) were located in the same spots on the McCormick floor as last year. I also am really good at finding the best freebie giveaways like the illuminated egg from Okaloosa, the beautiful green t-shirt from the honey board and flashing bracelets from Qualisoy. I should also mention that Qualisoy had a talented artist mold a head out of shortening. Not everyone may have caught this because it was way in the 4000’s aisle!

The real ongoing theme of IFT this year however was every food scientist’s favorite (and least favorite) topic—Clean Label! As a consultant who develops food products for both entrepreneurs and large companies I get frustrated when I am forbidden from using top notch functional ingredients because my client does not understand what it means, and replace it with something that kinda works, but maybe not as well- but comes with a word that is known to mere mortals (aka non-food scientists). Luckily I have ingredient trade shows like IFT and Supply Side West that give me the opportunity to explore and interact with the latest and greatest clean label functional ingredients that I can then introduce to my mortal clients who understand what the word means, and in turn put it on the “ok to use” list.

Ingredient trade shows like IFT and Supply Side link me up with the best clean label alternatives out there! For example—every time I make a dry powder mix (protein shakes, fruit powder sport drinks, pancake mix, cake mix) I need anti caking agents. The most popular anti caking agent is Silicone Dioxide. The scientists of the world know that Silicone comes from quartz and oxygen comes from – the earth. It’s as natural as can be, but to the uninformed mortals they are just eating “chemicals”. Well in come Ribose, a leading organic natural clean label rice based alternative. Their Nu-Flow anti caking agent can be used to replace SiO2 or the even dirtier “Tri-calcium Phosphate” (oh no, not CALCIUM!) with simple “rice concentrate”! Boom! Done! Everyone is happy! I feel safe in knowing my dry blend won’t clump and my clients can breath a sign of relief that no nasty chemicals that will offend their clients will be on their ingredient statement. It’s a win win situation.

Phosphates are very common in the cured meat in industry, used to retain moisture, maintain flavor. They increase the water holding capacity of meat by forcing proteins apart, allowing water to move in between the protein molecules. Most people don’t really know what this word means or how it functions—they don’t want to see it on the label. Luckily I found Prosur’s “PRS PHR”, an innovative clean label solution made out of yeast extracts (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Pichia Jadinii) and citrus extracts. They have a synergistic effect on the solubilisation capacity of actomyosine, which boosts the water retention of meat in a more natural way. In layman’s terms—this works like a phosphate and translates to an ingredient statement that says: Yeast Extract, Citrus Extract. Yeast and citrus are clean, phosphates to the consumer are not.

TIC Gums is a true leader when it comes to clean label ingredients. Why? First of all, gums were never really un clean to begin with and many have been used for hundreds of years and everyone knows that if our grandmother used it then it must be clean since most people don’t have food science grandmothers. TIC has a great “clean label hydrocolloid” chart that they passed out, reminding food scientists like me that High Methoxyl Pectin can simply be called “Pectin” and Locust Bean Gum can be called “Carob Gum” and the hippies in the 60’s ate Carob instead of chocolate so it must be clean. High Acyl Gellen Gum can be called just “Gellen” gum. Some gums are organic, which translates scary sounding “inulin” to “organic agave or chicory”. Lots of confusion out there in gum world-TIC is there to help us legally relay the truth to the consumer. Unfortunately for ingredients like sodium alginate (AKA Seaweed!) there is no clean label- it is up to the manufacturer to educate their consumer that it is seaweed, organic compliant, non-GMO compliant and on the published whole foods compliance list.

All these companies and more will be exhibiting their functional and clean label alternative solutions to the food scientists that will be attending Supply Side West. I started checking out Supply side several years ago and wasn’t quite sure if it was just herbs, supplements or an up and coming IFT type show. Every year more and more ingredient companies are exhibiting at Supply Side and the show is almost beginning to outgrow the smaller expo exhibit hall in Vegas at Mandalay Bay. In the past I didn’t go to Supply Side very often as I felt it was very supplement and vitamin oriented, but now it’s one of my regular trade shows that I attend. I love that it is in Vegas too—lots of affordable hotels, great restaurants and nighttime entertainment.

This year at IFT there was an eye opening consumer panel called “A Clean Label Revolution”. Random consumers not from the food industry were actually on the stage and sharing their thoughts and feelings about ingredient statements and what they would and would not use. The message was clear—if consumers don’t know what it means or if there is unexplained fear monger attention surrounding it (like carrageenan or GMO’s) then they don’t want to buy it!
Clean label is no longer just a thing for the Whole Foods and artisan crowd- it’s becoming an everyone thing and the food industry needs to start doing a better job of educating the masses on what sodium chloride is and the differences between high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, or come up with some brand new functional alternatives that have names our grandmother could have lived with. This is what happens when the food industry pretends like our food was made by Friendly Green Giants and Keebler Elves for the last 100 years- and consumers find out that it was actually made in stainless steel tanks in a factory by scientists and engineers. Yes, consumers now know the truth, that food is made in a scientific and methodical way in clean sanitary plants by people that wear hairnets and practice GMP’s. Time to educate, inform and fix it so we can continue to take advantage of past and future food science contributions to the functional ingredient world.

Oh, unrelated to the clean label trend –a few other cool things I saw at IFT this year was a new competitor to Genesis, a less expensive spreadsheet software program for nutritional analysis called Formulator. An edible vitamin cup from DSM and Loliware. Edible food wrap film from Monosol – a transparent, odorless and tasteless film that is biodegradable, dissolves in water reduces environmental waste. There was freeze dried high antioxidant purple corn from Suntava which was used to make energy bars that I ate for breakfast during the show. In the equipment world it’s all about recording results with the blue tooth pH meter from Hanna instruments. This is on my food science consultant wish list along with a not yet on the market but they showed it at Expo anyway—a unit that measures salt, acid, pH and brix all on the same unit from Atago. Can’t wait for this to come out, a must have for any laboratory!


Cricket Dumplings on the Menu RETHINK FOOD!

Last month was the yearly Rethink Food Conference held in November at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in St. Helena, CA. The conference addressed what, how and why we cook and eat the way we do—and what we will be doing (or need to be doing) in the future to improve our lives, our land and the animals that we eat.

Seminars and breakout sessions were a bit all over the place, making it difficult for a food scientist like me to pull it all together. Some topics like “Foods of Tomorrow” had presenters discussing sea vegetables, crickets and fermented foods which I could relate to as future protein sources, future under consumed ingredients that we can start eating—but other seminars like The Flavor Learning Curve, while interesting, didn’t seem to really fit the program and maybe belongs in one of the CIA’s other more creative culinary science conferences.

The speakers came from all areas of the food industry and included Kirsten Tobey, the founder of Revolution Foods, Sara Burnett, director of Wellness and food policy at Panera bread as well as local bay area chefs including Stuart Brioza (State Bird Provisions) and Courtney Burns (Bar Tartine). The wide array of professional food industry backgrounds all came together as each speaker shared their views on why we mistrust technology, robots cooking our food, and how food companies need to be more “transparent” in order to regain consumer trust. Preservation methods of the past are now being revisited in bay area restaurants as a way to be more sustainable (and healthy).

Some seminars were logical and I could see the connection between what was being said and what can and will be done- like the introduction of crickets as a protein source is a reality that we are already experiencing with companies like EXO selling their cricket bars—but other topics were still “far out there” like “Visions of the Future” that discussed how technology will shape how we interact with our foods.

The attendees were just as diverse as the speakers. Key players from McDonalds were there- as well as Google team members, chefs, and Ideo (one of the major sponsors), Coca Cola, and Chipotle Grill. Yes– the big chain companies are interested in making a difference!

An interactive group ideation session that was organized by IDEO allowed us to get into groups and brainstorm questions together while writing them on sticky notes—and using those ideas to come up with hypothetical finished technology concepts. A machine that analyzes what you eat and tells you its time to stop, or more biodegradable and edible packaging—(edible spoons made out of Sorghum). The video with all the team ideas can be watched online on the conference live stream: http://livestream.com/CIAlive/reThinkFood2015

This conference hit a lot of different angles and gave me (the food scientist) much to think about. Trying to understand the role of the food scientist in this changing landscape is challenging. The food scientist is usually just an executor of whatever the marketing and CEO dictates—as well as being a pillar for quality and safety- we rarely get a say in the bigger picture decisions and are mostly part of the execution. This conference served as an introduction to bigger topics that will affect how developers create and bring new food products to market.







For years I have been going to the IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) show because it’s the biggest ingredient show for food scientists and a great opportunity to source industrial ingredients like starches, gums, flavors, colors and organic ingredients. BUT for the last few years another ingredient show is slowly emerging on the food science scene.

The Supply Side show! Years ago no one except people in the vitamin and supplement world used to go to Supply Side, held every year in early October in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. But that is all changing as more and more ingredient supplier companies like David Michael Flavors, TIC Gums and Danisco/Dupont are slowly beginning to take over. As a matter of fact, one of my friends, a flavor sales rep who lives in the Vegas area told me he was SHOCKED at the new ticket price to attend Supply Side because in the past, “They had to practically pay people to attend”.

But as the old saying goes— where the ingredient suppliers exhibit the money from those exhibiting ingredient suppliers will follow — the organization that runs Supply Side (which also, I just learned runs one of the industrial food trade journals food product design) is realizing how much the food industry is growing and the big trend in start up companies that want to combine both food and supplements (why swallow a boring pill when you can have naturally nutrient infused full fat paleo style ice cream!?)

So it seems like every trade show I attend has a growing “ingredient supplier section” – like Expo West formerly a hippie all natural finished product show, now has a whole separate WING referred to as Engredia dedicated to helping those start ups find industrial ingredients (flavors, sweeteners, organic ingredients, gums, starches, vitamin mixes, gluten free flours) and co packers (private label energy bars, pouch co packers, bakeries). I think Expo West realized that if the show is to keep growing they need serious cash and ingredient companies have that kinda cash! It’s a win-win for everyone because not only can the small start ups in the basement of Expo West show their exciting new wares but they can then wander over and source out new ingredient suppliers as well.

Too bad Supply Side is only two days long, I could have wandered that show that show for several days! Here are a few interesting trends I noticed

Probiotics—dry form, powdered form, liquid form, shelf stable form. Yogurt is so 2010—we just need to mix it into a freeze dry powder now!

CBD’s– The NON psychoactive part of the marijuana plant. It gives you a body high and not a mental high.

New Age Ingrdients: Maca, Spirulina, Chia, Matcha, Hemp, Tumeric and Omega-3’s. Its not like these ingredients didn’t exist before but now they are slowly showing up as value added food ingredients.

Honorable mention and KUDOS to the ONE non-edible trade show exhibitor that dared to exhibit at an ingredient foodie show. The Health Mate Infrared Saunas! I had a chance to take a break and sit in their sauna box for awhile and rest my feet in their sauna foot box. The booth reps were extremely friendly and fun and they told me if any of my readers are interested in such an item, they will extend their trade show discount (just tell them you heard about their products through Rachel the food scientist). Sometimes its nice to have a booth where you can just sit and rest your feet without feeling like you have to talk biz with the booth owners.


Supply Side West will now be part of my regular yearly trade show tour. The attendance fee varies but check in with me in 2016 and I may be able to forward you a pass from one of the kind vendors that offer up 2-day floor passes for $75. Rooms can be as expensive or as cheap as you want (just be sure to stay at a hotel that has tram or easy access to the convention center or else you will have serious taxi fees (Vegas just started allowing Uber and Lyft— the economical way to get around vegas!)


Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend BonAppetech  #GoodFoodInnovation conference held at the Innovation Hanger space right by the Palace of Arts (San Francisco). I only was able to attend the mini expo and new idea pitches but that was enough to give me a sense of who the up and coming superstars are in the food “space”!

I should probably clarify for myself and for those reading this blog that Food Tech does not mean what a food scientist thinks it means. For people like me (food scientists) Food Tech means “Food Technology” which means chemistry, microbiology, product development, and so on. But in the bay area “tech” has a whole other definition. Food Tech can be anything in the “food space” and that includes recipe apps, virtual food hubs, a new line of mercury-tested tuna fish , or an “app” that allows businesses to donate their unused food to local shelters and get a tax break.

Its always a bit surreal for me to walk through these events feeling like I am just on the outer fringe of what these innovators are doing. The were very few finished food products (a few energy bars and some concentrated water flavors) and the ones I did see were not particularly impressive but I learned that its not about the product, but the ideas behind it- the product is just a tool to push the concepts forward.

What WAS impressive were the forward thinkers who presented their ideas to the audience, like Edibags-a company that makes edible forks out of pressed sorghum and Hopsey, a company that delivers affordable gourmet beer to your house.  I got to eat some chocolate pudding with these edible spoons- they are VERY durable and are being designed for food service.

“Food Tech” is not about food science technology but about new ideas and innovations that are being executed by young start up companies that will help transform the way we eat, create and interact with our farms. These ideas are still in early stages and eventually the food tech start ups will probably need a “food technologist” to help them expand their ideas into a reality. I hope to be a part of that next phase!

If you live in the bay area, check out the meet up groups called “food tech”. I joined them because I thought they would be food science groups (but I forgot that MOST food scientists are locked up in big food companies and don’t go to sharing meet up group type events-) so instead of finding fellow food scientists, I found other food people in a space that is pushing ideas and concepts to change the way we eat!


In early 2012 the International Maple Syrup institute (IMSI) put out a  recommendation to unify the maple syrup grades among maple syrup producing jurisdictions. Currently the USDA, CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), and the Agencies of Agricultures have adopted rules based on the recommendation of IMSI. Most States and Provinces are transitioning to the new system over the course of 2015. The USDA standards are available online and have been official since March 2, 2015.

Just so everyone is clear, what is maple syrup? It is the liquid food derived by concentrating and heat-treating sap from the maple tree (Acer) as defined in the U.S. FDA standard of Identity for Maple Syrup (they used to spell it Sirup but now it has been officially changed to Sirup!) The solids content of the finished maple syrup shall not be less than 66 percent by weight (Brix) (21 CFR 168.140)

All maple syrup is now Grade A. U.S. Grade A is the quality of maple syrup that has not more than 69.9% solids (brix) content by weight, has a good uniform color, has good flavor and odor, and intensity of flavor (maple taste) normally associated with the color class. It is free from off flavors and odors considered as damage and is free from cloudiness, turbidity, sediment and it is clean. No deviants for damage shall be allowed in Grade A. (USDA Section 52.5962)

Grade A is now divided into several categories. There is a Grade A- Light Amber that has a buttery vanilla taste, light flavor and is often perceived as sweeter due to lack of the strong maple flavor profile. Grade A Amber should be used on ice cream, crepes or other foods that you may not want the maple flavor to overpower but just be subtly there. Then there is Grade A-Amber Rich, which has a solid base maple flavor- this is good for all around usage on pancakes, French toast and in beverages. Next in line is the Grade A-Dark Robust which has stronger maple, caramel and brown sugar flavor notes. This is a good grade to use for oatmeal, formulated into beer, brownies and cakes.

There is no longer really a Grade B- it is referred to as “Processing Grade” now. Processing grade means (by USDA definition) that it does not meet Grade A requirements but meets the requirements of Processing Grade for use in the manufacturing of other products. Maple Syrup for processing can be packed in containers of 5 gallons or 20 liters or larger. It cannot be packed into consumer size containers for retail sale. Obviously if someone were buying a 5 gallon container that is ok since it would typically be used in a processing scenario at that minimum volume. The Processing Grade can’t have more than 68.9% brix, it can contain some off flavors and odors and it can have a very strong taste.

What does this mean for you (the consumer and the artisan food maker?) Don’t disregard commercial or processing grade maple syrup just because you may perceive it as a lower value. A Grade A Light Amber may not work well at all in your maple syrup oatmeal cookies- the flavor may not come through. Alternatively don’t use the commercial grade if you have a delicate tasting product that you plan to add it on to.

Talk to your maple syrup provider/manufacturer and set up a tasting so you can see for yourself how the different versions of “A” will taste and which is the best version for the best price to incorporate into your food product.

For more information on Maple Syrup- here are a few links

I have been a food scientist since 1996— well, really I was born a food scientist but I didn’t know it till the 90’s– It then took a team of experts at the University of Massachusetts Food Science Department and my mentor at U-Illinois (Dr. Scott E. Martin) and all good (and bad) bosses I have had– plus all the fellow food scientists, ingredient suppliers, organizations — It took all these people plus 20 years of crazy experiences to get to where I am today– brave enough to say what I really think on the Justin Hall Show—  Justin Hall  must have felt my food science excitement vibe because he asked if I would do a video interview with him as part of his interview series.

Hopefully in 20 years I will still feel the same way!



Yea– this product looks like a whole lotta fun!

I just got back from Expo West in Anaheim, CA– and I feel like it may be time for a Jerry McGuire style manifesto! Yes, me—the food scientist who is probably more part of the problem than part of the solution – was rather shocked at the ridiculous abundance of processed food products on demo at the Natural Products Expo. Even that sentence sounds wrong– natural food show and processed foods– Processed is what the Natural Foodies want to avoid-but yet they cannot escape it!  I feel like the packaged food world has gone completely over the edge and its no longer about the food at all- its just about putting out something… anything… on the shelf that meets a marketing claim. I feel like I may even want to become good friends with Michael Pollen now—or start my own organic farm—or do something. Anything to balance out the universe again.

From what I understand, back in the day the Natural Product Expo was way smaller—with lots of hippies trying to make a difference—I don’t know because I never went to the show back in the 80’s- I can only talk about Expo now—and what it has become!

Show Size

The show was HUGE this year. Not only did they have the main floor and the basement, but there was also the attic area and a whole other section in the Hilton Hotel next door. It was like every food company was multiplying at an exponential rate and every time one turned around there were 100 more companies born right there on the expo floor. I am just so relieved that maybe at best only 5% of the products at the show will make it to the market and the rest will end up in a dollar store somewhere. Who has time to make that many choices at Whole Foods?


Hardly anything tasted good at this show. But apparently taste has nothing to do with natural products. As long as it hits a claim and eliminates the bad “sounding” ingredient of the day—then it’s ok to spend millions to manufacture it and serve it to the masses. Why eat potato chips made with salt and oil when you can have a NON GMO VERIFIED processed gluten free ancient grain powder based kale chip infused with vitamins, fiber and protein made in a local sustainable factory in the Midwest? AND if you are lucky it will go down easily with a shot of nasty HPP’d (high pressure processed) beet, coconut oil and carrot puree? Hey, its Paleo right? It HAS to be good for us. Taste means nothing. I tasted so many bitter, sour and over processed food products at this show—yes, processed— imagine that, processed foods at a natural food product expo.  You know how there are all those articles about how the BIG EVIL corporate food industry is manipulating food ingredients and tricking our minds into thinking it taste good— well, yes- they are– and Oreo’s DO taste good. But making a really BAD tasting version of an Oreo with apple fiber and sugar alcohol is NOT going to convert the masses.

Fake Claims

Candy that will make you smart because it’s infused with Vitamin B? Labels with portion sizes that are double what they should be so you can supposedly be getting in “good” amounts of protein and fiber? Then the opposite- candy portions being cut in half and claiming “low sugar”— since when do soccer moms get to decide what is and is not an appropriate portion size? Oh right, they all have degrees in nutrition now- children nutrition, adult nutrition and athletic nutrition.

All Natural?

There is nothing natural about dehydrating vegetables and then mixing them up with starch and running them through an extruder and turning it into a cardboard chip. Even if the starch is “unmodified” (could a caveman make unmodified food starch with two sticks and fire?) Adding  flavors and colors even if those flavors and colors are natural themselves… is not really natural. Yes, the FDA may sort of say it is (although they don’t have a real definition of natural either) but lets all be honest here– buying freeze dried fruit from an industrial supplier and repackaging it into a foil bag is just not something that naturally happens in life.

The Stories

I can’t take any more stories. The mom that just want better foods for her nutritionally deprived children and the only way to make that happen was to create the food herself gosh darn it! The ego-maniac super rich former executive who MUST create his/her own line of sauces with their face all over it, the hipster who spent the last 3 years farming in Africa and discovered the latest super fruit and has now turned it into a line of energy bars— The body builder who “created” an exact blend of sugar alcohols that saved his life– and cured several diseases-The doctor who wants to promote her own line of allergen-friendly products– I think pretty much all 2500 companies exhibiting at Expo West fall under one of those story categories. You know what my favorite story is? The one about the guy who came up with the idea that HEAT killed bacteria– yes, my hero– Louis Pasteur.

Clean Label

In an effort to keep ingredient statements clean (and lets all agree here- clean has nothing to do with the whether the ingredient is good for you or not, it only means that everyone and their grandmother can understand the legal definition) we have compromised on flavor. Companies would rather shove in massive amounts of spinach powder to hit a calcium claim then to use a soluble calcium powder. End result—bitter tasting spinach chips. To make a label clean we are essentially heavily processing ingredients that people know—and manipulating them to be functional in the product. Don’t use 0.5% starch, starch is not “clean”- lets use 30% vegetable powder instead. Its “cleaner” and we can call it “carrot” on the label. Even though it’s not really a carrot anymore, no more than corn starch is “corn”. Sure it taste like crap now but Homer Simpson understands carrots and doesn’t understand starch or soluble corn fiber. DOH!!!!!


Everyone has a different take on what sweetener should be used. The low carb people use stomach grinding sugar alcohols (provide the bulk, but not the calories!). Those that want to be “natural”, just use evaporated cane syrup (that’s sugar by the way in case you thought cane meant something besides sugar), those that don’t want any sugar (but are ok with carbs) can use maltodextrin and monk fruit. Monk fruit is not organic, so if you want a high intensity “natural” and organic sweetener—you use Stevia. Then there are those that pray to the food gods that somehow making something with all pea protein and artificial sweetener will taste like a Hostess cupcake and sell equally as well. It won’t taste like Hostess, because Hostess cupcakes are really good, I just ate some the other day. Hostess has corn syrup and sugar and wheat gluten similar ingredients seen in the supposedly much better products at Expo West.


Ever notice how the probiotic drinks all say the number of good bacteria at the time of bottling—right, that’s because most of them die off by the time you drink it. So congrats on paying a fortune for a vinegar-tasting beverage that may not have many good bugs in it. I am actually excited about the newest wave of vinegar drinks on the market– at least they are what they say they are, diluted vinegar (with some fruit juice added to make it palpable)– yum!

Maybe its because I am a food scientist that I am so disillusioned. Is all this my fault? Did I help create these products? I always keep an unbiased and open mind when it comes to these shows but the natural products food industry is on the brink of insanity now and I left the show hungry.

Lets End This on A Positive Note

Despite all that has been written, and despite almost everything tasting like packaging peanuts sprinkled with vegetable powder, Expo West is a big fun scientific experiment party. We have music and booth babes and young cool hipsters doling out nutrition advice with a bored superior look on their face- the show is super charged with energy and excitement and everyone is trying SO HARD to make their product healthy and shelf stable. The rules of shelf stability are fairly simple—you can dehydrate it, you can freeze it, you can cook the crap out of it, you can HPP it, you can throw in a bunch of acid and lower the pH to 4.1- you can retort it. Food Scientists invented short cuts and industrial ingredients to make the food taste good and the new wave of non food scientists (that would be the hipsters, soccer moms, former financial executives and body builders) are reversing all our hard work to make it appear healthier- even if no one can eat it.

I don’t think that everyone was in such bad shape 50 years ago when we were all eating  Mac & Cheese, Pop-tarts and condensed canned soups.  I think we were actually healthier and thinner back then– this was before fat and cholesterol became bad (and then became good again) – I think Expo West-the organization making millions and millions putting on this show– needs to stop instigating the creation of all these food products and start putting a cap on how many items can be allowed in. Instead of limiting the amount of items, they are just renting out more space. How about only allowing a max of 1000 exhibitors and they have to pass a Shark Tank like competition to be allowed in? Expo West should be a  privilege, not something that anyone with investment money can get in on.

*Will I get my press pass next year for saying all this??

Is there a solution to all this? Yes! No! I have no idea– sorry. If you have any ideas, please comment below.

So—do you still need help developing your next gluten free, low –carb, natural, free range, nonGMO verified, clean label, certified organic food product that lasts one year on the shelf and was made from sustainable people on sustainable farms? Give me a call! I can help you! I won’t judge, I promise!


How To Eat Fried Worms

Remember that book  “How To Eat Fried Worms” by Thomas Rockwell (1973) – the kid who accepts the bully dare and eats 15 worms over 15 days—making them taste better by adding ketchup, mustard, and other condiments to it.  Eating insects has never been a mainstream thing to do in the U.S. and it usually falls under the dare category – like the deep fried seasoned cricket I ate at the RCA conference a few years ago, or getting the worm in the tequila.

But the whole insect acceptability thing is changing! I went to a San Francisco meet up group a few weeks ago- the topic was “Alternative Proteins” and I saw that Hampton Creek was there- who has been in the food news lately because they are creating an egg alterative using pea protein and other non egg ingredients. Eggs that are not made from Eggs because real eggs contribute to cholesterol and comes from chickens that live in crowded spaces.

But Hampton Creek was not the star of this event—the real excitement was the three companies showing their cricket based food products.  Tiny Farms, EXO  and Chirp . Exo just raised $54,000 on kickstarter and have created (but not sure if yet selling) their all-natural cricket bars made from protein flour. Chirp is raising organic crickets and making products from the cricket flour. Tiny Farms wants to feed a growing world by developing a ready supply of  sustainable and nutritional edible insects.  So overall, the goal is to grow crickets, make them into flour and use the flour to create high protein and possibly paleo food products. Cricket protein also has omega-3’s, iron and calcium.

The meet up event was packed and everyone was eating cricket muffins, cricket caramels and cricket EXO bars.  I ate some of the energy bar and tried the muffin but had a hard time getting myself to eat the meal worm candy – probably because I could see the meal worms face right there, protruding from the candy- and just couldn’t do it!

Are insects vegetarian?

Are insects vegetarian?

But as a food science consultant I need to come to terms with this—its just a matter of time before the industry (or at least the bay area) will be exploding with cricket flour based food companies and they will need help developing their products. As a consultant – I have to be accepting of all kinds of foods- cricket food, marijuana infused food— as long as they follow the basic food safety guidelines that the FDA has so clearly written up in the code of federal regulations– then all is good!

I have a few concerns about working with crickets- not even sure if the FDA has or will be addressing these any time soon!

  1. Cricket manufacturing facilities need to follow the same GMP’s as other food plants – are they being inspected?
  2. Cricket skeletons may be considered an allergen –like shellfish, will the FDA have to amend their allergen listing
  3. What will the crickets be fed and how can we ensure that the feed is clean and won’t somehow have a negative effect on the people that eat the crickets? I know it sounds fine that organic crickets will be happily feeding on fruits and vegetables but where does that supply of cricket feed come from and who is going to monitor what the cricket is eating?
  4. Will the crickets be treated humanely? (this came up during the meet up discussion— don’t crowd too many crickets into one space!)
  5. Will co packers manufacture products using cricket flour—will they have special labeling for it  (allergen labeling?)

My fellow food scientists are discussing this on the IFT linked in group – so join in and read what they are saying! I am already thinking about how to get the max amount of protein from the cricket itself—right now, EXO bar only has 10 grams of protein in a 290 calorie bar- and each bar contains 25 crickets-as well as other nuts. I want to figure out a way to really shove more cricket protein in there- like lets make a shelf stable retorted protein drink with 100 calories and 21 grams of cricket protein that is heavily flavored up with chocolate, coffee and berry flavors and boosted with caffeine- the opportunities are endless!

Chirp Chirp!

Its official I no longer have to buy my own cheeses and make a party platter- I discovered LASSO at the Food Fete party this week and they will take care of everything for me- the wine, the cheese and more! They also told me that anyone who reads this blog can get $20 bucks off their next order at www.lassoit.com (minimum order $60 but still …. its a good deal!) I am all about simplifying my parties—-

$20 bucks off--same day delivery!

$20 bucks off–same day delivery!

This was just one of many interesting items that I got to taste and experience at Food Fete– the post fancy food show special party for food companies and the media!  We all meandered around the room sipping Prosecco from Italy  and tasting gourmet chocolates made by a company that is known for making the kitchen sink….(Kohler). Other specialty items included the all american couture unique chocolates from Jcoco- (Edamame and Sea salt and quinoa) and more chocolate from Seattle Chocolates (their parent company) a responsible company that uses ethically traded cocoa. New from Manchester Farms were Quail Eggs and boneless quail – so you can make mini scrambled eggs whenever you want.

IMG_6614 IMG_8733

I love nuts — so was excited to see that Sante- a company that sells roasted and seasoned nuts is making unique flavors like chipotle almonds, cardamon cashews and sweet and spicy peanuts.

Thanks to all these companies for coming out to San Francisco and showing us all the new and exciting products that we can now buy- so much variety and so little time!