Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011
Are you someone who craves sweet nibbles or salty snacks? Or, do you prefer spicy or sour munchies? I must confess I’m a serial snacker. Even though I am a trained chef, my snack repertoire is not all that sophisticated. That’s not surprising among chefs who work long shifts and eat anything in sight when their hard day’s work is at an end. I’m a sucker for salted-in-the-shell peanuts—my trigger food—and I occasionally indulge on traditional sourdough pretzels. I like plain popcorn—I don’t like the artificial butter flavors—and I’ve never turned down a bag of Fritos. When it comes to sweets, I’m a chocoholic. I prefer dark, but a good milk chocolate is also fantastic when I’m in the mood and it’s usually Choclatique Prestige Milk Chocolate. At times like this I can even bring together some of my favorite flavors with our Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle Bites.
With the excuse that I need more experience, I cranked my expertise in snacking up a notch. This week, I am insanely excited because I got to explore my snacking inner-child at Chicago’s Annual Sweets and Snacks Expo at McCormick Place. This is an annual “snackin’” trade show hosed by National Confectioners Association where over 14,000 buyers and 500 manufactures come to see what’s new. The expo offers everything from jelly beans to popcorn companies that put movie caliber snacks to shame (hello Popcornopolis) and chocolatiers who even challenge Willy Wonka’s magic. This is the largest confectionery, cookie and snack show in the Americas. The EXPO features companies showcasing their newest, sweetest, most sour, most crunchy confectionery and snack products in one place making it one of the most valuable, time-effective events in the industry. In fact, more than 130 new companies exhibited and more buyers than ever attended the event. The EXPO attracts all of the major US distribution channels and featurestop-notch experts in some of the educational keynote sessions, making it easier than ever to discover the latest trends and discover what’s new in the world of snacking.
As I walked the EXPO floor with more than 14,000 qualified confectionery and snack professionals, including nearly 1,000 international visitors traveling from more than 60 countries. We all munched the hall from one end to the other leaving trails of crunchy crumbs.
We snacked on lentil and hummus chips with unusual and exotic flavors like black pepper, dill, chili and mint, and sweets snacks that claimed to be fortified with vitamins slated to offer consumers greater snack options when the three o’clock munchies hit.
Consumers can expect to see more snack foods and sweets that layer multiple, complex, and sometimes unexpected flavors. Combinations like habanera and lemongrass-flavored sweets, dual-filled truffles, and gourmet, artisanal flavors like cracked pepper and Asiago cheese-flavored chips.
I found wine-flavored chocolates by a New York company that are very similar to our Napa Valley Wine Chocolates that we introduced over 2 years ago. There was even a wine-flavored caramel—Cabernet to be exact—with a hint of sea salt. I discovered flower, troll and monster-shaped gummies, chocolate-coated jelly beans, straws filled with flavor beads like cookies and cream, strawberry, or vanilla that instantly transform a regular glass of milk to a snacking dessert, and crisp rice puffs dipped in dark chocolate, infused with vitamin D3 and sealed in a chocolate candy coating.
Despite a lagging economy, the snack and sweet markets experienced growth in 2010, as they’re considered affordable indulgences.
This month we are releasing our own “holey” indulgences—Choclatique Designer Donuts. Now you can enjoy the flavors of a chocolatiers’ dozen (15 different, wonderful flavors), including Almond Coconut Flake, Carrot-Cream Cheese, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Sprinkles, Cinnamon Spice, Dark Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake, Fluff-a-Nutter, Jelly Donut, Johnny Appleseed’s Apple, Marshmallow Mint Chip, Mocha Kreme, Vanilla Kreme, Vermont Maple Crunch, and Wicked Red Cherry.
Shameless Plug: I know for many it’s too early to think about the end of the year holidays, but here’s a thought for some great gift giving—Choclatique (the book). And guess what? You don’t even have to wait for the end of the year. It’s the perfect gift for brides, grooms, grandchildren’s birthday, anniversaries… actually Choclatique (the book) is perfect for just about any occasion. Signed copies will be available after October 1st.