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Product Pizzazz!

What was hot at this year's Grocery Innovations show? Warm cheese, dry soda and, yes, more ways to drink a coconut.

For two days in early October, Toronto was transformed into a foodie mecca. Grocers flocked to the city’s Metro Convention Centre to suss out the newest, hottest and drool-worthiest foods at the Grocery Innovations Canada show. In addition to providing them with enough food samples to feed a voracious football team, the event, put on by the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, offered valuable insights into emerging food trends:

Chez moi. Forget the whatever-falls-out-of-the-fridge approach to cooking. Food makers this year were determined to help consumers bring home the restaurant experience. ID Foods promoted a line of ready-to-use gourmet sauces by Christian Potier. The French company’s creamy Béarnaise sauce comes in pre-portioned packages, which are microwaved, left to thicken and then drizzled over grilled meat, fish or seasonal vegetables. Voila! A French classic in 40 seconds. VV Foods also promised to “simplify your kitchen workflow without sacrificing flavour or quality.” Its Pho Bo Beef Flavoured Soup Base is added to noodles, meat and veggies for an authentic-tasting Vietnamese soup.

The weird factor. This year’s foods were full of unexpected flavours and combinations. Frito-Lay revamped childhood classic Cheetos by combining it with spicy jalapenos. Pop also got a facelift, this time by Dry Soda Co. Its drinks, developed by Seattlebased Sharelle Klaus, include unusual flavours such as rhubarb and cucumber. Similar to how food is matched with complementary wine, Klaus recommends pairing her low-calorie pop with specific meals (the Lavender soda goes well with roast duck, apparently). Among the many cheeses on display, Juusto stood out. Made by Wisconsinbased Pasteur Pride, the semi-soft cheese shouldn’t be gobbled down right out of the package. Its makers recommend frying or grilling the product and serving it warm. The cheese can be covered in maple syrup, honey or jam, and even eaten for breakfast with coffee.

Loco for coconuts. Once scorned for its high levels of saturated fat, coconuts have made an impressive comeback over the past two years. After the success of coconut water, the drube (that’s right folks, “nut” is a misnomer) is popping up in new, unexpected places. Organika had on display Organic Coconut Nectar Vinegar and a variation with raw wild honey. The products can be used in salad dressing, sauces, dip and condiments. Over at the thirsty Buddha booth, passersby were invited to sample their coconut water with coffee The beverage conceals the coconut water flavour, which some consumers find unappetizing.

Java. Caffine was another major player at this year’s show. As consumers look to save the $3 normally spent on a morning coffee, manufacturers are stepping in with all the energyboosting beverages Canadians need. Jumping on the joe-to-go trend is Maresi’s Vienna Ice Coffee Cappuccino. Made with low-fat milk and “pure coffee,” the product is packaged in single-serve cups with a protective cover and plastic straw. Astro, meanwhile, had fatigued teens in mind with its latest product: Kik drinkable yogurt. Though it doesn’t contain any caffeine, the company promotes the product as an “all-day source of natural energy.”

Go big or go home. This year’s offerings didn’t walk the middle ground. Food makers figured if consumers want a treat, they’ll indulge with high-calorie desserts, or they’ll skimp with super-low-cal alternatives. Baker Boys, creators of Cinnamon Twists and Cinnamon Rolls, make no health claims; but their products deliver “mallquality” flavour. Meanwhile, Moomoo bars by Dairylicious are made of superhealthy cheese and contain around 100 calories. So much for “everything in moderation.”

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