The 15th Americas Food and Beverage Show and Conference 2011-12

By Martin Mendiola….
With 12 pavilions from different countries and over 350 exhibitors displaying more than 5,000 unique products, the 15th Americas Food and Beverage Show and Conference took place at the Miami Beach convention Center on November 14th and 15th. Considered the most respected “Americas” focused trade show in the Western Hemisphere, it provides the largest selection of foods and beverages from around the world targeting the taste of America’s consumers. It also exposes products from the Americas to the rest of the world hoping to increase two-way trades within and outside the western Hemisphere. Among the many benefits derived from the show, visitors get the opportunity to attend seminars and participate in the Americas Chefs competition while discovering new products, ideas, and innovations in the food and beverage industry.

The seminars were diverse, interesting and practical. They were presented by qualified firms and individuals who covered topics such as “Complying with U.S. Import Food and Beverage Entry and Safety Requirements” and “Global Food Flavor Trends for 2012”. As expected, the best attended workshops were the ones on how to get products onto the Walmart shelves called “Are you ready for Walmart?’ and “How to export products from Costco”.

There were different competitive levels for chefs and students. Ray Rutenis, Associate Dean at Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts was very proud of the students who won the challenges and highly complimented the show’s staff and Ricardo Flores from Razzmatazz Consulting for keeping the competition in order and on time. “A complete success” is what he called the competition.

With many diversified challengers, the top 3 prizes stayed in Florida. The team of Nora Galdiano and Wendy Lopez of the Ilesworth Golf and Country Club in Windemere, Florida won first place. Second place went to Damian Gilchrist and Philippe Reynaud of the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo and the third place winner were the team of Paul Evans and Michael Priola of Lakewood Ranch and Country Club in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

In the large exhibits area, visitors found the pavilion from Thailand among the most exuberant. This was partly due to Kanya Amorntheerakul, Director of the Thai Center – Miami whom along with Maria Sariol and Louis Stinson, Honorary Consuls, were enthusiastically promoting the country and its products. While Singha, the award winning lager beer and the Thai Hom Mali, better known as jasmine rice do not need much promoting, new products like Mangosteen Juice ca use a stronger introduction.

Mangosteen is an almost unknown fruit in the United States because of an import ban (lifted in July of 2007) due to a fruit fly problem that was finally solved. Still, the fruit does not travel well and it is almost impossible to find in the Western World. Legend has it that some time back Queen Victoria offered a handsome reward to anyone who could bring her the fresh fruit; since then mangosteen has also been known as the Queen of Fruits.

We are now beginning to find it frozen and in juices. It is said that the fruit and therefore the juice is a “fabulous antioxidant due to a powerful substance it contains called xanthone which provides outstanding nutritional health support”. Some say that mangosteen is better and the very least rivals açai in its nutritional contents.

A few years back, Dr. Nicholas Perricone basically secured Oprahs’ endorsement of açai as the number 1 superfood because it is packed full of antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Harvested in the rainforests of Brazil, this high energy berry is said to be the most nutritious and powerful food in the world. It is currently used in many dietary and energy drinks.

In the Brazilian pavilion, there were many products that use açai; everything from juices to rejuvenating creams. There were two products using açai that were most interesting: Frootiva, tiny pieces of dehydrated fruit and Sabor da Terra’s açai flavored soya bean extract which is tastier and much cheaper to make than the soya milk found in supermarkets.

Frootiva is a tasty, crunchy product made with dehydrated pulp and is 100% natural. It claims to offer the energetic and antioxidant properties of the natural berry and can be easily added to ice cream, cereals, salads and/or anything that is enhanced by fruit flavors. We were told by the Blue Macaw representative who handles Frootiva, to keep our eyes open for the upcoming introduction of new products made from the cupuaçu fruit. They promise to be revolutionary.

Another interesting product from Sabor da Terra product was the coconut oil. This oil is sold in cylindrical containers because it turns solid and cannot be poured. An interesting feature is that it is refined and lacks the coconut aroma found in other brands. The Sabor da Terra coconut oil is 100% natural and extensively used by vegans.

It was impossible to leave the Brazilian pavilion without trying some of the many different cachaças on display. After being told we had to try some pleasure, we were taken to the Prazer (Brazilian/Portuguese for pleasure) de Minas booth. There we sampled the Prazer Estojo Gold and the truth is that pleasurable it was. After the distillation in copper alembics, it is aged for 5 years in oak barrels. The result is a smooth, aromatic cachaças meant to be enjoyed neat and certainly not one to be used for caipirinhas.

The most practical product for home use found at the show, came from Colombia. The El Rey Company is manufacturing a series of pastes in a small pouch with a nozzle that can be resealed and saved in the refrigerator for future use. The packaging, the shelf life and the paste within are of exceptional quality.

At the show we had the opportunity of trying the Red Bell Pepper and Basil pastes in a dip that was simply made by mixing a bit of the paste with some cream cheese. It is a quick and simple appetizer perfect for last minute emergencies.

Over the week end we used some of the El Rey Red Bell Pepper blend to make a shrimp creole recipe an old friend from New Orleans gave us and it turned out as good as when we make the sauce from scratch. We found that unlike the old, clumsy tomato paste cans, the pouches are easy to handle and store. No refrigeration is needed until the package is open and once open, it will stay fresh fr a long time.

Many great new products were presented at the show, but none better than the new 1492 Rums from the Dominican Republic. Everything about this rum is meticulously well done; the packaging, the presentation, the labels and most important of all, the rum itself. It is a smooth explosion of flavors with a full body that is meant to be enjoyed and not explained. Each individual person will arrive at their conclusions, and once tried it may be understood.

We were told it will not be available to the public for another month, so those who missed the show will have to wait. This was another benefit available only to those who attended the 15th Americas Food and Beverage Show and Conference.

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