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Places to shop
while in Chicago:

Whole Foods,

Fox and Obel,

Trader Joe’s,

Wild Oats,

Sam’s Wine and Spirits,

Moo and Oink,




Coming soon to a food aisle near you . . .

They call it the Power of Five – five industry tradeshows under one roof dedicated to the power of consumers and keeping the hungry masses fed. From family-owned businesses to large corporations, the show provides a glimpse into what it takes to put food on our tables.

Held once a year in May at Chicago’s McCormick place, the Power of Five incorporates the Spring Fancy Food Show with the Food Marketing Institute (the supermarket industry’s most comprehensive event), the All Things Organic tradeshow (North America’s only business-to-business event of the Organic Trade Association), the United Produce Expo (featuring the newest produce innovations) and the U.S. Food Export Showcase (American-made products ready for export.)

With more than 100,000 food products to see and sample by the more than 30,000 people in attendance, the Power of Five not only brings together producers, distributors and retailers from North America, but from all over the world.

A Smaller World
Which brings us to one of the major trends in the world of food – a world that is getting smaller.  European foods continue to be the largest source of imported foods as we readily enjoy olive oils from the Mediterranean, cheese from Great Britain and chocolates from France, but two of the larger sources of imported foods – and segments that are experiencing increased growth  - are Asia and South America.  As these populations continue to grow in the U.S., we’re learning to enjoy the flavors of these far-off lands.     

World Flavor Highlight: Africa – While we may have enjoyed the rich brew of African coffee or experienced the sweet, crisp flavors of a South African Riesling, Africa offers a world of flavors from their more than 50 countries that, despite their differences, all share a rich cultural heritage. With modern packaging facilities and artisan operations, Africa is exporting products ranging from fine wines, coffees, teas, cocoa, fruit preserves, a wide variety of honey from thousands of years of beekeeping, savory spices and hot pepper sauces.

Want to help African farmers and heat up your meal: Then, visit to learn more about the Elephant Pepper brand that offers such hot and savory pepper items as Zambezi Red, Chilli Relish, Chilli Jam and Baobab Gold. The first seeds of this unique brand were sown in the Mid Zambezi Valley where rural farmers and elephants came into conflict over food crops. Elephants raid farmers’ fields and are a very real threat to livelihoods. The company’s goal is to add value to chilies, thereby increasing returns for rural farmers. A full 100 percent of the chilies used in the products are grown by farmers living with elephants.

Eswatini Swazi Kitchen,- - Eswatini, meaning Swaziland, was founded 15 years ago as a producer of high-quality jams, chutneys, marmalades, atchars and sauces. Their products, made from fresh, all-natural ingredients, provide employment in Swaziland and generate income for Manzini Youth Care, a non-governmental organization that helps with the education and housing of orphans and street children. From a small cottage industry to an international company, Eswatini Swazi Kitchen provides employment for local women. In addition, there are more than 200 women based in rural areas of Swaziland who have been trained to weave baskets that are used for their gift packs. Offering a variety of refreshing flavors, Eswatini offers 12 jam flavors ranging from guava, pineapple and marula to peach and ginger, mango and melon; their marmalades include kumquat, orange, grapefruit, and our favorite, lime.

Sensible Snacking
Sensible snacking solutions are another major trend we’ll continue to see more and more as products are offered in smaller portions, with less sugar and more organic options. These snacks offer omega-3 oils, anti-oxidants and feature key ingredients such as flax, blueberries, pomegranates and a multitude of other dried fruits, grains and nuts. 

What to look for:
Love blueberries? Then check out: - The Michigan Blueberry Growers Association has teamed up to offer some of the best blueberry products available.  Not only can you purchase fresh or frozen blueberries direct from the growers, you can also try a variety of items including snacks, mixes, nectars, and our favorite, blueberry chutney.

Forget popcorn and corn nuts, try - You have to love a company that advertises, “We’ve decided to go public with our little accident.” And what a tasty accident it is! A new favorite in our house, the original Glad Corn - the A-Maizing Corn Snack, is field corn popped in non-hydrogenated soy oil and flavored with sea salt. Try their other flavors that include jalapeno, barbecue and cheddar.  They’re great as a snack or added to trail mixes or salads.

Need more veggies in your diet? Who says they can only be raw or steamed? Look for Crispy Delites, in a snack aisle near you.  These crispy snacks are made with canola oil and sea salt in a dehydration process that leaves a veggie snack that is not only good for you but can take the place of a potato chip in anyone’s diet. High in vitamins A, C, E, calcium, iron and potassium try their red onion, carrot, celery, Asian cucumber and mixed vegetables.

Fresh egg whites and no shells? It’s possible with Eggology who is now producing a new 4-pack item called On-the-Go.  Similar to a fruit cup, each On-the-Go cup is filled with 100 percent egg whites and is microwavable so you can create a healthy scramble anywhere.  Never frozen and with no preservatives, Eggology specializes in a complete line of fresh, pasteurized egg whites that can be used in protein drinks, whipped for a meringue or used in omelets and casseroles. For more details, visit Eggology online at

Adding Flavor
Toss aside your old-fashioned table salt – or keep it for tossing over your shoulder for good luck, because gourmet sea salts are becoming more economical and easier to find.  They’re even putting their saltiness to work in a variety of gourmet confections such as Béquet’s Gourmet Celtic Sea Salt Caramels and Vosges Chocolates, Barcelona Bar where grey sea salt offsets rich, French chocolate and smoked almonds.

McCormick, like many other natural and organic spice companies, is offering an easy-to-use spice jar with a grinder built-in. Offering fresh ground flavor, McCormick’s Grinders are just a twist away from the flavors of fresh cracked spices and herbs - look for smoked sea salt, Telicherry black peppercorn mélange, roasted garlic and sea salt, and Italian herb (rosemary, parsley and black peppercorn, garlic, onion and tomato.)

For mushroom lovers, nothing beats the fresh flavor of a wild, handpicked mushroom. For those of us with a secret stash of dried, wild mushrooms or for those of us who stock up at the store, we know a dried mushroom has even more mushroom flavor. The folks at the Washington-state based,, have taken dried, organic mushrooms to the next level with their Organic Mélange Seasoning & Rub Marinades.  They have three, ready-to-use, multi-purpose seasonings including Pacific Blend featuring smoked oyster mushrooms blended with cayenne and thyme, Mediterranean Blend featuring porcini mushrooms blended with classic Mediterranean herbs and Fiesta Blend with shiitake granules blended with garlic and pepper.  With recipes on their website, and our own cooking imaginations, the possibilities are endless – and heavenly, mushroom-scented.

Check out the new Travel Spice Kit - what every food ‘adventurist’ needs for the road. Do you have family or friends whose cooking is a bit bland?  Well, then you’ll want to make sure you have this little covert, ditty from the Grapevine Trading Co., This unique kit, in a convenient pocket size of 7.5" x 4.5" x 1", is full of an assortment of 15 different herbs and spices including: cinnamon, garlic, chili flakes, cracked peppercorns, salt, mustard powder, curry powder, ground ginger and herb blends including French, Italian, Mexican, BBQ Chinese, Cajun and lemon garlic.  The Travel Spice Kit also makes a wonderful gift for a college student, newlyweds or the camper in your life.

Nielsen-Massey,, the world’s leading purveyor of fine vanilla extracts is now making their Vanilla Bean Paste, popular with pastry chefs, available for consumers. Each amber-colored bottle is full of the seeds of the vanilla bean allowing your homemade custards and baked goods will delight their recipients with a heady aroma and flecks of pure vanilla.  Nielsen-Massey is also introducing five new extracts in 2006 including the world’s first ever, Pure Coffee Extract which delivers the essence of rich brewed coffee in a concentrated form that allows the cook to deliver the fine nuances of coffee. It's a great addition to brownies, chocolate cakes, chocolate chip cookies and bread pudding. Additional serving suggestions include: beverages such as milkshakes or hot chocolate, fudge sauces, vanilla yogurt, or blended whipped cream.  The other four new pure extracts for baking and cooking include: almond, chocolate, lemon, and orange. Convenient and easy-to-use, the extracts contain natural botanic oils in an alcohol base. Obviously perfect for icings, baked goods and desserts, these extracts can also be used in savory dishes such as soups, sauces and salad dressings.

Produce Options Go Smaller
Not only are baby vegetables one of the hottest items you’ll find in the produce section this year, you’ll also find the producers of some of our favorite bagged salads  giving fast food chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s a run for consumers’ salad dollars. 

Snack-size and single portion gourmet salads are offering a new, healthy option in ready-to-eat packaged goods.  Tapping into what the Food Marketing Institute feels are the top trends for the coming years, these salads offer a convenient, nutritious, and highly portable option for lunches and dinners on-the-go. 

Here’s what to look for:  Ready Pac bowl salads, Bistro-To-Go, offer single-serving, ready-to-eat salads featuring an Asian Style Chicken with iceberg and romaine lettuces, chicken, sesame-ginger dressing, celery and wonton strips; and a Santa Fe Style Caesar Salad – romaine lettuce, salsa-ranch dressing, chicken, corn, cheese and tortilla chips. Ready Pac's divided packaging allows flavors to stay fresh. Each bowl salad contains a portion of premium salad dressing and a fork so you can take them to work, to school or just about anywhere. Other flavors include: Chicken Caesar, Chef, Spinach Bacon, Cobb and Greek. For more information, visit

Eat Smart, from Apio, Inc. – is introducing into the marketplace the first line of salad kits that are non-lettuce based.  The five varieties, called Fresh salads, include Veggie Waldorf, Carrot Crunch, Santa Maria Style Broccoli, Asian Affair and Broccoli Delight.  With a suggested retail price of $2.49, the salads are a complete, single-serving kit offering 2.5 to 4 oz of vegetables, 1 oz of dressing and .5 to 1 oz of nuts, raisins, etc. For more information, visit and look for them at a grocer near you.

Fresh Produce Meals
Green Giant continues to make a name for their products in the produce department. They have created Freshtables, a line with fresh stir-fry kits that include pre-cut vegetables and sauces. Consumers just add beef, chicken or shrimp. Freshtables stir-fries include Garlic Szechuan, Thai Curry, Sweet and Sour, and Teriyaki.

Biggins’ Complete is new gourmet potato meal being test-marketed in the Chicago area, but will soon be available in more stores nation-wide.  The brand, owned by the Russet Potato Exchange, represents 12 families that grow, on average, 384 million potatoes each year and has been in operation for more than 55 years. The Biggins’ Complete meal includes a triple-washed and packaged potato with cheddar cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, butter, salt, pepper, a fork and napkin so consumers can microwave a stuffed-potato meal in seven to eight minutes.

And they're so cute: Baby Vegetables
As any home gardener knows, young or baby vegetables pack a lot of flavor in a small bite and can create unique dishes. Some new items to look for are Del Monte’s gourmet, mini-cucumbers, Southern Selects’ asparagus tips, Babe Foods’ 3-Pack of baby cauliflowers, Del Cabo’s Honey Bunch yellow grape tomatoes, Melissa’s baby summer squash mix and Melissa’s gourmet potatoes such as Pee Wee’s and Fingerling’s, both available in yellow and red varieties.

In Other Produce News
For those of us seeking the nutritional value of red beets without the tedious prep, and for a quick option to add lentils to soups and salads, Melissa’s (famous for hard-to-find, organic produce items,, is introducing new convenience produce selections including steamed, peeled, ready-to-eat red beets and carrots and steamed, ready-to-eat, lentils. 

Currently offering hydroponically grown watercress that is sold with its root intact for increased freshness, Live Gourmet ( is introducing a butter lettuce and three-lettuce blend into the marketplace.

And, Colorful Harvest ( is offering heirloom variety carrots with their Super Sweet Yellow Heirloom Carrots and Rainbow Crunch Carrots. For kids, and adults alike, their Little Crunchers are real, whole, baby carrots that are packed unpeeled in an 8 oz. snack bag. Plus, don’t miss trying their Scarlet Sweet Red Corn that offers eye-catching kernels adding great color and flavor to salsa, chutney, corn salad, and other dishes.

Entertaining at Home Becomes Easier
While we continue to seek out new places to shop for specialty foods, especially when it comes to entertaining, look for upscale convenience foods that will save you prep time at your next event. While gourmet cheeses and spreads are obvious choices, also look for frozen pastry shells like those produced by Athens and Pidy Gourmet, chocolate dessert cups from Mona Lisa and a large selection of crostinis, baguettes, lavosh and flat bread crackers.

One brand to look for in the freezer case – or to purchase directly in bulk for a large party - is Good Wives, This Massachusetts-based company produces upscale, prepared, frozen appetizers in a variety of categories, shapes, and flavors.  These include fillo pastries, puff pastries, profiteroles, mini quiches, tartlets, flatbreads, tortilla wraps and spring rolls that feature flavors highlighting brie, gorgonzola, goat cheese, artichokes, mushrooms, olives and much more. 

For the guests on your nice list, treat them to gourmet delicacies by visiting D’Artagnan online at Founded in 1985 by Ariane Daguin and George Faison, D’Artagnan is the leading purveyor of foie gras, pates, sausages, smoked delicacies, organic game and poultry in the nation. Currently providing a range of over 300 items from free range and organic meats to preservative free charcuterie, try D’Artagnan’s French Kisses, Armagnac soaked prunes stuffed with duck foie gras, a ready-to-eat treat that your guests will ooh and ahh over.

Those of us who shop the organic section at the grocery store will already be familiar with Alexia Foods – producers of frozen, flavorful fries, appetizers and other potato products.  The company is now introducing a line of artisan breads that are heat and eat. With all natural ingredients, no trans fats, and in some cases, fat free, these crusty rolls could make your next dinner party a bit easier. Try Ciabatta, Italian-style rolls baked with rosemary and olive oil; Classic French rolls baked light and crispy by balancing humidity and temperature; Three Cheese Focaccia baked with Asiago, Parmesan and Romano; Hearty Whole Wheat Rolls with flaxseeds, soy and sunflower seeds; and their Garlic Baguette baked with real butter, garlic and spices. For more information, visit

Garnish your next culinary creation with edible flowers. Now available where fresh herbs are sold in the produce section, most edible flower combinations include organically grown cornflowers, marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies and snapdragons. They provide a touch of color on entrees, salads or desserts. The Herbal Garden (, based out of Chicago since 1986, is one of the largest suppliers of fresh, pesticide-free and organic culinary herbs, specialty salads, and, of course, edible flowers. Grown on more than 70 acres with 15 state-of-the art greenhouses, The Herbal Garden offers over 23 varieties of fresh herbs including hard-to-find herbs like chervil and lemon grass.

As for something sweet, try Calypso Rum Cakes. A product of Barbados, and with the claim of being the best rum cakes in the Caribbean (which we fully agree), Calypso offers four flavors including vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and our favorite, the refreshing Lemon-Ginger – made with fresh, grated ginger.  Sold in one-pound, two-pound and four-ounce sizes, visit for ordering details.

Sauce on the Side
Condiments continue to be one of the largest categories in the specialty food industry featuring a variety of liqueurs, whiskies and spice combinations.  A unique offering from South Africa, Braai Spray Brushless Baste, is a range of bastes available in spray formats allowing meat to be basted easily during cooking. Four flavors are being introduced including Peri-Peri Hot, Sweet & Sticky, Hickory Smoke and Lemon & Garlic.  For fans of Iron Chef, look for a line of Asian rice crisps, soup mixes and, of course, sauces for adding a little zest to your next meal.

Wishbone is introducing a new way dress your salad with their Salad Spritzers. In a small spray bottle, the health conscious can add a tiny spritz of dressing to cut on calories – as each spritz only has 1 calorie. Flavors available include Balsamic Breeze Vinaigrette, Italian Vinaigrette and Red Wine Mist Vinaigrette. Visit www.wish-bone.comfor more details.

Something to Sip On
The beverage sector continues to introduce the largest number of new products annually. Not only does this include a multitude of new sodas touting nutritional benefits, but it also includes drink mixes, juices and teas.

Pom, maker of fresh pomegranate juice, will begin offering a line of Pom Teas that feature the health benefits of pomegranate juice.  America’s increasing love of dark, gourmet chocolate can now be met in two new products that can be savored both warm and cold - Schokinag’s Extreme Dark European Drinking Chocolate and Dufflet’s Chocolate Chaud de Luxe Extra Brut.

Jarrito’s, a popular Mexican soda with flavors like tamarind and pineapple, is introducing two new soda flavors in 2006 - mango and watermelon.

Magnolia Teas, a family-owned company based in Chicago, offers bottled tea brewed from natural gourmet tea leaves, seasoned with natural spices, fruit concentrates and fruit flavors.  Their full line includes: Autumn Nectar, Nilla-Nade, Southern Style, Splendid Green Tea and Unsweetened. Order a case online at or look for them at a local grocery store. 

Bada Beans, gourmet coffee flavorings that come in a tin like breath mints offer gourmet flavoring for coffee that is economically priced and easily to carry with you. A flavoring confection specifically designed to flavor a cup of coffee; Bada Beans offers flavors such as vanilla, caramel and hazelnut. Visit Bada online at

Sipahh is a new flavored straw for drinking milk. The unique product comes in a variety of flavors and contributes less than half-teaspoon of sugar making it a better choice for children. Sipahh’s flavors include caramel, strawberry, banana, chocolate and chocolate-mint.  Using natural colors and no preservatives, the small flavoring bead inside the straws infuses the liquid that is sipped through the straw. Sipahh straws were developed by an Australian company that claims the product boosted milk sales in stores and schools the year the product was introduced in Australia.  The straw could be filled with other substances, such as vitamins and pharmaceuticals, for use in the health and fitness industries.  Visit, for more information.

Got Dairy?
Following condiments and beverages, cheese takes the third spot as one of the top sales items in the specialty food industry. Even in the cavernous space of McCormick Place, wafts of stinky cheese filled cheese lovers with delight in almost every aisle.  From fine imported British cheeses to artisan cheeses made closer to home, look for these items at a cheese counter near you:

Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. ( offers an American-made Crème Fraiche that is rich and creamy with a nutty flavor.

Rogue Creamery ( has been creating artisan cheeses since 1935 in Oregon State – one to try, their Smokey Blue that is smoked with Oregon hazelnut shells.

One of the best things we’ve ever eaten can be found at Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont ( – and that is their cheeses including Constant Bliss, Winnimere and Baley Hazen Blue. (Available at Sam’s Wines and Spirits in Chicago).  Constant Bliss is a slow ripened lactic curd made only with fresh, right out of the cow, evening milk and it is aged 60 days before it leaves the farm. Winnimere is another soft cheese that is aged in a salty rind of brown ale that is produced on the farm, leaving a cheese that is creamy on the inside with a savory, soft brown crust. And lastly is the Bayley Hazen Blue, a natural rind blue cheese made with whole raw milk and lower in fat. Drier than most blues, this cheese offers an array of flavors such as nuts and grasses with a texture similar to chocolate and butter. It is aged between 4 and 6 months.

In other dairy news, Skinny Cow, creators of some of the best low-fat ice cream sandwiches on the market, is now offering a line of fat free milk; Stonyfield Farms, the name in organic yogurt, is now moving from the dairy case to the ice cream case with a line of organic ice creams and low-fat frozen yogurts; and, more kefirs are being offered in the marketplace, look for Lifeway Organic who is marketing Probugs, a whole-milk kefir for kids with flavors like Sublime Lime Slime and Orange Creamy Crawler.

I’ll Take My Steak Organic Please
If books and movies like Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me have you seeking out meat, pork and poultry not chocked-full of saline solutions and growth hormones, then you’ll enjoy the plethora of organic meat products being introduced into the marketplace this year.  One to look for, Coleman Natural Meats ( who is offering a new line of organic, all-natural cooked sausages such as chicken-spinach-feta, apple-chicken, spicy and mild Italian, cilantro-chicken and much, more.

Move Over Olive Oil
We’ve all probably purchased a product or two imported by Roland ( at some point in our culinary adventures, most likely in the form of canned anchovies, smoked oysters, etc.  Roland’s product line is quite extensive and something new to look for are their variety of cold-pressed oils including rice oil, very light colored, used for frying, sautéing and baking; avocado and pistachio oils, green colored, great as a dressing for steamed vegetables, dressings and sautéing fish; and pumpkin seed oil, dark colored and good for salads, baking and marinades.

In Other Food Related News:
If You Care, that’s really the product’s name, is 100-percent recycled aluminum foil produced by Atlantique, Inc and a finalist in the non-food category at the Spring Fancy Food Show. 

Food Spring,, is a new food ‘adventurist’ magazine that targets the active, engaged, and adventuresome specialty food consumer.  Premiering Fall 2006, the magazine is published by the National Association of Specialty Food Trade and will, on a quarterly basis, explore food trends, investigate regional and international food categories and provide practical information about selecting, purchasing and serving specialty foods.

What they’re saying about us
Ever wonder what consumer trends the food and grocery industry are following? Well, here are the top trends the Food Marketing Institute is predicting that we’ll be looking for in the next few years:

  • Consumers will continue to look for reduced sugar foods

  • Protein will grow in importance as the means to proper nutrition

  • Meal times are fragmenting in the average household

  •  Consumers are increasingly shopping for food at a variety of retailers

  • Consumers want products that will help us look and feel beautiful inside and out

  •  Portability and one-handed eating is going to be important

  • Flavors and food choices in the grocery store will focus on bringing restaurant experiences home

Copyright 2006