June 27, 2019

Alchemy in America

The NRA show in Chicago. 18-22 May

The international expansion for Alchemy continues with the recent exhibition of our Superfood Elixirs at the National restaurant show in Chicago. Working again with the team from HP Hood alongside Planet Oat Oatmilk, Almond Breeze and Oceana Coffee, sampling Turmeric Lattes, Energy Chai Lattes, Chai Lattes and Matcha Lattes to thousands of trade visitors.

This was a monster food show by any standard, held in the 2.6 million square foot McCormick Place.
The 4 day show had all of Americas foodservice people gathered under one very large roof.
The interesting thing about travelling and exhibiting broadly is that we get to see the interesting innovations, which I love to fossick out, and the broader mega trends that are really catching on and likely to be game changers.

In last months issue I wrote about the rise and rise of plant milk, and the coming oat milk juggernaut that will soon wash over Australia. The mega trend that created the most buzz at the NRA show was the plant based protein explosion.

Leading this charge was the highly visible Impossible Burger, (
whose stand was literally mobbed all day with thousands of visitors sampling sliders, tacos, meatballs and pizza all made with their plant based ‘meat’.
What I find most interesting about their positioning is that they are not trying to appeal to vegetarians or vegans. They want to offer a satisfying burger to regular burger guys and gals. Important to note that there are WAY MORE of these people than there are vegans or vegetarians. I spoke to a vegan friend of mine who pointed out that there were traces of glyphosate found in some of their product and that they tested on animals, so any self respecting vegan would not use their products, however based on the crowds massed around their stand, I don’t think the Impossible boys and girls were too worried, they just raised $300 Million USD in their last funding round, with The Burger King chain offering ‘Impossible whoppers’, outperforming the other stores by 18.5% in foot traffic.

They were not alone in their plant protein crusade. I saw companies sampling tuna sashimi, made from tomatoes (, and the guys from Good Catch (
who have developed a tuna replacement made with plant protein. This was offered in sachets as an alternative to canned tuna.

In all cases, what can be seen is a heavy investment in R and D to develop viable and delicious alternatives to meat, and what I really admire about all of this is that it starts with the premise that few will change their behaviour based on a principal or virtuous idea, and those that will, already have. What these companies have done is to introduce an option that allows a consumer to carry on very much as they currently do, but with a small difference, that they can feel very good about it.

Not only is this easy for the consumer to manage… “I love Burgers, now I love a better burger that saves the planet”… so the consumer feels virtuous, but this is very good for business as companies that have introduced the Impossible Burger, are selling it at a premium over the traditional burger, and they are attracting new customers, as you saw above in the Burger King example.

What can you do here in your cafe? Get on board of course. Ask your suppliers about available options. If you are seeing plant milks rise in your beverage mix, it only makes sense that the same will hold true in the food mix and remember the premium consumers pay for plant options holds true when you sip or chew, so it is good for your business as well as your customers.

Another big trend, that was clear was the bio packaging demand. Re-use cups everywhere as is already well established here in Oz, but a few interesting straw alternatives were there, one using quite literally straw, yes hollow stems of wheat and other plant stems. ( Talk about eco! Really fun guys too.
At the other end of the spectrum was a beautifully presented range of straws made from bamboo and coffee grounds. Close by were the edible spoons, banana and bamboo plates and biodegradable cups. In fact it was just sad to walk past the traditional plastic packaging suppliers largely ignored stands. I guess this is what a kodak stand looked like just before everything changed.

The great thing about getting out and seeing all of this is that it gives a very clear perspective of where the whole food service industry is headed. The big trends are clearly growing and it was deeply satisfying to find that visitors to our stand who sampled our Golden Lattes, Chai Lattes and Matcha Lattes left us as inspired by what Alchemy is doing as I was by the direction of the industry after my walk around just some of the massive show.

Anyone interested to discuss more about the show or what Alchemy is doing here in Australia or internationally, please feel free to get in touch with me directly at Alchemy Cordial Company

More great stories HERE from Cafe Culture Digital Magazine

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