No, Cockroach Milk Is NOT the Next Big Superfood. So Just Stop It.

Maybe you saw the headlines declaring cockroach milk as the next big thing.  All of a sudden, this “big news” was just about everywhere, including here and here.  It was even touted in USA Today.

Or perhaps you saw a segment about cockroach milk on TV. Here’s one from CBS.

Before you start seeking out cockroach milk to pour on your cornflakes, there are a few things you should know.

For starters, this frenzy was based on an obscure 2016 study from India.  It made news back then and for some reason the coverage has started up again.

But this study was to benefit cockroaches, not humans.  The scientists even say they’re not sure cockroach milk is safe for human consumption.  That’s not what this study was even about.

Yet the news has gone viral.

Can we just cut it out.  Cockroach milk is not a new food trend.  The researchers did not intend to suggest this is the most nutritious beverage you can drink.  No, it’s not “gaining popularity” as the coverage has claimed.

No, it’s not the “new health obsession” as Marie Claire announced.

It was a study.  And once again, research results are being misinterpreted and used to create sensational headlines.   You can’t even buy this stuff yet the stories make it sound like cockroach milk is flying off the shelf.

That’s not the case.

It’s true that insects are increasingly being eyed as potential sustainable protein source, and new products are being introduced — primarily cricket flour nutrition bars.  Gourmet Grubb is frequently cited in the cockroach milk stories, but this South African company’s “entomilk” is made from farmed insects and it’s not cockroach milk.  The Cape Town company is making ice cream from this entomilk, and it’s gotten some food-tech attention, but the product is not even on the market yet. So the media coverage has even got that wrong.

So can we move on now, please?

 

 

 

 

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Dutch Treat: My Delightful Experience With the Eating Amsterdam Food and Canals Tour

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new place — especially in Europe — is to sign up for a walking food tour.  I had a business trip to Amsterdam and didn’t plan ahead for any free time, but I was lucky enough to be a last minute addition to a tour group with Eating Europe.  It was fantastic!  And our guide, Rudolph Kempers, was the best.  I love learning some history along with the food, and he certainly delivered.

The Dutch don’t always get credit for their food, but their reputation is rapidly changing with 16 Michelin-starred restaurants in Amsterdam.  But that’s not what this food tour was really about.  We explored the historic Jordaan neighborhood that is full of old cafes and artisan food shops — visiting places that are not regular tourist stops. Originally a working class neighborhood, the Jordaan has become one of the most expensive and upscale areas in The Netherlands.

CAFE PAPENEILAND

We started our four-hour tour at Cafe Papeneiland, a traditional Dutch brown cafe – named for their dark, cozy wooden interiors and nicotine-stained walls and ceilings.  Luckily, smoking is no longer allowed in these cafes so we didn’t have to eat surrounded by cigarette smoke.  Brown cafes embody gezelligheid (coziness or feelings of friendly welcome) and are like the Dutch equivalent of an Irish pub where people gather to relax over beers and comfort food.  Cafe Papeneiland is one of the oldest cafes in Amsterdam and is loved by locals and tourists alike. The cafe became famous for their Dutch apple pie that is made from scratch using the same family recipe for over 100 years.

Instead of the crumble topping that we tend to think of for “Dutch Apple Pie,” this version had a sweet, cakey crust with thinly sliced apples piled high in a spring-form pan.  The pies are baked on site and brought out on the bar fresh from the oven to cool down.  Our tour group sat a sunny table while enjoying our pie with fresh whipped cream and listened to the lore of this famous pie.  For instance, President Bill Clinton once paid a visit for a slice and ordered an entire apple pie to go.  His visit is proudly displayed on the cafe’s website. The cafe was like a cross between a neighborhood coffee shop and a local pub.  And you could tell that beyond the tourists who flock here, many locals simply hang out like it was an extension of their home — enjoying coffee in the morning while reading the newspaper and returning in the afternoon or evening to share a few cold beers on tap with friends.

JWO LEKKERNIJEN FOR GOUDA CHEESE

Our next stop on the tour was for cheese — and not just any cheese.  We tasted The Netherlands’ most famous cheese originating from a town called Gouda in the south.  We learned about the range of gouda cheese based on age — from jonge kaas, which means young cheese (lightly flavored and creamy) to the older or mature oude kaas, which has a strong complex taste and a grainy, almost crystallized texture.

Our cheese tasting included both the young and aged gouda, along with a gouda with cumin, fig bread and bowl of Indonesian-style ginger — which I would love for my next cheese plate!

SWIETI SRANANG SURINAMESE AND INDONESIAN CAFE

I especially loved learning more about the cuisine from Suriname and Indonesian, which were both former colonies of the Netherlands that brought their spicy specialties  to Europe.  We stopped at Swieti Sranang, a toko (takeaway counter) that specializes in Surinamese and Indonesian food.  We were served by the shop’s owner Juliet, who was born in Indonesia but grew up in Suriname.  She makes everything herself and was so proud to share the most amazing chicken satay smothered in a thick peanut sauce, which was served with pickled cabbage.

SPRENKELS FOR STROOPWAFELS

On our way to the  boat for the canal tour, we dove into a bag of stroopwafels, a sandwich of two thin waffles filled with a thick syrup, or stroop.  This is a Dutch favorite, and I spotted several people making fresh stroopwafels the next day when I visited the Albert Cuypmarket, the largest outdoor market in an area known as De Pijp. 

URKER FISH SHOP FOR HERRING AND COD

Perhaps the best known Amsterdam food tradition is raw herring, and I must admit I was a bit nervous to try it. We visited Urker Viswinkel, one of the best fish shops in the Jordaan neighborhood, for a sampling of the herring (which was brined and much milder than I expected). The herring was served on toothpicks with the Dutch flag, along with pickles and onions — a combination that is frequently served as a sandwich in stands throughout Amsterdam.

The Dutch are proud of their fish and chips, made with beer-battered deep-fried cod.  We tasted the kibbeling fresh out of the fryer and it was seriously the best fried fish I’ve tasted.  They brag that it’s better than what you can find in London, and I think they might be right.  We enjoyed our pieces of kibbeling dipped in remoulade while sipping tulip vodka.  Yes, tulip vodka! 

CANAL TOUR WITH BITTERBALLEN

Bitterballen was our treat on the boat, along with an iced cold local beer.  This is a favorite pub snack and you can hear our guide Rudolph describe these crunchy, fried balls as a “layer for the drinking.”  I rather enjoyed these popular beer snacks, which are like a fried bite of beef stew that you dip in mustard.

The canal boat ride is a must if you visit Amsterdam.  Loved the view of the city from the canal, and it was amazing to see all the boat houses, which are popular to rent for a week when visiting Amsterdam.

CAFE DE PRINS FOR POFFERTJES

After the boat ride, we visited Cafe de Prins, where we tried poffertjes — small puffy pancakes served with butter, syrup, and powdered sugar. Traditionally made with buckwheat flour and yeast to give them a light, fluffy texture, poffertjes are made with a special cast iron griddle that has small indentations across the surface. It requires this large iron for making these mini-pancakes (see below) so not everyone has the equipment at home.  That’s why poffertjes are often made outside in the open markets and fairs where they’re served up hot and fresh.  I loved watching them being made the next day when I visited the open market in De Pijp.

The Jordaan Food and Canals Tour was one of the highlights of my trip.  I would encourage you to reserve ahead of time if you’re interested in going.  Check out Eating Europe.

The group also conducts food tours in Rome, Florence, London, Prague and most recently Paris.

Amsterdam surprised me.  Charmed me.  Had me wanting more.  I can’t wait to go back.

Let me know about your experiences in Amsterdam.

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Food Trends Spotted at the National Restaurant Association Show 2018

I just returned from roaming the exhibits at the National Restaurant Association Show 2018, which was right here in Chicago.

It’s a huge show and there’s so much to report on, and I hope to go back again in the next few days to visit more exhibits and attend some of the sessions before the end of the show.  But for now, some of the major trends I spotted included plant-based protein, probiotics, fermented foods, craft coffee, tea (matcha and more), gluten-free and technology — from 3-D food printers to robotics.  Food as experience and entertainment was huge, including #coffeeinacone — a South African company that sells what they describe as the world’s most instagrammable coffee.

There’s so much to share, but for today I’ll focus on some of the plant-based options and technology.

One of the most intriguing products I tried was from Ocean Hugger Foods.  The CEO was on hand to sample Ahimi, the world’s first-plant-based alternative to raw tuna that can be used for sushi, sashimi, ceviche and poke bowls.  It was quite tasty and surprisingly similar in taste and texture to tuna.  It wouldn’t quite cut it for me, I love real tuna. But I liked the creativity and the passion of the founders.

The folks from Beyond Meat introduced their first plant-based sausage, which I tried during a press briefing in the morning with sauerkraut and it was delicious.  The Beyond Sausage was one of the FABI Award winners this year, and their exhibit was consistently packed.  Although not  everyone was a fan.  When stopping by the booth later after trying it earlier in the morning, I overheard some attendees who were standing in line for the brats that were on the grill.  Once they found out they were “fake” they didn’t want to have anything to do with them.


The company behind Just Mayo introduced Just Scramble, a plant-based egg substitute made from mung bean.  They also served an egg patty in an egg sandwich for the press briefing in the morning.

Looks like jackfruit is getting into foodservice.  I saw several exhibits promoting this plant-based meat alternative and showcasing multiple applications, including jackfruit tacos.

Plant-based beverages were also featured in multiple booths, including this brand-new dairy-free yogurt drink from Califia.  It’s made from almond milk with added probiotics.  Look for it coming to a supermarket near you this summer.

Technology was a major focus at the show and there’s a session on the Future of Restaurants that I hope to attend.  A German company called Procusini demonstrated their 3-D food printer that can make chocolate, marzipan, pasta and other customized creations.

Robotics are also moving into restaurants, including this “server” from Bear Robotics.

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Compilation of 2018 Food Trends: A Collection of Predictions for the New Year

Mushrooms at farmers market by Chris Goldberg on flickr

As we approach 2018, there’s been an onslaught of predictions on what we’ll be eating in the coming year.  Have you had a hard time keeping up with all of these food trend predictions? Me too. It’s been my tradition to assemble these lists, and I’ve done that for the last several years, including here and here.  So once again I’m compiling all of the food trend lists I’ve spotted to try and capture the 2018 trends.  Hope it’s helpful to you.  And let me know if there’s something I’ve missed.

Update:  Here are some additional compilation lists for 2018 food trends that were published after my original post —

Eater Literally Every Single Food Trend Prediction to Take Over 2018
Global Food Forum 2018 Food Trends
Produce Retailer Tracking Food Trends 2018

Foods

mushrooms
edamame and snap peas
dumplings
puffed and popped snacks
ube (purple yams)
romanesco
seaweed and algae
specialty meats (nose to tail butchery, responsibly raised)
jianbing (Chinese street food breakfast crepes)
arepa (Venezuelan bread)
seeds
persimmons, figs
timut pepper (Nepal)
labneh, cottage cheese
Hispanic-style cheeses (queso blanco and fresco)
raclette cheese

 

Raclette cheese in cheese cave by Andrew McFarlane on flickr

Flavors and ingredients

floral flavors (orchid, lavender, elderflower, hibiscus, rosewater), edible flowers
salt-curing
new hot sauces
zhug (Israeli-Yemenite condiment)
ghee
whey
black garlic
cannibis
super powders (moringa, matcha, maca root)
sugar alternatives

Bubble waffle cone by Jeff Amador on flickr

Desserts

vegan desserts
Thai-rolled ice cream
boozy ice cream and shakes
freakshake
raw cookie dough
filled doughnuts
s’mores
bubble waffle
cotton candy
savory desserts
smoked dessert ingredients
Indian-infused desserts
avocado desserts
nitro desserts
feel-good treats

Cold brew coffee by Oleksii Leonov on flickr

Beverages

evolved coffee (with “superpowers,” nitro and cold brew, spiced, maca-fortified)
hard cider and root beer
mocktails
cheese tea
Earl Grey, specialized tea (green tea, tea bars)
kolsch (German brew)

Jianbing or Chinese breakfast crepe by srei on flickr

Cuisines

 Moroccan
Hawaiian
Native American
Middle Eastern
African
Peruvian
Burmese
Indian street food
Phillippine
Artic
Upscale Korean

Mini falafel by Paul Saad on flickr

Nutrition

plant-based (including meat and dairy alternatives)
fermentation and gut-friendly foods
brain fuel, nueronutrition, biohacking
eating according to your DNA
self-care food (personalization)
healthyish
souping over juicing

Cooking Techniques

branded foods (with branding iron)
air-fried
salt-cured
root-to-stem
cowboy cooking (charred, smoked, open fire)

Food Production

cellular agriculture
biodynamic
clean label 2.0
radical transparency

 

Food Lifestyle

 

culinary heritage, nostalgia, throwback dishes
knowing a food’s provenance
food halls
visual food experiences
political plating (food waste, hunger relief)
cooking robots
everyday food-tech (voice activated devices like Google Home)
grocery delivery

 

 

Sources with links to trend reports:

Baum + Whiteman
National Restaurant Association
CCD Innovation
Sterling-Rice Group
Phil Lempert
Pinterest
Whole Foods
BBC
Fine Dining Lovers
The Daily Meal
Datassentials
Campbell’s
Unilever Food Solutions

Food Management

Food Navigator

Innova Market Insights

 

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#FNCE Food Trends: Trendspotting at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo 2017

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) just wrapped up. It was a special one. We celebrated our 100th anniversary as the nation’s largest association of food and nutrition professionals. It was also the biggest conference in our 100-year history: 13,000 dietetics professionals attended!  It was also in my home town in Chicago, which was rather nice!

I had the great privilege to present this year: Second Century Communications Tools for Dietitians. It was a lot of fun and I hope it was inspiring to the dietitians in the audience.

I also spent quite a bit of time walking the aisles of the exhibit hall to spot food trends — one of my favorite parts of the annual meeting (besides connecting with good friends). So what did I think were the big trends?  Plant-based was an overarching trend, including a “reducetarian” approach of combining meat and plant protein, such as the Blend Burger that blends mushrooms with ground beef, or the pasta dish I had at the Lentils booth that combined ground meat and lentils.  It’s about cutting down, not out.

Specific trends I spotted included gut-friendly foods, nuts in multiple forms, allergen-free foods, convenient single-serve snacks, new look at grains, good fats get better, old-school foods with a modern twist and farmer as hero.  Virtual reality was also a trend, offering attendees a peek at the journey from farm to glass for Fairlife Milk and Tropicana Orange Juice, or a viewpoint of a bee from the National Honey Board. I also noticed several Amazon.com only products and founder-led brands, such as Rachel Pauls Happy Bars.

I was live-tweeting some trends from the exhibit floor and I had one dietitian reply to me on Twitter saying she wished there were more whole food vendors at the conference.  Really?  I thought there were quite a few.  Wild blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, prunes, pears, peaches, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and avocados were all there.  You could find eggs, lentils, yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, honey, whole grains and fresh salad mixes.  Come on!  It’s so easy to criticize “big food,” but there were lots of whole fresh foods on display — along with companies introducing better-for-you options that happen to come in a box, can or package.

Gut-Friendly Foods

The exhibit floor featured a Healthy Gut Pavilion that was full of products positioned to promote digestive health — from probiotics and fiber to low FODMAP foods.  I talked about low FODMAP foods as a trend last year, but it’s grown even more.  These foods are low in types of carbohydrates that aggregate IBS and other digestive issues.  I liked these trail mixes featured above from Fody Foods that include nuts, banana chips, coconut chips, dark chocolate chips and cranberries.  The Rachel Pauls’ Happy Bars are also low FODMAP.

Probiotics dominated the Pavilion, including these probiotic shots from Good Belly and barley products offering prebiotic dietary fiber from Freedom Foods, a company from Australia.  Now we know that a combination of probiotics and prebiotics (or the fuel for beneficial organisms) is really what we need.

Nuts in Multiple Forms

Nuts are enjoying this new era of “good fats” and I spotted several nut vendors, including Yumbutter that promoted nut butters in pouches (also fortified with probiotic cultures), the first peanut milk from Elmhurst, and unique peanut puffs called P-Nuff Crunch by Perfect Life Nutrition (another interesting founder story). A Japanese company called Daily Nuts & Fruits, Inc. promoted individual servings of nuts targeted for different demographics (from kids to seniors) and different combinations of nut mixtures.  I think it’s good to think of nuts as a regimen product because of all the benefits they deliver.

Free-From Top Allergens

Several exhibitors touted the absence of the top 8 allergens: eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, shellfish and fish. One of those vendors was Cybele’s Free to Eat Pasta, which were innovative “superfood” pastas, including the rotini below that’s made from red lentils, pumpkin and butternut squash.  It was really tasty.

Made Good and Ona Bizzy Bee both made “school safe” snacks without common allergens like peanuts or tree nuts.

Convenient Single-Serve Snacks 

There were many products designed for healthy eating on the go.  These Flap Jacked Mighty Muffins with Probiotics (again!) were a unique product that you add water and microwave for an instant muffin.  I’m not sure about this one. But it contains 20 grams of protein, and we know that’s a draw today for consumers.

Another product in a cup are these innovative frozen desserts from Daily Harvest, a subscription service that delivers the frozen cups to your doorstep for mixing up at home.  The Salted Caramel with sweet potato, banana, dates, coconut, pumpkin seed, and chia was really delicious.

Rise Buddy baked rice chips, in flavors like Pizza, BBQ, Sea Salt and Sour Cream & Onion, were marketed as “healthy junk food,” which was a turn off for me. Yes they’re made from brown rice and are gluten-free, but these are not a nutrient-dense snack by any stretch (similar to the Veggie Straws that I’ve written about previously.)  I didn’t even taste these, but I was not a fan.

This was an interesting product from Cocoburg, a company that was also exhibiting coconut jerky.  Their latest product is Nothing But Coconut, which was described as the world’s first dried young coconut strips.

 New Look at Grains

Glad to see so many grain products on display — let’s hope people are getting over their bread phobia.  Sprouted grains seem to be the next “whole grain.”

 

Good Fats Get Better

Conversations around oils are getting more detailed, including the amounts and levels of specific fatty acids.  Safflower oil is getting more attention, along with oleic acid.  A company called Oleico was touting the science, along with flavor-infused safflower oils like Provencal-style, Creole and Mediterranean-style.

Old School Foods Make Modern Comeback

Remember cottage cheese?  Well it’s back and sporting a new look.  It struck me how certain old-fashioned foods are putting on  new face to inspire the next generation.  Muuna served single-serve containers of cottage cheese in fruit flavors.  I loved the peach.   Wasa crackers (since 1919) are another old-school food that is suddenly shining bright — more relevant than ever.

Farmers as Heroes

Maybe my favorite trend of all was the focus on the farmer.  Increasingly consumers care about where food comes from and how it was grown.  That’s why farmers are the new celebrity chefs.  Farmers were featured in the pistachios booth (even though a cardboard cutout) and a real blueberry grower was on hand to answer questions at the wild blueberry booth.  Don’t you love her big button declaring “I’m a blueberry grower.”  But best of all was the cranberry bog built by Ocean Spray.  This over-sized exhibit that allowed actual interaction with a cranberry bog was the hit of the exhibits!

 

Did you attend FNCE 2017?  Let me know what you thought were the big food trends and I’ll link here.

Updated with links to other FNCE trend-tracking articles:

Dawn Jackson Blatner for Huffington Post

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