International Pizza Expo – March 2014

The International Pizza Expo draws over 7,000 pizza makers who come to see the latest products, techniques and business technologies among the 475 exhibiting companies.  Some also come to compete in the pizza challenge that includes categories for some of the most popular styles of pizza from Classic Italian to American Pan.


Workshops target independent pizzeria operators with sessions that include business and marketing skills as well as demonstrations designed to enhance the skills of the pizza maker.


The Craft of Pizza and Beer

At many food industry shows the chef will be front and center demonstrating products for customers to sample, but at this show the pizza maker is the star attraction in leading supplier booths demonstrating the unique skills and speaking the language of the customer.


The focus was very much on the craftsmanship of a great pizza.  And the craft beer movement also took center stage with many pizzerias looking for the craft beer partner to complement their pizza.



Premium Toppings

The conversation at this show was about premium quality, taste, and perfect performance when it comes to cheese.  Many operators were there to meet with their long time vendors; others were in search of the perfect cheeses to distinguish their restaurants.  In addition to the time honored tradition of mozzarella, provolone and Parmesan on pizza, there was interest in experimentation with other cheeses like Asiago, fontina, gorgonzola, manchego, ricotta, dry jack and feta.


When it comes to pizza toppings, the top three are pepperoni (65%), sausage (54%) and mushroom (57%), according to Mintel.  Italian sausage is important to pizza makers, yet there was also interest in chorizo and other specialty toppings with unique flavor profiles.



Customization and Handcrafted Quality

Companies in the meat topping business were quick to discuss customization abilities for pizza makers interested in unique blends for their operations.  Operators were interested in ingredients that take labor out of the kitchen without sacrificing the appeal of handmade like crumbled sausage that looks hand pinched.


Heritage and a tradition of quality craftsmanship are particularly important to pizza makers.  There were also offerings touting all natural, antibiotic free and organic claims.



Old School, New Age

There are few segments in foodservice driven by tradition like the pizza business.  There is great respect for vendors with a long history and a dedication to traditional production.  Corporate brochures for several companies showed multiple generations of family committed to maintaining the tradition.


Yet the pizza is, in many ways, a palette for the trends with great experimentation by next generation pizza makers and innovative chefs in other segments of the foodservice industry.  We heard about inventive ethnic variations of pizzas, including Latin, Indian and Asian flavors among those in the stands at the pizza competition.



Great Grains

Gluten free crust has been the big talk for several years and that seems to be leveling off to a niche market that will remain important to a small number of consumers with diagnosed allergies.  Although the taste and texture of gluten free has improved dramatically in recent years, there is no evidence that mainstream American consumers will be willing to sacrifice taste when it comes to their favorite pizzas.


Whole grain and ancient grain crusts were drawing great numbers of tasters who were commenting on the great taste and consumer appeal of these alternative crusts.



Produce Power

From fresh basil to baby arugula, green toppings were all the rage for garnish and beyond.  Produce gives pizza that fresh, homegrown appeal that is so much on trend with today’s consumers.



Chain Operator Cues

Even though the majority of buyers walking the aisles were independent or regional chain operators, large national chains have a significant share of the pie.  The top five according to Pizza Today are:  Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s and California Pizza Kitchen.  They are continuing to innovate to keep pace with growth chains making investments in pizza-centric concepts.  Restaurant Business magazine noted investments in pizza concepts by Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings and Native Foods Café among other former executives of major chains looking at new opportunities in the pizza sector.



Taste Talk Tweet

Tomato wellness was a big part of the Twitter chatter surrounding the Expo, with supporters exalting tomato products in many forms on pizzas, including tomato paste in the base sauce to elevate flavor.  Others were surprised at the stat that 75% of consumers report eating pizza at least every other week, while some were in awe of the pizza tossing acrobatics set to music during the World Pizza Games competition.


If you want to follow our observations in real time go to  The next conference we will cover is the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show May 17-20, 2014.




  • Handcrafted Quality Made Easier – suppliers offering premium quality in convenient packages or forms are well-received for growing operations that want consistency without sacrificing quality.


  • Accessible Authenticity – the debate about domestic or imported ingredients continues to rage and there are big markets for suppliers offering both of these options.  The key is making products easily accessible to operations.


  • All things Artisanal – even though artisan has become almost as generic a word as quality, this is a segment that values artisan appeal and seeks out ingredients that help them deliver it to their customers.


  • Pairing with Pizza – pizza is big business across all segments of the foodservice industry and suppliers who have products that pair well with pizza have great opportunities in this market, such as craft beer and Italian style desserts.
Culinary Change Maker Conferences: Chefs and Culinary Professionals – March 2014

Several notable conferences filled the early weeks of March; the Research Chefs Association (RCA) held their annual conference in Portland, Oregon and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR) and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) both held national conferences in Chicago.


Those who attend these conferences are the culinary change makers on the forefront of innovation gathering to discuss and debate the trends.  Research and development chefs meet to explore, debate, and inspire each other with ideas and techniques that will drive menus and product development in the year to come and beyond.


Here are some of the hot topics of discussion at these conferences: (more…)

Culinary Educators Dish on The Next Generation of Chefs

New survey reveals the focus of today’s culinary education 


(Chicago, March 20, 2014) – A new study by Culinary Visions® Panel surveyed culinary educators and students about topics, techniques and trends that are being taught in culinary schools around the country.

Culinary instructors felt that local and sustainable are the menu development imperatives for today’s chef to understand.  Classic preparation methods are important, yet modern cooking techniques are also on the curriculum.  Today’s culinary students are learning about traditional and unconventional foodservice venues and working with ingredients from around the world to gain an understanding of authentic ethnic and ethnic inspired foods.  Students are also being challenged to create delicious menus that hit important health and wellness goals.


Following are trends industry professionals believed were important to culinary students:

  • Practicing local and sustainable menu development
  • Understanding classic European cuisine and modern cooking techniques
  • Creating delicious menus that hit health and wellness goals
  • Understanding unconventional venues like food trucks and pop-ups
  • Working with a global pantry of ingredients to prepare a wide range of ethnic offerings


Culinary instructors and students were asked to identify the ingredients they cannot live without.  They agreed on the top four items:  salt, garlic, olive oil and butter.  Completing the list of the top five, instructors noted fresh herbs and students chose pepper.


“Culinary educators are in a unique position to have a significant impact on the menus of tomorrow through the knowledge and passion they share with their students.  Understanding their perspectives give us a glimpse of trends to come,” said Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions Panel.


When culinary students were asked about their favorite meals to prepare, tried and true comfort foods and holiday meals were mentioned by almost everyone.  Thanksgiving dinner, lasagna, braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and soup were the most widely noted favorite meals.

Winter Fancy Food Show – Executive Summary

San Fransisco, CA. – The Winter Fancy Food Show continues to grow, showing three consecutive years of solid growth, with more than 18,000 attendees and 1,300 exhibitors representing over 35 countries and 14 international pavilions this year alone. New international exhibitors were from Uruguay, Israel, South Korea, India and Thailand. There were close to 100 first time exhibitors with a diverse range of handcrafted products including (more…)

Mindful Meal Decisions Drive Food Trends for 2014

trends graphic 2014


(Chicago, December 2013) Mindfulness was a common theme among foodservice professionals and consumer foodies when surveyed by the Culinary Visions® Panel in 2013.  During the year insight was collected from primary research with over 3,500 consumers and analyzed along with research gathered from culinary professional groups and (more…)

Trend Setter and Thought Leader Conferences

Executive Summary

Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) Conference

International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC) Conference

Two conferences that attract the food industry’s opinion leaders convened during two consecutive weeks this month.  LDEI was held in Austin, a city well known for Latin flavors.  IFEC was held in Portland, Oregon, the hometown of James Beard and a city that celebrates local food and beverage and responsible production.  These diverse groups of culinary professionals in the food, fine wine and (more…)

International Dairy Deli Bakery Association Annual Seminar and Expo

Orlando, FL – This annual conference brings together leaders in the dairy deli and bakery business. 2013 was a record setting year with attendance of 9,000 professionals and more than 1,700 exhibitors. Products, programs and conversations focused on the challenges and (more…)

National Restaurant Association – Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show

Chicago, May 18-21, 2013 – The National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show like every year, provided a lot to be excited about.  The show brings together operators across all segments of the industry.  While talk between attendees focused on a number of the events away from McCormick Place, the NRA Show exhibit hall still delivered the latest (more…)

Sweets & Snacks Expo


Chicago, May 21-23, 2013 – The same day the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant Show was wrapping up the Sweets & Snacks Expo was gearing up at the other side of McCormick Place in Chicago.  The energy at the Sweets & Snacks Expo was a remarkable contrast with (more…)

Healthy Kids Healthy Flavors: National Invitational Leadership Summit

Culinary Institute of America – San Antonio, Texas

Sharon and Tami

May 7-9, 2013 – This conference is a national initiative to improve the health of children and young people through food education, culinary strategy and flavor insight.  About 200 participants gathered at this collaboration of leaders in school foodservice and (more…)