I noshed my way through the National Restaurant Association annual convention in Chicago a couple weeks ago looking for trends and interesting new products. This year what interested me most was not the food trucks, menu technology booths, the kid marketing programs or even the hash brown potatoes shaped like a tube, filled with eggs that stay warm by rolling around on a hot-dog roller. I was interested in the enthusiastic mom-and-pop inventors who were there to show, tell and sell their story. I found two that I just loved.
I happened upon Crumble.Ons after I snatched up a mini pancake and was delighted to experience an unexpected yummy chocolate crunch throughout. I stopped. A crunchy pancake? “What do you have here?” I asked. Malia Beal beamed as she told me the story…
Her mother Mary Jo, a retired food columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, was hosting some relatives at their lake house. One evening she served s’mores by the fireside. “She brought the leftover ingredients back to the house, chopped them up and the next morning mixed them in the pancake batter. The kids went crazy,” she said.
Mary Jo walked across the street with some of the pancakes to visit her neighbor, a retired research and development director for ConAgra (Tom Henry.) She asked him what he thought. He thought this was a delicious idea. Some 18 months later, they had a sellable product and showed it the first time at the 2011 NRA show.
They call that product S’mores Crunch®. It’s crunchy chunks, which they describe as a “confectionary condiment.” What it does for pancakes, it does mixed in ice cream. I know it requires some food science to get it to hold its flavor and crunch in heat and cold.
They already have and will continue to expand into other crunchy Crumble-Ons. I was just happy to find them in their own little spot in McCormick Place.
The other was Edibles by Jack—the edibles being crunchy spoons! Now that’s an idea. I was game to eat a spoon. The one I munched on was pretty bland, as I imagine a spoon should be. But he has 10 flavors, like corn, dill and lemon; cranberry; chocolate; and coconut curry.
Jack Milan previously owned restaurants and a catering company. He regularly lost 25%-30% of the porcelain spoons from which he served his catered dainties. Either guests stole them, broke them or threw them away. Desperation was the mother of invention for him, and now he’s been well publicized. He was there to expand his market.
Indeed, his idea has spread. I came across another booth far away from his that was selling molds to make edible spoons.
I imagine someday spoons will be the ultimate dessert.
Tell me what you think.