The NRA Show took over Chicago’s McCormick place this week for its 97th year, and more than 2,200 exhibitors came to showcase their products and services. Three massive exhibit halls spread across more than 650,000 square feet housed rows upon rows of booths featuring enduring trends, such as tea and plant-based proteins, and noteworthy new entries to the foodservice landscape. Here’s a look at what was hot and new at this year’s NRA Show.

Sweet meets heat

The sweet-and-spicy trend has been growing for some time, and it was out in force on the show floor. Chobani showed off two new spicy flavors in its Flip line — sriracha mango and chipotle pineapple. The yogurt and topping combos pair fruity bases with crunchy, spicy toppings that are reminiscent of a dry snack mix.

Another company pairing sweetness and spice is Mike’s Hot Honey out of Brooklyn, N.Y. While Chobani’s spicy flavors are a new addition meant to tap a growing trend, Mike’s got its start in 2003 when founder Michael Kurtz was introduced to the concept of chili pepper-infused honey while living in Brazil. (read more…)

Chef Ronaldo Linares draws on his Cuban and Colombian heritage to create flavorful, Latin American-inspired dishes that fit active, healthy lifestyles. He partnered with the American Diabetes Association on his new cookbook, “Sabores de Cuba: Diabetes-friendly traditional and nuevo Cubano cuisine.” The book features recipes in English and Spanish for Cuban dishes with a healthy twist, such as Pernil Mojo Marinated Pork Tenderloin and Green Vegetable Egg Tortilla. We interviewed Linares on how he makes classic Cuban dishes diabetes-friendly, where he finds his culinary inspiration and what the future holds for Cuban cuisine.

In what ways does Latin American cuisine naturally lend itself to healthy cooking?

The food itself is naturally healthy, from the tubers, to the tropical fruits, meats, fish, poultry dishes. We are rich in food and sazon!

What changes did you make to classic Cuban dishes to make them diabetes-friendly?

The tweaks are mainly in the use of salt and choosing healthier oils (such as avocado oil) for everything. (read more…)

Earlier this year, IHOP and Applebee’s joined a number of national restaurant chains dropping soda from children’s menus, offering choices like milk and juice in its place. In the past few years, operators from McDonald’s to Panera have done the same thing, part of an effort to keep healthier beverages on tap for kids. Food menus for youngsters have also been beefed up – at nose-to-tail restaurant Salare in Seattle, the kids’ meals are as sophisticated as the adult menu, with options like cauliflower soup with black beans and spring onion puree and a chicken drumstick with kale rapini and potatoes. Dallas-based Which Wich, with nearly 400 locations nationwide, launched a for-kids, tested-by-kids menu last year, designed to balance nutrition and taste with options like a breadless cheese and turkey rollup. As the kids’ menu changes, whether it’s at home or in restaurants, Datassential has all the latest insights in our latest MenuTrends Keynote Report: Kids’ Meals, which surveyed parents and guardians for insights into what they already buy and what they want to buy. (read more…)

Food retail news and one culinary news story made the top five most-read stories this week in SmartBrief on Food & Beverage, with a story on ALDI‘s new higher-end store prototype taking the top spot. The Germany-based discount supermarket chain is trading its no-frills style for a neater look and cafe that will sell fair-trade coffee and fresh smoothies. Almost 1,900 stores will be converted to the new prototype over the next three years.

Runner up was a culinary story on a new type of caramel, and third was news that Hormel Foods will acquire nut butter brand Justin’s for an undisclosed sum.

Rounding out the rest of the top five stories was Whole Foods‘ announcement that the first 365 store set to open in California in a couple weeks will include a robotic kiosk called teaBot. The kiosk is one of several tech touches the retailer will launch with the new concept, including a wine app called Banquet created especially for the store. (read more…)

The retail industry is facing major shifts and changes as mobile devices get smarter and consumers incorporate them further into their daily lives. From shopping to seeking out product information, consumers turn to their smartphones and other mobile devices more than ever. However, there are still some traditional holdouts in the retail environment. One of those holdouts, according to a report from RetailMeNot and Placed, is the coupon.

But today’s coupon usage looks very different from how it looked in the past when coupon clipping and printed circulars were commonplace. Today, more than 42% of consumers use mobile apps to find coupons, while about 35% use print media, according to the report. The report touched on some overall points that have also shown up in SmartBrief’s coverage of the food retail, consumer packaged goods and restaurant industries. We took a look at the report and broke down some of those points that have been covered throughout our newsletters over the past weeks:

Mobile apps are the most common place for consumers to search for coupons

According to the report, 59% of consumers use digital channels when looking for coupons, and 42% use mobile apps. (read more…)