By John Saulnier, FFB Editorial Director
It typically takes several weeks or more to digest the feast of ideas consumed at the world’s largest food and beverage trade show. So right about now many folks who attended Anuga 2017 have just about fully absorbed the nutritious and delicious benefits of the five-day B2B banquet, and are much the wiser, if not also a wee bit wider, for participating in the “Culinary Tour de Köln” in Germany.
The 34th running of the biennial event pulled in a record number of exhibitors, as 7,405 companies from 107 countries occupied 284,000 square meters of space. The visitor count topped 165,000, which was up 3% over the turnout in 2015.
Trends prominently on display ran the gamut from high-protein recipes and “superfoods” to vegetarian and vegan dishes, organic ingredients, healthy and functional foods, and, yeah-hoo, BBQ!
Yes sir! US Southern-style pulled meat products accented with signature barbecue sauces proliferated with great pulling power, as evidenced by long lines of samplers congregating within multiple halls of the sprawling Koelnmesse fairgrounds. Indeed, slow-cooked, pulled from the bone pork and chicken menu pleasers served very well as tasty teasers to attract buyers, distributors, importers and otherwise hungry visitors.
Pulled to the Next Level
The Salomon FoodWorld stand on the second floor of Frozen Food Hall 4 showcased highly creative ways to offer what the Grossotheim-Ringheim, Germany-based Vion Food Group company calls the “Pulled Next Level.” Its chefs were ever busy demonstrating how to menu Pulled Pork and Chik’n Burgers, as well as Pulled Pork Bites and Sliders.
Pulled Pork Bites feature pork shoulder cooked for several hours in tangy, smoky BBQ sauce, refined with strips of white cabbage, jalapeño cubes and onions – all covered in crunchy breading. For consumers who might prefer poultry to pork, there’s Salomon’s Pulled Chik’n. The manually formed burgers feature slowly cooked chicken breast fillets, pulled and refined with a slightly sweet BBQ sauce. Quick, easy, and versatile, they can be used to make pulled burgers, pulled dogs or a pulled wraps.
Then there are three choices of Pulled Chik’n Sliders to consider. The BBQ version, served on a sesame bun, features pulled chicken breast fillets, red pepper and a smoky BBQ sauce. Next, the Honey-Mustard offering comes in a long bun loaded with pulled chicken breast fillets and a hearty sweet honey-mustard sauce, topped with parsley. Last but not least, the Chik’n Slider Chipotle option is presented in a mini bun accented with green pepper and a smoky hot Chipotle sauce.
“We focus on increasing value for restaurant operators by offering profitable on-trend products for their guests to enjoy. Salomon is passionate about providing chefs and kitchen personnel with easy-to-prepare dishes and meal components that appeal to their clientele’s appetite for both flavor and adventure,” Bernd Stark, chief operating officer of the Vion Food Group’s Foodservice Division, told FrozenFoodsBiz.com.
This writer has known Mr. Stark since 2005, when he joined Salomon after logging almost five years as foodservice marketing director with Nestlé Scholler, where he was responsible for the Mövenpick ice cream brand. These days, among other roles including responsibilities as an executive committee member of the Boxtell, Netherlands-headquartered Vion international meat processing company, he is also president and chairman of the Deutsches Tiefkühlinstitut (German Frozen Food Institute).
I had the pleasure of catching up with him again during the Tiefkühl Star 2017 Night at Anuga. The well-attended event honored the frozen food merchandising excellence of German retailers Rewe-Markt Fünf Höfe in Munich, the E-Center Wehrmann in Enger, and the Rewe Center Darmstadt.
Commenting on how the more things change the more they stay the same, the Vion executive stated: “The constant in our business is staying on top of trends and developing tasty products and delivery systems that please our customers and their customers. Ten or 12 years ago we booked flights and flew around the world in search of exotic flavors that could be adapted as finger foods and snacks that would appeal to the taste preferences of Europeans. Now, with the fast speed of information exchange on the Internet, we are constantly monitoring trends from near and far and developing new recipes to please palates.”
Sometimes, as is the case with pulled pork and chicken products, moving fast-forward means slowing down the cooking process by lowering the heat until the meat is tender enough to be pulled into strips or easily broken into individual pieces that deliver plenty of flavor to savor with various kinds of barbecue sauce.
Tennessee BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza
Elsewhere in the Frozen Food Hall, Green Isle Foods Ireland was promoting Tennessee BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza. The deep pan product, distributed in 408-gram packages under sister brand San Marco, is now being aimed at the private label market.
“Pulled pork products are increasingly popular in Europe now, and frozen pizza is always a hot seller in retail stores,” an export manager from the 2 Sisters Food Group company told a potential buyer at the stand. “Some of our best products are private labels.”
Tillman’s Burgers, Nuggets and Crockers
Heading out of Frozen Food Hall 4, the BBQ trail led to the Meat Hall 6, where Weissenfels, Germany-based Tillman’s Convenience GmbH was pushing Pulled Pork and Chicken Burgers, Nuggets and Crockers. The newly launched Crockers finger food item, featuring tender pulled meat coated in breadcrumbs, is presented as “an ideal finger food for between meals or as a TV snack in the evening.”
Pulled Beef and Turkey from Vossko
Across the boulevard in Hall 9, Vossko of Ostbevern was selling not only juicy pulled pork and chicken, but also pulled beef and turkey that is ready to serve after just three to five minutes of preparation.
Mex-Al Menus Tacos de Pibil
In Hall 7, Mexican frozen convenience products specialist Mex-Al of Aachen was enthusiastically promoting Tacos de Pibil corn tortillas and Mini Pibil Plautas wheat tortillas filled with seasoned Mayan-style pulled chicken.
One should point out that slow-cooked, marinated pork has long been a traditional dish enjoyed along Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. It is often seasoned with annatto seed, wrapped in banana leaf and roasted to perfection.
Hats off to the frozen food sector in Europe, which is creatively interpreting the regional nuances of American BBQ.
While debatable in some camps, it is generally agreed that the USA’s most revered barbecue bastions are found in the back woods of Kentucky and North Carolina, as well as in the Texas Hill Country, and the urban confines of Memphis and Kansas City.
Shack in the Back BBQ
For my money, having made pit stops and dined in rural rendezvous and on and off city sidewalks at all of the above locales, the succulent hickory-smoked pulled pork and chicken served at the Sivells Family’s Shack in the Back BBQ, situated just 10 minutes by car outside of Louisville, Kentucky, can’t be beat. Its meat is slow-smoked to perfection daily on old-fashioned pits for a minimum of 14 to 18 hours.
For those partial to mesquite-smoked meat, then Texas Pride Barbecue in San Antonio would be an ideal place to eat. Then again, Ed’s Smok-N-Q on East Side of town won’t let you down.
I hear tell there are a more than a few decent American-style barbeque joints in Köln too, including the Pigbull BBQ on Aachener Strasse and the Rock Pit at Zülpicher Platz. I’ll have to check them out the next time around as, admittedly, during the Anuga timeframe it was impossible to resist the siren call of traditional schweinshaxe roasted ham hock dinners that are the piece de resistance at numerous brauhaus establishments in the Rhine River city. Served up with sauerkraut or red cabbage and mashed potatoes, this slow-cooked specialty goes exceptionally well with a cold Kolsh, or two, or three. Prost!