Intimate trade show gave chefs, researchers chance to really re-think pecans
It was invitation only at the first-ever TOPS FritoLay/PepsiCo Trade Show, and the Center for Pecan Innovation was honored to have one of those golden tickets to attend. The show was limited to a very exclusive guest list, the 300 FritoLay employees who deal in new food product development.
TOPS Exhibitions are pre-screened tabletop exhibitions held in-house at the technical/R&D centers of the 50-plus big food companies like FritoLay. These highly focused events offer tailored presentations suited to the individual host company.
The show was held in September at the Research and Development Center in FritoLay’s Plano, Texas, headquarters. Exhibitors included representatives from packaging, processing, sweetener, flavoring, filling, and private label companies and us, the Center for Pecan Innovation.
Corporate attendees hailed from all departments across the company: Research and Development, Food Science, Food Engineering, Product Innovation, Purchasing, Test Chefs, and Brand Management. The small exhibit hall, with just 25 exhibitors, allowed the employees to connect one-on-one with vendors and really talk nuts-and-bolts about their products.
“The Pecan Ladies” were a must-visit exhibit, perhaps because of the delicious samples they shared to show the versatility of healthy, gluten-free pecans. Or it maybe it was just their nutty personalities!
With Margaret Lisi, program manager, and Alisa Petitt, project manager, on hand to share more information about the Center for Pecan Innovation and the pecan industry in general, attendees were invited to sample some amazing pecan creations developed to showcase the pecan’s versatility. The Frito folks sampled cheese and jalapeno crackers, Cajun-flavored roasted pecans and graham crackers flavored with molasses. The baked goods were made with pecan flour, unheard of by—but very interesting to—the FritoLay/PepsiCo chefs.
Many people came back around for seconds. “I would buy that” was heard frequently about the cheese crackers and graham crackers. One FritoLay chef, who suffers from celiac disease—a potentially disabling inability to digest the gluten protein found in wheat products—was thrilled with the options pecans presented. All chefs as well as most of the R&D folks requested samples of different pecan products, comparing their pecan “swag” with other chefs to ensure they had samples of everything.
With the increasing interest in pecans, thanks to their versatility, unique flavor and health properties, the Center for Pecan Innovation continues to move forward with plans to get pecans in more products across all food categories. The food development process at FritoLay/PepsiCo is very clearly laid out so it may take some time for products to hit the shelves, but we’ll be the first to let you know when they get there!