Foodservice operators were largely looking for convenient, affordable ways to respond to shifting consumer demands during the National Restaurant Show, exhibitors reported. Many of those solutions had to do with health and bolder flavors, but new technology — from denser potatoes to miniature coffee roasters — also were allowing for new solutions in other areas as well.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the hottest trends seen on the trade show floor:

Multigrain crackers1. Healthy kids’ food. With new school nutritional guidelines in effect, many exhibitors had reworked their products to fit those standards, including baked snack chips made with whole grains, whole wheat crackers and granola clusters.

2. Tropical flavors. Passion fruit, guava and especially mango were prominently on display, particularly flavoring iced teas and desserts. Coconut was on many desserts, too, possibly benefiting from the popularity of coconut water, which was being handed out on Sunday to attendees using the free shuttles to get to McCormick Place from downtown Chicago.

3. Water. “We said if we did this long enough, we’d make water concentrate,” one veteran exhibitor said, and indeed, zero-calorie “enhanced waters,” fortified with vitamins, were on display, and some were sold in concentrate. Water filtration systems, seltzer with splashes of fruit juice, aloe water and just plain bottled water (touting unique origins, of course), also were on the trade show floor.


4. Iced Tea. This expanding beverage segment was at the show in force, often with tropical flavors, as well as peach. But some companies worked to decommodify their offerings by giving place names to their tea flavors, like “Pacific Raspberry” and “Georgia Peach.”