Francisco Paez was eager to share that his Plantain Chips have only three ingredients and you can pronounce each of them: plantains, oil and salt. Hailing from Ecuador, Paez was representing sweets and snacks from one of 22 countries exhibiting at the confectionery and snack industry’s event, the Sweets & Snacks Expo held at Chicago’s McCormick Place, May 21-23.
Paez shares with me the process to make the Plantain Chips. The plantain, a variety of the banana family, can only be eaten when cooked, steamed or fried. To make the Plantain Chips, their plantains are hand-harvested from small farms located in the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. The skin is removed, the plantain is delicately sliced and crisped in non-hydrogenated vegetable oil. The result of this process is a plantain chip that is 100% natural, rich in potassium and low in sugar. I tried the Pacific Sea Salt of the three varieties he had available to sample and it was crispy and flavorful with just the right amount of salt to add a great “chip” taste.
You can find the Plantain Chips nationally at TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross stores, says Paez.
Representatives from several Mexican candy manufacturers were on hand to answer questions, too, and Turkey had a healthy representation as it was trying to educate attendees on the benefits of its nation’s hazelnuts.
“75-80 percent of the world’s hazelnuts are supplied by Turkey,” says Stephanie Ries, one of the country’s representatives at their booth. Specifically, she shares, most are produced in the lush fields along the Black Sea Coast. Over 500,000 producers are involved, making the hazelnut industry in Turkey a significant part of its economy. The country exports approximately 250,000 tons of hazelnut kernels annually to over 100 countries around the world.
Hazelnuts offer a complex flavor profile which makes the nut appealing for many confectioners as an ingredient or for people to enjoy in their natural form: raw. Many of us also enjoy the nut roasted where the texture becomes even crisper and crunchier than from its raw state with is more soft and just slightly crunchy.
While the United States has its fair share of sweets and snacks manufacturers, the National Confectioners Association actively sought to increase its global representation and attendance.
“NCA recognizes the power of U.S. brands around the world and the Expo serves as a destination for global markets to come together,” says Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association. “The 2013 Expo is the ideal venue to connect with industry professionals from around the world and to discover international products and trends that will set retailers apart from the rest.”
The show welcomed back the Brazilian, Chinese, German and Mexican pavilions and hosted Paez and his team from Ecuador in its Ecuadorian pavilion for the first time.
Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com which is part of the USA Today Travel family and TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom among other print magazines and online media outlets.