Gluttoner’s Travels

by Maria Pilar Paulick
As I faced my first IBIE show, this quote came to mind, “I’m not a glutton, I’m merely an explorer of food.” Those words described my role in Vegas to a “T.” Ah, Vegas. Home to Elvis-style belt busters and eat-till-you-burst buffets.
I wondered what the show would be like. As a Chicagoan, I envisioned a McCormick Place-like mecca, neon lights flashing, with leggy Vegas showgirls in sequined pasties and skimpy, um, other things showing off baking equipment and baguettes with a boa-ed flourish.
Okay. I didn’t expect that much glitz and glam. The realist in me decided on a cross between my Vegas idea and the trade floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange during peak hours.
Yes, that was definitely it.
Molotov Cocktails
My journey started harmlessly enough. I pulled my Show Guide from my duffel, exceedingly nerdy, I know, to try and make sense of the map, when a raucous couple took their seats next to me.
First the woman sat down, decked out in gold chains and flamingo-pink lipstick, heavily tanned, looking like an overdone cookie. She loudly introduced herself and Mr. Arm Candy (her words, not mine), exuding eau de vodka and ashtray breath. She was completely schnockered.
I tried to catnap, but it was no use. Every time I’d drift off, the Drunken Diva (D.D.), half hacking, half laughing, would cackle, pawing at Mr. Arm Candy. He inturn, rolled his eyes a lot and grumbled.
An hour into it, disaster struck, and an irate D.D. ripped the flight attendant a new one for daring to park the beverage cart in her way. That said, she angrily demanded two vodka tonics, no ice, pronto.
Who says pronto?
The flight attendant must have been feeling the strain of too many wrongly pressed call buttons, because it turned into a catfight extravaganza, and I had a ringside seat! Some trash talking and mud slinging later, I ended up with a sulking D.D. plotting to put Molotov cocktails in a certain someone’s carry-on and a flight attendant trying to get her eerily pleasant “flight face” back on.
I came to find out that the bizarre would become the norm on my gluttoner’s travels.
Day One: Where’s Waldo?
First day of the show and I was raring to go. That is, if the cabbie could find where we were going.
I spotted the “World’s Baking Showplace” banner and followed the crowd indoors, trying to fix the oversized name badge that was pulling my collar all out of whack.
As I went past security — two beefy men and a teeny-tiny Elvira-like woman— I found myself in a huge space. The sounds and smells of gears grinding and batter baking were in the air. Hurried exhibitors ran around, saluting each other with cups of coffee from Dawn Food Products and spitting fresh donut crumbs while shouting hello to comrades.
It was like being in an interactive, life-sized “Where’s Waldo?” book, trying to find our booth among other booths that looked exactly alike.
Hmm, is it that one with the wood paneling? Or the one with three chairs and a table? I know! I know! The one with the fluorescent lighting … Wait, they all have that.
It took me three tries, but I finally found the Stagnito Communications booth, our team busily flipping notebook pages and thumbing through business cards. I joined the ranks, assessing my list of booths to cover.
My editor-in-chief and I would be covering about 100 booths in five days! I was glad about eating that enormous egg-potato-ham-onion-cheese-in-a-skillet concoction for breakfast — I’d need the energy from the massive carb overload to keep me going. I’d heard warnings about free samples that would be peddled at the booths. Nope. Not for me — as a bride-to-be, I didn’t want to ruin my figure.
Marauder’s Map
After consulting the Show Guide map, sort of, I headed to the EPI Exact Packaging booth, where Linda Fulginiti, president, filled me in on their latest and greatest. The main focus was on a clamshell labeler and coupon inserter. The labeler has top, front and bottom labeling capabilities, which keeps packages closed and secure on store shelves. A date coder and batcher ensure accuracy.
The inserter’s increased capacity and precision reduces human error. The system is popular with crouton distributors where seasoning packets or recipes are included in the box.
Then, I traversed to the American Pie Council, unhelpful map in tow, and talked pie with Linda Hoskins, executive director. The council’s plate is full with a Pie Industry Seminar set for April 21, 2005, presented by the American Institute of Baking. The 2005 Commercial Division National Pie Championships are part of that, scheduled for April 22. Entrants will learn to produce high-quality pies through competition and judge feedback.
The booth for Norseman Plastics was hard to find, (it was under a staple on the map). They focused on a radio frequency identification (RFID) software processing program. The software allows for inventory control at the supply chain, distribution and retail levels.
Haas Austria was churning out piles and piles of golden sugar cones, which I munched on. My map became useful as a cone holder for a while. I wasn’t remotely hungry after my lumberjack breakfast; I just wanted to keep my sugar levels up.
I shuffled over to Bunge Foods Shortening and Oil Division, leaving sugar-cone crumbs in my wake and briefly considered following the crumb-trail later to get my bearings. Roger L. Daniels, director of new business development, introduced me to a new non-dairy whipping base with a refrigerated, 6-month shelf life, and a fruit-flavored spread made from a vegetable oil base with a mouthfeel similar to that of cream cheese.
Next on my list was Wire Belt Co. of America. Um, I knew it was there somewhere. Squinting at my map and looking around knowledgeably didn’t seem to help.
Eventually I made it and learned about the EZ-Splice and C-Cure Edge systems. The EZ-splice is the new way to easily splice a belt with a few simple steps. Joining strands are available in various configurations to fit exclusively with Flat-Flex conveyor belts. The C-Cure Edge is a patented closed-loop edge system giving processors advantages with its flexibility and reduced strand stress on the outside of the belt.
Bedford Industries showcased Apply-R machines, horizontal and vertical tin-ties and the ElastiTag. The Apply-R closes bags with ties automatically. The tin-ties keep products fresh with resealable technology — consumers merely bend, refold the ties and secure. New ElastiTag combines tag and band into one convenient piece.
Michael J. Cornelis, national and international sales manager, Custom Products division, kept things moving at Chicago Metallic. New items included a custom pan buying guide cataloging all of the sizes for bread, cake, snack cake and specialty products, a new edition of a bun and roll Pan-A-Log and bun pans with “No Bow” ribs. I picked up a paper fan at the booth, telling me to “Eat Mo’ Bread.” There was a thought.
Since I’d barely eaten, I set off to do just that with my team at Wolfgang Puck’s Italian trattoria, Lupo, at the Mandalay Bay hotel. Try dipping your bread in their balsamic vinegar and oil — molto bene.
Day Two: Side trip to Schokinag
I’d started my morning with a nice full breakfast. Yogurt, whole-wheat toast, fresh fruit, sausages, eggs and hash-brown potatoes all washed down with a frosty glass of milk. No sense in not eating heartily. A full stomach would keep me from snacking at the show.
I tried to follow the old saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” I’d actually been limiting lunches to a bottle of water and a banana. But, I feared I might waste away by the show’s end.
Nestle Branded Ingredients was first on my list, so I headed that way. I wised up after Day One’s map issues and did a walk-around of the floor first, making mental notes of booth locations.
Mark Stegeman, director of branded ingredients, confections and snacks division at Nestle gave me the skinny on their new retail baking products including morsels, miniatures and candy inclusions/toppings.
The Nestle Swirl is a combination of white and semi-sweet chocolate — swirled together into a baking chip. The chips are packaged like standard baking morsels and come in bulk.
Following that were Mini-gems in dark and milk chocolate varieties. I nibbled pieces that stay crunchy in ice cream, Butterfinger Crisps and Toll House candy bars. My personal favorite were mint-flavored Nestle Treasures.
I made out like a bandit with a bagful of Nerds, Butterfinger Crisp and Crunch mini-bars, Mint Treasures and some napkins holding Rice Krispie treats dotted with Mini-gems and chocolate brownies.
Hey, I never turn down good chocolate... or brownies.
Inline Plastics Corp. had three innovative items, including a container closer, automatic locking devices and a container with a convenient tear strip providing ease in opening.
Christy Machine Co. focused on their tried-and-true systems, among them versatile dispensers offering a vast range of deposit solutions — salt, moist materials, icing, roll-top, round-top — for various applications. Bottom coaters, extrusion coaters and cohesive material dispensing machines also made the cut.
Loders Croklaan showcased its SensoryEffects line, a broad range of lipid-based inclusions and bits, customized for high-quality flavors, aromas and textures for a variety of products. Loders gives baked goods the best sensory appeal possible and has a low-carb version. Flavors include dulce de leche, guava, maple, cinnamon and jalapeño.
As I lugged my bag of Nestle treats over to Safeline, I noticed several people walking by, noshing on pizza.
I’m a pizza connoisseur. Just thinking about a hot, cheesy slice was making my taste buds stand at attention. It was almost lunchtime; a pre-lunch aperitif would do well to whet my appetite for my usual banana-water combo.
Safeline showed me its BISSC-certified metal date system. A belt designed with Intralox was on display — the rubber gaskets on it allow for easy cleanup and ease of use.
The folks at Cereal Ingredients chatted with me about a new Whey/Soy protein flake from the Flav-R-Bite line, which contains 2.38 carbs and 80% protein. Flav-R-Bites are flavored and/or colored cylindrical or granular shaped products that add flavor, texture and color to a variety of foods. High Protein flakes have 73% protein, packing a punch into products like nutritional bars. Chocolate flakes were also on their show-and-tell list. The flakes are used in flavored and swirled breads.
DIPIX Technologies Inc. has new data analysis and report automation software, Envision 1.0. This report-generation package completely automates report-generation and data-sharing activities for DIPIX system users.
Then my stomach reminded me: So where was this pizza? More people sauntered by, cheese stringing from their mouths to the slices on their plates. Their eyes closed, relishing each bite.
I tried to follow my nose, which is typically as sharp as a bloodhound’s, but no luck. Too many smells going on — olfactory overload!
But wait? What was this?
As I stood in another endless show aisle, a jolly yellow banner with the name “Schokinag” scrolled across it caught my eye. The next few words — drinking and chocolate — were all the motivation I needed to make a side trip to reconnoiter. I moseyed to the counter and a nice lady with an accent reminiscent of Switzerland asked me what flavor of European Drinking Chocolate I’d like to try — Double Dark (sounded dangerous), Dulce de Leche (too sweet) or Milk Chocolate (too regular). I opted for Double Dark, which was promptly poured into a Dixie cup, warm.
Mmm … I like drinking chocolate. After what was really nothing more than a caffeinated shot, I felt more than ready to clog my way across the floor for more exhibitor action.
Roaming Nomad
I shimmied over to KOFAB where stainless-steel pulleys and conveyed component parts were on display. KOFAB’s machinery allows for the controlled handling of products as they travel from point A to point B.
Versatility is key when it comes to Terri Lynn, Inc.’s products. Its fruits and nuts are a natural choice for the dairy, bakery and confectionery industries. A few packages of cashews found their way into what I fondly began to think of as my goodie bag.
Reynolds Food Packaging focused on its standard product lines and some new concepts centered on the synergies between plastic and aluminum.
California Custom Fruits & Flavors was bringing ideas to fruition at their cheery booth, with a low-carb toaster-pastry filling to sample.
On my way to the American Egg Board, a gaggle of people promenaded past me, again with pizza. As they straggled past, chomping happily, I caught a whiff of tomato and melted cheese.
Darn it! Why couldn’t I find this deliciousness?
Here I was, surviving on nothing but bananas and water, and all this pizza was shamelessly being paraded past me on the plates and shirts of the masses.
The American Egg Board promoted their “Egg Solutions — The Complete Reference for Egg Products” booklet along with a hotline, Web site and “Egg Products Reference Guide.”
I’d scheduled a time with Revent Incorporated, so as I headed over, I cast one last longing look at the pizza stain on a passerby’s shirt.
Oh! Lament of the pizza.
S.H. Berglund, president of Revent, showed me the two main attractions — the Model 802 Convection Oven with Steam and its more-compact cousin, the Model 801. Both are German engineered with stainless-steel construction. They operate with low power levels and bake evenly — no pan turning is required. The Model 802 has four baking shelves and full sheet pan size capacity, and the Model 801 has a small, countertop design and half sheet pan size capacity.
Arr-Tech president, Trent Marquis, introduced me to innovative automation systems, which perform counting, stacking and indexing tasks.
Tony Nowakowski of Unique Solutions displayed three systems — one for pouching, another for bread bags and the final for bread labeling needs.
Around the corner, Qzina Specialty Foods showed off gourmet chocolates and pastries. Marc Huot, corporate pastry chef, handed me a chocolatey, hazelnutty confection — it wasn’t pizza, but I was momentarily distracted.
I watched Huot deftly create the beginnings of a solid chocolate birdcage, complete with a sugar bird. He bet it would make it until the end of the show without melting. Really more interested in eating it than politely viewing it, I said I’d come back at the end of the week to find out.
My sugar high was starting to wear off, so as I trudged over to Genpak’s booth, I decided I needed something more nourishing than chocolate in my system. Although, that didn’t stop me from trying a chocolate Italian ice from Blommer Chocolate Co.
Kevin Cucha outlined Genpak’s new products, from a jumbo bakeable muffin tray and polypropylene meal packaging to standup pouches and bakery/deli bags.
As I left Genpak, I found myself doing an impromptu salsa move to the lively Latin music Azteca Milling was blasting. A salesperson escorted me to a line of people waiting to sample Mexican-inspired cuisine. A little old lady and I gabbed about the Mexican corn flour muffins while popping them in our mouths and after settling ourselves at a café table, yakked over tender, corn- coated chicken and corn-infused mini-pancakes.
This was definitely a step up from the smushy, bruised banana I bought at the cafeteria. Sampling was turning out to be a good thing, wedding figure be damned. If nothing else, the thousands of miles I was power-walking every day at the show (and then on the Strip at night) would keep me trim.
I was like a nomad in all actuality — traveling long distances with nothing but my tape recorder and notebook, stopping at various booths to forage for food — it felt very tribal. I never did find the pizza …
Day Three: Water and Flour, Weapons of Mass Destruction
All hell broke loose. Remember my mention of the bizarre? This took the cake.
The morning news sternly issued a flash flood warning — flash floods in Vegas? I scoffed, unconcerned: They’d said the same thing on Day Two and nothing happened. It was nice outside, mid-90s, no sign of rain. Native Las Vegans, meanwhile, were pulling out sweatshirts and jeans to combat the unseasonably cold temperatures.
As I came out of an American Bakers Association meeting I heard a deafening crash, which rattled the building. People put down their cell phones and looked toward the doors where it literally looked like a hurricane was a comin’.
It looked ominous, dark, with winds Dorothy and Toto had never seen and rain pelting things from every angle. The lights flickered, and machines emitted that funny electrical whine they make when power levels fluctuate.
I started back to our booth, and as I passed security, Niagara Falls suddenly rushed in from a giant light fixture in the ceiling, wiping some bystanders out. Looking doubtfully at the still illuminated light, I picked up the pace  — water and electricity usually don’t mix well.
The main hallway quickly became a wading pool, the appropriately colored navy blue carpeting a sea of sogginess. Old Faithful decided to join Niagara farther inside, coming up from the floor as Dawn Food Products and some other nearby exhibitors scrambled to move their trappings out of its way as quickly as possible.
Lagoons pooled everywhere — it was like high tide. I climbed on a stool, just in case, and watched as people ran around in disbelief, paddling through the mess. Water streamed down exit doors and gushed from walls, it was madness! I guess that’s what happens when a monsoon hurtles through the desert.
As water levels continued to rise, I hightailed it out of there and back to the other showroom.
Jim Machura of Quantum Technical Services was high and dry, and told me about their focus on granular applications for seeds, Parmesan cheese, oregano, pepper and more. Fittingly, waterfall applications were also on display.
Pizzey’s Milling was showing Omega-3 cookie formulations and low-carb products.
American Extrusion International had a new tortilla chip cutter. The one-of-a-kind cutter simplifies the cutting process, is less expensive, reduces space, cost, labor and time and doesn’t produce waste water.
Spray Dynamics said it was having a great show and talked about its 2-Staye Coating system designed for snack crackers and other baked goods.
Warner Electric - Colfax PT Group had two new designs for stainless-steel gearboxes and showcased its PosiVent system.
Sunsweet Growers emphasized fat and calorie replacement as well as all-natural products made with a combination of fiber, sorbitol and acids.
As I wandered, looking for J. Rettenmaier USA, I noticed something interesting at the Kerry Ingredients booth. Their Managed Carb sandwiches were circulating on an oval conveyor — the turkey and marinated vegetable was delicious! After that, a little something sweet was in order, so I made my way to Gertrude Hawk Ingredients to sample outrageous inclusions like peach footballs and solid ranch cubes (not good together).
Then, it happened, again. I saw two people walk by with my culinary grail cradled in their hands — pizza. Enough was enough, so I followed them, poked the shorter of the two and asked them where the heck they got it! Looking at me oddly, they pointed at the Balchem Encapsulates booth just a few feet away.
Hallelujah! My search was over. I made a beeline for the booth, skirted a crowd of pizza-pushers and grabbed my own steamy slice. Mmm. Fan-friggin-tastic.
Now that I knew where to find the source, Balchem became my daily pizza run hotspot. I generously passed the news to my team. After all, food is a very important part of a balanced diet. Millions of pizzas are eaten daily, and I’d like to think I helped boost those numbers at the show.
The team at J. Rettenmaier, which I finally found, offered me a seat in their booth, which was much appreciated since my feet really didn’t like me anymore. They had plenty going on with a focus on a new low-carb fiber. Functional benefits are reduced fat content and the fact that it regulates moisture in products with low-moisture absorption. With it, products maintain solidity, and it acts like colloidal gel products used in ice cream, mayonnaise, soups and sauces.
Church & Dwight Co. concentrated on custom-designed leavening systems and helping bakers choose the correct particle site and bicarbonate for their needs.
Handtmann filled me in on its new 16-month relationship with Grote to launch extrusion systems for forming and slicing. These systems can be used for cookie dough, use dies and exact weights and have a patented dividing system.
Rob Kirby, vice president of marketing for Spectrum Foods, talked about dry soy ingredients suitable for low-carb applications. Nex-Soy flour and grits and Hi-Protein applications were also on the scene. All products are processed with extrusion, which means no chemical solvents. The products have a grainy, earthy smell and no bitter taste.
As I passed another booth, the Wheat Foods Council gave me a bumper sticker emblazoned with: FLOUR POWER — WHEN DID SPAGHETTI BECOME A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION?
Being militantly pro-carb, I stuck the sticker to my notebook for all to see. Bring on the carbs! Since I’d already been packing them away, why not eat my way through the rest of the show pretending to be a carb innocent, hearkening back to a greater time when we ate carbs without a second thought.
I marched over to the ConAgra Food Ingredients Co. booth for some whole-wheat focaccia made with their innovative Ultragrain product — wheat flour that tastes like white!
I chased that with some organic bread from Lofthouse Bakery Products — chewy roasted garlic and savory Kalamata olive rosemary varieties.
It was great timing when I walked past Peter’s Chocolate and a whiff of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies hit me. I got whiplash from snapping my head around to happily snarf one.
After that small repast, I headed to Formost Packaging Machines for the debut of its roll-removal system.
Hartness International introduced me to a new version of its Dynac Advantage, a high-efficiency conveyor more adaptable to the industry.
Strayfield Fastran had new applications, including radio frequency processing for post-baking.
FoodTools, Inc. told me about its new Accu-Slice 400 RF. This in-line round cake slicer can be used with or without dividers. It is servo-driven, PLC controlled and the first machine of its kind. Also new was the Slice-A-Nator, developed with advanced portion control technology for round products. It is modular and the roll feeder eliminates mistakes during production.
Drew Archibald of Unifiller Systems Inc. said his group was happy with the show results and interest in its new, one-of-a-kind automatic conveyor system and cake decorator.
Reading Bakery Systems showcased a Vacuum Laminator and Ultrasonic Guillotine Cutter. Shawn Moye mentioned the show was going great in terms of interest in their equipment.
Both Bill Gruter and Jim Fay from Food Process Automation and CMC America (the companies have a strategic alliance) were full of information on their new dough and sanitary feed system. The easy-to-clean, cost-effective system addresses allergen concerns, has a 4-roll extruder and can be used for a 2-dough product like health bars. They’re working on a way to track products with statistical control and data acquisition.
Day Four: Across the Pond
The show started winding down, so I trekked back to the equipment showroom to finish up my interviews.
The day was humid, bright and sunny — a complete turnaround from the day before. Some exhibitors still were wringing out their sodden products, and others had just taken to wearing wellies and waders a la U.K. Either way, the mood was lighter and drier.
I squelched over to Woody Associates, where I was introduced to the Woody Stringer, an automatic decorating machine. A new purging nozzle tube has been developed for it, which clears blockage like cookie crumbs from nozzle tubes.
T.J. Harkins showed its line of milled sesame and flaxseed for use in artisan and low-carb breads — sesame flour and BenneFlax.
KVP had a texture top belt for dough and replacements for plastic belts.
I made a quick stop at SPI Polyols Inc. and learned about no-sugar-added fruit toppings while nibbling on a mini cheesecake drizzled with strawberry topping.
Known as the “pie guys,” Colborne Corp. was my last stop. They make 90% of their machines for pie production and have developed robots for the past three years.
A newly developed system that handles wrapped and baked products uses vacuum and end detectors to hold product without damaging it. The system operates close to 100% efficiently, has features including a heavy-duty design and BBL (bread basket loading) system, is bakery certified and requires little maintenance. MTBF (mean time between failures) is about 65,000 hours, four to five times more than the MTBF of similar machines. It is reliable for three shifts, six to seven days a week and can go a year or more without maintenance.
Its Vision Guided systems pick and place 120 products a minute while inspecting for defects. A new sanitary robot picks up raw food and has a wash-down design. Finally, the new 6-Axis robot simulates human capabilities with right end efficiency and can move in all directions. This robot also inspects and rejects product before it travels into the BBL system.
And with that, I was finished! Finito! No more! It had been some journey. I was looking forward to our team’s bon voyage dinner at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Hotel. Their steak au poivre with brandy peppercorn sauce is simply maqnifique.
Day Five: Homeward Bound
You could hear crickets chirping in the silence — some exhibitors were dismantling booths early, packing up and shipping out. The show floor had that deserted, ghost-town feel to it, and I thought I saw a sizable tumbleweed roll by.
I caved and had a chocolate frosted donut from Dawn — I’d managed to avoid those donuts the whole week. Next, I stood in line at Watson Foods Co. for an interesting hot dog served on their low-carb buns, which were pretty good.
That night, I went to bed early, half dreading, half anticipating that wake-up call I’d be getting at the crack of dawn. I was going home and couldn’t wait to get back to Chicago, where not everything is outlined in neon lights — except on Rush Street.
Vegas was fun, toeing that fine line between tacky and tasteful, although I’d heard so many ca-chings, dings and brrrings that my ears were permanently ringing.
As Fernand Point once said, “The duty of a good cuisinier is to transmit to the next generation everything he has learned and experienced,” and I hope this glutton’s travelogue has done much to immerse you in the IBIE culture and mass food exploration. (Oh, and Qzina’s birdcage made it till the end with only minor meltage).
I’d gotten a taste of the glitz and the glam, and learned that no matter what — come monsoon, geyser or other forms of water damage — in true Vegas fashion, the show must go on.