Summer Fancy Food Show
Packaging innovations help wake up sleepy categories by adding fun, convenience
Other than a few flavor innovations or better-for-you ingredient-swaps, the pancake mix, ready-to-eat whipped cream and spice segments have remained largely unchanged for decades with consumers measuring out baking mix from boxes and spices from jars or large pouches that inevitably spill or puff over the counters and canisters of monochromatic, basic whipped cream that adds sweetness but not much else.
Happy Grub, Whipnotic and spice companies Occo and SugarRoti are changing the game, however, and bringing fun and convenience to the kitchen with packages that offer consumers something they didn’t know they needed, but which promise to level-up their cooking and eating experience.
Happy Grub minimizes the mess and maximizes family time
For many Americans, Saturday morning pancakes conjure nostalgic images of gathering with friends and family around the breakfast counter to flip perfectly golden pancakes dotted with fruit or chocolate chips that are either doused in maple syrup or dusted with confectioners sugar before eating together as the sun streams in through the window to start the weekend.
The reality is often very different, said Brandon Gilliam, brand manager for Happy Grub.
“A lot of people love pancakes, but they don’t make them because there’s a lot of things involved – a lot of ingredients, bowls, whisks, baking powder, flour – all this stuff that gets all over the place and makes a big mess.
“And then, a lot of times the mom or parent is in the kitchen cooking while everyone else is somewhere else,” so this dream of cooking together while sipping coffee and orange juice is often just that – a dream, Gilliam said.
But, he said, the founder of Happy Grub wanted to make it a reality. As a mom, he explained, she wanted to spend more time with her family and less time tracking down and measuring ingredients – even if just a few eggs and milk to add to a baking mix – or doing mountains of dishes.
Her solution: including everything needed to make pancakes – minus the water – in a squeeze bottle that doubles as a mixing bowl and ladle.
“All you have to do is open the cap, add water inside to the dry mix, shake it up and squeeze it. Our patented designed squeezy tips allow you to pour exactly what you need without drips,” Gilliam said.
Pointing to a piping hot griddle cooking an elaborate pancake designed to look like a smiley face wearing sunglasses, he added, “you can even make fun shapes and designs by drawing an outline with the bottle and then filling it in with another that you’ve added food coloring to, if you want.”
The outside of the bottles each feature a different cartoon monster, called happy grubsters, who loves pancakes and waffles and recalls the founder’s affection “monster” moniker for her children.
What is inside the bottle likely will be just as delightful as the outside with all-natural, organic ingredients in flavors ranging from buttermilk to apple cinnamon that make about 22 pancakes – “that is enough for a full family meal.”
For smaller families and singles, unused pancake mix can be stored in the fridge for about a week after water is added. The dry mix is shelf stable for a year.
A new twist on whipped cream
A few aisles over from Happy Grub at the Whipnotic booth, sisters Tracy Lucklow and Lori Gitomer are sampling a common pancake garnish – whipped cream – but with an added twist that the co-founders and innovators say makes the topping so fun that it doesn’t need a pancake, ice cream or even a bowl to be enjoyed.
Whipnotic is the first swirled whipped cream in a canister that uses patented technology to dispense an all-natural color and aromatics from fruit and vegetable purees with the simple press of a button.
While easy to use, the ‘button’ wasn’t easy to create – it took two years to develop and patent, but the “magic it unlocks” to create a “high sensory treat that is more interesting than what else is on the market” was worth it, Gitomer told FoodNavigator-USA.
Launching in two flavors – Strawberry Swirl and Vanilla Salted Caramel – in more than 200 stores on the East Coast this summer, the 7-ounce cans of all natural whipped cream originally were created not for children, as one might expect, but for dieters.
Gitomer explained that she and her sister each followed limiting diets – Weight Watchers and keto – but were allowed to have whipped cream, which she says at just 15 to 20 calories for a full bowl. This meant they could indulge in it multiple times a day. But, eventually, she said, the novelty wore off and, while still delicious, whipped cream became boring.
To punch it up, the duo decided to add flavor and color to help dieters stay on track.
If the consumer base sounds niche, Gitomer says it isn’t. She explained once they started sampling the product they realized it crosses generational lines with young children and tweens “desperately trying to open the refrigerators and try it.”
She added: “It’s such a joyful product that it is no longer just exclusive for women who are looking for that healthy hit at the end of the night,” but for everyone to enjoy.
Another common pain point in many American kitchens is the spice rack or cabinet, which despite innovative organizational systems, often are a mess with various spices dusting the bottom of the drawer, cabinet or rack.
Other times, key ingredients in blends are missing, or in the process of measuring out different components they end up spilled on the counter.
SugarRoti and Occo are simplifying the measuring process and cleaning up counters and cabinets by offering individually portioned spices and blends.
SugarRoti offers 15 Indian spice blends, which can sometimes include upwards of a dozen individual spices, in pre-measured pouches with a recipe on the back that require little more of consumers than ripping open the pouch, simmering the spices and savoring the results.
Occo also offers pre-measures spices “in micro portions for macro flavor” in half-teaspoon increments for “exceptional meals,” according to the company.
They are kept fresh and tidy in easy-to-recycle aluminum pods that are organized into recipe kits and cards with recipes like catfish tacos, prik kee noo chile or four flavorful burgers. The kits, cards and small portions allow home cooks to try something new without committing to a large jar of something they might use only once, and they reduce the risk of waste from spices becoming stale