CHICAGO — There is bacon and then there’s Schmacon. The alternative product is made with smoked and glazed uncured beef slices and manufactured by Schmaltz Retail Products, LLC, Wheaton, Ill. Schmacon crisps and cooks like traditional bacon with half the fat, calories and sodium, according to the company. The product is not kosher, but it is a pork-free stand-in for turkey bacon, said chief executive officer and founder Howard Bender.
Schmacon was one of several alternative alternatives showcased at the National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show May 16-19 in Chicago. While almond milk and soy protein have practically become supermarket staples, a spate of new substitutes offering different health benefits and flavor profiles has emerged. As the free-from market matures, such products have become better-tasting and higher in quality, said Kara Nielsen, culinary director at the Sterling-Rice Group, Boulder, Colo.
“(Manufacturers are) looking at real food as a source of food nutrition, even in a free-from space, versus just having the free-from being the only goal and using whatever means necessary, including hyper-processed ingredients, to get there,” Ms. Nielsen said.
Several other alternative alternatives were honored with Food and Beverage Innovations (FABI) Awards at the N.R.A. show. Made with wheat-based plant protein, Vegetarian Gyros from Taft Foodmasters, Whitestone, N.Y., is a vegan soy-free swap with 21 grams of protein per serving. The product is pre-sliced and heats in less than a minute.
Another FABI recipient, Nut Hummus from Hail Merry Snacks, Dallas, is made from macadamia nuts and cashews instead of garbanzo beans. Created for consumers avoiding legumes like chickpeas, the product is raw, paleo-friendly, dairy-free and gluten-free. Flavors include sriracha, red pepper macadamia and hatch green chile.
While gluten-free pastas typically are made with rice or quinoa, new spaghetti from Explore Asian, Inc., Red Bank, N.J., contains organic black beans and water to create a nutrient-dense al dente noodle. The product is vegan and kosher with 25 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber per serving.
As an alternative to coconut water, there’s Hawaiian volcanic water from Waiakea Inc., Culver City, Calif. Snowmelt and rain on Hawaii’s active Mauna Loa volcano are filtered through the porous rock, creating an alkaline, carbon-neutral and sustainable water source that is enriched with magnesium, sodium, silica, potassium and calcium.
Another beverage maker exhibiting at the N.R.A. Show is attempting to crack the nut milk market. Milkadamia, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., manufactures a vegan, dairy-free milk alternative with macadamia nuts grown on the Australian coast. The product, which has 130 calories and 4 grams of protein per serving, was developed for use in espresso beverages served in coffee shops. Milkadamia requires less water in the growing and production processes than other nut milks and contains monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, according to the company.The tagline: “Almond milk is soy yesterday.”