The National Restaurant Show on Thursday announced the recipients of the 2021 Food and Beverage (FABI) Awards. The 24 winners reflect some of the current trends driving the foodservice industry, including plant-based dining, zero-alcohol beverages, global flavors and grab-and-go formats.
Although the pandemic placed many restrictions on restaurants and foodservice operators, food innovation continued to flourish, as the 2021 FABI Award recipients demonstrate.
The beverage category was particularly active, highlighted by these products:
Free Wave Non-Alcoholic Hazy IPA, a refreshing, alcohol-free beer brewed with Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic hops for a true IPA flavor profile
Photo courtesy of Athletic Brewing Company
Moshi Yuzu Sparkling Water, a pairing of citrusy yuzu with unsweetened white peach and a bit of fizz for a sugar-free bottled drink with Asian inspiration
Sarah’s Homegrown Agua Frescas, all-natural fruit juice beverages that come in mango, strawberry and watermelon flavors; packaged in convenient, single-serve bottles
Original Oat Milk from RISE Brewing Co., a clean-label, creamy plant-based milk made with four ingredients: Organic oats, organic sunflowers, water and a dash of sea salt
Natalie’s Pineapple, Kale, Zinc & Vitamin D Juice, a hydrating drink rich in immune-boosting antioxidants and nutrients—healthy attributes post-pandemic consumers are seeking
Draft Chocolate Milk from La Colombe, a nitro-infused blend of cocoa and nonfat milk that results in a frothy beverage in a can much like a caffeine-free latte
Plant-based products dominated the submissions, with some companies entering several for consideration. These were the standouts:
Incogmeato’s Homestyle Chick’n Tenders, Italian Sausage and Original Bratwurst were all awardees. Each meatless product is 100% plant-based and can be swapped in menu applications for traditional meaty versions
Beyond Chicken Tenders from Beyond Meat also closely mimic their counterparts made with animal protein. The plant-based product boasts a crispy, breaded coating and 14 grams of protein
Uncut Plant-Based Taco Ground from Before the Butcher, a vegan substitute for taco, burrito and nacho meat filling, is pre-seasoned with Mexican-style spices for a slightly spicy kick
MorningStar Farms Chipotle Black Bean Burger, a protein-rich alternative that relies on beans and vegetables to stand in for meat
Grab-and-go items were also in abundance, capitalizing on the off-premise trend. These products combined portability with creativity:
Mini Dulce De Leche Pie played into indulgent snacking with its combination of dulce de leche caramel baked in a buttery shortbread crust and sprinkled with coarse sugar—all in a bite-size sweet
Jimmy Dean Sausage Tots partner sausage meat with a crunchy potato coating for a savory bite that can serve as a portable snack or side
Sweet Chili Tofu & Veggie Grain Bowl from Gourmet Culinary Partners features lightly breaded tofu, broccoli, roasted red peppers and edamame on a bed of brown rice and quinoa drizzled with sweet chili sauce—all packaged in a convenient grab-and-go bowl
Comfort foods soared in popularity during the pandemic, and these FABI award winners tapped into that trend:
Tyson Fully Cooked Boneless Thigh Wings jumped on two consumer favorites—fried chicken and wings—to offer a crispy, authentically shaped boneless wing using dark meat chicken
Maple Sage Sausage Pantart and Apple & Cranberry Sweet Cream Pantart from Gourmet Culinary Partners provide a personal-size homestyle breakfast in savory and sweet versions. Each has the fluffy texture of a buttermilk pancake in a thicker, handheld format
Confetti Cheesecake from Eli’s, an old-fashioned dessert composed of a yellow cake layer topped with confetti cheesecake and vanilla mousse, all covered with sprinkles
A focus on complex flavors was evident in these products:
Redneck Riviera 1176 Original BBQ Sauce blends sweet and smoky flavors in a rich sauce with a bit of heat
White Truffe Infused Spray Oil by La Tourangelle features flavor notes characteristic of Italian white truffles packaged in a handy BPA-free non-aerosol can
Fire Roasted Mexican Street Corn from Sevillo Fine Foods plays off the global street food trend; the corn is roasted over an open flame then tossed in an elote-style chipotle-lime mayonnaise
Health preferences influenced the remaining two awardees:
Taste Republic Pre-Cooked Gluten-Free Cauliflower Gnocchi is not only gluten-free, it’s packed with a full serving of vegetables in each portion
Gluten Free Pizza Crust by ItalCrust, in a convenient 9 ½-inch round, makes it easy for operators to offer individual gluten-free pizzas with custom toppings
The judges for the FABI Awards included menu developers from restaurant concepts, convenience stores, contract foodservice companies, the college sector and (full disclosure) two Winsight team members—Aimee Harvey of Technomic and myself.
All the award recipients will be featured on The Show To Go, a cost-free digital marketplace where operators can connect directly with the suppliers to learn more about these product innovations.