National Restaurant Association Show 2012 Highlights

May 15, 2012

Nutritional initiatives, innovative products, celebrity chefs, and plenty of free tastings drew over 61,000 people to the National Restaurant Association show at McCormick Place last week. The four-day show featured the latest products, trends, and menu items across the food service industry. There were so many things to see, taste, and try and we definitely had our share of bite-sized food items at the show! We highlighted a few of the key products and booths that stood out to us below.

One thing that was impossible to miss on the show floor was the giant potato showcased by Idaho Potatoes to celebrate 75 years. The potato was the size of a semi-hauler’s trailer!

Giant Idaho Potato

The Kids LiveWell initiative was a big draw at the show. The initiative helps parents and children select healthful menu items when dining out. The meals must be 600 calories or less and meet a number of nutritional requirements, with a particular focus on increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. The program has now been adopted by 96 restaurant brands, representing more than 25,000 locations nationwide, since its launch in July.

Sustainable solutions are showing up more in every industry, and the food service industry is no exception. Darling International, a leading provider of rendering, recycling and recovery solutions to the nation’s food industry, stood out for its eco-friendly solutions in food service. The company offers food by-product removal needs and recycles 100% of the materials into useful products such as alternative fuels, animal feeds, organic fertilizers, and other industrial or consumer products. Darling, who merged with Griffin Industries in 2010, is a pioneer in renewable fuel development with the country’s first commercial producing biodiesel plant derived from used cooking oil.

While 3M first introduced their virtual mannequin last year, this was our first time seeing it in person—and it was impressive. It completely changes point-of-sales as we know it. The display features a virtual person that can stand there 24/7 and talk about your product or service. Something like this would be very useful at tradeshows to attract attention to your booth and entice consumers to learn more about your product or service.

3M Virtual POP Display

You can watch a video on the display below.

For restaurants or companies that serve coffee all day, the Bunn AXIOM® BrewWISE® is the perfect product for them. It tracks the freshness of brewed coffee and has an automatic warmer shut-off when the freshness time has expired. While the design isn’t great, the product definitely serves its purpose.


We also came across “Edibles by Jack” which offers 13 different flavors of edible Asian spoons—from chocolate and cranberry, to parmesan basil and poppy seed. This was an interesting product and eliminates the need to wash dishes after eating!

Edible Asian Spoons

Mobile devices are becoming an important part of everyday life and, for most people, it’s important that they are always on. Kwikboost is a mobile charger for restaurants and hospitality that provides the public with the ability to get a rapid battery boost for their cellphones. It charges 95% of phones on the market and offers customizable graphics. This would be great for universities in student unions, where you could use the school colors or mascot as the background.

Kwikboost Mobile Charger

The National Confectioner’s Association (NCA) Show was immediately following the NRA Show and we saw a couple of cool exhibits that had clothing made out of nothing but candy wrappers. They were great displays.

Clothing made out of M&M wrappers

Skittles and Jelly Belly Wrapper Dresses

The NRA Show was a huge event aimed at providing the food service industry with anything and everything they might need from silverware, fryers, and hand dryers, to food and beverage options. We had a great time, saw a ton, and, perhaps, ate a little too much!

NRA Show Floor 2012

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