SIAL Canada 2023 – (New-to-Me) Ideas and Products

Walking around SIAL Canada was a bit like wandering through a westernized souk – so much to take in and marvel at. A world where you’re generally familiar with many things but at the same time many items are different enough that they seem new to you.

So, in today’s blog I’m going to write about some products that I found particularly noteworthy. In the few instances where I’m confident they’re new to the market (for example, if they were exhibiting in the Start-Up area of the show), I’ll note that.

Canadian Lobster Oil – This product is brand new and it is amazing. The flavour is delicate and subtly lobster-y. It was developed by Chef Jérôme Ferrer of Europa, a Relais & Châteaux restaurant in Montreal. Chef Ferrer roasts hundreds of pounds of lobster shells to distill the flavour of lobster to which he adds a soupçon of ingredients including carrots, maple syrup, spices, Labrador Tea Leaves, and Dune Pepper. He then infused this magic essence into Canadian canola oil to create this uniquely Canadian product.

Chef Jérôme Ferrer

It’s reasonably priced (it will retail for about $20 for 375 ml.) and thanks to the high smoke point of canola oil, its cooking uses are limited only by one’s imagination. I can’t wait to try it as a drizzle on pizza, soup, salads, risotto, and so on. The first thing I’m going to try it in is homemade mayo!  

The packaging is beautiful – the delicate pink-hued oil is in a fashionable glass bottle that’s sealed with a generous crimson wax top. It’s clearly packaged for gift giving and for showing off on one’s table. It’s so new that they’re still working on the distribution – but keep an eye out for it in gourmet stores near you.  

La Presserie Premium Cold Pressed Cocktail Mixers – this product won the Bronze SIAL Innovation 2023 Award. (Interestingly, this Scarborough-based company’s Cold Pressed Plant-Based Dressings and Dips won the Bronze Award for product innovation at SIAL 2022 in Montreal – clearly they’re doing a lot right.) The frozen cocktail mixes come in six flavours, including my favourite: mojito. Each 213 ml. bottle is enough for two cocktails – you simply defrost the concentrate in the fridge and fill two tall glasses with ice. Then you pour half the bottle in each glass and add about 1.5 oz of whatever type of liquor you want (rum in the case of a mojito), then top it up with some club soda and voila – you have a sophisticated, complex-flavoured cocktail with almost no effort. (Or, if you prefer a non-alcoholic cocktail just substitute club soda for the liquor.)  

These mixers were a huge hit at the show – and rightly so. La Presserie is well known for its cold press products – things like juices, smoothies, and dressings. They don’t add water, refined sugars, or artificial ingredients. So, if you taste the mojito mix on its own, it pretty much tastes like the perfect mix of just lime juice, mint, and agave. You can find the cocktail mixes at select grocery stores (I think the person I was talking to mentioned Longos) and other food stores, as well as on-line.

Enercheez – this snack product has been around for some time, but I’d never seen it or heard of it. Their booth was among the Dairy Farmer’s of Canada section so I knew it was cheese-related but when I saw it, I thought it was popcorn that might be cheese flavoured. As soon as I picked up a piece to pop it in my mouth, however, I realized it was too heavy to be a piece of popcorn. 

This clever product is, in fact, dehydrated cheddar cheese! Mountain Munchies Inc., the BC company that makes it, promotes it as a high protein, zero carb snack. It has no preservatives or additives. You can eat it out of the bag, or you can use it to add crunch to salads or in soups (instead of croutons), for example. For cheese-lovers and folks on the go, it’s a convenient way to bring cheese with you without having to worry about keeping it cold. What a terrific – and delicious — idea! It’s available on-line and at an interesting variety of stores (for example Mountain Equipment Coop, select Sobeys, and many other places)

Freezo – I like cold coffee drinks so I was drawn to this powder that’s for the consumer to make frozen coffee frappes at home. Freezchino was created over 15 years ago but it was for the food industry only. During pandemic lockdowns folks were looking for a way of making coffee frappes at home, so the company adapted the product for home use. Just add ice cubes, milk, and Freezo to your blender and blend for a couple minutes and you have a delicious creamy concoction. It’s new to the market (it was in the Start-Up section of the show) and the classic and lite version are available on-line.

HealTea – This product won second place in the Start-Up Pitch Competition. HealTeas are herbal drinks in individual servings (355 ml cans). It’s meant as a convenient, healthy alternative beverage for folks on the go or for those who just want something different. I like tea and when I saw the name, I thought it’s just canned herbal iced tea. As soon as I tried it, I realized it’s not canned ice tea – it’s really very different and quite delicious.

I don’t know how they came up with the flavours, but they hit on really great combinations: Ginger and Camomile is probably the most traditional; they also have Nettle and Rosemary; and Peppermint and Dandelion. I tried them all and enjoyed them all – though I think my favourite is Peppermint and Dandelion. They have found the perfect balance of herbal flavour with a bit of maple syrup and lemon juice and each is only 35 calories. All the flavours are available in sparkling or still, which I think is brilliant. They are available on-line and in select grocery stores.

Siip – this Toronto-based start-up won first prize in the Start-Up Pitch Competition. The husband and wife who created this product used to have a soup restaurant in downtown Toronto. They realized some of their restaurant customers were taking a serving of soup back to their office to enjoy later in the workday as a healthy snack. So, they set out to create an instant broth that folks could have at home or at the office.

They created a line of powdered broths that you enjoy by simply adding to a cup of boiling water. Their roasted chicken bone broth has 8 grams of protein per serving and their beef bone broth has 10 grams of protein, plus 5 grams of collagen. They also have a vegan broth that contains 600 mg of adaptogenic mushrooms. It is available on-line and in select stores.

Nomzicles – these are fudgesicles that are made without refined sugar. These delightful 110 calorie desserts are made with only four ingredients: spring water, cashews, dates, and cocoa. They have been around a few years, though I had never seen them. They’re available on-line and at select stores. At SIAL they were being handed out from an adorable, old-fashioned ice box bicycle that would be great at corporate events, street festivals, and farmers markets. (I asked the young woman who I chatted with at the Nomz booth about whether they have used that little bicycle at local events and they have not, though maybe after the success they had at SIAL they’ll consider getting it out to events in the Toronto area.)   

Boobie Latte by Milksta – I saw the pitch for this product at the Start-Up Pitch Competition. It was created by a Canadian certified breastfeeding specialist for women who are nursing and who want to enjoy a plant-based latte without the guilt of caffeine. I couldn’t find the Milksta booth so I didn’t actually try this product – but I thought it was interesting that a company is focused on creating products specifically to help satisfy breastfeeding women’s cravings in a healthy way. The products are available on-line.  

And of course, in my previous blog I mentioned two other new Canadian drinks that I really enjoyed: Piquette, the zero alcohol wine-style beverage, and Copper Rose Vodka.

SIAL Canada 2023 – Wine and Spirits?

Because SIAL is about food innovation, I wasn’t sure if there’d be any wineries or distilleries there. But beverages are important to restaurants and the hospitality industry, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw a booth for Benjamin Bridge, a Nova Scotia winery. (They have a few products at the LCBO, but I’ve never seen them at a wine show in Ontario, for example.) They were at SIAL promoting Piquette – a zero alcohol product they describe as a “wine-style beverage”.

Piquette is a light, refreshing carbonated drink with lovely citrus notes. It is packaged in attractively decorated, black slim cans (250 ml). I think it’d be great to take along on a picnic. It’s vegan-friendly and gluten-free, which I know matters to some folks.

The sales rep at the booth when I first tried it explained that to make Piquette they use the skins from grapes after they are crushed for their wines. So, like many resourceful wineries, they’re creatively making use of their inputs and expanding into other market segments.

Today, when I went back to the booth to take a picture, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers (JB), the winemaker at Benjamin Bridge, was chatting with a few people about Piquette. He said that part of the reason they decided to make a non-alcoholic line is because they see the writing on the wall: alcoholic beverage consumption is dropping and they expect it to continue to decline.

JeanBenoit Deslauriers

JB said that they made a conscious decision to not make a zero-alcohol wine. He explained that while there are plenty of tasty zero-alcohol beers, he thinks taking the alcohol out of a product that is only 5%-6% alcohol is pretty easy. But the higher alcohol content of wine means that to get it to zero-alcohol you have to processes it so much you aren’t left with much taste. So instead of starting with wine and taking the alcohol out, they set out to build a beverage from the bottom up – focusing on making something that’s tasty and refreshing.

Though he’s proud of Piquette – JB is careful to point out that it’s not a zero-alcohol WINE.

Here’s a short video of JB sheepishly admitting that Piquette doesn’t “do a very good job of emulating wine.” (You may need to turn up the volume to hear JB as there’s a fair bit of background noise.) I found his confession amusing and as he was describing what Piquette isn’t, my thought was “so what that it’s not wine – it is delicious!” And of course, in the end, JB and the folks at Benjamin Bridge clearly realized they have a winner – even if it’s not wine!

The only hard liquor I saw at SIAL was Copper Rose Vodka, a brand new entry on the Canadian spirits market. The Windsor-based distillery launched earlier this year and they decided to promote their rye-based premium vodka at SIAL Canada. Dan Maddox, one of the founders, explained that the product is distilled 12 times. By comparison, Belvedere – another premium rye-based vodka – is distilled four times.

I like vodka in a cocktail, but it’s not something I’ve ever enjoyed straight up. Indeed, as I was chatting with Dan, I was trying to think of a polite way to decline trying it, as I was worried my face might reflexively contort in some odd way if I didn’t like it. But Dan and Melissa Roberts, the other co-founder, were so enthusiastic, I couldn’t say no.

Melissa Roberts and Dan Maddox of Copper Rose Distillery

I have to say, the Copper Rose Vodka went down very easily – it is excellent. I can only imagine what it would be like in a cocktail! And I’m happy to report that its price point is equally impressive. Dan explained a bit about their business model and how they sell the by-product from the distillation process for bitters. Because of this, the retail price is really reasonable: $39.00. (It is not yet available in the LCBO but it is available for purchase on-line.)

Trends in non-alcoholic beverages was a hot topic at SIAL and I’ll write more about it in a coming blog, so stay tuned.