Winter Fancy Food Show ’14: Decadence, Health – How About Both?

Offering attendees an opportunity to “discover the rich, smooth and sweet umami taste of Matcha Love,” ITO EN’s booth at the Fancy Food Show was buzzing with interest in the new brand. Matcha, which the company describes as “a finely milled green tea powder made from premium tea leaves,” has recently gained steam as an on-trend ingredient, particularly in the natural channel. While Adam Hertel, Vice President, Grocery & Natural Sales, ITO EN, told BevNET that the brand will launch in Asian-focused retailers, where consumers are familiar with matcha, the company is aiming to capitalize on growing interest and awareness of matcha and bridge distribution into natural grocers.

The beverage variety of Matcha Love comes packaged in a short 5.2 oz. can, with both an unsweetened (zero-calorie) and sweetened (50 calorie) offering, the latter formulated with cane sugar. Promoted as rich in antioxidants, amino acids and vitamin C, the drinks have a suggested retail price of $1.99. ITO EN also featured a 4-SKU line of powdered matcha products, each packaged in 0.7 oz. cans. Varieties include Classic, Organic, Koicha and Usucha, with each can containing approximately seven servings. Hertel said that in addition to consumer retail, the company will look to bring Matcha Love powders and drinks to the foodservice channel as well.

Along with packaged goods, ITO EN has launched a Matcha Love retail store in Edgewater, N.J., one that the company hopes to duplicate in other regions in the U.S. The shop, which is located inside the city’s Mitsuwa Marketplace, sells Matcha Love beverages and matcha powders, and operates a café, offering both hot and cold matcha drinks as well as matcha-infused ice cream.

Of course, what would a specialty foods show — at least in recent years — be without the sweet and savory taste of coconut water? With a number of brands represented at the show, the beverage garnered perhaps the most attention at the C2O and Jax Coco booths.

While C2O held off on new product introductions (preferring instead to wait until the upcoming Natural Products Expo West show), co-founder Adam Biggs told BevNET that the brand recently scored a major retail coup, with placement of its core 17 oz. can in 1,300 Safeway stores nationwide. Both C2O’s Pure and Pulp varieties will be distributed in Safeway, Biggs said, and noted that while “it’s still early” for the brand’s 1 L Tetra Pak, C2O’s 10.5 oz. can is currently under reviews for nationwide distribution at Whole Foods.

As for Jax Coco, innovation was a significant part of the company’s presence at the Fancy Food Show. The Hong Kong-based company introduced a new sparkling coconut water variety, which is packaged in Jax Coco’s frosted 250 mL glass bottle and comes in two varieties, original and calamansi, a citrus fruit grown in the Philippians. The new sparkling drinks will be launched beginning in March. Jax Coco also debuted a new line of kids’ drinks, which are packaged in 6-packs of 110 mL Tetra Paks, and scheduled to launch in February. The products come in five varieties — original, chocolate, banana, calamansi and guyabano – and are made with coconut water blended with fruit puree, or in the case of the chocolate flavor, cocoa powder.