Monday, May 11, 2009

Notes From The PMCA Production Conference

Every year hundreds of confectionery technologists, manufacturers and ingredient suppliers gather in Pennsylvania for an industry conference that’s been a must-do for confectionery types for over sixty years. Fantastic talks and demos are the main feature of the three-day affair but on the second half of the first day, an exhibition hall is filled with the latest and greatest ingredients and flavors for your ice cream, truffles or hard candy. Here’s a list of my highlights from the 2009 presentations and exhibits:

Make your candy green with Ciranda’s organic ingredients. They offer non-GMO and organic tapioca and agave syrups for use as sweetener substitutes. Along with other products you’ll find organic cocoa butters for your couveture and carnauba wax to polish your jellybeans. Jim Mitchell who works on innovations for the company discussed the business and future of organic ingredients. He even shared recipes and organic formulations.

Hilliard’s Chocolate System displayed their various tempering machines of all sizes next to all the essential utensils for chocolate producers and candy makers from scrapers to thermometers. You can find dippers, coaters, melters and molds in their line-up too. “What’s new?” I asked a Hilliard’s salesperson. “What’s old is new.” a seasoned passerby slyly smiled. Explaining that when it comes to making chocolate, what comes around goes around and he pointed to a marble slab across the hall, conveniently situated in his own booth.

For sparkle lovers, Candurin showed off hand-made macaroons by Cécile Cannone from Macaron Café in New York City. Cécile’s puffy, perfect macaroons were soaked with bold colors and then highlighted with Candurin pearl pigments that can make food from lollipops to truffles come alive. The pigment is derived from naturally formed mica; it’s totally edible and absolutely magical. Perhaps it is time to put some twinkle in your Twinkie.

Madison, Wisconsin based chocolatier, Gail Ambrosius, attended the PMCA conference for her first time and was awed by Gary Guittard’s first rate presentation about the origins of Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario cacao pods. Guittard Chocolate made origin chocolates produced with beans that were processed under varying conditions for a tasting. “Don’t eat the chocolate made with moldy beans”, Gary cautioned before nibbling on various samples along with an audience of over 400 people. After, just-cut cocoa pods were on display and all had the unique opportunity to experience raw beans pulled out of ripe pods without traveling to an origin growing country to do so.

Just when you think you know all about clingy plastic sold in rolls, there’s more to discover. Thanks to advances in technology, film manufacturers now offer products that provide better barriers to improve the shelf life of your food products. Anisong Pathammavong from Printpack discussed innovations and products in his presentation. They are offering renewable packaging, using sustainable and compostable components. This is a topic top of mind for those who cringe when encasing their lovingly produced pastries or pies in a typical Styrofoam clamshell casket.

Virginia Dare extracts was founded in 1923 and is now a massive flavoring house which supplies coffee, candy and cereal companies with thousands of food flavors from berry for your biscuits to sherry for your sauce. They may be best known for their vanillas but did you know you could buy exotic flavors like arequipe (Colombian caramel) or mamey (a sweet, pumpkin-like fruit with the texture of an avocado) in a bottle?

Sampling Oringer Caramel sure got me sticky but I was pleased to discover that they offer a wide range of cooked sugar suitable for stringing on your pie, covering your apple or layering in your pastry. They’ll help caramelize any confectionery creation: nutrition bar, ice cream and drinks too.

Vice President of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs for the National Confectioners Association, Alison Reich Bodor, discussed the unfortunate salmonella issues that have recently affected the confectionery business. Over the past few months, 100 candy and chocolate companies issued recalls. All were related to one malicious peanut supplier which had detected salmonella twelve times in their peanut factory before being shut down by the FDA and finally declaring bankruptcy. Nine deaths were traced to the tainted peanuts. Alison discussed the food safety focus of the new Washington administration and sadly stated that the because of the outbreak, “The point of entry for small food companies has just become much higher.”

 Frederic Loraschi, of Chocolat Frederic Loraschi talked about being an "Artisan Chocolatier". The classically trained confectioner creates his chocolates in his studio in Hummelstown, PA and provides his handcrafted creations to corporations, hotels and restaurants. Defining his artisan chocolates he said, “Each one I put my heart and soul into and no one can copy because each has my signature and personal imprint built in.” After tasting his flavor-filled chocolates just before leaving the convention, I concurred, this gentleman knows artisan indeed.

 Beth Kimmerle is the author of four books documenting the history of America's confectionery industry including the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Confectioners Association’s history book, Sweet Times: 100 Years of Making Confections Better. 

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