Celebrity chefs presenting culinary

mini-deliCelebrity chefs presenting culinary demonstrations included "Latin Lover Lite"

Friday, May 5, 2006
Houston firms spice up food expo targeting Hispanic market
Houston Business Journal - by Thora Qaddumi Houston Business Journal

Food and beverage industry companies targeting the Hispanic market cooked up a multicourse banquet of displays, demonstrations and culinary delights at Expo Comida Latina Texas -- an industry trade show held April 24-25.

More than 2,700 food and beverage professionals attended the expo -- the first held in Houston by Portland, Maine-based trade show company Diversified Business Communications. Previous Expo Comida Latinas have been held in Los Angeles, New York City and San Antonio. Next year's show will also be held in Houston.

"We love Houston," Lee Corkhill, group marketing director of Diversified Business Communications, said, as she surveyed the lively expo scene in the George R. Brown Convention Center.

More than a dozen Houston-based food and beverage manufacturers and distributors were among some 250 companies offering a taste of products they'd like to see on more grocery store shelves and restaurant menus. A visit to some of the exhibits of Houston companies revealed a wide variety of offerings, including some new products:

    * Sigma Foods Inc., whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, invited visitors to taste its turkey breast, turkey ham loaf and the new cheeses it is introducing. Many Sigma products, most of which are manufactured in Mexico and sold under the FUD brand, are already in major Houston stores including H-E-B, Fiesta, Kroger and Wal-Mart.
    * Eximius Coffee LLC, owned by the de Aldecoa family for three generations, promoted the firm's coffee decaffeinating services. Eximius, whose base has expanded from Spain in the 1920s to Mexico in the 1940s to Houston in the 1980s, is the marketing arm for Coffee Process and Cadeco Industries. Both of these companies have decaffeinating plants in Houston which process the firm's own coffee and service the international coffee trade.
    * Rodrigo Mayrl, president of Humble-based MG Foods LLC, which manufactures corn products, was found sampling longaniza at the Marquez Brothers/El Mexicano booth. Two years ago, Marquez Brothers, whose products range from the sausage-like meat and cheese to natural coconut juice (imported from Thailand), expanded from its base in San Jose, Calif. The company now has five distribution warehouses in other cities, including one in Houston. El Mexicano sponsors concerts by Latino groups, including RBD, which performed in Houston April 30.
    * Houston-based wholesale distributor and manufacturer Cyclone Enterprises Inc. included a rack of bags of colored cotton candy in its big display. The cotton candy is the firm's No. 1 product for Houston school concessions, says Jim Petree, who was manning the booth. Cyclone produces a wide range of Latina-flavored products under its own brand and distributes under other labels from Mexico and Central America.
    * Houston-based American Rice Inc., which produces a couple dozen brands of rice at its mill in Freeport, displayed its popular Aldolphus rice and Cinta Azul rice (available in English/Spanish label). Its booths also showcased products from Spain and Mexico that American Rice distributes for its Spain-based parent company, Groupo SOS.
    * Tamales were steaming at the Texas Tamale Co. booth. The Houston-based Tex-Mex food company's Brazos Legends, Kennedy Gourmet, Texas Tamale and Bull Snort products -- most of which are sold in upper-end retail including Bering's and Central Market -- were on display.
    * Other companies based or with distribution facilities in the Houston area exhibiting at the show include Bunzl USA, Castro Cheese Company Inc. "La Vaquita," Joe Gomez & Associates, Jugos del Valle, Liquid Assets, Mama Lycha Foods and The Victoria Beverage Co. The Trade Commission of Mexico-Bancomext and the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also had booths.

Boxing Association Lightweight Champion Juan Diaz stopped by to sign autographs.

The expo also included an educational component for both attendees and exhibitors. Rudy Beserra of Atlanta, vice president Latin affairs for The Coca-Cola Co., gave the opening day keynote. Industry seminars on topics ranged from marketing to government regulations.

Celebrity chefs presenting culinary demonstrations included "Latin Lover Lite" author Laura Diaz-Brown (Chef LaLa), the Post Oak Grill's Polo Becerra, Michael H. Flores of San Antonio, Rice Epicurean Market's Valdimir Smirnov and international executive chef Bertrand Goutelon.

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