Friday, April 30, 2021

Explore the Pop Up Grocer for Food Innovation Inspiration


Photo source: Pop Up Grocer

Tomorrow is May Day, a secular public holiday that makes Spring official and Summer imminent. While I won’t be dancing or singing in a garden of early-blooming flowers as the day historically was celebrated throughout Europe, I plan to attend a “food event.” That’s right. Chicago, a foodie destination, is opening up again. 

The event—the Pop Up Grocer—is the world’s first-ever traveling pop-up grocery store concept. Since launching two years ago, Pop Up Grocer has opened shops in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. A portion of profits from sales are donated to The Pop Up Grocer Fund, which supports emerging consumer brands. 

The Pop Up Grocer is best described as an experience-oriented grocery store and a destination where shoppers discover new products from the “buzziest brands on Instagram,” according to founder Emily Schildt. 

She told my colleague Monica Watrous at Food Business News that there are three criteria when choosing products to sell at the Pop Up Grocer. The first and most important is the product’s uniqueness and its story. If it’s a food product, nutrition, ingredients and responsible sourcing are evaluated. And last, aesthetics matter. To read more, link HERE.

The Chicago installment of this event shows that dairy foods and dairy proteins are an important component of the future of food. 

Clio Snacks is at the Pop Up Grocer. The company’s most recent innovation is the Clio Granola and Yogurt Parfait bar. The refrigerated product combines Clio’s signature creamy Greek yogurt with a layer of crunchy granola, transforming the traditional parfait into a ready-made hand-held product that functions as a convenient breakfast, satiating snack or better-for-you dessert. Available in two varieties--Strawberry wrapped in yogurt and Coconut wrapped in chocolate—each bar is packed with 10 grams of protein from dairy in the form of yogurt, nonfat dry milk and whey.

The Granola and Yogurt Parfait bars join the original Clio Greek Yogurt Bars, which debuted a little more than two years ago and are the creation of Sergey Konchakovskiy, founder and CEO of Clio Snacks. While prepping a Greek yogurt rub for a lamb roast, Konchakovskiy put the rub in the refrigerator and forgot about it until several days later when his kids discovered the highly strained yogurt. It had developed a feta-like consistency and in an a-ha moment, he realized that this textured yogurt would be a great way to get his kids to eat yogurt, especially if it was wrapped in chocolate. 

To his surprise, Konchakovskiy learned that no U.S. dairy companies had the capabilities to make this yogurt bar. He leveraged his savings to purchase cheese-making equipment from Europe and after two years of learning, research and development, Clio Snacks was born. This is the type of story Pop Up Grocer wants to include in its product lineup.  

The original Clio Greek Yogurt Bars consist of creamy, whole milk Greek yogurt wrapped in chocolate. They combine the nutritional benefits of yogurt with the convenience of a bar. Varieties are: Blueberry, Espresso, Hazelnut, Honey, Peanut Butter, Strawberry and Vanilla. A 50-gram bar contains 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 10 grams of sugar and 8 grams of protein. (The peanut butter flavor is 170 calories, 8 grams of fat and 13 grams of sugar.) 

About a year after rolling out the original line, the company introduced Clio Less Sugar Greek Yogurt Bars in Mixed Berry and Peach flavors. With 100 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar and 8 grams of protein, the Less Sugar bars deliver the same rich dairy flavor and cheesecake-like texture. The inside of the bars are made with whole milk yogurt enriched with whey protein and sweetened with allulose, erythritol and stevia leaf extract. The bar is enrobed in a no-sugar-added chocolate coating.

Cloud & Joy is also at the Pop Up Grocer. This brand entered the retail ice cream freezer with a better-for-you treat right before the pandemic shut the world down. It still managed to get distribution in a number of East Coast markets. The ice cream is all about having a low sugar content, and with some varieties, no added sugars. None of them contain sugar alcohols.

The innovative base starts with organic non-fat milk that is combined with various gums and tapioca flour. Sweetness comes from a unique blend of allulose, organic agave inulin fiber, stevia leaf extract, monkfruit and mushroom extract. The five varieties are: 

Boozy Bee Vanilla is vanilla with bourbon and honey swirls.
Cafecito Coffee & Cocoa Nibs is reminiscent of thick, sweet Cuban coffee with added cocoa flakes.
Peppermint & Brownies is peppermint ice cream with hazelnut-infused dark chocolate brownies with hazelnut slices. This variety also contains spirulina superfruit for a health benefit.
Sea & Smoke Chocolate is dark chocolate ice cream with cherrywood smoke flavor, sea salt and roasted, glazed, salted pecans.
Summer Camp is a s’more inspired mix of vanilla ice cream with chocolate and cinnamon spice graham cookies. 

Part of Cloud & Joy’s story that got it into Pop Up Grocer is how 10% of profits go to Heifer International, which helps support the core of the company: dairy. Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger while caring for the environment. It is a perfect fit for Cloud & Joy and Pop Up Grocer. 

Picnik is at the Pop Up Grocer, too. This Austin, Texas-based company markets an array of functional beverages, many of which are made with grass-fed butter and whey. The company says grass-fed butter fuels the body with a sustained, clean energy that satiates appetite and reduces cravings, while the grass-fed whey protein absorbs rapidly into the body to reduce hunger and sustain muscle growth. 

You will also find whey proteins in some unlikely applications at Pop Up Grocer. Kodiak Cakes, for example, prioritizes protein in many of its grain-based products. The Power Cakes flapjack and waffle mix includes whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate, along with buttermilk powder for a rich, homemade taste.  

One of the company’s most recent introductions is a line if no-bake protein ball mixes. Available in dark chocolate and oat chocolate chip varieties, the dairy-protein enriched mix gets combined by the consumer with water, honey and nut butter and rolled into a dozen balls that pack in 10 grams of protein per serving.  

Grass-fed butter and grass-fed mozzarella are key ingredients in Snow Days Pizza Bites, also at Pop Up Grocer. The company uses only organic, unprocessed, clean ingredients, protein and vegetables to make this classic “stuck at home because of snow” treat. 

This past year, for many, it was “stuck at home because of the pandemic.” Each bag of the treats carries the message: “Today is gonna be a good day.” 

Get inspired to kick off May by browsing the Pop Up Grocer website showcasing the more than 400 new products that will be on sale by linking HERE.

The Pop Up Grocer is currently open in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago from April 30 to May 30 at 1555 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Hours are 9AM-7PM daily. (I don’t live far. Let me know if you plan a visit. I would love to visit.)

1 comment:

  1. Donna -
    Let's connect as I am going to come see this event. Great idea! Thanks for the heads up!

    Cheryl Overholser