Thursday, March 10, 2016 | 2 a.m.
More than 10,000 hungry participants and nearly 500 exhibitors visited the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, showcasing everything from unique pizza topping combinations to new beer kegs and cooking ovens during the annual International Pizza Expo.
Returning for its 21st year to the Las Vegas Valley, the expo featured pizza chefs and industry executives from Italy to Japan and across the United States, displaying their latest products.
Here are five unique items from the expo floor:
1. BrewLock Keg by Heineken
An eco-friendly option to traditional stainless steel and carbon dioxide-filled beer dispensers, the 20-liter BrewLock Keg is the world’s first all-recyclable beer dispenser, said David McPhillips, trade marketing manager of Heineken USA.
Also carbon-dioxide free, the new keg pours beer as if it were straight from the brewery, McPhillips said. Using normal atmospheric pressure, BrewLock compresses the outer bottle with an inner bag. When the inner bag is compressed, it pushes beer out of the keg and into the beer line.
The one-use BrewLock Keg, available for $72, currently serves only Heineken and Newcastle Brown Ale. But Heineken Light will soon also be available in the BrewLock as well, McPhillips said.
Though Heineken currently owns a patent on BrewLock’s recyclable, carbon-dioxide free technology, McPhillips said he expects the rest of the beer-making industry to soon follow suit.
“You’ll see most kegs in the next 10 years become closer and closer to resembling ours,” he said.
2. Sprouted Wheat Pizza by Ardent Mills
The United States’ largest flour mill rolled out its own special pizzas for the Las Vegas convention, perhaps the most unique of which featured a special sprouted wheat crust covered with beets, green onions, fig reduction, goat cheese and balsamic glaze.
With one in every three Americans consuming an Ardent Mills-based product each day, spokeswoman Sarah Waller said the special wheat crust, made when a kernel is soaked in water before it starts to grow, was designed with health-conscious Americans in mind. It produces more complex carbohydrates than traditional flour-based pizza crust, leaving its consumers with more energy.
“People are more conscious about what they’re putting inside themselves,” Waller said. “This is for people who spend time thinking about what they put in their body.”
The Ardent Mills pizza isn’t here to stay, Waller said, as the company produces only flour. This week’s culinary designs were only for the expo to show the variety of uses possible with the Denver-based flour giant's products. With 40 locations across the U.S., Ardent Mills' flours are also used in bread and tortillas, baked goods like pastries and cakes and semolina and durum-based pastas.
3. Plug n’ Play pizza ovens by Marra Forni
The latest portable pizza cooking oven series features butane gas, wood fired and electric ovens, using about half of the energy of standard pizza ovens.
With a price tag of $25,000 to $37,000, Marra Forni ovens were a popular choice among the hundreds of pizza-cooking exhibitors on Tuesday’s showroom floor. The ovens, making their debut at this year’s expo, are also used by grocery chains like Whole Foods and Wegmans.
The ovens also feature a digital temperature dial, which can crank the heat so high that a small pizza can be cooked in a few as 45 seconds, said creator Francesco Marra.
“Our ovens adapt to the pizza, not the other way around,” said Marra, 43, originally from Napoli, Italy. “They’re customizable, efficient and eco-friendly.”
4. Vegan pizza by Follow Your Heart
A Los Angeles-based vegan restaurant, Follow Your Heart had produced only vegan salad dressings and cheese for sale before this week’s convention.
The oil and starch-based cheese substitute, sprinkled over vegan bread and tomato sauce, makes for a “tasty” pizza that is an “easy switch” for lactose intolerant or vegan pizza eaters.
“It’s a little sticky” said Adrienne duBois, director of sales, “but the options are so much better, it’s easy to switch with pizza this tasty.”
The pizza isn’t yet available commercially, like Follow Your Heart’s salad dressings and cheese product, but duBois said the restaurant may soon offer this week’s vegan pie with its other products.
5. Cut-resistant gloves by Double ‘D’ Knitting and Glove Inc.
Used by chefs across the restaurant and grocery industry, Double ‘D’’s gloves are made of high-performance polyethylene Dyneema, dubbed the world’s strongest fiber. The durable fibers prevent glove wearers from cutting their hands with sharp knives or other cooking tools, even serrated knife blades.
“These are designed for the heaviest duty blades,” said Dudley Duncan, 67, who founded the company with his wife, Sandy Duncan, in 1985.
Unlike lower-grade knockoffs of the gloves, which fall apart “the first time you wash them,” Duncan said his company’s gloves would last for “at least 100 cycles.”
The Duncans were selling individual cut resistant gloves for $10 each, with a show special of buy four get one free.