Thursday, March 15, 2012 | 2 a.m.
It’s here every year, and each year, it seems to get bigger and better. And tastier.
The International Pizza Expo wraps up three days of displays at the Las Vegas Convention Center today. More than 10,000 people are attending what has been described as the largest exhibition of everything associated with the pizza industry, from ovens and ingredients — meats, vegetables, cheeses and sauces — to delivery accessories and marketing materials.
The newest industry products were on display at the show, and some booths included pitches for causes, like Pizzas4Patriots.
Military veterans Tony Sloan and the organization’s founder, Mark Evans, have embarked on an effort to deliver 50,000 Chicago deep-dish pizzas to troops in Afghanistan on July 4. The nonprofit organization already has delivered more than 60,000 pies overseas since 2008 to give American troops abroad “a slice of home.”
While the cause warmed the hearts of many in attendance, other innovations at the show may make your next trip to your local pizzeria or your next home delivery experience just a little tastier.
Here are some of the top innovations from International Pizza Expo 2012:
It looks like an ice cream cone, but this cone is made out of pizza dough. Rocco Sofio and Antonio Delise are offering pizzeria owners the machine and kit to create cones that can be filled with any variety of pizza ingredients. The machines can deliver a soft or crunchy cone with a thick bottom to prevent leaks, and it can make four of them in 90 seconds. With a conveyor oven, production can reach 180 cones an hour. Sofio said a variety of dough recipes can produce cones with flavors compatible with chicken or shrimp salad, a Reuben or a breakfast omelet.
Perfect Crust Pizza Liner
Jeff Pugh was in the printing business, but in 90 days he created a company that produces the perfect liner for delivered pizzas. Using virgin pulp paper and an embossing press, Pugh produces liners with perfect EVC — they elevate, ventilate and circulate pizza so that the product doesn’t stick to the box. The bumps and dimples created in the embossing process enable air to circulate under the pie and the paper absorbs any grease. The company can make them round, square, rectangular or for a single slice, and because they’re embossed, they can incorporate a pizzeria’s name and logo or a coupon on the liner. Pugh’s distribution partner, Roma Foods, had the liners in use all over the show floor.
Lucky Cookie Co. Italian fortune cookies
Fortune cookies are the signature completion of a Chinese meal. Timothy McQuiston of Wisconsin-based Lucky Cookie Co. hopes to put an Italian twist on the tradition by offering individually wrapped cookies in a cannoli shell. The cookies can come with or without a fortune-cookie message and either dipped in chocolate or plain. McQuiston said some customers put a discount coupon inside the cookie instead of a fortune. Cookies come in strawberry, mocha Irish cream, java mint, mango, cinnamon, lime, amaretto and lemon flavors with dark or white chocolate dips and drizzles. The company appeals to more than just Italian and pizza restaurants. It also has a style called “Fiesta Treat,” shaped like a taco.
Thinking Foods dough mixer
Preparing pizza dough can be a time-consuming process, but Thinking Foods, a Spanish company, has developed an automated mixer that eliminates the labor and delivers a consistent batch of dough every time. Sales manager Alvaro Escribano said a password-protected mixing procedure is programmed into the smart appliance. The operator just dumps a bag of flour into the bowl and presses the start button. The mixer goes through a cycle of procedures from aerating the flour to adding the exact amount of water (the unit filters the water to a precise level of hardness), from mixing and setting to adding a second cycle of water to the final mixing. The unit beeps when the dough — which won’t stick to the bowl — is completed. Escribano said 18 dough formulas can be programmed into the unit for different pizza styles.
Thrust Electric Bikes
Tom Casey, president of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based company, said his electric bikes are the perfect pizza delivery vehicle for pizzerias with a delivery zone with a two-mile radius. They’re also perfect for delivering on car-restricted college campuses and military bases. Powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, the bikes are fitted with a compartment to transport up to a dozen 20-by-20-inch pies, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, drinks and paper plates. Users can also buy an easily attachable trailer unit for large-volume orders that can also be converted to vendor stands that can be transported to Little League sporting events, parks and beaches. The bikes are powerful enough to climb San Francisco’s hills and maintain speeds of 20 mph. Because drivers don’t have to be licensed, pizzerias can hire younger (and cheaper) delivery people. The electric bikes have a range of about 20 miles, and it takes about two hours to recharge a battery. Casey said most of his customers have extra batteries so that one can be charging while the other powers the bike.