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Jennifer Robison

G2E offers taste of future

16 November 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A big culinary exhibition has provided a glimpse of some tasty treats headed for the Las Vegas market.

About 100 food-and-beverage suppliers displayed their offerings during F&B at G2E, a trade show that's part of the Global Gaming Expo, which ended Thursday.

Among the exhibitors at F&B at G2E were several national businesses readying local product launches.

For Inland Market Premium Foods of Atlanta, entering Southern Nevada's food-and-beverage scene is part of the company's diversification.

The 31-year-old seafood purveyor is well-established as a distributor in the Southeast, but company executives wanted to expand into nationwide retail and direct food service to restaurants. When they began scoping out potential markets, Las Vegas seemed an ideal match for their offerings.

"Many of our foods are perceived as high-end and romantic, and that fits with the atmosphere here," said Michael Robins, vice president of research and development for Inland Market Premium Foods.

After Jan. 1, diners in Las Vegas will start seeing the company's seafood in restaurants, thanks to a distribution deal with food supplier Sysco. Locals will also find Inland's foods in area grocery stores. Its lines include Maine lobster cakes, salmon Wellington and bourbon salmon, an East Coast favorite that Robins said Inland pioneered. But Robins is especially excited about Inland's frozen "bakeable" dips, which consumers can cook to a golden, bubbly finish in either a microwave or a conventional oven. Buffalo shrimp and smoky lobster are among the featured flavors.

Also poised to jump into the local market is Lasco Foods, a St. Louis maker of cocktail and drink mixes. Perhaps as early as the first quarter, locals and visitors will experience Lasco's Margaritas, Daquiris and Mojitos inside casinos both on and off the Strip, said Jon Colt, the company's director of business development.

Lasco has been making Margarita mix since the drink's invention in the 1940s. The key difference between its version and competitors': Lasco's Margarita is smoother, Colt said, without the noticeable Tequila taste of other formulations. Lasco's drinks have caught on in Dallas, where their custom and stock blends were behind seven of the city's 10 best cocktails, according to a recent listing in D Magazine.

Lasco wants into the Las Vegas market because the opportunity here is "immense," Colt said.

"Consumption here is just huge, and this is a market we need to be in, plain and simple," he said. "Las Vegas is a destination people come to for business and relaxation. We don't see the Vegas market slowing down at all. It's not even close to played-out."

Frank Fahrenkopf, president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association, which organized the Global Gaming Expo, agreed there's plenty of room for growth in the local food-and-beverage sector.

Local resorts continue to add gourmet restaurants as part of an upscaling trend that started when The Mirage opened in 1989. What's more, as megaresorts such as Palazzo, CityCenter, Echelon and the Plaza open in the next five years, Fahrenkopf said, they'll stimulate greater demand for chefs, restaurants, cuisines and food suppliers.

Las Vegas remains popular with aspiring chefs as well. When Fahrenkopf visits the campuses of the Culinary Institute of America, of which he's a trustee and treasurer, throngs of students besiege him with requests for posts here. He also foresees F&B at G2E attracting growing numbers of overseas suppliers, as businesses in Europe and other international markets look to cash in on Las Vegas' upmarket dining scene.

"Las Vegas has really become the culinary capital of this nation," Fahrenkopf said. "Our operators are bringing in to our properties famous chefs who create cuisines that are much different from what used to be served in (hotel-casino) coffee shops or buffets. That has increased demand for a more eclectic group of suppliers to serve the needs of those chefs."

And Holten Meat of Sauget, Ill., will be on hand to help meet those needs.

The company just arranged to supply its trademarked Thick 'N Juicy Angus beef burgers and chicken-fried steak through Shetakis Wholesalers and U.S. Foodservice. Holten Meat is stocking its foods at The Venetian, the Stratosphere and strip club Spearmint Rhino, but company officials are scouring the region for additional customers. Their hook: A patented process that cooks ground beef to well-done status while preserving the moisture of a medium-cooked burger, said Jim Bedwell, Holten's vice president of sales.

Holten representatives decided to attend F&B at G2E after a consultant suggested the show as an outreach tool. Bedwell said he's already planning a return in 2008, to a booth double the size of this year's Holten exhibit.

Lasco officials also said they'll return in 2008 to boost their business in Las Vegas and nationwide.

"(The F&B show) is a growing part of G2E," Colt said. "We'll be back next year for new deals everywhere."

G2E offers taste of future is republished from