A Different Kind of Spin: Cotton candy and wine make a splash at CinemaCon

Snack Corner

CinemaCon 2017 once again offered a full array of concession supplies. This year, a multitude of confections, snacks and equipment were on display. One of the primary questions each and every year is “What’s new at the show?” What could be asked instead is “What is missing?”

With the expansion of foodservice menus, calorie regulations, adult beverages and heartier foods, one would expect to see gas fryers, char-broilers, refrigeration companies, walk-in coolers, beverage stations and wine dispensers, yet those types of equipment were conspicuously absent. Bur there were three new products on display that received a lot of attention. Business Russia unveiled its unique version of spinning cotton candy appropriately named “Flying Cotton Candy.” C. Cretors & Company uncovered its latest version of popcorn warmers that will replace the old version of a Server Products unit. And Enomatic Wine Serving Systems made a splash with its wine-dispensing product.

It was most noticeable that in an era of changing foodservice offerings, the tradeshow continued to display many of the current or standard options. The confections were still confections, mostly packaged in a variety of sizes. (Mars does intend to release the newest version of M&M’s Caramel in a “sharing size” to cinemas very shortly.) One might have expected to see an influx of kitchen equipment, since nearly all circuits have transformed their menus to heartier “pub grub.” Prime Ticket, brokers for many types of heavy kitchen cooking devices, was displaying infrared ovens for pizzas like last year, and the Turbo Chef as well. However, in a time when companies such as True, Vulcan, Imperial, Hobart, Vollrath, Cambro and Hoshizaki are top-rated in their categories, they seemed to miss the enormous opportunities in this channel.

The Flying Cotton Candy machine received the most attention, as a new means of producing the ageless favorite, spun sugar. The new model uses centrifugal force and heat as the principles, as used in the current machines, with a slight twist. A vortex blower pushes the strings of cotton like candy straight up into the air rather than spread against the sides of the bowl. This new practice allows the “spinner” to literally walk away from the bowl and spin from a distance. The mass of spun candy is lighter and fluffier than typical cotton candy, since there is more air spacing the swirling cone or stick. Cotton candy has always made a splash with its color and aroma as it is created; yet this new revelation allows the producer to float the strands as if a bridge or even playfully sit in a chair while chatting in a relaxed, nonchalant manner. It truly becomes an entertainment element.

The RoboJetFloss is designed to implement a larger margin and more servings of cotton candy; some servings can be as much as 36 inches in diameter. With a little bit of practice, the operator can make a swirl from as far away as 16 feet from the element. Due to its unique design, this machine may operate under high ambient temperatures and excessive relative humidity. Click here to see it in action.

Ned Vidojevic, research and development engineer, and Bud Cretors, VP of engineering for C. Cretors and Company, worked with their team to offer another option for keeping popcorn warm until it’s served to patrons. Their warmer allows for two compartments, each about 15” x 15”, allowing for different types of corn—for example, salted and caramel. The unit has a removable center plate to create a single bin of 30” x 30” compartments. The unit also has an elevator (hand-operated) that brings the popped corn from the bottom to the top, helping employees pull the popular snack from the bin. “We at C. Cretors & Company are excited about designing new equipment and making improvements to existing equipment to meet the needs of our customers,” Vidojevic stated.

Enomatic was showcased in the area with technology, digital projectors and sound support. It could have been missed if you did not walk the entire tradeshow floor. The company was founded in 2002 with an objective to create the best means of preserving and dispensing wine by the glass. The benefit to this system is exact portion controls for every guest; theatre operators get 100% yield on every bottle of wine, and the wine makers can be assured their juice is served exactly the way it should be. This system virtually eliminates oxidation, as it uses inert gas, Argon, to press the wine from the bottle through the dispenser. The Argon is heavier than oxygen and creates a protective layer between the oxygen in the opened bottle and the juice, allowing the operator as many as 20 days before the wine spoils. The current corked bottle typically loses its stature in less than 48 hours.

The technology from this company is such that the wine is preserved in a temperature-controlled cabinet, versatile enough to maintain two separate chambers for either red or white wines at separate temperatures. The dispensers are technically advanced and require a “card” to administer their functions. The server/bartender must insert his/her card to select the correct wine; it then allows the server to push a button that dispenses exactly five ounces of vino. (Why five ounces? There are five five-ounce portions in each bottle of wine.) This means every bottle is used completely, no patron receives more than any other, and yield is perfect for accounting purposes. The manager’s “card” would have added features to include counts, cleaning and restocking.  

The units are produced entirely in Italy and come in multiple sizes, with the eight-bottle, “elite 2.5” and four-bottle “Smart” units as the most requested. The units can be aligned to establish an entire wine list by the glass and there are curved/radius units for wine “in the round.”

Larry Etter is senior VP at Malco Theatres and director of education for the National Association of Concessionaires.