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Cake Decorating Goes High Tech at Anaheim Trade Show : Innovation: Machine puts photo images on foods. Other exhibits include edible business cards, personalized candies.

August 24, 1994|GREG JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — John Kitos thinks he has a simple recipe for success.

The 37-year-old Huntington Beach resident has blended a central processing unit, a photograph scanning device and an ink-jet printer to produce a cake decorating machine that scans color photographs and produces high-resolution--and highly edible--images on cakes and cookies.

The Southern California Edison machine shop inspector began toying with ideas for a cake-decorating machine four years ago. His company now hopes to begin delivering the $18,500 machines in the fall for sale to bakeries and grocery stores. Kitos said several companies have expressed interest, including a pastry chef at one of Orange County's large hotels.

Kitos was among dozens of exhibitors showing their wares Tuesday at Confections West, a cake and candy trade show at the Disneyland Hotel. The computerized cake-decorating machine was part of a growing trend among confection industry players to offer consumers added value for their money--and, in the process, allow retailers to bolster profit margins.

One row over from Kitos' high-tech exhibit, Norma Parrish demonstrated a silk-screening system that uses a syrupy chocolate concoction to customize candy and cakes with edible designs and slogans. Parrish's fourth-generation, Gardena-based company has sold the screening technology to politicians, resorts and a handful of companies that use it to produce edible business cards made of chocolate.

Howard Gorman Inc., a food broker in Tustin that represents dozens of gourmet confection companies, exhibited a machine that lets retailers customize coin-shaped, foil-wrapped chocolates with imprints of customers' names or images. Again, the intent is to give retailers an added value to pass along to customers.

On the closing day of the trade show, Kitos' machine pumped out hundreds of edible pictures atop small slices of cake for bemused conventioneers, who lined up with drivers' licenses and baby pictures in hand.

The machine, about the size of an office printer, scans and digitizes photographs. A full-color ink-jet printer hidden in a mechanical arm applies the decoration using a proprietary blend of food dyes that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"It's easier to operate than a bank ATM, and it can decorate anything from a tortilla to a six-inch-tall cake," said Gordon McGilton, a former TRW executive and Kitos' business partner.

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