Takeaways from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2013

I had the opportunity to walk the Winter Fancy Food Show this year in San Francisco and was able to take away several trends in addition to new products.

Gluten-Free

The first 15 minutes into my trek of this year’s food smacked me in the face with one very apparent truth: “Gluten-Free” products are here to stay. Where once considered a trend by most industry analysts, gluten-free products have made the jump to the mainstream. A search of the exhibitors on the FFS website shows a total of 284 vendors tagging their product as “Gluten-Free”. I was, at one point, literally surrounded by gluten-free alternative. Products ranging from gluten-free pasta made with Japanese yam, to bakery products made from brown rice and quinoa, illustrate the need to satisfy the palate of the gluten-free consumer. One of the newer products was a gluten-free pretzel by the makers of “Mary’s Gone Crackers” in a curry flavor:

Coconut Flavored Products

Another trend that seemed to dominate at the show was the wide variety of coconut flavored products: ice cream, coconut water, coconut milk, and coconut chips seemed to lurk around every corner. The Blue Monkey Coconut Powder pack seemed to be one of the more innovative and portable options for the consumer on the go: just add water and you have the perfect electrolyte packed drink!

Pickled

Another major trend at its peak is anything pickled. Boat Street Pickles, for example, walks the sweet/sour/savory line with a perfect balance of flavors: choose from pickled figs, pickled prunes, pickled raisins, or pickled red onions. These products have a great flavor and can add a special flair to dishes. I personally think that the pickled raisins would beautifully complement a slightly sweet coconut curry, while the pickled figs beg for blue cheese and fatty bacon.

Convenient Meal Prep

A big trend in today’s marketplace centers on the convenience of meal preparation.  We like to make food at home that tastes like we spent hours crafting it, yet has minimal fuss or preparation. Elizabeth Jean’s Caramel Apple Pecan Pie kit does just that. Everything you need including sliced apples is included in the kit. Just assemble and bake, easy as that! Perfect to take to a party or to celebrate that special occasion with family, what could be easier?

Innovative Packaging

In the alcohol/mixer category were several interesting innovations revolving packaging. First is the Wine Stack, which is 4 plastic stem-less wine glasses stacked and shrink wrapped to give the appearance of a wine bottle, but with portion control built in as an answer to the problem of oxidation. Perfect for those wine drinkers that have a single glass each night:

Another interesting packaging item in the alcohol/mixer category is Twist in a Glass. Speaking with the booth representative, this packaging was a debut to the show to see what kind of reception it would get:

Overall the response from the patrons of the show seemed pretty positive with people crowding the booth and begging to take a sample home (including me). It is packaged in a sealed martini glass in several different flavors; just add the alcohol and you have the perfect alcoholic beverage in a convenient disposable martini glass.

A final representative of the alcohol/mixer category is the drinking Balsamic by Bevivo. Based on classic drinks of Italy, these drinking Balsamics in cherry and lemon flavors can be mixed straight with sparkling water, or spiked with a blend of Gin and Vodka for a well-balanced, slightly tart drink. Interestingly to me, I saw this product at the show, and then came across 3 articles in less than a week that discuss the use of vinegar shrubs or Balsamic as a balancing component in a cocktail.

Definitely not a new idea in itself, drinking Balsamic is the secret weapon in the toolbox of several award-winning cocktail masters. I am definitely thinking about adding it to my own toolbox, considering the range of fruit flavored vinegars on the market. In my case, it is inspiration for a cocktail with a riff on the flavors of the tropics. How about coconut white Balsamic and roasted pineapple?

New Products and Flavors

Beyond this category, I found an interesting product that could cross several food and alcohol categories: the edible perfumes by Amoretti. In flavors ranging from pineapple and almond, to basil and baked bread, there are over 100 flavors of this interesting product. Usage suggestions include spraying it into a bag of cookies and then sealing. I could definitely see these products utilized in more molecular creations where atmospheric effects elevate the experience. Imagine a dessert under glass, that when uncovered released the flavor of jasmine blossoms. One wonders if a spontaneous transport to the tropics of Asia were possible?

Numi also has a few innovative flavors in the organic tea category. Innovative you say? Well, how about a line of savory teas? Fennel Spice, Carrot Curry, Broccoli Cilantro, and Beet Cabbage are among the flavors debuted at the show. Each is a unique blend of vegetables, decaffeinated tea, wild harvested herbs, and aromatic spices, according to the brief on Numi Tea’s website. Positioned primarily as a low calorie snack alternative, this line of teas warms the palate, offering savory comfort and wholesome good flavor in a convenient teabag.

In the healthy oil category is tea-seed oil produced by Arette. A high smoke point oil (425F) with pure flavor, tea-seed oil is also touted as a low inflammatory oil, adding additional health benefits. I tried the rosemary infused oil and was surprised by the clean flavor and minimal aftertaste. I do wonder what the availability of this product will be long term, but we can only wait and see.

In the green packaging category is this interesting set of biodegradable wooden cutlery from Aspenware of Canada. Said to be fully biodegradable in 45 days, it offers an alternative to plastic cutlery and is geared towards QSR and catering sectors of the industry. One does have to wonder just how sustainable this product is, after all the shortage of disposable chopsticks in Asia is causing a change in the culture. We will have to see how this one fairs in the marketplace.

I honestly could not resist this last set of pictures. I mean who doesn’t love a good dance off now and then?? My bets are on the Jelly Belly, what about you?

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