While the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show presented a feast of trends from nutritious and protein-packed to indulgent, the unifying theme was “feel good,” as the industry embraces a sense of health and well-being around the foods and beverages it produces, consumes, markets and sells.
“It’s one of the special things about the specialty food industry, with its passionate and committed producers and buyers,” said Denise Purcell, trends expert and head of content for Specialty Food Magazine. “It’s about more than selling a product. It’s a lifestyle of eating for enjoyment and health.”
Owned and produced by the New York City-based not-for-profit Specialty Food Association, the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show welcomed 1,400 exhibitors and more than 25,000 attendees—including representatives from Kroger, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s—to San Francisco’s Moscone Center Jan. 21-23.
Products with Purpose
“Food is now the carrier of much, much more,” said former Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb in his keynote of the 2018 Specialty Food Association Leadership Awards, honoring food industry entrepreneurs for business leadership, citizenship and vision. At the event, held during the opening day of the show, Robb added that today’s suppliers increasingly have “a sense of mission and purpose to their products.”
That mission might be building financial security through job creation for women in Morocco, such as Casablanca Market, or tackling world hunger by farming edible bugs, in the case of Leadership Award winner Mohammed Ashour of Aspire Food Group. But for most at this year’s show, including R&D Chef Clayton Burrows of Blount Fine Foods, the mission is to create foods that are “healthy for the soul.”
“The Fancy Food Show used to be chocolate, cheese and sauce, and now it’s a blending of the two markets: indulgence and health,” said Purcell. All the top trends at the show had a better-for-you bent, featuring products such as 100% grass-fed beef jerky, gluten-free ancient grains, no-sugar-added vegetable drinks and plant-based milks. Even traditionally indulgent foods such as chocolate were featured with beneficial ingredients, from anti-inflammatory turmeric to protein-rich algae.
1. No-Junk Jerky
Offering a trifecta of high protein, portable convenience and better-for-you snacking, specialty jerky is no joke. From grass-fed to hand-marinated and paleo-approved, the high-quality jerky sampled at this year’s show established the category’s status as a healthful snack option.
“It’s a revamped category that is just taking off,” said Joe Stemmer, national field marketing manager for the San Bernardino, Calif.-based Country Archer Jerky Co. “It’s one of the fastest-growing categories, and we offer the No. 1 selling natural jerky brand.”
Country Archer Jerky is MSG-, hormone-, nitrate- and gluten-free, and made in small batches using 100% grass-fed beef. The 3-ounce bag of Country Archer Mango Habanero Beef Jerky contains 30 grams of protein.
Krave Jerky, a Sonoma, Calif.-based purveyor of minimally processed meat and poultry snacks, calls the revolution in the natural jerky category “a protein renaissance.”
Field Trip of Brooklyn, N.Y., featured its grass-fed, crate-free Beef, Turkey and Pork Jerky, as well as its new better-for-you Crispy Cuts Pork Rinds.
2. Ancient Grain Revival
Ancient grains offer more nutritional bang for the buck. Some are gluten-free, including quinoa, sorghum and chia seeds. Other ancient grains such as freekah and farro are whole-grain types of wheat, and while they’re not gluten-free, they are rich in fiber and protein. The appeal of added nutrients and protein is driving the inclusion of ancient grains in everything from breakfast bowls to savory side dishes and even beverages.
Roland recently launched grab-and-go quinoa with fruit that is positioned as a quick and easy nutritious breakfast. “You can eat it instead of oatmeal, and it’s perfect for the grab-and-go trend,” said Linda Young of Roland Foods in New York. “Quinoa is also on-trend because it is so high in protein.”
Enjoy Life introduced new Crispy Grain & Seed Bars in four flavors. High in protein, the all-natural bars are free from 14 allergens and made with three types of sorghum.
While grains have traditionally been a side dish, Conifer Foods sees its Canterbury Naturals Artisan Salads moving to the center of plate. Its salads come in six varieties: Orzo Cucumber, Freekah & Kale, Farro & Red Pepper, Quinoa Sesame & Ginger, Quinoa Basil & Lime and Couscous Caprese.
3. Prolific Protein
From jerky and pasta alternatives to snack packs and more, it seemed protein was the most talked-about ingredient at the show. “Protein itself is a huge trend,” said Purcell, adding that plant-based protein in particular is trending across all categories. “We’re seeing algae as one sustainable plant-based protein that is showing up in some unexpected places,” such as K’ul Chocolate’s Superfood Endurance Bar, made with 70% dark chocolate and 8 grams of algae protein.
Explore Cuisine is aiming to revitalize the pasta category with protein-rich, gluten-free pastas made from beans, lentils and chickpeas, including spaghetti, penne, rotini and more. “While pasta sales in general are going down, there’s a rise in pasta alternatives,” said Erika Wasserman, VP of marketing for the Red Bank, N.J.-based company, which makes an Organic Edamame Spaghetti that boasts 24 grams of protein in one serving.
Bite Fuel Protein Cookies introduced the first gluten-free, bite-size protein cookie on the market. Made from grass-fed whey protein, each bag contains 18 grams of protein.
Peanut Butter & Co. featured its Mighty Nut Powdered Peanut Butter, which recently received a Weight Watchers endorsement. Available in six varieties, Mighty Nut contains 90% less fat than traditional peanut butter, plus 5-6 grams of protein per serving.
4. Cauliflower Is King
Loaded with vitamin C and coming in at only 25 calories per 1-cup serving, it’s not surprising that cauliflower has taken the health-conscious food scene by storm.
Leveraging the cruciferous craze, Richmond, Calif.-based Cucina and Amore’s Kitchen & Love Cauliflower Quick Meals are available in three gluten-free varieties: Peruvian Vegetable Ceviche, Indian Vegetable Curry and Moroccan Vegetable Harissa.
Another example of a company delivering on multiple trends, Gaea featured what it claims is the first shelf-stable, pickled Cauliflower Snack with no preservatives and all-natural ingredients. Based in Greece, the Mediterranean-minded company also showcased its new pickled Carrot Snack and Gherkin Snack. All three snacks are packaged in atmosphere pouches for convenient on-the-go consumption.
5. Global Flavors
The show featured flavors from around the world, conveniently crafted for quick preparation at home. “Regionally specific flavors are trending as consumers look to dig deeper into the cuisines of different countries,” said Purcell.
One such flavor was harissa, a hot chili pepper paste from Northern Africa. Harissa added heat to everything from the Chicken Merguez Chicken Sausage with Harissa from Petits Cochons to the Artichokes with Harissa Sauce by Divinia.
“Sophisticated spice and different ethnic flavors are trending,” said Burrows of Blount Fine Foods, which recently launched a line of refrigerated Noodle and Rice Bowls featuring high-quality proteins.
Saffron Road showcased a new line of frozen Udon and Ramen Bowls. The no-antibiotics-ever bowls are made with bone broth for added protein and nutrition.
6. No Sugar Added
Last year, the U.S. government recommended that Americans limit their intake of added sugar to less than 10% of daily calories. It marked the first time a specific limit was advised. If sugar alternatives such as Just Date Syrup, which offers a low-glycemic and vegan way to sweeten coffee and tea, and the multitude of products labeled “no sugar added” at the show are an indication, it seems consumers and suppliers are taking heed.
San Francisco’s Organic Pantry Co., which seeks to “replace heavily processed, sugar-laden packaged products with simple, nutrient-packed food,” presented its certified organic Flaxseed Crackers in Turmeric, Rosemary and Sunflower Seeds.
New England Natural Bakers of Greenfield, Mass., debuted new packaging for its line of six organic, non-GMO, kosher-certified granolas. Two of the granolas have no added sugar, including Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut Granola and Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Strawberry Granola, its best-seller.
7. Sensational Deli Snacking
High-quality cheese and meats in an array of convenient snack packaging were another top trend at the show. “Grocers are doing a lot more grab-and-go in foodservice areas, and they’re seeing more traffic in the deli,” said Abby Despins, senior PR and digital marketing manager for Emmi Roth USA in Fitchburg, Wis. “We’ve been seeing a lot of growth in the specialty cheese snack category as well.”
To catch these on-the-move shoppers, Emmi has introduced a new line of snack cheeses. The round, puck-size cheeses, available in Creamy Cheddar, Creamy Gouda and Creamy Whole Milk Mozzarella, are 70 calories each and come in peggable packaging for easy deli display.
Green Bay, Wis.-based BelGioioso Cheese Inc. featured all-natural, rBST-free cheese snacks in three varieties. The line started with fresh mozzarella and has been extended to include fontina and Parmesan. The quarter-ounce cut Parmesan snack is 80 calories and naturally packed with 7 grams of protein, while the same size Fontina snack package contains 5 grams of protein and 70 calories.
Arla Foods of Basking Ridge, N.J., presented a host of convenient cheese snacking options, including new snack packs in three varieties (Gouda, Havarti and Medium Cheddar). Each 6-ounce pouch contains eight Snack Cheese Bars. The cheeses have no added hormones, artificial flavors or preservatives.
Laval, France-based Lactalis debuted the first organic Rondele Gourmet Spreadable Cheese in the spreadable category. The organic Rondele is available in Garden Vegetable and Garlic and Herb. Lactalis also featured three varieties of Marinated Feta Cubes for easy snacking straight from the jar—just add toothpicks.
Volpi Foods of St. Louis showcased its Roltini Singles and Roltini Snacks in Mozzarella & Pepperoni, Mozzarella & Spicy Salame and Mozzarella & Prosciutto Ham. These natural snacks are nitrate-free and handcrafted from specialty meats and cheeses.
8. Drinkable Meals
On-the-go drinkable nutrition is gaining momentum as the trend in beverage meals blooms. Fawen Ready-To-Drink Soup is the first and only shelf-stable, ready-to-drink organic soup, which is also vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher. Offering a drinkable snack or light meal, Fawen is available in three varieties.
Bonafide Provisions of Carlsbad, Calif., has reinvented juice with organic vegetable and bone broth elixirs that offer consumers a way to drink their veggies to the tune of 6 to 11 grams of protein and fewer than 110 calories per serving.
Tio Gazpacho presented its RTD line of portable chilled soups. Through a partnership with restaurateur and chef Jose Andres, Tio Gazpacho drinkable soups are available in six all-natural varieties.
9. Plant-Milk Movement
“This year, there are three big trends that are helping to drive our sales: the expansion of plant milks beyond soy and almond, the revolution in the dairy creamer category, and the cold-brew coffee revolution,” said Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Califia Farms in Los Angeles. “Underneath all three are sustainability and transparency in the supply chain, which are becoming more important to the consumer.”
Specialty plant-based refrigerated milk and creamer grew 47.8% from 2012 to 2016 and is projected to grow another 20.4% from 2017 to 2021, according to Mintel research. In 2016, specialty plant-based refrigerated milk and creamer was a $1.3 billion market.
Califia sampled its clearly on-trend Cold Brew Coffee with its line of Better Half Creamers made from coconut cream and almond milk.