By Kara Nielsen, Food Trendologist
It’s not hard to read the tea leaves to tell the future at the Summer 2016 Fancy Food Show. Just start by sampling the tea, then move on to coffee to get a good buzz going. When hunger strikes, find some granola, try a few simmer sauces, and munch on snack chips. Wrap up with caramels or chocolate and don’t forget frozen desserts, dairy optional. When lagging, seek out a superfood or maybe something with coconut.
This is the itinerary for a trendspotter like me at the massive specialty food exhibition hosted by the Specialty Food Association at the sprawling Javits Center in New York City. I scoured the show looking for news for myself and my clients as well as for the show itself as a member of the Specialty Food Association Trendspotter Panel. It’s an awesome task, considering the size of the venue (six football fields), the crowds (47,000 other bodies jostling for tastes), and the number of booths (2,670 exhibitors). I do have my proprietary trendologist methods to attack the show, of course, which ensure I get a decent idea of emerging trends from new products and producers. I can’t reveal any trade secrets, but I can share observations on the trends I feel will impact our foodscape in the year to come.
Tea-Change: New ready-to-drink teas expand the category with much less sugar, sophisticated flavors, sparkling bubbles, and even adaptogenic herbs that support bodies under stress. New options like these show tea as a tasty yet healthful option in the beverage case.
Grains In, Grains Out: Both sides of the grain spectrum are innovating. Ancient wheats and grains, sometimes biodynamically grown, add flavor and nutrients to bread, pasta and cereal. On the other side, new grainless products use almonds, coconuts, seeds and nuts in crackers, tortillas, granola and more for those skipping grain for a host of reasons.
o Back to the Roots Biodynamic Cinnamon Clusters
o Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers
Dairy Gets Culture: The dairy case continues to widen with healthful cultured products beyond sweet yogurt. Savory Middle Eastern yogurts, local buttermilk, Scandinavian-style skyr and tangy cultured butter offer new flavor profiles and global styles to consumers ready for a greater variety of healthful dairy experiences.
o Five Acre Farms Local Buttermilk
o Kimball Brook Farm Cultured Organic Butter
Rising Spirits: Today’s current love affair with craft brewing and distilling transfers over nicely to specialty treats enhanced with the flavors (and punch) of small-batch spirits and brews. On the horizon, canned craft cocktails made with premium liquor and craft soda!
o Gearharts Chocolates Virginia Malt Whisky Truffles
o Joia Spirit Sparkling Cocktails
Resourceful Pride: On the truly innovative front are foods featuring ingredients sourced, well, resourcefully. In an era of heightened consciousness over food waste, entrepreneurs are turning former leftovers into ingredient stars. Dried coffee cherry husks, foraged heirloom apples and varietal grape seeds have found new life in specialty products like chocolate, cider, and even gluten-free flour.
o Shacksbury Cider Lost Apple Project
o Salute Santé Grapeseed Flour, Merlot & Chardonnay