Specialty Food Show

Observations from the Summer Fancy Food Show 2017.

Having just returned from the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC, I’m excited to share some of the discoveries we made on the show floor. This year the show featured over 2,600 exhibitors from around the world. The first day of the show felt like an overwhelming smorgasbord of delights to sample and share but by day three, there were some clear themes and trends presenting themselves amid the festivities.

At the highest level, brands featuring health and wellness claims as well as those boasting authenticity continue to grow and thrive in specialty foods. No big surprise there. Digging a little deeper, here are five emerging trends (and corresponding brands) to watch.

  1. Plant Protein. It’s everywhere and in wide variety of formats. Some of it, such as the plant based “tuna” made by Good Catch Foods is so tasty it is difficult to discern from true tuna. And it’s not just in fish, meat, and milk substitute products. Plant-based products are emerging in beverages, cheeses, condiments and even desserts at breakneck speed. Two of the best that I tried at the show were, Incredible perfectlyfree non-dairy frozen bites (think mochi but even better) and Miyoko’s Kitchen Fresh VeganMozz. I am not vegan but with alternatives like these, the option looks better and better!
  2. Water water everywhere. With soft drink category shrinking, it seems all that shelf space could easily be filled with dozens of varieties of functional and flavorful water. Tree-based waters such as maple and birch waters seem to be on the rise as evidenced in brands such as Treo, a delicious organic birch water infused with fruit. Other fast-risers in this expanding category appear to be variations on sparkling water such as Spindrift, which is flavored with real fruit juice.
  3. Evolution of Coffee and Tea. Cold-brew isn’t new anymore but its evolution continues in the ready-to-drink format with interesting new introductions from companies like Sunup who have created a green coffee from unroasted coffee beans. Noting it’s green-tea-like appearance, I admit I was skeptical but the taste was delicious. Slightly bitter like coffee but very smooth and it packs antioxidants and as much caffeine as a cold-brew. Bonus! In ready-to-drink tea, my clear favorite among the many brands I tried was Argo. The Carolina Honey flavor was the perfect amount of natural sweetness.

4. Gourmet in a box or kit. Several new launches were discovered at the intersection of convenience and homemade/ gourmet. A clear winner in this space were Callie’s Charleston Biscuits a line of fully cooked and frozen biscuits with mouthwatering Southern flavors such as sharp cheddar, country ham, black pepper bacon and shortcakes. Two more notable examples of this trend were found in the Chameleon Cold Brew Coffee kit that includes a mason jar and eight coffee pods and The Curious Creamery line of “no-machine-needed” ice cream mix. At the show, they sampled the unflavored variety made with coffee instead of water, milk or juice and the result was outstanding.  Both of these are sure to satiate our need to make our own creations with the convenience of pre-packaged ingredients.

5. Craft Ramen? There are two words I never thought I would use together but truly the 10-cent packs of ramen that formed the basis of my college diet are a far cry from the delicious varieties I sampled at the show.  Brands included Mike’s Mighty Good and One Culture but my favorite by far was Sun Noodles and their newly launched Wiki Wiki line of single-serve noodles that claim a prep time of 3 minutes. They were tasty!

Outside of these five trends, there were a few more noteworthy products that certainly worth a taste.

Handcrafted Pesto by Blue Moose of Boulder is a delicious treat that tastes like fresh basil straight from the garden.  In fact, if you get a chance, taste any their delicious small-batch hummus and spreads. Another one of my favorites was the Red Pepper Artichoke Cheddar Spread. The name says it all!

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is raising the bar on frozen side dishes. Their Smoked Mac n Cheese and Queso Fundido are swoon-worthy. Their products are made with their handmade artisan cheeses so they are a bit more expensive but oh-so-worth-it.

All in all, the Summer Fancy Food Show 2017 had a lot to offer attendees and gave us some clear direction on where the market is headed. What did you discover?

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