Exciting Trends and Innovations Abound at Specialty Food Association’s 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show
The 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 25-27 at the Javits Center in New York City, remains the premier place to spot the newest trends in specialty food. After all, with more than 2,600 exhibitors from around the world showcasing 180,000 different specialty food and beverage products, it’s the largest specialty food trade show in North America. With such an array to consider, the Specialty Food Association Trendspotter Panel had quite a job exploring the show floor daily to discover on-trend product innovations.
The Trendspotter panel brought together diverse perspectives from retail, foodservice, and culinary education, and included Ken Blanchette, FreshDirect; Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University; Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market; Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation; and Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market.
“Overall, consumers are seeking out better-for-you foods and beverages made with quality ingredients. They want to make a good choice, even when indulging,” said Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association. “For instance, they are looking for foods that give them added servings of vegetables or are good sources of protein or have a health benefit. But they also need to be convenient as frequent snacking and meals-on-the-go are the common ways consumers eat now. And above all, they need to taste good.”
“The Trendspotters’ picks reflect current food, beverage, and consumer trends,” said Purcell. “Categories like beverages and snack bars, for example, have grown over the past two years, according to our latest State of the Specialty Food Industry research, and are forecasted to continue to grow. This list reflects that with new coffee, tea, and sparkling beverage introductions, as well as savory bars.”
“Plant-based foods and beverages are another area of growth and innovation,” she continued. “At the Summer Show, not only did exhibitors showcase plant-, tree-, and nut-based products across categories from waters to cheese and meat alternatives to chips, but we also saw a glimpse into the future of food within the Taste Tomorrow section of LevelUP, a new interactive attraction that looked at the future of food, consumers, and commerce. There we saw that plant-based foods are being used in everything from seaweed pastrami to edible algae.”
Here are the Trendspotters’ picks of on-trend product innovations from the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show:
New and Creative Beverages
- Afineur, Cultured Coffee. Biotechnology company using controlled natural fermentations. “Brand new to market. The double fermentation process is attractive for people who love coffee, but may have stomach issues with the traditional brewing process.” — Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market
- The Hudson Standard, Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub. Based on a Colonial American tradition of blending fruit, spices, vinegar, and sweetener to make a concentrated syrup. Using New York state organic apple cider vinegar and local strawberries and rhubarb, the shrub is an ideal balance of sweet and tart. “Refreshing, spritzy, and flavorful.” — Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation
- The Owl’s Brew, Radler. Organic, no artificial ingredients. Premium beers blended with fresh-brewed organic teas, infused with real fruits and botanicals. Reported to be the first-ever line of tea paired beer and the first stand-alone line of Radlers on the market. “A refreshing and light beverage. We loved the array of flavors that were presented and it’s definitely marketed towards women.” — Perla Nieves & Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market
- Smith & Salmon, Sap! Birch Soda: Organic, non-GMO, gluten free. Sparkling birch sap beverage. “There are so many exciting trends in just one can! This line is expanding from the maple soda and seltzers to include the whole forest. This new birch water soda is made by tapping the sap from birch trees, which offers a subtle caramel flavor in this light bubbly drink. It’s also an excellent and innovative example of sparkling drinks or waters with low sugar and plant-based or health-focused ingredients. This entire can has only 25 calories and 6 grams of sugar.” — Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market
- SunUp, Green Coffee. Premium, organic, tea-style drink made from unroasted coffee beans. “Loved the fact that it has the caffeine of cold brew, but tastes and digests more like tea. The unsweetened is very tasty! We’re always looking for zero sugar options.” — Ken Blanchette, FreshDirect
- Lebby Chickpea Snacks, Dark Chocolate. Gluten-free, vegan, kosher. Lebby chickpeas are roasted through a process that was perfected over centuries to give a great texture and flavor. Chickpeas are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals and contain 70% less fat than roasted peanuts. Flavored with natural ingredients. “These chocolate- covered chickpeas were really unexpectedly delicious.” — Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation
- Rooted Food Co., Popped Lotus Seeds. Gluten-free. The lotus flower is a giant lily found in wetlands and contains edible seeds known for their medicinal and nutritional value, Rooted Food Co. roasts and flavors them. “Loved the cheddar and chive, and jalapeno varieties. The size of the snack bag was great, and I loved the natural variety in sizes of the seed puffs.” — Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market
- Sheffa Foods, Savory Bars. Gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher, low in sodium and sugars. Whole-grain brown rice partnered with quinoa, millet, amaranth, chickpeas, and sunflower seeds, with a touch of olive oil that creates a crunchy, perfectly seasoned bar made without sweeteners or fruits. “The savory bar has been the holy grail for bar makers and these guys nail it.” — Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University
- Miyoko’s Kitchen, Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash Cultured Nut Cheese. Organic, non-GMO, free of cholesterol, lactose, egg, gluten and soy. Coated in black ash with a dense, smooth, creamy texture, and a mildly tangy, buttery sweetness. “Super rich and very on trend in every way—ash-rind cheeses, plant-based products, non-dairy. It hits on all cylinders!” — Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market
- Nanduto Home Cooking, Cassava Leaves Jerky. From Indonesia-based Nanduto Home Cooking (imported by Jawa Import). “The cassava leaf jerky is almost like a thin rice cracker; it's crunchy and savory, with just the right amount of spice. The use of cassava leaf is unexpected and innovative.” — Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation
Healthful Meals on-the-Go
- Cucina and Amore, Farro Meal. Preservative-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan (except Basil Pesto). Ready-to-eat quinoa meals in four different flavors. Comes with fully cooked quinoa, mix-in sauce, and a spoon. Enjoy as is or heat it up in its microwaveable cup. "Farro Meal stuck out to us as the most trendy for the 'person on the go.' The concept makes being healthy effortless with a blend of farro and veggies in a microwavable container." — Perla Nieves & Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market
- Fawen Ready-to-Drink Soup, Broccoli and Cauliflower. Organic, vegan, gluten-free, no added sugar, no artificial preservatives, kosher. Drinkable soup in an eco-friendly bottle. “Among the many drinkable soups I saw over the past few days, in cardboard pourable packaging and single-serving ‘drink’ bottles, this one stood out for the flavor, as well as the addition of turmeric, an ingredient that is also trending. It also stood out to me for the use of cauliflower, an ingredient that is so popular in the restaurant industry right now.” — Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation
- One Culture Foods, Ramen Cups. Non-GMO, free of artificial flavors. Microwaveable ramen bowls with a variety of influences: spicy Japanese bowl, Taiwanese beef, Vietnamese pho, and Chinese chicken noodle. “The brand incorporates some really smart details. The Japanese spicy ramen is made with a bone-broth reduction, the optional salt packed allows for nice customization, and everything is compartmentalized. Their packaging is also fantastic.” — Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market
- Smart Harvest, Organic Fruit and Vegetable Smoothie Blends. Organic, non-GMO, no added sugar, non-diary, gluten-free. Quick frozen, resealable pouches are a convenient way to make a delicious smoothie. “Easy, more variety, large distinctive pieces.” — Ken Blanchette, FreshDirect
- Tsubi Soup, Spicy Red Miso. Gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, no MSG, fully traceable farm to fork. Freeze-dried instant soup cube that delivers the delicious and nutritional benefits of authentic Japanese miso in an easy-to-make, single-serve package. “Plant based, nothing artificial, delicious, easy, just add hot water to dry cake.” — Ken Blanchette, FreshDirect
About the Trendspotter Panel:
Kenneth Blanchette, FreshDirect
Blanchette is Director of Sourcing for online grocer FreshDirect where the travels the world sourcing curated products. On recent sourcing trips through Italy, Ken selected Olio Novello, farm and field specific tomatoes in Campania, and DOP prosciutto and roasted meats from Emilia-Romagna.
Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University
Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., is professor of culinary arts & food science at Drexel University. He oversees Drexel Food Lab, a good food R&D lab. He is the author or editor of six books including “Barbecue: A Global History” (with Megan Elias). He can also be found behind his tuba.
Perla Nieves & Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market
Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez are long-time friends and Jersey City, N.J. residents. Originally from Central New Jersey, they moved to Jersey City to seek opportunity and become part of a vibrant urban community. Alysis, the owner and chef of Chilltown Kitchen, has been featured on Food Network’s Chopped and boasts 14 years in the hospitality industry. Perla has a background in social media marketing and currently works as an assistant property manager for Silverman. They opened Midnight Market with the vision of creating a more accessible Jersey City for small businesses and the community at large.
Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation
Alison Tozzi Liu oversees publications, communications, and marketing at the James Beard Foundation. In her 12 years at JBF, she has helped grow the Foundation’s social media and multimedia programs and helped increase awareness of the James Beard Foundation across the country.
Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market
As global senior coordinator of local brands, product innovation & development, Elly Truesdell leads strategic partnerships for local purchasing programs across Whole Foods Market. Her expertise in food trends and brand development grew from her eight years of leadership in purchasing and marketing at Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region. Elly made her mark by identifying and launching local products, overseeing the Northeast’s grocery program, and cultivating emerging suppliers for national distribution. When she’s not discovering new brands, she spends her time cooking, traveling, hiking, and enjoying life with friends and family.