Fancy Food Show: Healthy fare, bold flavors dominate


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Americans' insatiable quest for healthier snacks and broader acceptance of bolder flavors were among the biggest influences at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City this week.

The semi-annual trade show, now in its 61st year, featured some 2,400 exhibitors and more than 24,000 attendees.

The event is where artisan food start-ups showcase their newest offerings, and grocery buyers and professional trend spotters can begin to assess what customers might want. It can take years, however, for some of these products and those inspired by current trends to make their way to restaurant-chain menus and big-name grocery stores.

Thanks in part to major retailers such as Target, Kroger and Costco continuing to embrace specialty foods, and growing consumer interest in natural ingredients, the industry had more than $109 billion in sales in 2014 across retail and food service, up nearly 22% from 2012, according to a report from the Specialty Food Association and Mintel.

The five top trends spotted at this summer's show, according to the Specialty Food Association:

Gazpacho

•Beets (seen in salsa, hummus and snack bars)

•Floral-inspired food

•Cocktail culture (featuring such exotic alcohol-inspired products as hop pickles and a Manhattan gelato)

•Corn, which the show calls "the maize craze."

USA TODAY found four more trends bubbling to the surface:

Alternative chips: Americans love to snack — chips, pretzels and other snacks are the fourth-largest category of specialty food sales according to the trade group's survey — but growing concerns over processed foods have consumers looking for healthy alternatives. Seen at the show: chips made from quinoa, lentils, naan and chickpeas, aimed at Millennials' adventurous palates. Products included Naan Chips from Bandar and Sweet Chili Chickpea Chips from Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods.

Maple flavors: Just as big food manufacturers and restaurant chains are offering products that contain less sugar, smaller companies are looking to cut it out as well. The latest sugar-alternative craze: premium maple syrups, water and more. Products included Drinkmaple's maple water, which the company touts as having half the sugar of coconut water, and a range of options from Tonewood, including Maple Flakes, a sweetener that can be added to a variety of foods, and Maple Cube, meant for shaving onto food like oatmeal and yogurt.

Ethnic-inspired convenient foods: "I've seen a real uptick in global, regional meals that are very convenient for the American consumer," says Kara Nielsen, culinary director at advertising and consulting agency Sterling-Rice Group and a member of the Specialty Food Association's panel of trend spotters.

Everything from Greek vegetable moussaka to Indian chicken samosas is getting the frozen treatment to make for easy eating. Middle Eastern, African and Asian flavors are also showing up in sauces and soups, such as a ready-made Thai Curry & Lime Broth from Nona Lim, and Savory Masala Popcorn with Papadums from Masala Pop.

Old-fashioned desserts: Consumers are moving away from wacky flavor combinations in favor of simple, comfort-food desserts that feature recognizable ingredients, says Louise Kramer, spokeswoman for the Specialty Foods Association. Products included Organic Molten Chocolate Cake from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, Vegan Hot Fudge from Coop's MicroCreamery and numerous kinds of ginger cookies.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/07/01/fancy-food-show-top-trends/29519493/


Dori Ross

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