Musing: Stand-Outs from the 2018 Fancy Foods Show
July 7, 2018

Spending a day at the NY Summer Fancy Foods Show is a sensory overload- but an experience I relish, as I’ve been attending the annual Show for most of the past 25 years.

There are thousands of exhibitors from around the world, packed into 4 floors of the  Javits Center.

Because of the enormity of the Convention and the limited time I have to spend there I plan my visits ahead of time to focus on a select handful of categories or companies, wear comfortable shoes, and pace myself as I take in a multitude of tastes, aromas and stories from entrepreneurs, as well as larger companies who exhibit primarily to showcase their products to the trade. My lenses are not that of a food buyer, but as a market researcher and creative catalyst working with many clients to help them develop product pipelines or hone their positioning or messaging.

My tour visit lenses this year: scanning for macro trends, plus focus on the world of snacks (savory and sweet) and beverages. I was not disappointed!

There were dozens of exhibitors that were intriguing to me, from the moment I entered the convention hall.

My first stop was at the Alpha Food Labs Future Market Exhibit. The interactive concept store presented a variety of trends as product concepts of the future. The macro trends include:  total personalization/customization, sustainability, re-use. Among the exciting imagined products of the future…

  • Custom Culture– precision microbiome yogurt designed to meet the individual’s precise needs
  • Analyze me– via pills that conduct an analysis of an individual’s microbiome
  • Alga Marina– sea nutrition based pasta
  • Nano Farm, an aeroponic horticulture system that allows you to grow farm-fresh foods at home
  • Aquapur– eco-friendly hydration using “ghost plastic” packaging- which does not use plastic
  • Refuel– precision nutrition 3D food printing cartridge which calibrates the individual’s nutritional needs to the microgram
  • Trim Snack– each bag contains 2 oz. of “food waste”- zesty BBQ crunchy veggie chips and jerky mix

Continuing a theme of the last decade, an emphasis on “Healthy” foods was pervasive. The majority of products I noticed contained a long list of “No bad ingredients.” (Organic or all Natural, non-GMO, gluten free, nondairy, or were targeted to specific diets: Vegan, Paleo.) Furthermore, the line between “good for you” and functional foods or nutraceuticals is blurred. But taste is still important!

Among the intriguing “healthy” snacks…

  • Eat Real organic veggie twists, lentil chips, hummus chips, quinoa puffs
  • Aree almond rice snacks had delicious combos in their new Crisp ‘n Chips line: black pepper & mustard, Sriracha & Cheese, Butter & Corn, Rosemary & Tomato, Barbeque & Salty Vinegar
  • LUKES featured organic white truffle & sea salt potato chips (“urbani Italian white truffles with french grey guerande fleur du sel salt) with this appropriate tag line: “Snack like a kid live like a grown up.”
  • Living Intentions offered ACTIVATED Superfood Nut Blend: Honey Sriracha, Thai Curry, White Chocolate, Malted Maple

These ingredients popped up in a wide range of snacks and other product categories:

  • Quinoa
  • Turmeric
  • Mushrooms
  • Coconut
  • Maple syrup
  • Hemp
  • Chick Peas
  • Flax seeds

From the snack world: Undercover Quinoa– dark chocolate and seeds– crispy organic quinoa lightly covered with premium chocolate or milk chocolate and currants.

Yes, chocolate is good for you! Especially when it’s dark chocolate, organic, single origin, paired with a Superfruit or super grain.

Natierra offered organic chocolate mango, banana slices – “real fruit with Amazon rainforest chocolate.”

Even traditional, hand-made pasta is being contemporized with health-focused ingredients: hemp, chick pea, flax seed, brown bean and spirulina.

A newcomer to the grain world is FONIO– a West African supergrain which, according to the exhibitor, “has an impressive nutritional profile.” One to watch for.

Super fruits and Super veggies continue to be strong with Acai Roots presenting the Super fruit Lifestyle…”More than a berry. A lifestyle.” The lifestyle is symbolized by a beautiful athletic looking woman eating a bowl of Acai Roots Superfood Bowls. The Bowls are also available in hemp, coco nibs and goji berry flavors.

Maple Syrup is not just for pancakes and waffles. Continuing a trend seen the last few years, it’s become a more sophisticated and versatile ingredient. Runamok Maple has their Sugarmaker’s Cut (the best of the season). It’s a line of barrel-aged, smoked and infused maple syrups.  Flavors include: smoked with pecan wood, hibiscus flower infused, cardamom infused, merquén infused – (merquén is an ancient spice with smoked chili peppers from Chile). It’s a delicious ingredient for vinaigrettes, BBQ, mixed into sweet potatoes or with cheese.

In the world of beverages, shots are hot!  

  • Ginger People has three Rescue shots from which to choose: ginger shot with coconut, with wild turmeric and with lemon & cayenne.
  • Fire & Brew has a line of premium health tonics that strengthen the immune system- Vitality Boosters with apple cider vinegar comes in citrus, chai, and strawberry.
  • Kings & Queens: offers antioxidant adaptogenic teas in peach, blackberry and lemon, that are based on the “seriously functional immune system boosting power of mushrooms.”
  • Mingle: presented delightful handcrafted sparkling mocktails; these are nonalcoholic with natural botanicals for use as mocktails or mixers. Flavors: Moscow Mule, Melon Mojito, Cranberry Cosmo, Blackberry Hibiscus Bellini.

Two of the most intriguing, innovative products were in the water category:

  • ASARASI presented USDA Organic water harvested from trees! Sparkling and still waters that are sustainable and renewable. The water is a bi-product after 100% of the sugar is removed from the maple sap.
  • O. Vine offered wine grape infused water- now there’s a combo of two of my favorite beverages! The delicious nose of white or red wine in a non-alcoholic, fresh clean still or sparkling water beverage.

Often the story behind the food is the compelling idea, and there were many fascinating tales of the founders and impetus behind products. Some were developed by desired to create healthy alternatives for children or for people with food intolerances, others were driven by social mission.

Ziba products from Afghanistan had two offerings at the Show:  Afghani Sun Dried Kandahar Figs and Shakhurbai Almonds– roasted & salted. They are “biodynamic superfoods, sustainably sourced, nutrient dense”; but perhaps more important is that they are dedicated to “improving the lives of women and farmers in Afghanistan.” The women and their photos are on the back of each package.

Want to know more? Send me a note or call.

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

laurie@practical-imagination.com

908-237-2246

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Musings: Themes & Trends of the 2012 Fancy Foods Show in DC
June 26, 2012

Dear Readers;

I haven’t begun to sort through all my notes from two intense days wandering the aisles of the NASFT Fancy Foods Show that was held in Washington, DC last week. This was the 58th summer show; I’ve attended about 19 of them in the past, although I missed the last two years because of work conflicts.

It’s always a thrill, and an overwhelming sensory experience to be immersed in so many different cultures, categories, worlds of food and beverages. A glance at the exhibitors and attendees tells the melting pot story: stiletto-heeled couture attired “beautiful” people doling out the finest in caviars; Birkenstock comfy vegans touting the latest longevity ingredient filled power bars; traditional Mennonite families presenting meats, cheeses and wholesome delicacies from the family farm; elegantly suited men seated in small booths making food import deals from all over the globe– Italy, Turkey, Tunisia, Poland, to name just a few. Spend some time at the Fancy Foods Show and you travel the world! The problem for me is that sensory and belly overload happen pretty quickly, so I’ve learned to take in the show in small morsels of time and walk in with pre-set lenses of categories that I most want to explore. Of course when it’s over, I regret that I couldn’t do more!

The aftermath of the Show is rich with reviewing notes, making connections and sending ideas off to various food and beverage clients, reading the pounds of literature that I gathered while there and the mountains that will come later by email and hard copy …for years.

This is my no means an exhaustive list, but some starting points of what was most interesting to me. In a sense not a whole lot was really NEW. In spite of my two years away; I saw more of a continuation of trends I’ve been following for years. Here are a Baker’s Dozen of my notables…

  1. A macro trend is how BIG and diverse some formerly “staple” foods have become—like salt, mustard, butter, and jams.  Now, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of varieties of each have been developed to appeal to every palate and pocketbook.
  2. “Single” is a new buzzword. Single source, singe origin, single variety, single garden tea, and single muscle meat. That seemed new to me, especially in the diverse categories in which it was singled out! Coffee, chocolate, wines, olive oil, meats, cheese, were just a few.
  3. Salty and sweet, savory and sweet like sea salt flavored chocolates were in abundance. That’s definitely a flavor profile that’s become more pervasive from where it was a few years back. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream flavor Salty Caramel, just one of many yummy examples.
  4. There was a lot of excitement in frozen desserts—ice creams, gelato, sorbet, with celebrity chefs like Mario Batali presenting a taste luxurious line including Roman Swirl and Blood Orange.  The real surprise for me though was just how much I liked the beer flavored gelato!
  5. The combination of upscale and down home seem beautifully melded in Good Taste Kitchen’s Brie & Fig Mac & Cheese, and also in David’s Peanut Butter and Jam Bites (enrobed in Belgian chocolate.)
  6. The quest for innovative good taste while watching calories was still very present with items like Skinny Dippers Plantain Chips.
  7. Nostalgia was in the air with foods, messaging and old-fashioned package designs, like the Scrumptious Pantry’s “Do you heirloom…?” catsup and pickles.
  8. The food as medicine theme still in vogue with items like: Get Burning Herb Tea for metabolism. And Republic of Tea’s: Get Young and Get Probiotic teas
  9. Whimsy was present with products from the Truffle Pig including little mint chocolate chip bars sculpted to look like a little pig.

10. Waters plus were certainly present with many players including Aloe Water, Goji Water and CocoWater from Thailand.

11. Growing gets personal with Bissinger’s handcrafted chocolates and their campaign of smiling faces…”Do you know Who Grows Your Cocoa?”

12. In the “mysterious technology” department I put Enzo’s nitrogen sealed, extra virgin olive oil. Honestly, I have no idea what that does, but the package was gorgeous!

13. But the piece de resistance perhaps, not for my taste buds, but in terms of strangeness was Blackwater Fulvic Enriched Mineral Water.  This is a fulvic and humic acid electrolyte drink, a natural organic complex of 77 micro trace minerals and electrolytes.” In short the drink is supposed to energize and revitalize. I can’t tell from personal experience whether or not it delivered, but I can say how odd it felt to me to be drinking black water. Now I sometimes drink black coffee, even iced, so I’m not prejudiced against a dark liquid. Part of the disconnect for me was the lack of other strong sensory and aroma cues that I would normally expect from a dark colored liquid (like red wine, for example.)

There’s more to tell…in future articles.

My net out recommendation: even if you’re not in the food industry, you might find the experience and the ideas inspired by spending a day at a food show like this well worth the time and effort. Mark your calendar for next Summer. The Fancy Foods Show will be back at the Javits Center in New York.

Bon Appetite!

Laurie Tema-Lyn

laurie@practical-imagination.com