My Spotted Trends at the 2013 Fancy Food Show

Every December there are the countless articles from publications reviewing the past year’s food trends and trying to predict the food trends for the coming year. They should be waiting until January as this is the month that the food industry descends on San Francisco for the annual Fancy Food Show at Moscone Center.

The Fancy Food Show is put on by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) and is only open to people directly involved with the food industry. The show presents thousands of food and food related items that are often the precursor to what will be seen in supermarkets or at eateries in the near future. The exhibitors are generally food manufacturers or new startup companies that are trying to get the attention of the attendees: retail purchasers, restaurants and caterers, marketers and distributors, and the press.

$30,000 worth of saffron
Often times a good percentage of booths will be manned by new food startups. Food is the number one entrepreneurial area, especially during a bad economy. For many people who can’t find a job or are tired of what they’ve been doing, creating a food brand is an attractive way to a new career. The Fancy Food Show gives these entrepreneurs an opportunity to get their product in front of thousands of potential customers. Retail giants such as WalMart, Whole Foods and even QVC are scouting the aisles for the next big thing.

An example of the road from concept to grocery shelf is a product spotted a few years ago at the show. Many cooks are familiar with old school bouillon cubes used for recipes requiring broth or stock. The next generation came in the form of jars of concentrated stock pastes. The latest incarnation, seen at the Fancy Food Show in 2011, was concentrated stock in small, pre-measured, liquid pouches. Now Campbell Soups has taken the idea and you can find Swanson Flavor Boost pouches on your grocer’s shelves.

edible sprays
One trend that showcased the food entrepreneur was creating new versions of products already commonly found at the store. If a consumer wants to avoid all the chemical ingredients found in many items such as ketchup and frostings, then there were many new brands willing to fill that niche. A Sacramento area example would be The Frosting Queens out of Folsom. They made their first appearance at the 2011 show and this year they were joined by at least four new frosting companies. Annette, one of the sister owners, said that over the last two years they’ve changed their package sizes and flavors to better appeal to the mass market and to attract the major grocery retailers. Ketchup and other condiments were also found at a few booths.

Not all of the items and trends at the show will find their way to the average American home. Some items are geared for the culinary professionals. Such is the case of one trend: packaged molecular gastronomy. (Molecular gastronomy explores the transformation, either physically or chemically, of ingredients.) There were many new products that took ingredient flavors and packaged them into different mediums such as foams, sprays, crystals, and pearls. Now you can sprinkle rose flavored crystals or pearls over a fancy dessert or spray a mist of saffron flavoring as a garnish. These concentrated flavors take the time out of performing the lab techniques used to transform them. After all, they require a lot of equipment and time. It is much easier to buy it pre-packaged in a can or jar. 

Halo halo ice cream bars!
Some other trends I noted: the rise of Fillipino food (yay!), lots of salts and salt blocks, an explosion in the non-alcoholic drink area, whether it be healthy, fizzy, or even both.

Each year the Top 5 Trends of the show are selected by a panel of Trendspotters. The 2013 selections were: Botanical Beverages, Oil Nouveau, So Many Seeds, Top Banana, and Blue Cheese Redux. Not all of the predicted trends pan out during the year. Sometimes it will be several years before the average consumer will see them. But for the food industry, the Fancy Food Show is the place to spot and be spotted first.

the proper way to display gelato
flavored syrups

cheese and butter making kits

flavor pearls