Just when you think you’ve gotten through the most food-filled time of year, the Fancy Food Show descends upon the Bay Area and rears its tasty and gluttonous head.
This amazingly large annual show takes up two entire Moscone Center expo halls and contains 80,000 food and beverage products, 1,300 exhibitors and 17,000 attendees. This thing was so big that two of the three parking lots within a three block radius were completely full.
All the food companies large and small were vying for your attention and hoping you’ll either sell their products in your food stores or talk and write about their products in your publication.
How do they do that? Well, like they would in the fashion business, they try and convince you their product(s) are the next big thing in the food world. They set the tone for what you see in your local market and create the newest food trends (think spicy, organic, or antioxidant-rich food items in recent years).
So what’s up and coming in food? Here’s some of what I saw:
- Asian food is still where food purveyors turn to for new product ideas, but there’s a twist this year. The new darlings of the moment are Indian and Korean foods. Brands like Sukhi's and Tandoor Chef were making sure everyone in the area had a taste of their frozen Indian food entrees and meals. And Annie Chun's, which is a brand that traditionally focuses on Chinese meals, was branching out into Korean marinades and meal kits.
- Asian snacks also tried to make a splash at this year’s event. Items like a black sesame candy, which is a popular snack in China, took an American spin by getting a good coating of dark chocolate, courtesy of the folks at Bissinger’s. And rice crackers and candies are usually something you’ll find at a typical Asian market, but vendors were trying to get them into the American mainstream.
- Tea is still the hot commodity as far as beverages go, but gone are the white and green tea infusions. This year I saw a plethora of traditional herbal teas fused with fruit flavors to create unusual and creative tea combos like Blackcurrant and Cardamom, Milk Oolong and Apricot and Honey from the folks at Novato’s Republic of Tea, as well as more infusions like Chamomile and Citrus and Organic Café Orange from the San Rafael company, Mighty Leaf.
- Candy is a trend that will NEVER go away. This year’s sweets had herbs, energy boosting power, or even health benefits. I tried everything from pumpkin and sunflower seed candies covered in dark chocolate from Bissinger’s to "Sport Beans" from Jelly Belly which look like the Red Bull of candies, giving you an energy kick.
- Ginger is definitely the ingredient of the moment, marrying health benefits with that exotic Asian flavor. It was in candy, sauces, teas, foods, and everything else in between. My favorite, though, were the ginger, lemon and yuzu flavored gummy pandas from Bissinger’s.
Though many of the brands at the show weren’t exactly mainstream yet, some can currently be found at Whole Foods, Mollie Stone’s, or Draeger’s. And if you wanted to order a few bags of this or a couple of boxes of that for yourself, you can always order something directly from the vendors' websites.
The economy has made everyone cautious, and the food world is no exception, which is why most of the trends I saw were variations of what I’ve seen in the past. And although I didn’t see anything outrageous, it seemed perfectly appropriate not to. It was trendy this year to take what we’ve already got and make it better.