Top 10 Trends From the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show

Experiencing the Specialty Food Association's summer show, taste by taste

Published in Convenience Store Products

Pat Cobe, Senior Editor, Restaurant Business

NEW YORK -- Temptation beckoned with every step I took (and I counted tens of thousands) as I tasted my way around the mammoth Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, where the Summer Fancy Food Show was held June 29 - July 1.

Over two days, I sampled wares from 2,730 exhibitors and had a fine time filling my belly (really, overfilling) with chocolate, cheese, ice cream and hot sauce, not to mention pate, bacon, cookies and ethnic foods from far and wide. It was all for a good cause: to share the 10 hottest trends in the specialty sector. Here’s what’s happening on the other side.

1. The heat is on

Sriracha was the “it” hot condiment of the past couple of years, showing up on menus in everything from sub sandwiches to barbecued ribs. There were plenty more sriracha line extensions at the show, including sun-dried tomato ketchup, sea salt, tortilla chips, cheese straws, meat rubs, horseradish mustard and popcorn, all incorporating the fiery red sauce. There also was green sriracha made with serrano chilies, plus several other types of peppers emerging in products to scorch taste buds. Some examples: apple ghost chili salt caramels and ghost pepper barbecue sauce; Hatch chile pesto and Hatch chile popcorn; bird’s eye chili hot sauce; Hungarian goathorn peppers in brine; mango-ginger habanero sauce; and banana pepper mustard.

2. Chips with a different crunch

Perhaps inspired by the demand for healthier, baked snacks, there were plenty of crunchy alternative chips on the show floor. Packaged chips labeled as chickpea, quinoa, sprouted multigrain zatar, spicy falafel, kale and chia, popped cassava and pink pomegranate filled the aisles. All these new-age chips have the added enticement of gluten-free credentials. Served with a bowl of salsa or hummus instead of the standard tortilla chips or pita bread, they are a differentiator.

3. Vegetables go undercover

Kale and quinoa chips seem like a no-brainer—these two “healthy halo” ingredients are soaring on QSR and fast-casual menus. Restaurant customers may be even more inclined to choose dishes with healthful ingredients when they’re cleverly and creatively disguised in more familiar foods. The popularity of kale has prompted manufacturers to integrate it into products as diverse as popcorn (which turns it green) and pizza. Also seen and tasted: a spiced beet finishing vinegar; tangy vegetable yogurts in flavors including beet, butternut squash, carrot and sweet potato; energy bars in varieties such as sun-dried tomato, basil and black olive with walnuts; seasoning blends made with eight “undercover veggies” to sprinkle on dishes; and savory teas in flavors such as tomato-mint and spinach-chive. I don’t know how much nutrition you can get from a vegetable-infused cup of tea, but food companies seem to be banking on vegetables as a way to sell product.

4. Jerky perks up

We recently reported on how jerky has been seriously upgraded from c-store meat sticks to a house-cured menu item on par with salume. As further evidence of the trend, beef jerky was on display at the show in several iterations, flavored with everything from Japanese curry to crushed chilies and dried fruits, most of it sourced from grass-fed cattle. Also to nibble was turkey jerky, wild salmon jerky and venison jerky, all with that handcrafted, housemade presentation.


alternative snacks
By Pat Cobe, Senior Editor, Restaurant Business
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