I made a few predictions about emerging food trends before the annual Winter Fancy Food show, held in San Francisco January 19–21.
Having walked the show for three days, I can say I have found key indicators that these predictions are not only right on, but they are rapidly gaining velocity.
Before the event, the food industry started to buzz about single-serve meals. There is pressure to bring back the family meal, but the reality is that women aged 27 and up who live alone spend more than $50 billion on food and beverage. While I love the idea of prioritizing the time to sit down to an elaborate dinner with a large crowd, the convenience of a gourmet meal for one is too good to pass up. This trend can go either way in 2014, but it got my vote. I agreed with the SuperMarket Guru on this one. Better to cater to everyone in the family, even if it’s one family member at a time. My vote is on meals that make self-indulgence easy so you have a big smile on your face when you do have those busy, boisterous and love-filled meals…they are priceless, wonderful and memorable, but why deprive yourself when you don’t have to?
At the show we saw the return of Ramen, one of the most popular single-serve meals of all time. Lotus Foods introduced a healthier, heartier Rice Ramen version.
Wild Veggie purees produce for you so if you are cooking for one, you can use it for soups, smoothies, dips, sauces, appetizers or side dishes. The purees taste delicious and can easily be "doctored" with your taste preferences and what's in the fridge in mind.
Another trend popping up was “Midwest Cuisine.” All signs indicate that we are going back to basics, or at least we should. According to the Food Channel, local sourcing is directing us to the Midwestern Food Movement for steak and potatoes. I don’t personally eat steak and potatoes, but I do appreciate simple and authentic, hearty cooking. I was looking forward to seeing how this one played out.
Here is what I saw instead: the beginning of fish certifications. Namely, Acme Smoked Fish introduced “Harmoniously Raised” Verlasso Salmon, approved by the Monterrey Aquarium.
Unconventional cooking techniques had a presence. Whether it’s cooking in parchment paper, marinating sous vide or steaming in tea–everyone I spoke to, everywhere I went, was bragging about their alternative methods of preparing traditional meals. They want unusual and exotic meals conveniently…on their terms. PaperChef parchment paper brought originality and invention to this trend with culinary parchment products that make no-fuss cooking look fancy, including tricks for swanky presentation and simple steaming en papillote.
My most anticipated prediction to determine was whether or not this year would be the last year for cupcakes and bacon flavoring. Will junk food be beat by the health craze?
Not quite yet. Snacks are getting healthier though. Even gum. TreeHugger All Natural Bubble Gum is non-GMO. Ice pops gained traction. GoodPop rock, especially the hibiscus mint and banana cinnamon. These ice pops are so delicious that you can use as a quick snack or as a palate cleanser at the most elaborate of meals. Pretzel Perfection showed gluten-free 100 calorie snacks of Twice Baked Pretzel Stick flavors with natural herbs. Metered indulgence works and who knew gluten-free could taste so good.
The healthiest snacks are naturally grown. Blackberry Patch is making blackberries the new berry of choice.
Believe it or not, Prunes got past Grandma’s laxative image and are the latest healthy chic snack food showing up in very trend-setting places. So is nut butter. And they are getting more exotic. Jem Raw Chocolate has a nut butter tasting room.
There were loud whispers about ancient grains, heirloom varieties and foraged foods. Grains got a makeover at this show. Quinoa is getting more recognition as a breakfast food, not that Pereg introduced a quinoa cereal, but more people are eating it as a hi-h protein breakfast. Just-add-water oatmeal companies proliferate, but I was especially a impressed with the superfruits and branding of Modern Oats.
Chef Brands, International Foods
Two prominent trends I hadn’t thought about before the show and was delighted to see where influx of international foods and chef brands. I was excited to see new flavors introduced by Top Chef Stephanie Izard. Her sauces are amazing! Many popular brands overseas are repacking their indigenous foods to suit American tastes. Bandar makes sauces and chips in three most popular authentic Indian flavors and they feel, look and sound like they are an American brand...and they are!
Perhaps, the biggest discovery of the show is that not all honey is created equal. They are as diverse as wine and their flavor depends on the flowers the bees get their nectar from. Big Island Bee Company and Z Specialty Foods have honed in on this trend in different ways. One is from Hawaii and the other does quality sourcing around the world.
Let’s not neglect the beverage category. I am fascinated and titillated by how well-known and diverse Kobucha is getting. Kombucha Wonder Drink has become a popular choice for sparkling fermented tea I also have my eye on Matcha. There were more on the show floor than ever. Aiya has been making ceremonial green tea since 1888 and you can taste the difference.
Also in the tea category, Pukka Herbal Tea is bringing indulgent flavors that are natural and good for you. In the coffee category, Pronto!, a liquid coffee concentrate made from 100% Arabica beans, offers the personal experience of having a strong cup of joe, in a variety of flavors, at any time. Other beverages to watch include Volvic. This iconic water from France is making a comeback for its hydration benefits with minerals derived naturally from volvanic rock. Youthy Forever is a new juice-based nectar with Resveratrol to keep skin looking young and supple. Belvoir keeps bringing new Elderflower flavors to the U.S. keeping our mixologists busy with cocktail recipes.
I’m looking forward to dining on these food trends daily in 2014!
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Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm. Trent & Company grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives. A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit www.trentandcompany.com.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online, 1/27/14