January 22, 2014
Earlier this week I had a chance to walk through San Francisco’s Moscone Center at the annual Winter Fancy Food Show. Believe it or not, taste-testing the different products was not the highlight of the trip. Top 3 Observations My main goal of going to the Fancy Food Show every year is to get a ‘feel’ for the lay of the specialty food land. Mainly, what I’m looking for is what’s coming down the pipeline, what sorts of trends are emerging, and what are people talking about? I’m going to have a more comprehensive report next week after I’ve had a little more time to collect my thoughts and notes, but a few things jumped out at me this year:
The Year Of The Pepper
Peppers are hot. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. Hot peppers are being put in and on everything. Chipotle bloody mary mix, chili-lime jerky, jalapeno popcorn, and now even multiple types of flaked peppers – as opposed to pepper seeds – that you can purchase in pepper grinders should you be in the mood to top your steak with…say…a little habanero pepper!
What’s Old Is New Again
You thought crock pots making a comeback was a blast from the past – ancient grains make crock pots look like the new kid in town. Ancient grains, and the implied health benefits of those grains, were everywhere this year. Not only can you now more easily find them in bulk, but these ancient grains are being given a more mainstream spin thanks to things like pasta made from quinoa, Southern-style spices mixed with faro, and granola made from heritage oats. Just in case you were questioning whether ancient grains had really come mainstream or not, there was even a chocolate bar with quinoa!
Asian flavors were everywhere this year. Research shows that Americans are more open than ever to spicy flavors and that was evident with the influx of Asian-inspired products and flavors that were being showcased. This included wasabi-soy popcorn, Thai coconut popcorn (both of which were from different companies), Thai-coconut pumpkin ketchup (yep!), and lots of coconut-cardamom flavor combos.
I mentioned that taste-testing my way through two giant convention halls wasn’t the highlight of the trip and that’s true. While that was tasty, the highlight really was running into companies that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the years. Folks like The Jam Stand and Unbound Pickling who were interviewed on this site a while ago, Toffee Talks who had shared with us their social media tips and tricks (and who were recently featured in Sunset Magazine!), and even a local vendor I know who started as a farmers’ market booth, built a retail space with some help from Kickstarter, and is now exhibiting at the Fancy Food Show (and who I hope to feature in a future Entrepreneur Spotlight). It’s exciting to see these companies grow and become even more successful. Obviously it’s not easy and those entrepreneurs have worked very hard to get to where they are, but it does show that with a little perseverance, the little guys can play ball with the big brands. Related Articles: