The Winter Fancy Food Show definitely proved as good as it sounds. With sneaker laces tied tight, and tote bags ready for samples, we were excited to take on a two-day extravaganza of scouring the North and South halls of the San Francisco Moscone Center for this year’s top trends in the fancy food space.
Granted, by noon each day, our bellies were full and our backs achy, but nothing could stop us from checking out almost every one of the 1,500 exhibitors that came out to share over 1,000 new products this year (out of 80,000 different products showcased!). It was truly a mind-boggling assortment of the latest offerings in food and beverage.
As we wandered the halls and expo floors, several delicious trends presented themselves. Below, please find our Top Five Trends from the 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show:
1. Unlikely Spice Infusions
From jams to chocolates, appealing to the ‘hot’ lover was everywhere! Yes, Sriracha has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years – whether debuting as a new chip flavor or becoming a condiment staple at fine dining restaurants – but we’re talking about all spicy ingredients here: habanero marmalade, chili-dusted cookies, jalapeño-spiked cocktail syrups, and even cayenne-infused water!
2. Coconut… Front and Center!
Everywhere we looked, coconut was being used in unique ways, proving coconuts aren’t just great for hydrating waters but can make one heck of a yummy snack or ingredient. Coconut chips were the most popular, usually baked and combined with interesting pairings like sea salt or chocolate drizzle. Another common theme we saw were vendors sharing their use of coconut oil as an ingredient, or even cooking rice and other grains in coconut water to give them a little pizzazz. We even saw coconut meat being used as a tortilla alternative for wraps! We love this healthy “dry drupe” whether we’re snacking on it, drinking from it, or using it in our everyday recipes!
3. Asian Influence
If the immense popularity of Asian fusion in dining wasn’t enough to tip us off, we definitely felt it at the Winter Fancy Food Show. Dozens of brands made their debut with jarred, bottled, frozen, and bagged goodies inspired by old family recipes, together with Asian culture. We were excited to see multiple vendors serving seaweed as a stand-alone snack or combined with other ingredients as well as different takes on Naan, curry marinades, Filipino food, and South Korean sodas.
4. Cashews are Queen
Taking a leap from the honey roasted cashews we used to grab for 50 cents a bag off NYC food carts, cashews are back and better than ever! Showing up as the alpha nut this year we saw cashews more and more in trail mix combos, blended into dressings and butters, used as toppers for salads as well as dipped in chocolate and flavored salts. This energy-, antioxidant-, and vitamin-packed nut will definitely be popping up more in 2016.
Better Off Spread Ghirardelli Cashew
5. Pure Cane Sugar for the Win!
With an emphasis on natural and organic we noticed a lot of new brands pointing out that their products contained “no artificial ingredients, colors or flavors.” There was definitely a back-to-basics strategy this year with ingredients, and sugar was no different. Straying from the use of stevia, saccharin, or sucralose, brands were taking pride in the use of pure cane sugar as a sweetener for their foods and drinks.
Aside from all this trend spotting, sampling, and networking, the other headliner at this conference was: passion! You would expect this certainly from small purveyors, but it was also palpable from larger brands who were truly excited about their products, answering their consumers’ wants and needs, and bringing delightful treats to the masses.
Photo Credit: Martinan/Thinkstock