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Kale pops, mixology top specialty food trends

By MICHELLE GROENKE, United Press International   |   July 14, 2013 at 5:01 AM   |   Comments

Bacon -- by itself, mixed with chocolate or any other concoction -- is still a force with which to be reckoned in the foodie world, but specialty foodmakers are betting their spin on healthier products such as kale, chia seeds and seaweed will take grocery stores by storm in the next year.

Kalelicious Smoothie Pops were among the top food trends giving bacon a run for its money this year at the 59th Summer Fancy Food Show June 30-July 2 in New York, said Louise Kramer, communications director for the Specialty Food Association.

When the non-profit trade association, formerly known as the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, was started in 1952, importers were providing the exotic products, trying to find U.S. markets for their French Brie and Italian prosciutto at a time when U.S. mass market tastes trended toward American cheese and sliced bologna. Now exotic cheeses are made in Vermont and Wisconsin and there is great charcuterie coming out of Iowa and New York.

The trade association represents more than 3,000 members in the United States and abroad. This year's show featured 180,000 products from more than 2,400 food manufacturers, importers and entrepreneurs.

"It was our largest show in every measure: space, attendees, exhibits," Kramer told UPI.

The youthful energy at the show was palpable, Kramer said, with so many young entrepreneurs entering the market with products that are fueled by a passion for great food that has been nurtured by recent food trends and the DIY culture that has been embraced by hipsters and other 20-and-30-somethings.

"The trend at the show was young people," said Kramer, quoting a retailer who spoke at a cocktail reception.

"The DIY culture, it gets a little old if you're not making any money at at it," she said. A lot of career changers are getting into the business, as well as second-generation foodmakers who are following in the footsteps of their parents.

Spiced ice cream may soon be found in the grocery store near the Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's. Bonfatto's Spice Cream products include Sweet Peachy Heat Wave, with peaches, hot sauce and granola; and Rolling Berry Blastoff, featuring raspberries, habanero sauce and peanut butter cups.

Chia seeds were all over the place at the show, but The Chia Co. Chia Pods were a particular standout, said trend watchers. The tiny seeds are paired with fruit and coconut milk in a single-serve snack pack, creating a "nutrient-rich variation on pudding snacks," the SFA said.

Getting kids to eat their greens might be a little easier if Green Wave Smoothie Pops start showing up in local grocery stores. Kale smoothies become infinitely more appetizing when served frozen, on a stick. Kalelicious combines orange, mango and kale, while Greena Colada features banana, spinach, coconut, lime and pineapple.

Agave, quinoa and sesame seeds aren't new to the specialty food market, but Seattle Chocolates has combined all three and mixed them with chocolate. The quinoa in the Jcoco Agave Quinoa Sesame bar is puffed to give it a crunch that is a bit more firm than puffed rice, creating a new twist on the crunch bar.

Ready to move on from mint mojitos and cranberry cosmopolitans at your next cocktail party? Mixology isn't just for hipsters anymore -- even T.G.I. Fridays has a cucumber and gin drink.

In the "Be your own mixologist" category, the trend watchers at the food show gave special recognition to Sociale's Lavender Martini Mocktails, Luke's Heirloom Tomato Juice's Bloody Delicious Mary Mix and Hella Bitter's Cocktail Bitters.

The top award for outstanding new product at the show was a tie between Artisan Biscuits Ltd.-The Fine Cheese Co.'s Pearls of Pure Goat Cheese and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.'s Bay Blue.

The award was handed out by chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, who said in his keynote address the Fancy Food Show brings to life the journeys of each exhibitor who fills the aisles, from big companies looking to stay innovative to start-ups who are "making peanut butter in the basement hoping they'll be in a big retail store one day."

"That passion for making your own product isn't something you can outsource," Samuelsson said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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