It was easy to spot the predominant trend at last week’s Fancy Food Show in New York: aggressively healthy products as in paleo (minimally processed, in the tradition of our hunter/gatherer forebears), probiotic (promoting a healthy gut, usually through fermented ingredients), superfoods (rich in components to fight disease) or all of the above. Such items have appeared in years past but they didn’t taste very good and retailers didn’t seem eager to embrace them. This year, perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point.
Snow Monkey is a good example. Founded by three female athletes who met at Boston University, it reinvents ice cream without the dairy, using pureed bananas and apple as a base to which goji berry or cacao are added. It’s packaged in pints that reminded me of Ben & Jerry’s. I told them it tasted like energy bars turned into ice cream. I liked it. They took the chance of renting an expensive booth on the main floor (most startups are in the basement) and were attracting lots of traffic.
Beets are a thing… in smoothies, as a nutritional powder, and especially in Foraging Fox Beetroot Ketchup from Ireland which is really, really good. (They’re looking for a US distributor. Above link goes to their importer.) And so are bees… not to eat per se but as bee pollen or honey products to drink, rub on your face or cook with. We love bees, so let’s support them so they don’t die out. And coconut… lots and lots of coconut made into ice cream, energy bars or just sold as coconut water.
Water is, by the way, the fastest growing category according to analysis presented by Gary Lockwood from Mintel. And there was lots of it on hand, including Nothing water from Norway that… tastes like nothing, which is their main selling point. Mintel says local, non-GMO and eco-friendly are the three attributes consumers say they want most in their foods. Organic and fair trade are not on the list, but maybe it’s because people think those will come naturally if a food has the other desired characteristics.
And gluten-free? Consumers didn’t mention it in their top five, which may be a problem because producers surveyed said gluten-free would continue to be a growing category. Can we hope a shakeout is finally coming? I respect people with true celiac concerns, but also spot pandering in the many “grain free” products at the show. Some of these truly were different (like Siete tortilla chips, made with cassava and coconut flour) but others contained flaxseed and chia which are seeds, i.e. grains, like wheat.
On a side note, as a baker I was irritated by the many “ancient grains” products which don’t specify exactly which “ancient grains” are included. To me, this concept describes einkorn, emmer and other (gluten-containing) grains which are wheat in its ancestral form, before genetic manipulation began. But flaxseeds and oats are often included in the mix. Consumers think they’re getting something that doesn’t really exist.
Next time, a few micro-trends and discoveries that don’t relate directly to heath.