By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor
The Winter Fancy Food Show descended upon San Francisco for two days to showcase thousands of food products. With so many edibles to try, it’s hard to keep track of everything available on the market. But, as I wandered up and down the rows of the Moscone Center, I was trying to find trends. But, what really qualifies as a trend? Are they new products and ideas or old products that are gaining a revived popularity?
If I were to tell you what the trend of the Fancy Food Show was, it would have to be anything with the words gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, non-GMO or vegan (and in many cases, items have more than one of these words written on them). It is great to see so many products have been developed to accommodate those with allergies and by far that is the trend.
But, for those of us who are not lactose-intolerant, celiac or diabetic, or if you haven’t jumped on one of the many dietary trends, was there anything exciting or new at the show? After wandering through hundreds of booths, I concluded that there are many specialty items that are not new ideas but are improved versions of what we have known.
Here are some trending food items showcased at the show-
Tea is the #1 consumed beverage in the US, with beer and coffee following. When Choice tea first introduced organic tea to the US in 1989, they were the first exclusively organic, fair trade and non-GMO tea company. Over the last 10 years, there has been a slow renaissance in tea drinking. With an increased interest in health and hundreds of types of tea, there are more young tea drinkers today.
A few tea companies caught my attention:
Buddha Teas is an organic, non-GMO tea company that uses only natural flavors, including a reishi mushroom tea. John Boyd, the founder of Buddha Tea, came from England and could not find quality tea that did not have flavoring in it. With a background in plant medicine, he created Buddha Tea which produces single-herb teas, such as Alfalfa Leaf, Bitter Melon, Black Cohosh Root and Burdock Root. With a full line of herbal, black, green and specialty teas, as well as Chakra teas, there is a vast selection of natural teas to choose from.
Cat Spring Tea originates from the Gulf Coast region in Texas. Sisters Jenna Dee Detro and Abianne Miller grew up ignoring the pesky weed on their home property. But, after realizing that the weed survived a 150 year old drought, they looked up the name, Yaupon, and found out that it is a cousin of yerba mate. As this herb grows naturally and needs little care, there are no herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers needed. With a mild, almost sweet taste, Yaupon is the only caffeine source native to our continent
Other tea companies of interest were Davidson’s with their honey teas that contain dried organic honey inside the tea bags and Sencha green tea that is making green tea accessible to all through teas, latte powders and even green tea mints.
2. Bacon-Flavored Everything
Bacon is America’s favorite food and almost any foodie will tell you that bacon makes everything taste better. So, it was no surprise to see bacon chocolate bars, such as Chuao Chocolatier Baconluxious or Vosges bacon chocolate. Even vegans can enjoy bacon flavors with vegan bacon coconut chips by Dang. But, there seems to be a growing number of bacon sauces and spreads.
Cooking with bacon has never been easier with bacon spreads from companies, such as The Bacon Jams from Pennsylvania and Skillet from Seattle, bacon jam from Terrapin Ridge Farms in Illinois and Boozy Bacon Barbecue Sauce, Maple Bacon Onion Jam, Maple Bacon Aioli from Stonewall Kitchen. These all-natural products can be used as burger toppings, on flatbreads, on potatoes or any other way you can imagine adding bacon to a meal.
3. Coconut Chips
If you like coconut, baked coconut chips make for a perfect snack. Vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, no cholesterol and high in fiber, they combine sweetness and crunch with the pure flavor of coconut. Companies such as Bare Snacks, Creative Snacks Co., Dang and Made in Nature are serving up these tasty toasted snacks that are great on their own but can also be used as toppings for salads, ice cream, cereal and trail mix. Bare Snacks is also offering coconut chips with all-natural flavors like Chocolate Bliss, Honey, Sweet ‘N Heat and Sea Salt Carmel. They are truly addictive.
4. Gourmet Jerky
Beef jerky is no longer gas station food. It is now a gourmet and artisanal food made by new companies springing up around the country. Some small brands are using quality cuts of beef from local cows. Chef’s Cut uses sirloin which means that the jerky is lower in sodium and the special marinade is gluten free. Sir Wallace Five Star Jerky comes from Idaho Falls and uses Grade A Rocky Mountain USDA beef.
Some are focused on the process and the flavors. Uncle Andy’s Jerky, like craft beer, is creating seasonal flavors like spicy coffee, maple bourbon and lemon mint. Krave takes a good cut of meat and doesn’t dehydrate it, instead choosing to use unique flavors like basil citrus and chili lime with beef, pork and turkey. Perky Jerky focuses on overnight marinating, resulting in a chewy jerky.
Another standout was Field Trip, a three and a half year old business started by three friends in Brooklyn who wanted quality, flavorful jerky. By using top round, trim lean meat, there is less water, sugar and salt to weigh down the product. It’s about quality, not weight, and this jerky is leaner, lower in sugar and salt, higher in protein and contains no nitrates.
5. Artisanal Ketchup
When we think ketchup, we think Heinz. There is no other product on the market that can compete. But, as good as it is, it is high in sugar and will dominate anything it is paired with. That is why I was excited to find three different producers making artisanal ketchups that are all natural with no high-fructose corn syrup or gluten. Fine Vines Artisanal Ketchup from Kansas City offers twelve gourmet flavors including black truffle, serrano, alder wood and Thai ginger. Molonay Tubilderborst Ketchup comes from a former Los Angeles chef who had extra tomatoes and tried his great grandmother’s 19th century recipe from Massachusetts.
These ketchups are flavorful and are meant to pair with food, not overwhelm it. I also found pumpkin ketchup from Skillet in Seattle. Rich and full of flavor, like tomato ketchup, Skillet uses pumpkin puree as the foundation, which is more nutritional with higher vitamins and minerals that tomato ketchup.