Food nerds get a bit wiggly in the knees when you mention the Fancy Food Show — two gut-busting events held each year (in NY and SF) that have a major impact on what turns up on your local store shelves. Call it a crystal ball to your food future.
Hundreds of purveyors — small and large — from around the globe cram into the Moscone Center hawking the latest and greatest specialty products. At the West Coast show, there’s a dense concentration of artisan purveyors from Northern California and specifically Sonoma County.
It’s easy to see the obvious…lots of chocolate, tea and BBQ sauce. What’s not so obvious are subtle changes in what’s emerging–the little guys who are latching onto the next cultural zeitgeist.
Stay tuned for my interviews with some new faces on the SoCo scene, but meantime, here’s a peek at what’s on the rise, on the wane…and just plain weird.
(Keep in mind that some of these products aren’t yet on the market
and may not be released until later this year, but whenever possible
I’ve added local retailers who carry the brands. If you see them, keep
us informed in the Retail Spy Forum).
Biggest Star: Glammed up water and soda
If (like me) you’re addicted to the fizzy stuff and hate plain old
water, 2009 is your year to be better hydrated. The hottest new food
isn’t food at all, but gourmet-flavored beverages. No. Not Vitamin Water, but really swanky small-production flavors that are less about sweet and more about flavor. Take a gander at
these and throw your 20-ouncer out the window.
- Honeydew Hibiscus, Pear, Cucumber water/Hint Water
Chocolate Mint Water/MetroMint (Olivers)
Wine grape soda/Vignette Wine Country Soda (Whole Foods)
- Juniper Berry Soda/Dry Soda (Whole Foods, Bevmo, Rosso, Sea Thai)
Red Hill Pomegranate, Yakima Valley Grape and Costa Rican
Pineapple sparkling water/Fizzy Lizzy(Whole Foods,
Oliver’s, Girl and the Fig)
Victorian-inspired flavors of Dandelion & Burdock, Ginger Beer
and Shandy/Fentiman’s (Canada, not yet available in California)
Also Rising: Yogurt/Probiotics
Also hot are foods that do something good for your body. Yogurt is on
the rise as one of nature’s true miracle foods, knocking out the
short-lived goji insanity.
Lebanese yogurt gelato/Ciao Bella Gelato (Whole Foods)
Straus Creamery Organic Yogurt (Whole Foods, Pacific Market)
- Bellwether Farms Sheep milk Yogurt (Whole Foods, Pacific Market)
- Yacult, a fermented pro-biotic dairy drink from Japan (FoodMaxx, Lucky)
Alternative sweets & regional honey
Refined sugars are out and alternative sweetners like Stevia, honey and
agave are very in. Double points if you add something healthy like acai.
Lemon, lime and raspberry flavored cane sugar/Essential Cane
Q Tonic water sweetened with Agave (Bevmo)
Tupelo Honey/Savannah Bee
Pomegranate and Blueberry Acai Gummy Pandas/Bissinger
Ethnic foods are hot, but nothing is hotter than curry-mania. From
microwavable tikka massala to curry-spiked ice cream, stay tuned for
the Bollywoodization of your palate.
- Naga Sweet Indian curry,coconut and custard ice cream/Vosges Haut Chocolat (Dean and Deluca)
Ancient Organics Ghee
Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods(Whole Foods, Oliver’s)
Also rising: Flavored nuts, foods with aloe as an ingredient and anything gluten-free.
Can you ever get too much of a good thing? Uh, yes. The following have hit the point where fascinating contenders may emerge, but copy-cats are starting to ruin the experience.
The New Coffee: Tea
From the hordes of tea-sellers on the floor, the gourmet tea leaf
market seems to be hitting its saturation point. One highlight from
Novato’s Republic of Tea are the Little Citizens’ Herb Teas, a line of
caffeine free organic teas flavored with strawberry, tangerine and
cherry. Get ’em young.
Everyone and their sister has started a line of fair trade, organic,
bittersweet, artisan chocolates. Enough already. Chocolate is delish, but just because you CAN make it doesn’t mean you should. Scariest contenders:
Enchanted Mushroom chocolate bar from Vosges and Dark
Chocolate/Jalapeno gelato from Ciao Bella Gelato. Hey, at least they
Oddly entertaining (or just odd)
Organic Gin from Juniper Green
Fartless Factory Bean Soups
- Sophia Loren pasta sauce in the same booth as NASCAR popcorn
John Wayne Stock & Supply Beef Jerky
A 9-year-old Australian Rock Lobster the size of a small car