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A few of us had the pleasure of attending the Winter Fancy Food Show last week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Billed as the west coast’s “largest speciality food and beverage trade show,” it featured over 1,300 exhibitors and more than 80,000 products from across the U.S. and 35 countries. Aside from being a great excuse to snack our way through the day (and snack we did!), it was also an illuminating window into the hot food trends of 2015. Below is a sampling of those trends that caught our eye (and our stomachs).
Sriracha Is HOT
Its legal skirmishes of last year clearly did nothing to diminish the hot sauce’s ability to forge licensing agreements with seemingly any company that wanted one. Potato chips? Barbecue sauce? Pop corn? Lentil chips? Bloody Mary mix? What about the king of condiments, ketchup? Tortilla chips? Hummus? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. And then some. There is seemingly nothing Sriracha can’t touch.
Your Kitchen as a Restaurant, aka Convenience Is (Still) King
With the rise of food delivery services — be it Seamless/Grubhub bringing restaurant orders to your door, or the likes of Munchery providing healthy, home-cooked style meals for your kitchen table — it’s obvious that people are becoming
lazier busier, which makes them crave convenience. And from what we saw, that craving is being satisfied for those that don’t want to make anything at home as well as those that do. Anything and everything authentic (ethnic or otherwise) you could ever want you can now recreate at home. Quality Indian food can be whipped up (or heated up) without sacrificing taste. “Homemade” cookies come neatly packaged in glorious mason jars (the easier to see your ingredients, my dear!). Korean BBQ is available in your own kitchen without much trouble. Hot chocolate is made lovingly one cup at a time (stirring stick included). Spice mixes come carefully balanced so you don’t have deal one-on-one with that quirky cumin, an all natural meal starter can have you making chicken pot pie from “scratch,” and K-Cups can make a home brewed version of seemingly anything you could ever want — coffee, tea, Tootsie Roll® flavored hot chocolate, and yes, even chicken soup. Heating that can was too much for you, wasn’t it?!
Sophisticated Snacking (On Steroids)
Oh sure potato chips are still popular, and Americans are snacking more now than ever, but the undeniable trends toward creatively bold flavors as well as healthier eating habits means the greasy, artery clogging, and bland old snacks of yore are being pushed aside for cleaner and more flavorful alternatives. Strawberry rhubarb and chocolate as one flavor? You bet. Mango and kiwi? Well you can’t have just one. Carrot, apple, and ginger? No need to choose between them! And how are these flavors being delivered? Enter the kale chip (and kale popcorn!), the lentil chip, corn tortilla chips with flaxseed and quinoa, flavored chickpeas, coconut chips, seaweed chips, carrot and beet hummus, freeze dried veggies, broccoli chips, and brussels bites…the list goes on. What healthy, forcefully flavored snack will you reach for this year?
Alcohol Infused Flavors
You can’t drink your favorite booze all the time, so why not eat it? Whether it’s wine infused ketchup, champagne jelly beans, cheese dip made with beer, mimosa flavored chocolate, Guinness flavored potato chips, or even whiskey smoked brown sugar, booze is finding new avenues into your mouth.
Other New (And Evolving) Themes
With so much to see, it’s hard to distill everything into one specific category, but there were plenty of other trends on display everywhere we looked, including
- Bacon: Duh.
- Gluten/Egg/Peanut/Dairy/Soy-Free: Kick those pesky ingredients to the curb!
- Chia: In a snack or even a beverage, this member of the mint family wants to make your palate more sophisticated.
- Jerky: This was never out of style, but it is coming in more unique flavors, cuts, and even meats.
- Unique Flavors/Small Batches: Another new-ish trend, but one that producers are riding to separate themselves from competitors.
- Seaweed: Whether as a roasted snack, or as flavoring in popcorn, snack bars, or hummus, seaweed is having a moment.
- Coconut: As a chip, as oil, as butter, as a flavor/sweetener, as water, as milk — basically in any form you want!