Happy National Nutrition Month! I often am asked how I prognosticate food, nutraceutical, and ingredient trends. Truth? I keep an eye and ear on multiple tracks and add a little gut instinct. Having spent years as a professional chef, I stay in touch with dozens of restaurant chefs and research chefs, old friends and new acquaintances, located worldwide. I pay close attention to what their creative inclinations are putting out. (A few former restaurant colleagues went on to careers as research chefs—something unimaginable back in the 1980s when we were slinging duck prosciutto and Yukon Gold potato hash with apple wood-smoked Poblano peppers.)

And then, there are food and ingredient trade shows. As you read this, the Natural Products Expo is in full swing, showcasing thousands of exhibitors. These shows are where multinational and boutique product makers alike all come into their own. Within this milieu, nutraceutical ingredients stream in from bench researchers mining millennia of anecdotal evidence from the traditional medicines of multiple cultures Ayurveda, Latin American herblore, Traditional Chinese Medicine. Foods and beverages benefiting from such convergent sources abound.

A favorite channel for food trends comes via operations too small or new to have a presence at expos, and whose samples arrive at the office several times per month. One example of how enlightening this resource can be: Since last spring I’ve received spirit-infused cakes from almost a dozen different boutique bakeries. I fielded micro-mini rum Bundt cakes from Rumalutions LLC out of Fairfax, Va.; “Bloomin’ Blossoms” liqueur-soaked cakes from Full-Spirited Flavours LLC (based in Phoenixville, Penn. in spite of the UK spelling of “flavors”); enjoyed  awesome black rum, fruit and spice cakes from The Black Cake Co. and Caribbean Cake Connoisseurs; and some really exquisite small Bundts from Rum Sisters LLC bakery in Gulf Shores, Ala. (The latter uses more than just rum; the “Drunken Monkey” bourbon banana Bundt is positively game-changing.)

The point is, a lot of the trends we see hit the shelves started out years before, seemingly through simultaneous invention, by small operations in creative kitchens or via creative research chefs letting loose. Rum cakes and other booze-enhanced products have always been around. But somehow, it looks as if they are becoming a “thing.” Only time will tell. But if by this time next year (or the year after) you see them everywhere, remember: You read it here first! 

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This cumulative learning forum builds on the disruptive innovation vision of New Products Conference 2016. Together, innovators will drill down into transformative activation strategies, trends, tactics, and technologies to ensure they can deliver new dimensions of value.
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