It’s been years since I’ve attended one of the Specialty Food Association’s annual Fancy Food shows. The last time I was on the show floor, it seemed attendees couldn’t get over the magic of a chocolate fountain. Truth be told, I still can’t. I find myself achieving a meditative state and staring at the smooth liquid skin of chocolate flowing from a tiny top ring to the big bottom one.
Sorry, I just zoned out—conjuring the image.
At the 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show, I discovered that the industry has moved well beyond the days of wowing attendees with perpetually spilling chocolate.
Let’s get this out of the way: Gluten-free products are everywhere. Gluten-free chips, gluten-free flour, gluten-free brownies, gluten-free jerky (yep) and gluten-free frozen meals. Essentially, every category contains some degree of gluten-free product activity.
Walking the show floor I caught smatterings of conversations that indicated gluten-free fatigue. I actually heard an attendee say, “…this gluten-free thing has got to end.” We very well may be on the tail-end of the gluten-free wave. However, dozens of companies of all sizes are doubling-down on gluten-free product launches. Skinny Batches, Smart Flour Food and Walkers Shortbread are just a few examples of companies that remain gluten-free devotees.
In 2015, it’s plain to see that the snack category houses much of the industry’s energy. Natural and organic snacks delivered in pouches dominated the show’s new product introductions. Crisps and clusters, fruits and nuts, granola, jerky and chips of all kinds crowded the show floor. The snack category is so large because it encompasses many meaningful sub-categories, such as superfoods, spread-ables, pop-ables, bars and chips. These are the areas where many companies seem to be focusing their innovative efforts. The combination of better-for-you foods with convenience appears to be a winning concept.
Some of the most experimental and interesting products I discovered at the show were chocolate-covered quinoa puffs from Next Organics, as well as Arty Water, an artichoke water. The beverage contained a mint component that made it taste kind of like a tea. It was a welcomed refreshment on the warm show floor. Oh, and moringa powder. This product showed up across the show in several categories—specifically in snacks and beverages. It’s deemed a superfood and seems poised to expand into product introductions across categories. One company, Kuli Kuli Foods, showcased the powder in yogurt.
The 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show was a forum for innovative new product launches and a gathering of product developers that, as a whole, offered a sense of overarching trends in the industry.
Now, please excuse me as I mentally dip a fresh strawberry into the chocolate fountain that will not leave my mind.