NEW YORK — Truffles, heirloom tomatoes and new spins on salt were among emerging trends spotted at the Summer Fancy Food Show. The annual event, held June 12-14 in New York, marked a return following a two-year hiatus and featured more than 1,800 exhibiting companies.
The specialty food market, which encompasses products with limited distribution, gourmet ingredients and elevated preparations, reached total sales of $175 billion in 2021, up 7.4% from the prior year, according to the Specialty Food Association. Demand remained strong during the pandemic, but supply chain challenges and inflation are expected to stifle growth going forward.
“The specialty food market has prospered amid two difficult years, with our latest research showing specialty continues to grow at a faster rate than all food,” said Denise Purcell, vice president, content and education, Specialty Food Association, which produces the Fancy Food Shows. “Growth will continue, but at a slower pace than the industry experienced during the 2020 pandemic-influenced whirlwind of grocery shopping and at-home meal preparation — and will depend on supply chain bandwidth and shifts in challenges like inflation, shipping issues, cost increases and materials shortages.”
A prominent theme in new product development noted by Ms. Purcell are comfort foods with a twist, a continuation of a trend identified at the Winter Fancy Food Show in February. Brands are reimagining classic dishes for alternative diets.
The Greater Knead, Bensalem, Pa., debuted allergen-free soft pretzel nuggets in classic, cinnamon sugar, everything and spicy Buffalo flavors. UnbelievaBread, LLC, Charlotte, NC, maker of UnbelievaBuns, introduced a new high-protein, low-carbohydrate burger bun formulated with sunflower seed flour.
Grownas*Foods, a Seed Ranch Co. brand based in Boulder, Colo., debuted boxed vegan macaroni and cheese formulated with potato, nutritional yeast, coconut flour and turmeric.
Nutcase Vegan Meats, Grand Rapids, Mich., has launched a meatloaf-inspired item formulated with brown rice, quinoa, hemp seeds, walnuts, filberts, pecans and seasonings.
New York-based startup Whipnotic has developed a new take on traditional canned whipped topping. A proprietary nozzle and can design dispenses a flavorful swirl alongside low-sugar whipped cream. Varieties include strawberry, peach mango, fudge brownie and vanilla salted caramel.
Additional items included grain-free baking mixes and noodles.
Pasta and pizza sauces sales surged in the past year, according to the specialty food report. New offerings exhibited at the show help home cooks conveniently prepare restaurant-quality meals. Good Food For Good, Toronto, formulated organic, plant-based Bolognese-style sauces made with pumpkin seeds and extra virgin olive oil.
Carbone Fine Food, a retail brand inspired by the fare at New York City restaurant Carbone, has released a marinara delicato sauce formulated without onions or garlic for those with digestion sensitivities. The sauce includes Italian-imported tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, carrots, sea salt, celery and oregano.
New sauce starters by Bella San Luci, Chico, Calif., help home cooks recreate the flavors of an “all-day sauce” in minutes. Options include tomato and pepper, tomato basil and Tuscan garden.
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s Jersey Tomato Co. showcased a line of sauces made with New Jersey-grown tomatoes, characterized by a balance of acidity and sweetness.
Entrepreneurs also presented condiments spanning various global cuisines, from sambal to salsa macha. Caribbean ketchup, Afghan chutney, Sichuan chili crisp, Middle Eastern tahini, West African hot sauces and a vegan Vietnamese fish-style sauce were among highlights.
Other products seen at the show infuse internationally inspired flavors in popular American snacks. Green Sahara, Dallas, markets a range of potato chips seasoned with African spice blends. The Victoria chips have an East African barbecue chili taste, while the Savana offering has a West African sweet peanut taste and the Sahara profile has a North African savory spices taste.
Madhu Chocolate, an Austin, Texas-based brand, produces premium chocolate bars featuring Indian flavors and ingredients such as saffron, rose, pistachio, cardamom, masala chai and Idukki black pepper.
Noona’s Ice Cream, Brooklyn, NY, offers a range of Asian-American frozen desserts with options such as taro, pandan, black sesame and toasted rice.
Truffle is a trending flavor in specialty foods, featured in granola, potato chips, macaroni and cheese, salami, nut butter, hot sauce and more on display. Ms. Purcell described “grown-up flavor profiles” as a trend to watch in products slated to debut at the show. As an example, Bixby Chocolate, Rockland, Maine, partnered with local Allagash Brewing Co. to develop Belgian-style beer brittle.
Burke Brands’ Don Pablo Coffee Growers & Roasters is introducing a line of coffee infused with whiskey, available in Kentucky bourbon, Irish whiskey and vanilla, and Canadian whisky and maple varieties.
“This is truly unique,” said J.B. Schneider, chief marketing officer of Miami-based Burke Brands. “It’s not coffee left to age in old whiskey barrels. Nor is it flavored with chemicals. Our beans are soaked in real whiskey, dried and roasted. The aroma is arresting, and it tastes delicious.”
A handful of makers exhibited salts of the earth — from Oregon to Iceland.
Portland Salt Co., Portland, Ore., offers a line of blends and rubs featuring Pacific Northwest sea salt. Saltverk produces flaky sea salt sourced from seawater of the remote Westfjords of Iceland.
“Not only are our salts rich and full of flavor, but they are also sustainably created,” said Bjorn Steinar Jonsson of Saltverk. “Generally speaking, salt making comes with a high carbon footprint. Saltverk salts are different because they are made using carbon-neutral geothermal energy. Consumers don’t have to choose between the environment or high-quality salt when they use Saltverk for their cooking needs.”
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Oryx Desert Salt is harvested from a salt pan in the Kalahari Desert. The salt is rich in essential minerals and trace elements and produces a gentle, full-flavored taste, according to the company.
Several brands highlighted mushrooms as a lead ingredient in savory snacks. Popadelics Crunchy Mushroom Chips from New York-based Fun-Gal Snacks are made using a vacuum frying process, producing a crunchy texture while retaining more of the color, nutrients and flavor, according to the company. The snacks are vegan and a good source of protein and fiber. Flavors include mushroom chips in truffle Parmesan, Thai chili, red rosemary and salt.
“Our goal is to revolutionize the way people think about mushrooms,” said Marilyn Yang, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fun-Gal Snacks, the parent company of Popadelics. “We can’t wait for attendees to experience the trippin’ flavor and killer crunch of Popadelics Crunchy Mushroom Chips.”
Numerous exhibitors promoted sustainable supply chains and production processes. Tomato Bliss, a Chicago startup, produces a line of globally inspired soups made with regeneratively grown heirloom tomatoes.
Yaupon Bros. American Tea Co., Edgewater, Fla., produces tea blends featuring yaupon holly, a sustainable native crop that thrives without the use of pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides.
“Our wild-crop operations harvest Yaupon in sustainable amounts that preserve the health of the trees,” said Bryon White, founder and co-chief executive officer of parent company Ilex Organics. “Finally, our tea doesn't have to be shipped many thousands of miles to reach American consumers’ cups, so Yaupon has an incredibly low carbon footprint.”Waju, a New York-based sparkling water brand, uses a process to recover leftover water from juice concentrate production to make its low-calorie, carbonated beverages. The Spare Food Co., New York, which transforms unused and overlooked ingredients into nutritious products, sampled its line of sparkling beverages based on acid whey, the nutrient-rich liquid leftover from yogurt production.