LAS VEGAS — Globally inspired pantry staples and booze-free beverages are among trends seen at the Winter Fancy Food Show, held Jan. 15-17 in Las Vegas. More than 1,100 exhibitors were set to showcase the newest products propelling the $175 billion specialty food industry.
Specialty food typically refers to premium, produced in small batches or featuring high-quality ingredients. The Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel, comprised of culinary professionals across diverse industry segments, identified key themes emerging in product development. New condiments, sauces, oils and seasonings highlight flavors of far-flung locales, tapping into consumer desire for an elevated eating experience at home.
First-time exhibitor Niramaya Foods, New York, offers a line of heat-and-eat dips based on popular Indian dishes. Developed by a nutrition coach, the products are formulated with functional ingredients such as ashwagandha, reishi mushroom and spirulina.
Haig’s Delicacies, a San Francisco-based maker of Mediterranean dips and spreads, is set to expand nationally. Based on traditional family recipes, products include tzatziki, baba ghanoush, spicy feta dip and hummus.
“Our team has spent the past year focusing on ways to share our authentic Mediterranean foods with more of the country, and we are eager to bring the momentum into 2023,” said Steven Cherezian, vice president of Haig’s Delicacies.
Additional products spotted by the panel include Thai curry sauces, taro cookies and milk tea.
Denise Purcell, vice president of content and education at the Specialty Food Association, cited increased demand for convenient meal starters, bases, starters and kits.
“We’re hearing from the Trendspotters that during the pandemic everybody was cooking more at home to the point of fatigue,” Ms. Purcell said in an interview prior to the show. “They still want to cook even though life has gone quote-unquote ‘a little more back to normal,’ but they’re looking for help and shortcuts.”
Chilau Foods, Atlanta, produces a line of Cuban-inspired stew base mixes. Offerings include original Southern-style, low-country citrus, shrimp and crab boil, and others.
White Toque, Secaucus, NJ, an importer of frozen foods from France, is expanding its ready-to-heat portfolio with a line of individually quick-frozen grains and pulses, spanning lentils, bulgur, buckwheat, spelt, quinoa and chickpeas.
“Following the trends toward health and plant-based foods, our supplier has developed a unique technology to cook and freeze small seeds that retains flavor and texture,” said Didier Amiel, president of White Toque. “Our delicious recipes are the ultimate in convenience and cost effectiveness because they’re precooked to perfection, so chefs just have to heat them up and serve as a healthy side or vegan meal.”
This Little Goat, Chicago, unveiled its expanded lineup of chef-driven sauces and spices at the show. The latest addition is Chili Crunch, a range of oil-based condiments that add heat and texture to a variety of dishes, according to the company.
The panel named nuanced heat as another trend appearing at the show, noting a number of honey, cheese, snacks and beverages tinged with various pepper varietals. Examples include a mango habanero goat cheese, a hatch chile rubbed cheddar and a Szechuan peppercorn infused honey.
Ms. Purcell also pointed to an uptick in “environmentally friendly foods, which could run the gamut from upcycled ingredients to regeneratively grown ingredients.”
First-time exhibitor Wild Orchard Tea Co., Westchester, NY, produces a range of regeneratively grown teas, including a new Regenerative Organic Certified matcha line.
“All our teas are from the world's first and currently only Regenerative Organic Certified tea farm, located on Jeju Island,” said Michael D. Ham, president of Wild Orchard Tea Co. “The flavors resulting from this unique South Korean terroir are amplified by an excellent nutrient dense profile thanks to regenerative farming. The teas are crafted using a combination of traditional and proprietary modern techniques, which have been developed right on the farm.”
African Bronze Honey Co., a Canadian brand, is unveiling a line of forest honey, gathered by nearly 10,000 forest beekeepers using regenerative methods. The honey is certified organic with a unique floral taste, according to the company.
“Our honey is organic, raw, unpasteurized, and harvested with immense care and respect for the Earth,” said Liz Connell, co-founder and president of African Bronze. “Many people and companies only see honey as a natural sweetener, but our forest honey is so much more than that, it is medicine. Our honey is nutrient-rich, boasts double the antioxidants of Manuka honey, offers antibacterial properties, polyphenols, bioflavonoids, and minerals. We are a ‘food-ceutical’ company. Our product is food that heals.”
Several brands at the show sampled alcohol-free wines and aperitifs. For Bitter For Worse, Portland, Ore., uses a patent-pending “reverse bootlegging” distillation technique to create complex, boozy flavors from botanicals “farmed and foraged in the Pacific Northwest.” The lineup includes the red wine-inspired Saskatoon and Smoky No. 56, which has “brown spirits vibes,” according to the company.
First-time exhibitor Abstinence Spirits, Oakland, Calif., recently introduced its line of non-alcoholic botanical spirits and aperitifs to the US market following its debut in South Africa several years ago. Products include Cape Citrus, Cape Floral and Cape Spice, each featuring South African botanicals such as buchu, cassia and honeybush; Epilogue X, a malty, smoky profile; Blood Orange Aperitif and Lemon Aperitif.“What motivates me is whenever I see someone experience the surprise and delight of tasting Abstinence Spirits for the first time,” said Ranwei Chiang, chief executive officer of Abstinence Spirits. “There are so many reasons people are choosing to cut back on alcohol, and I’m glad we can be part of that journey to find great-tasting alternatives.”