Winter Fancy Food Show 2017
The Winter Fancy Food Show showcases innovations from 1,400 exhibitors.

SAN FRANCISCO — The specialty food and beverage industry has recorded double-digit growth in recent years, driven by changes in consumer behavior, said Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association.

Denise Purcell, Specialty Foods Association
Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association

“The consumer now is so aware of what they’re eating and what they’re putting in their bodies and they want healthful foods and they want a food experience,” Ms. Purcell said. “That’s the norm now. It’s not so much a niche category of consumers who know what specialty is and it’s a thing on its own. It really is just food.”

Speaking with Food Business News before the Winter Fancy Food Show, held Jan. 22-24 in San Francisco, Ms. Purcell discussed recent product innovation in specialty food and beverage as well as the consumer trends propelling the segment’s growth.

“(Consumers expect) cleaner ingredients, minimally processed but still very flavorful,” she said. “They want to indulge when they want, but they still want it to be high-quality. They want it to be a healthy indulgence.

“The younger millennial consumer and the consumer who is just coming of age now, Gen Z, are very much of that mindset as well. This is the future consumer for the market, so we can see the growth being sustained.”

Among the latest innovations from 1,400 exhibitors at the annual show, a number of trends emerge, reflecting increased demand for authenticity, transparency and premium quality.

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Japanese cuisine

Make way for miso, mochi and matcha as Americans dig deeper into Japanese culture and cuisine. Such sushi staples as wasabi and ginger “are more mainstream now,” Ms. Purcell said. “People have gotten used to those flavors, and now they’re curious to try more exotic ones or from different regions of Japan.”

House Foods, Garden Grove, Calif., is introducing Tofu Shirataki Ramen, a range of ramen kits featuring gluten-free noodles and a soup base. Shirataki, a Japanese staple, is a low-calorie noodle substitute made from an Asian yam. Varieties include Shoyu, a soy sauce flavor; Spicy Miso, a spicy soybean paste flavor; and Tonkotsu, a pork bone flavor.


New from Entube, a Los Angeles-based condiment company, is a Spicy Umeboshi Plum paste, which combines Japanese plum with cayenne. Other Japanese-inspired condiments debuting at Winter Fancy Food included Yuzu Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil from O-Med Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Granada, Spain; and Red Miso Powder from Manitou Trading Co., a brand of Woodland Foods, Waukegan, Ill.

Two exhibitors at the show offer mochi ice cream, a Japanese confection made with pounded sticky rice. Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts, Aiea, Hawaii, features such flavors as azuki bean, pistachio, chocolate espresso, lychee and blueberry, among others. Varieties from Mikawaya, Inc., Vernon, Calif., include strawberry, mango, double chocolate vanilla bean, green tea, cookies and cream and mint chocolate chip.

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Cauli power

Cauliflower crops up as a low-carb stand-in for grains in a handful of new products showcased at Winter Fancy Food. FullGreen Ltd., London, makes Cauli Rice, a line of lower-calorie rice alternatives made from cauliflower in four varieties: original, Mediterranean, spicy chicken and chili beef.


The cruciferous vegetable is featured in gluten-free pizza crust products from Cali’flour Foods, L.L.C., Chico, Calif., and Outer Aisle Gourmet, L.L.C., Goleta, Calif. The latter company also offers cauliflower sandwich thins, a bread substitute made with cauliflower, Parmesan cheese, cottage cheese, egg whites and sunflower lecithin.

|||READ MORE: Cleanup in the baking aisle|||


Cleanup in the baking aisle

New baking products from specialty food manufacturers tout the use of clean and allergen-free ingredients.

ColorKitchen, Bend, Ore., has unveiled food colorings and sprinkles made with simple plant-based ingredients such as turmeric, spirulina, beet and annatto. Even the product packaging is made with environmentally friendly vegetable inks, according to the company.


Simple Mills, Chicago, has added a range of organic frostings made with eight ingredients, including coconut oil, sustainably sourced palm shortening and monk fruit extract. Available in vanilla and chocolate flavors, the frostings join Simple Mills’ eight gluten-free baking mixes. The Frosting Queens, Sacramento, offers gluten-free buttercream frostings made with simple ingredients in such flavors as chocolate, vanilla, caramel, strawberry and peppermint.

Arnel’s Originals, Ventura, Calif., is unveiling a gluten-free, organic cake mix with no sweetener, allowing consumers to customize the sweetness and flavor.

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Wellness beverages

Apple cider vinegar, the tart tonic associated with a host of health benefits, is featured in several new beverages on display at the show.

“We’re seeing wellness drinks, especially for detoxifying your system or relaxation,” Ms. Purcell said. “That would be everything from hot to cold, teas that are designed for relaxing or cleansing.”

Fire Cider African Bronze from Shire City Herbals, Pittsfield, Mass., is an organic beverage with apple cider vinegar and African Bronze honey, a fairly traded multi-floral honey from Zambia, plus oranges, lemons, onions, horseradish, ginger, garlic, turmeric and habanero pepper. Tartly, San Ramon, Calif., offers a line of sparkling fruit shrubs made from fruit juices and apple cider vinegar in such varieties as blueberry lemon, lime mint and ginger pear.


Sonoma Syrup Co. Inc., Sonoma, Calif., features an organic Gravenstein Apple Cider Drinking Vinegar infused with organic lemon and vanilla.

Another trending ingredient, turmeric, continues to take over the tea category. New examples include Tuber Tonic from Mendocino Tea, Mendocino, Calif., featuring an herbal infusion of turmeric, ginger, elderberries, cinnamon and black pepper, and Shiitake Turmeric tea from Choice Organic Teas, Seattle, which offers “a whole-body balancing blend of mushrooms and herbs,” according to the company.

|||READ MORE: Mango mania|||


Mango mania

Mango is having a moment in new product development. The tropical fruit appears in sweet and savory foods and beverages.

Chuao Chocolatier, Carlsbad, Calif., is introducing a Totally Tangy Mango chocolate bar, with sweet mango sprinkled with tart lime, sea salt and a pinch of chili in dark chocolate.

Saffron Road, Stamford, Conn., has added new frozen entrees, including Thai-Style Mango Chicken, which combines dark meat chicken with rice noodles, diced mangos, baby bok choy, red bell peppers and a spicy mango sauce.

Mango also manifests in a forthcoming mango tomatillo variety of hummus from Hope Foods, Louisville, Colo., and a new line of dairy-free almond milk yogurts and kefirs from Dahlicious, Phoenix.

|||READ MORE: Peppercorn popping up|||


Peppercorn popping up

Peppercorn is rising in popularity as a flavor in new snacks and condiments. One of the latest jerky varieties from Krave, a subsidiary of The Hershey Co., is Pink Peppercorn Beef. Plocky’s Fine Snacks, Hinsdale, Ill., has launched Protato Crisps, a range of baked potato crisps with 7 grams of protein, featuring a peppercorn ranch flavor.

Red Duck Foods, Portland, Ore., has added an Organic Sweet Mustard Peppercorn variety to its line of barbecue sauces.


Black pepper is featured in Kentucky Bourbon Black Pepper caramel corn from The Art of Caramel, Pasadena, Calif.; Serious Cheesy Puffs Asiago Black Pepper baked corn puffs from Fuller Foods, Portland, Ore.; and Blueberry Balsamic Black Pepper jam from Jammit Jam, Dallas.

|||READ MORE: Frozen and functional|||


Frozen and functional

Heating up in the frozen dessert category are healthy treats packing nutritional benefits. Brio Ice Cream, Montpelier, Vt., offers ice cream containing probiotics and antioxidants, with less sugar and fat than premium ice cream brands. Varieties include Madagascar vanilla, café latte, strawberry, dark chocolate, tropical mango and sea salt caramel.

The Superfood Ice Treat line from Snow Monkey, Santa Monica, Calif., provides 20 grams of plant-based protein from hemp seed powder with six functional superfood ingredients, according to the company. Flavors include cacao and goji berry.  


Arctic Zero, the San Diego-based maker of low-glycemic, lactose-free, gluten-free frozen desserts, is introducing new flavors. Made with whey protein, organic cane sugar, chicory root and monk fruit, the latest varieties include peanut butter swirl, rocky road trip and cherry chocolate chunk.

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Savory cookies

Savory flavors are gaining favor in confections as consumers continue to seek sweet and spicy pairings.

“We’ve seen them peeking around the last couple shows,” Ms. Purcell said of savory cookies, citing as example a new range from The Perfect Bite Co., Glendale, Calif. The company is launching a Sophisticated Cookies line, inspired by European flavors and featuring such varieties as salted rosemary butter, Parmesan butter with fennel and sea salt, and spiced chai sugar.

New from Wackym’s Kitchen, Dallas, are Red Pepper Apricot cookies, which include apricots, pepper flakes and smoked sea salt. Salem Baking Co., Winston Salem, N.C., offers thin and crispy Hatch Pepper Chocolate Chip cookies, featuring the namesake New Mexico chile with semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips.

|||READ MORE: Global indulgence|||


Global indulgence

Several American companies are introducing internationally inspired treats crafted from old family recipes.

Glyka-Sweets Greek Bakery, San Rafael, Calif., makes Greek cookies and phyllo pastries using traditional recipes beyond the familiar baklava. Almond cookies, butter cookies, non-dairy olive oil cookies and non-dairy grape molasses cookies are among treats featured by the company.


Unna Bakery, New York, makes traditional Swedish cookies using family recipes and organic ingredients. Flavors include cardamom, chocolate caramel, ginger snaps, raspberry, vanilla and a variety called Farmer’s Cookie, featuring butter and almonds with Swedish golden syrup.

Wooden Table Baking Co., Oakland, Calif., offers alfajores, a traditional Argentine pastry featuring two shortbread cookies with a layer of dulce de leche in an assortment of flavors, including chipotle chocolate, espresso chocolate and lemon ginger.


Ines Rosales USA, Washington, is presenting authentic Spanish desserts, including a citrus crumble cake and a cinnamon cookie, made with high-oleic sunflower oil.

|||READ MORE: Snickerdoodle dandy|||


Snickerdoodle dandy

Snickerdoodle, the classic cinnamon sugar cookie, is a featured flavor in new snacks and desserts.

A newly launched variety of ready-to-eat popcorn from Jolly Time Pop Corn, Junction City, Ore., and Cosmos Creations features a snickerdoodle flavor. A new marshmallow snack platform, Mellow Fluffs from Hammond’s Brands, Denver, includes a snickerdoodle variety.

Just Desserts Ghirardelli White Chocolate Snickerdoodle cookies

From Just Desserts, San Francisco, comes Ghirardelli White Chocolate Flavored Snickerdoodle Bites. First-time exhibitor Dobson Enterprises, L.L.C., the Rocklin, Calif.-based maker of Fookie fudge-topped cookies, offers a snickerdoodle cookie topped with white fudge swirled with caramel and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Arctic Zero offers a snickerdoodle inspired frozen dessert with a subtle cinnamon flavor and sugar cookie chunks, and Wooden Table Baking features snickerdoodle alfajores.