Trend Spotting At The NASFT Winter Fancy Food Show

Posted on Thursday 28 January 2010

The National Association of the Specialty Food Trade had an interesting pre-show promotion this year on their site to get people thinking and excited about the San Francisco edition of their bi-yearly specialty food show. They asked the question: What will be the 5 major trends at this year’s San Francisco Fancy Food Show? You could write in your response or choose from possibilities that they had listed. The NASFT pulled together a “trendspotting” panel that walked the show and determined the trends. The winner received prizes plus supreme bragging rights.

Since I love both prizes and bragging rights, I entered the following pre-show prognostications:

1) Natural/Clean Ingredients – With Food, Inc. and the big natural and organic movement gaining steam (plus having talked to at least three food companies this year who are moving in this direction for 2010), I thought this would be a big one. Maybe I was too ahead of the game as there didn’t seem to be a lot of companies promoting this attribute. I would bet that a lot of companies are reformulating behind the scenes and we’ll see more of this at the NY summer show or in 2011.

2) Single Serving Packs – This goes almost against my first trend (#1 being a more natural approach, and this trend resulting in more waste). But, at the last show, I was seeing things like single serve gelato cups so I thought this might catch on more here. I was grateful to see it hadn’t.

3) Bacon – I know bacon’s been a trend for a while now (and in the specialty food industry, I really credit Vosges Chocolate for their bacon chocolate bars). But, for Pete’s sake, there are people out there who tweet about nothing but bacon. There’s a festival celebrating bacon in Chicago. The pork product is not going away just yet.

4) Gluten-Free – This just keeps growing and growing. I’m curious if there’s really that much money to be made in this area. Nonetheless, more and more companies keep jumping into the pool.

5) Salt + Chocolate – This seems like a trend from a few years ago and that chocolatiers had moved past salt. But, right before filling out the form, I’d seen multiple ads in food trade pubs for this very pairing. Trends are cyclical right? So I thought I’d throw it out there. And, there were a few companies doing this–of course, they were the same ones of which I’d seen the ads.

The top trends, as declared by the trend spotting panel were:

1) Good-For-You Foods – You mean, healthy foods? Umm. This is so vague I don’t even know what exhibited foods they were referring to.

2) Coconut – Didn’t occur to me at the time. But, after hearing this declared, it did make me recall several products (ice creams, cookies) that had coconut in it.

3) Gluten-Free – Ha! Got one right. It will be interesting to see in two or three years who will still be around.

4) Exotic Citrus – I do recall a blood orange juice that was darn tasty and a brilliant idea. But, I’m having trouble remembering any other exotic citrus foods, let alone naming any other exotic citrus fruits. Is lime exotic? I wish the trend spotters had some sort of write up somewhere on the fancy food show site or blog.

5) Nostalgic Foods – Again… huh? What counted as nostalgic? That’s such a wide open definition you could probably make an argument for including the majority of exhibited foods on any given year.

Here are the trends I actually did see:

1) Bacon – C’mon trendspotters. You didn’t see this? In addition to the regulars that included bacon salt and bacon prep devices, there were new offerings like bacon-infused caviar (California Caviar) and bacon caramel marshmallows (Plush Puffs). Plus, Vosges was back with bacon caramel toffee.

2) Black Truffles – I would not have expected to see so many foods imbued with this expensive, albeit delicious, ingredient. There were two truffle popcorns, (479 Popcorn and Susan Rice Truffle Products) and several truffle butters. But, the most prominent example was a savory truffle macaroon from Fabrique Delices that was a truffle taste explosion (and like most explosions it verged on the hard to handle).

3) Popcorn – Notice how I mentioned two popcorns above? There were lots more where that came from. Maybe this fit into the open-ended Nostalgic Food trend?

Well, I didn’t win. But, it was fun playing the game and seeing what exhibitors are trying to get on the shelf for the coming year. I look forward to seeing how these trends hold up when I visit the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim in March and the NY Fancy Food Show in June.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think the major food trends will be this year?

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