I had the joy of attending the Winter Fancy Food Show last week. This biannual trade show is produced by the Specialty Food Association, an industry org that connects manufacturers, buyers and food professionals. Officially, I was at the Show for my day job as a brand strategy consultant. I work with many packaged food clients, so I always try to stay on top of industry trends. Of course, as a food geek, I was downright giddy about getting to attend a trade show. The show featured a mix of newer and established brands, spanning everything from mayonnaise to pasta to gourmet honey. Some of the products were basically what we’re used to seeing, e.g. potato chips. And then there were products that are just now breaking into U.S. markets, like edamame pasta and cricket chips.
I only saw one teeny section of the show, but even in that small sample I noticed a marked shift in what’s on offer for American consumers. There is a good writeup of the show’s macro trends here on the Specialty Food Association’s website. I agree with their takeaways and also noticed a big shift in how people are talking about their products: lots of allusions to “better for you,” implying improved versions of something we’re already used to (e.g. chips made from alternate grains). Lots of “controlled decadence” verbiage labeling bite-sized or single-serving desserts (e.g. 100 calorie brownies). And, of course, numerous references to “small batch,” “artisanal” etc., which is the basis for a different blog post I plan to write.
Today, I want to talk about something more personal: how the Show affected my baking scheming for 2016. So without further ado, here are some notes on what I saw, and how I expect that to trickle into my baking this year.
Bolder flavors and unusual combinations: The U.S. market has seen great growth in “innovative” flavors over the past several years, and it’s going to keep growing. I have always been a sucker for “intriguing” flavors in my desserts and am so excited that these bolder flavors are going more mainstream. I tried a delicious Bourbon Pepper Caramel Corn from The Art of Caramel and now am brainstorming ways to meld those flavors in a balanced baked good- I’m thinking cookies might be the right fit. I grabbed a sample packet of the Spice Hunter’s Coriander Lime blend, which is probably going to make its way into a quickbread of some sort. I also have been thinking up ways to use Salted Caramel Fig Spread and Guava Jam (I’d already been thinking about guava since I went to Brazil, but trying the delicious guava paste from Guayeco Foods made me think about it more!)
Turning up the heat: Spicy and hot flavors have been growing in popularity the last few years. I saw many products that incorporated Sriracha, chili and peppers. I actually can’t handle spicy food- you should see my face when I try to eat spicy Indian curries. But: I love a spicy kick to my baked goods and really enjoy things like chipotle as a spice in my cookies, brownies and cakes. I am determined to find a way to bake with the Smoked Chili Honey I picked up from Gran Luchito. I also grabbed a delicious spicy chocolate bar from Wild Ophelia, which inspired me to bake with actual peppers.
Flavored oils and sugars: I saw a lot of flavored oils and sugars on offer at the show. Much more than I see at the grocery store, which makes me hope these sorts of products will be coming to mass supermarkets in the coming years. I was particularly inspired by the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownie baking kit I saw from Sutter Buttes. Personally, I’ll pick up a bottle of their Blood Orange Olive Oil and try a from-scratch brownie recipe rather than using the kit. Still, I love and appreciate their baking kit line, because it brings unique flavor combos to home bakers of all sorts and stripes. Olive oil is great in baked goods and I am excited to see what added flavor comes from their flavored oils.
Veggie substitutes: I noticed a TON of snacks riffing off vegetables (and fruits, too). My favorite sample was actually from a line made for toddlers: simple snacks made from real fruits and vegetables with just a slight amount of oil, and some light frying to crisp it up. But I also saw “veggie versions” of adult snack foods like chips and snack bars. I keep saying I’m going to bake with more vegetables but haven’t actually fulfilled that pledge. Let 2016 be the year that I put veggies in my baked goods!
That’s it for now- even though I could write pages and pages about what I saw at the Show. Keep an eye out for recipes stemming from this inspirational trip!
Note: this post is cross-posted over on my other blog, Culture Cookies. That blog tends to focus on marketing and cultural themes so if you’re interested in those areas, check it out!