- The foods and beverages showcased at the Summer Fancy Food Show, hosted this week by the Specialty Food Association, inform major manufacturers of what to expect from the competition and what they might consider adding to their portfolios in the future.
- Standout flavor and functionality trends and innovations included pickled products, alternative sources of fat, and Thai flavors in a range of convenient formats, such as packaged meals, cooking sauces, and seasoning blends.
- Ingredients such as coffee and hot peppers made a strong showing in specialty confections, while hatch chile peppers and maple proved their versatility in a range of products.
Pickled products are growing in popularity among consumers because of their tangy flavors and the health benefits attributed to the fermentation process. As probiotics become more important to consumers, manufacturers have made more fermented or "live" products in turn, as experts predicted for this year. Consumers and manufacturers also laud fermented and pickled foods' longer shelf life, which makes these products a potential solution for tackling food waste. Pickled Brussels sprouts took home the show's "sofi" innovation award in the appetizer category.
As consumers' and health experts' perceptions of fat continue to change, manufacturers have found alternative sources of fat that offer both new flavors and functionality, such as duck fat and beef tallow. Consumers are recognizing the potential health benefits of consuming certain types of fat, and as the "diet" and "low-fat" craze is slowing, manufacturers have more options to deliver the health benefits of fat while using innovative sources that introduce new, exotic flavors into products.
Hatch chiles were a popular ingredient at the show, appearing in everything from cooking sauces and pesto to meat snacks and biscuit bites. But while hatch peppers are versatile, they are also only seasonally available and the crop is not dependable enough for a year-round staple.
Spicy sweets were another notable trend for confectioners, including cayenne or hot peppers such as habaneros lending heat to chocolate bars or caramels. As an indulgence, candy sales have fared well for both specialty and major manufacturers, despite consumers' growing concerns about sugar. But adding spice to chocolate is an innovation that could spur faster growth for the category as its sales growth rate slows behind non-chocolate candy.
Another familiar food and flavor was still alive and well at the food show: pumpkin. Consumers' interest in pumpkin-flavored products has soared in recent years, with sales increasing by 79% from 2011 to 2015, according to Nielsen. At the show, manufacturers continued to innovate with the beloved fall ingredient, though pumpkin seeds are starting to appear in more products. A pumpkin seed oil and a pumpkin seed salsa both took home sofi innovation awards in their respective categories.