But don’t misinterpret ‘basic’ as boring. Many products were still bursting with flavor and in attention-grabbing vibrantly colored or innovative packaging and made claims that resonate with modern consumers who are eager for the adventure of something new but who still find comfort in the familiar.
In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast, we explore some of the trends that stood out among the thousands of products showcased at the Summer Fancy Food Show, including innovative uses and delivery formats for fats and oils, creative ways to elevate convenience, new twists on the familiar for the cautiously adventuristic, reimagined sports nutrition, increasingly sophisticated non-alcoholic beverages and more.
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New twists on familiar encourage consumers to try new cuisines, flavors
One of the most prominent tends at the show that stood out to Mintel Food & Drink Associate Director Melanie Zanoza Bartelme were products that offered new twists on the familiar, which she explains often double as stepping stones to broader cuisines and global traditions which may be unfamiliar to some Americans.
As an example, she pointed to the Latina-owned company Comá Gourmet Foods’ Xoconostle Spread, which won a Sofi award at this year’s show.
“It is made with a type prickly pear [cactus], and it is really interesting because … this is a much different ingredient than I am used to seeing, but it is still so accessible because it is something that you already know how to use at its heart. You don’t have to figure out how to use a prickly pear jam,” because people know how to use jam, she told FoodNavigator-USA.
She added that combining unfamiliar flavors and ingredients with unfamiliar formats is a “lot harder leap” but when companies start with something familiar it “give you that sort of starting point from which to engage with and experience the product and then maybe be a little bit more open in what you are going to look at next.”
She sees this trend playing out with other cuisines, such as Korean food, African ingredients and more.
Convenience, kitchen short-cuts rise as on-the-go lifestyles resume
Bartelme also noticed several brands offering consumers shortcuts, sometimes through innovative packaging, to encourage them to try ingredients or recreate at home cuisines that might not only be unfamiliar but also which might be perceived as complicated or messy or too high risk.
For example, she pointed to the explosion of simmer sauces and spice blends that offer consumers a chance to try new flavors without buying 30 different individual spices or need to learn how to prepare them – they simply follow directions for sauce or spice blend and they feel creative in the kitchen without investing a lot of time or resources.
“We should see shortcuts, we should absolutely find ways to make our lives easier, so that we can enjoy eating and cooking food. There is no shame in that. … They give the consumer the ability to feel like they’re being really experimental and that they’re really able to sort of tap into the cultural zeitgeist,” she added.
High end fats with a lower bar for trial
This trend was especially prominent at the show among companies playing with high-end, on-trend fats and oils that consumers may want for health or enhanced flavor but not know how to create or use on their own.
For example, Black & Bolyard – a company co-founded by two professional chefs and friends who met at a fine dining restaurant in New York in 2011 – offers the first ready-to-eat shelf stable brown butter in America.
As co-founder Eric Bolyard explained, brown butter is a hot trend right now, but it is also very temperamental to make – moving it out of reach for most home cooks. But with the brand’s ready to eat original, salted honey and real Italian black truffle brown butter, home cooks can experience the trend without the frustration of burning or undercooking the butter.
Cornhusker Kitchen also is making it easier for consumers to diversify the types of fats they use at home through more convenient packaging – starting with duck fat in a spray can, which managing partner Dennis Schuett said he came up with one night after becoming frustrated with scooping the fat out of a tub.
Italian-based Manatova Foods also showcased a new line of spray at the Fancy Food Show specifically formulated for poke. The line sprays comes in an air compressed can like Cornhusker Kitchen’s products, and includes five flavors: Avocado Oil with Yuzu, Toasted Sesame Oil, Avocado Oil with Lime & Pink Pepper, plain Avocado Oil and Soy Sauce spray. Manatova also offers a spray specifically formulated for the air fryer which uses a formula with a higher smoke point.
Sports NEWtrition – fresh takes on go-to fitness nutrition
Better-for-you is well established in most food and beverage categories, but the sports and fitness segment is still dominated by products that include long lists of unfamiliar ingredients or textures that can turnoff athletes.
Startups Noogs, Lavelle Nutrition and Date Fix all showcased alternatives that promised to fuel dedicated distance runners and weekend warriors with simpler ingredients and easier to consume formats to what is currently on the market.
Ben and Paige Foote explain that they recently launched Noogs chews as an easy-to-eat, electrolyte-packed sports performance enhancer specifically targeting consumers who may be new to sports or turned off by the “super intense” marketing associated with many currently available products.
Startup Date Fix goes even further in simplifying its take on sports nutrition gels by limiting its product to pureed dates, orange blossom water and select spices. Business development manager Nina-Marie Scalera explains their simplicity also lends to their versatility.
Fresh beyond the perimeter
Another trend emerging at the Fancy Food Show was a number of shelf-stable products positioned as fresh – a designation more often assigned to perishable food located around the perimeter of the store, rather than the center of the store.
But as Bartelme explained the refrigerator and chilled aisle no longer have dibs on the “fresh” moniker.
“For every product that’s fresh and everything that is ready-to-go, there is also, I think, more of these products that are talking about their shelf life” or leveraging technology that helps them preserve fresh food at its peak but offers the flexibility of shelf stability, she said.
I think that “There have been so many times that companies or product types have suffered because they aren't fresh. But that doesn't mean that they weren't fresh. It's that we have technologies that are able to really preserve products and ingredients in ways that make them unique, and make them delicious,” she explained.
Growee Foods award winning plant-based dips and spreads are an example of the emerging cohort of products that are blending fresh and shelf stable. Founder Aman Blana explained he is able to check both boxes by forgoing “industrial ingredients” and letting the veggies he uses take center stage.
“So many buyers at big, big retailers [are] interested in us because it is such a fresh product in shelf stable format. And people were just surprised as to how can veggies be still looking this fresh after the packaging? [It is] because we don’t use any purees, we don’t use any industrial ingredients – we literally just use fresh vegetables,” he said.
Non-alcoholic alternatives 2.0
The non-alcoholic movement – and market – have been steadily growing in the US for several years, but at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year were several brands that offer notably more sophisticated flavor profiles that lean into botanicals and away from sticky sweet that dominates many ready-to-drink mocktails and mixers.
For example, For Bitter For Worse was founded by self-described “flavor chaser” Shelley Elkovich who created a line of ready-to-drink non-alcoholic cocktails with 13 botanicals and a touch of monkfruit after she developed a rare ailment that required her to abstain from alcohol.
“I think the industry and the category is now in 2.0 and this where there are enough choices where the consumer can be more discerning and they don’t have to just be like, ‘Oh, thank goodness there is no alcohol in this.’ They can look for a drink that truly meets their [needs]."
For Ranwei Chiang, the CEO of Abstinence Spirits, which launched new non-alcoholic ready-to-drink spritzes at the Fancy Food Show, the non-alcoholic category is evolving into a “sophisticated, elevated playground” thanks to companies like hers that offers consumers the tools they need to create the kind of drink they want – be it sweet, herbaceous, alcohol free or spiked with a spirit.
Check out FoodNavigator-USA’s full coverage of the Summer Fancy Food Show
This only a small fraction of the trends FoodNavigator-USA spotted at the Summer Fancy Food Show -- check out our full coverage – including insights in trends surrounding honey, hot sauce, plant-based meat 3.0, functional beverages, crunchy snacks and more, at www.foodnavigator-usa.com.