Summer Fancy Food Show

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Bold flavors, complementary pairings and easy customization emerge as top trends at the Summer Fancy Food Show

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: E. Crawford
Source: E. Crawford

Related tags Soup-To-Nuts Podcast Fancy Food Show

At the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City last week, health claims were downplayed and flavor came first – for real – followed by personalization with more brands offering consumers ways to dial up or down the heat, tang, funk and other characteristics that can be polarizing.

That is not to say that health claims and better-for-you callouts were missing – they were there, but secondary. And at times they were surprising, such as low-sodium, a health benefit that historically has been delivered through stealth health for fear that consumers would translate it to mean "bland."

The result, as explored in this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast​, was a more balanced, welcoming and accessible selection of products that consumers with different dietary needs and taste preferences could enjoy together.

[Editor’s note: Never miss an installment of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast – subscribe​ today.]

Customization meets convenience

Personalized nutrition based on biometrics, genetics or medically-identified sensitivities have been trending for years among the elite who can pay for the technology and complementary services that allows them to track and assess the way their bodies' respond to foods or who can afford to work one-on-one with a nutritionist or ready-to-eat meal company to tailor their breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

But as Mintel global food analyst and trendspotter Melanie Zanoza Bartelme noted, several companies at the Summer Fancy Food Show are making it easier for everyone to personalize their food by offering an "inclusive" base product that easily can be tailored.

She explained the biggest question – and trend – she sees emerging in packaged food is, “How many people can you reach with a product by making it appeal to a wider variety of people?”

As an example, she pointed to the allergen-friendly and certified FODMAP-safe seasoning made by IrieVeda Spice Blends. Consumers can buy popular blends with or without ingredients that might intimidate them or aggregate allergies, such as its Jovial Jerk, which can be bought without or with Scotch Bonnet peppers.

Likewise, she called out the cake mix company Flour & Olive, which highlights how its basic cake mix can be used to make dozens of different desserts from around the world.

This versatility also resonates with consumers who are thinking more closely about how to spend their money, how much energy they have to realistically invest in cooking and what kind of space they have available in their pantry, she added.

Mild is hot

A closely related trend that emerged at the Fancy Food Show was an uptick in potentially divisive flavors or products that were either toned-down through pairings with complementary flavors or for which milder versions were launched to reach Americans whose palates are more sensitive or still in training.

For example, Jenny Englert, director of US marketing at Saputo USA, said the cheesemaker and full solution dairy supplier launched a new mild blue cheese under its Treasure Cave brand and a Montchevre Gouda, which is a tangy but more mild goat cheese twist on a traditional gouda.

The brand also collaborated with Mike’s Hot Honey to create a Montchevre option where the sometimes off-putting tang of the goat cheese is softened by the sweetness of the honey, and the milky base of the cheese counters the spice in Mike’s Hot Honey.

Spicy shifts from scorching hot to storytelling through layered flavor

Mild may be gaining traction, but spicy peppers are still a hot trend. Although, as Papa Tony’s Hot Sauce Founder Tony Wilson explained, they too are being tempered with complementary ingredients that highlight their fruity, earthy or other complex flavors.

He explained that not everyone wants to feel “literally numb” from hot sauce, although they may be attracted to some of the flavor notes of hotter peppers. With this in mind, he created a range of hot sauces that use citrus juice, fruit, garlic and other ingredients to highlight and round out the flavor of the peppers he uses – making them more approachable to a broader set of consumers.

Likewise, heat is being incorporated into more formats that lend it more versatility, such as in Eltee’s Goods’ versatile line of Tommy Jam tomato-based jams, which Founder Lindsey Thalheimer said can be used for sweet and savory applications or mixed with sour cream for a dip with a less-intense level of heat.                                                                           

Low-sodium no longer means low-flavor

As Americans embrace spices that once were deemed exotic or too intense, food brands are able to back-off the amount of salt in their recipes – opening the door for low- and no-sodium claims.

Startup Peepal People Co-Founder Alyzeh Rizvi explained that consumers increasingly are worried about excessive sodium consumption and are looking for healthier options – like the South Asian sauces she and her husband make.

Peepal People sauces have between 20 milligrams and 65 milligrams of sodium per serving compared to the average 135 milligrams in other hot sauces, she said. The company calls out this point of differentiation on pack, noting they have 80% less sodium than other leading brands.

Another brand calling out low-sodium was startup Madid’s, which founder Nyamam Adeng explained is a shelf stable African eggplant dip that delivers big flavor thanks to the sautéed vegetables and spices blended into the all-natural product.

Low- and no-sodium products also increase a brand’s appeal to an often overlooked demographic – baby boomers and aging Gen Xers who have reached a point in their lives where their heart health is a higher priority and their doctors may be advising them to cut back on salt or eat more plants to reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol.

Other emerging themes and trends at the Fancy Food Show were premium convenience – so think high quality condiments, sauces, baking mixes and other products that can elevate homemade meals, even when prepared by unexperienced cooks. Also present were products featuring honey, fruit and specialty produce – like the yellow tomatoes in Natural Blonde’s Spicy Blonde Bloody Mary Mix – and plant-based options beyond alternative meat, such as Klepper & Klepper’s gelatin-free confection brand The Best Licorice Ever and Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen Vegan Hot Chili Sambal made with shiitake mushroom powder instead of a more conventional fish sauce.


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