What’s Cooking i...Thousands of food professional sifted though 80,000 products from more than 1,000 exhibitors at the 35th annual Winter Fancy Food Show. From all those choices, some trends emerged. Seven experts, from PBS cooking host Joanne Weir to the Center for Culinary Development’s Kara Nielsen, walked the stalls, highlighting what you’ll be eating more of this year, and The Daily Beast’s reporters supplemented that with dozens more calls.
Organic Chocolat... Health nuts cursed with an insatiable sweet tooth have begun seeking low-fat alternatives to decadent desserts. “People are looking for good-for-you foods so that when they do indulge, they feel better about it because the ingredients are better or organic,” says Desiree Mimlitsch, director of marketing at Big Train, Inc., which manufacturers organic chocolate syrup. Though Hershey’s is the indisputable market leader, this organic alternative has a “similar taste,” says Mimlitsch, plus it boasts organic and all-natural ingredients.
Coconut Coconut flavors have taken off in the last year, largely because product makers have figured out a way to keep the fruit pure and natural while retaining its taste. “People are just embracing that flavor. It’s one of the biggest things that’s happening here,” says The Fancy Food Show’s Ron Tanner, who listed coconut water, ice cream, and yogurt among the most popular products. “There’s been an ongoing consumer shift away from carbonated beverages and that’s no secret,” adds Arthur Gallego, communications director for Vita Coco, which manufactures coconut water. “People are looking for a noncarbonated water-type alternative that does more,” he added, describing the beverage as “thicker, milkier, more syrupy” than water.
Gluten-Free Food...Gluten-free products are not just for those unfortunate folks dealing with hypersensitive allergies. While it used to be difficult, if not impossible, to make pasta without gluten (which is essentially the glue that holds the dough together) companies like Conte’s Pasta have figured out how to produce gluten-free dishes like ravioli and pierogies.
Exotic CitrusEver since a summer craze for blood oranges, food makers have been looking to infuse exotic citrus fruits into as many dishes as possible, not only juices but also cooking sauces (think Hawaiian-style chicken and pork), candy and ice cream.
Nostalgic Comfor...During difficult times, history shows that people turn to old-fashioned sweets like peppermints, peanut butter cups, and Oreo cookies to feel better. More sustainable alternatives include homemade meatloaf and mini hamburgers, most popular during the 1950s and '60s, because they offer a sense of “hominess and comfort.”
Anything Pickled...A “renaissance in pickling” is responsible for the onslaught of pickled products that were featured at the Fancy Foods Show, explains Ron Tanner. “Years ago, farmers used to pickle their own products and now you see people beginning to pickle green beans and coming up with different kinds of cucumber pickles.” There has also been tremendous growth in pickled Asian products, like this pickled ginger from the Baycliff Company.
Smoked FishWhite fish and smoked salmon are favorite staples at New York Sunday brunches, where they are regularly mixed with mayonnaise, onions and capers. But the smoking technique is spreading to other products, too, explains Adam Caslow of Acme Smoked Fish, which showcased this “delicate” smoked Bering Cisco at the Fancy Foods show.
Bacon Sweets“Bacon is one of those foods that everyone, even vegetarians, like,” claims Katrina Markoff, founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Markoff has been adding bacon bits to chocolate-chip pancakes since she was 7 years old, and now sells them, along with dozens of other bacon-infused treats, across the country—everything from bacon coffee to bacon caramel. “There’s something to that salty, smoky with sweet [taste]. It just works so well.”
Tricked-Out Popc...Rural Route 1 Popcorn in Wisconsin is best known for mixing chocolate and nuts with homemade popcorn—and giving the combinations whimsical names like K’nuckle Popcorn (white fudge over popcorn and whole almonds) and C.C. Winkle (milk chocolate fudge over popcorn with cashews). “Most people have a taste for chocolate, and then when you mix it with all that extra crunch that popcorn gives you, and then you throw in the nuts, it’s the snack that has at all,” says store manager Peggy Biddick.
Spicy SnacksThough snacking habits know no age, adults are craving bigger flavor variety than, say, plain ol’ potato chips. “We were finding that people were really looking for things that gave them a kick,” says Debbie Marden of Deep River Snacks, which recently came out with three types of ultra bold-tasting chips. “These combinations contain plenty of garlic, ginger, onion to keep the mature palate happy,” and the ingredients “entice you so that you actually have to eat more.”