The Winter Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco is Big Deal if you're in the food industry. Over 1,000 different companies from all over the world come to exhibit tens of thousands of fantastic food products. If you're planning on attending, it's a good idea not to eat anything the day before because there is so much to sample on the convention floor and you'll definitely need the extra room.
I was fortunate enough to head up to San Francisco this past weekend to check out the show myself and will recap some of my favorite people, products and all the trends from this year's show.
First up: the people.There are over 16,000 buyers at the show for restaurants, wholesalers and both large and specialty retail stores and it is interesting to watch them in action. The buyers generally have a specific idea of the types of products that will appeal to their clients and, while they are willing to go out on a limb for something that is really fantastic, they seem to be quite likely to stick to whatever their original game plan was as they hit their targeted booths. The press, on the other hand, were very organized but not as strategic as the buyers. They were much more likely to flit from booth to booth, trying to soak up as much information as possible.
As you can see from the picture above, there were a couple of celebrity chefs there. I personally had the chance to meet Paula Deen and Ina Garten. Paula was kind enough to take a picture with me (yes, that's me if you didn't already know what I looked like) after we chatted a bit on her new product line. Paula was easily as lovely in person as she appears to be on TV, if you're curious.
The trends. There are going to be more than eight food trends every year and we really won't know which ones are going to be the breakouts until much further in. That being said, there were many trends that were obvious to anyone attending the show. Green tea was just about everywhere, in foods, drinks and candies. Tea in general was very prominent, and almost all of it was loose leaf, indicating that consumer interest in tea is growing to the point where quality is as big a consideration as the taste.
Superfoods were also well represented. Açaí, a Brazilian berry, turned up in drinks and sorbets, while Goji berries, said to be one of the most nutrient rich foods in the world, were also highly visible. Pomegranate was easily the most popular superfood of the bunch, however. It was in juices, ice creams, sauces, syrups and even candies. Jelly Belly, in fact, is releasing a pomegranate jelly bean this spring. The beans (pictured) are made with concentrated pomegranate juice and do taste very much like the real fruit. They are also said to be high in vitamin C.
There was a big emphasis on heath and, as a result, many snacks were being promoted as being fortified with whole grains, essential nutrients or simply good for general health. Many were available in portion controlled packs. At the same time, there were a lot of indulgent products being pushed and a tremendous amount of chocolate was available. Much of it was dark chocolate, but dark seems to have become something of a standard, rather than a simple trend as it was a few years ago.
The products. I'm planning on spotlighting some of the wonderful products that I tried over the course of the next week, but here is a quick list of a few of my favorites: new flavors from Larabar, Paula Deen's sauce line, new iced teas for women from Republic of Tea, Italian Volcano tangerine juice, Caramoo caramels, Texas Sassy Pickles and pickle sauce, LaLoo's goat's milk frozen yogurt, Lesser Evil's Kringle Sticks, Terra Nostra chocolates, Jacques Torres baking mixes and peppadews. And that is just a handful! There were all kinds of chocolates and more olive oils than bread to dip in them
It's hard to narrow down so many great foods, so let me just say that there were more wonderful products there that I can possibly remember. There are, however, several that stick in my mind as being really top-notch, so if I had to pick favorites, mine would include VooDooo Rocky Road candy bars from Australia, the Australian meat pies (with tomato sauce!) from Vili's Gourmet Pies and Olitos sweet olive jam - all of which warranted second trips by their booths.