NEW YORK: Every year, at an event called the Summer Fancy Foods Show, purveyors of specialty foods hawk their wares in New York, and try to catch the attention of buyers from major supermarket brands. But it's also a great place to spot trends – stuff you see at Fancy Foods inevitably pops up on supermarket shelves by the end of the year. (Not to mention the free samples are out of control – it's like the world's biggest Costco.)
Plenty of trends from last year are still hot – ayurvedic and functional foods, tinned fish and moringa are still going strong. What will we be eating and drinking more of in 2020? Here are some ideas.
The basis for this trend seems to be: What if Cheezels were vegetables? There's a surge of puffed-up, crunchy snacks on the market, and with ingredients such as chickpeas, beetroot, quinoa and kale, companies want you to feel like it's OK to eat a whole bag. One of the leading makers of puffy snacks is a company called Vegan Rob's, which has an entire line of better-for-you puffs: there are sorghum turmeric puffs, spicy probiotic "dragon" puffs, spinach puffs, cauliflower puffs, beet puffs and even brussels sprouts puffs. New this year are Burger Puffs, which emulate the flavour of vegan burgers like the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger. They pack an umami punch.
A subcategory of puffed snacks is peanut puffs, and there were a lot of them at Fancy Foods. P-nuff Crunch makes protein-rich baked peanut puffs in flavours including cocoa and cinnamon.
Collagen powder is finding its way into modern foods. Photo: Shutterstock
For a few years now, drinks and supplements containing collagen – a protein that provides the structure for our skin and organs – have been bubbling up on beauty blogs. But 2019 may be the year they go mainstream. These functional foods and beverages claim to be able to give you smoother and more supple skin, but dermatologists are sceptical.
"Evidence for their effectiveness on human skin outside of the laboratory setting is still scarce," one dermatologist told Elle magazine. Many of the studies citing the benefits of collagen consumption were done by the brands themselves.
But hey, don't let pesky science get in the way! Collagen-infused products were one of the biggest trends at Fancy Foods this year, with beautifully packaged snacks and drinks marketed toward women 30 and older. One is Coco Luxe, a line of pastel-packaged functional coconut waters, one of which contains collagen and acai, for a "daily lift to your beauty regime", according to the product's marketing materials. Garden of Flavor, a maker of cold-pressed juices, has a line of Energy Elixirs, which contain probiotics and guayusa leaf, a cousin of yerba mate. One of the flavours is aloe and collagen.
Boozy and booze-adjacent tea
Aside from maybe a glass of warm milk, tea is just about the tamest beverage there is. But in 2019, specialty foods companies seem determined to give tea a new attitude. For example: Wouldn't it be rad if tea could get you drunk? That's the premise of a new drink from Owl's Brew, a canned sparkling beverage that combines tea (white tea, English breakfast or Darjeeling) with a malt base, for a 4.6 per cent ABV light, summery drink. It's sort of like a hard sparkling mineral water. Another canned tea doesn't actually have booze in it, but it's still in this category for a good reason: Hoplark's sparkling HopTea is brewed with hops, and is halfway between an iced tea and a craft beer. It was kind of mind-blowing – the taste of beer and tea, but no alcohol! It would be a great non-alcoholic alternative. Which brings us to our next category ...
A mocktail made with alcohol-free gin. Photo: Supplied
Sober living: It's not just for pregnant ladies and alcoholics in recovery anymore, as the New York Times pointed out last week. Being "sober-curious" is a lifestyle choice, like doing a cleanse or going to Burning Man. So it's no surprise that there are plenty of companies ready to capture those temperance dollars, making festive beverages that are booze-free but are more sophisticated than soft drink. One is Töst, a dry, effervescent drink made of white tea, cranberry and ginger. It comes in a wine bottle, so it will feel appropriately celebratory for a special occasion. There's also O. Vine "wine water" – go ahead, make your Jesus jokes – a sparkling water made with grape skins, so it mimics wine. A company called Mingle makes sparkling mocktails in flavours such as melon mojito and cranberry cosmo, and Hella makes a brilliant non-alcoholic canned drink consisting of bitters and soda.
Lotus seeds have long been part of traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. Photo: Shutterstock
Popped lotus and water lily seeds
Close on the heels of that puffed snack trend is another interesting ingredient that's on the upswing: lotus seeds. They've long been a part of traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, and when they're popped and coated in flavours, they become a crunchy and addictive snack, sort of like popcorn. They're also marketed as a source of antioxidants, and they are related to a big trend from last year's show that has continued through 2019: ayurvedic medicine. The snacks are sometimes called by their other name, foxnuts. Roast Health Foods makes them in three flavours: sea salt, cheesy jalapeno and barbecue. Mr. Makhana comes in six flavours, including butter tomato – like a good butter chicken. With a caramel jaggery flavour, Yoga Pops will satisfy a sweet tooth.
Natural electrolyte drinks are in. Photo: Shutterstock
If your $45 S'well bottle isn't enough of a signal to the rest of your spin class that you're better than them, try this: new, more virtuous sports drinks designed for people who want Gatorade, but without the sugar and artificial colours. Halo Sport is an electrolyte drink for "wellness warriors", with stevia instead of added sugar, and amla berry, an antioxidant from traditional Indian medicine. There's also Recover 180°, a sports drink that boasts herbal extracts, including trendy ashwagandha and L-Glutamine. Both companies also touted their products as being great for hangovers, in case you haven't transitioned over to the sober-curious side yet.
Oat milk makes a great dairy-free alternative. Photo: Shutterstock
Oat milk everything
Oat milk has emerged as the golden child of all the alternative milks – it's great in coffees, and for a time, baristas could barely keep it in stock. So it makes sense that companies are piggybacking off its success and launching other oat milk products. Rise Brewing Co., which makes canned coffees, introduced one of the first ready-to-drink canned oat milk coffees. It also comes in mocha, and to be honest, I think I prefer it to dairy-based canned coffees. Chocolatier Raaka has an oat milk chocolate bar, sweetened with maple sugar. And Oaté – it's pronounced oh-uh-tay, the website helpfully notes – makes an oat milk ice-cream.
Cheese takes new shapes
For when you're workin' on your night cheese, here are a few new ways to do it. Want cheese you can eat out of a bowl with a spoon? Try Rifraf – single-serve ricotta cups with a flavour you can stir in. They can be sweet (wildflower honey, Meyer lemon) or savoury (serrano pepper honey, sun-dried tomato). Want cheese you can throw back like popcorn? Try dehydrated cheese snacks, which are another extension of the fancy cheese puff trend – they're crunchy, and the cheese flavour is extra concentrated. There's Moon Cheese and Cheese Pop. Want your cheese to taste like a candy bar? Grab a Speka, a chocolate- or caramel-coated hunk of cold cottage cheese.
Snack balls made of natural ingredients are big again this year. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Balls are big this year. You have probably seen a version of these products in your local cafe: They're a snack item made of ingredients such as dates, nuts, peanut butter and coconut rolled into a ball, often geared toward the keto and paleo crowd. Now, packaged versions are gaining wider distribution. Some of these products come in cube shapes or blobby "bites", but what the heck, we'll include them. Packaging is critical for this trend, because, honestly? This is a category of snack that looks a little bit like animal droppings, no matter who makes it. I'm sorry I put that image in your head. I am just here to tell the truth. Anyway! The Protein Ball Co. gets points for having a mascot that is just a brown ball with googly eyes. They have oat balls for breakfast, and snacking balls in flavours such as raspberry brownie and lemon pistachio that could be a good afternoon snack.
No big surprise here: CBD, one of the fastest-growing US categories of the year, was well-represented at the trade show. But even though its legality is questionable, and research is still determining how effective it is at addressing all the maladies companies claim it can soothe, the CBD gold rush continues apace. In case you don't know: CBD is the non-psychoactive compound in hemp, so it won't get you high – but many of the companies marketing CBD products claim it can treat anxiety. CBD drinks have been popular since late 2018, and kombucha maker GT's now has a line of drinks called Dream Catcher, with hemp, caffeine and apple cider vinegar. But more interesting are the companies taking CBD into snackier territory. A company called A Boring Life – based out of Boring, Oregon – makes rather sophisticated CBD lavender-flavoured almonds. Great River Hemp Co. has CBD-infused whipped honey. And Hillside Lane Naturals has granola bites and lemon poppy seed cookies infused with CBD.
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