This week, the food and beverage industry descended on San Francisco for the Winter Fancy Food Show put on by the Specialty Food Association. The organization touts the annual event as the largest gathering for specialty beverages and food, and it draws more than 25,000 attendees and 1400 food companies from around the world. From established brands to emerging upstarts, the companies are all trying to tap into the latest craze and battling it for share of stomach. Here are some of the trends that stood out at this year's show.

Food waste gets a second life.

Every year 30-40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. is left to rot or is thrown out, but a new crop of companies are finding ways to transform food that would otherwise go to waste. Barnana uses imperfect bananas that used to be left to spoil to create chewy banana bites and crispy banana brittle. And ReGrained is making snack bars out of the nutritious spent grain that usually goes to waste after the beer brewing process. As the industry wrestles with how to feed a growing population, we might that the answer isn't growing more food, it is making better use of the food we let perish.

Desserts get a healthy makeover.

As consumers become more aware of the pernicious effects of sugar, many are actively trying to reduce their intake. According to Nielsen and Label Insight, 22 percent of of Americans are restricting their sugar intake, and 52 percent are trying to avoid artificial sweeteners. But even as people take strides towards a healthier lifestyle, they are not willing to sacrifice taste. So, brands are developing desserts with all the indulgence but with less guilt. Hakuna Banana is creating frozen desserts like Choco Choco Chip and Banana Spice with no refined sugars out of bananas, coconut milk and dates. And just this week, Arctic Zero introduced a new low calorie ice cream made with real milk and cream and sweetened with natural cane sugar. Arctic Zero Light Ice Cream is only 280-360 calories a pint, and it will join the the original whey protein-based and lactose-free Arctic Zero Fit Frozen Desserts.

Souping is the new juicing.

Juicing has become omnipresent with high-end cold pressed options as well as lower and middle market products available at grocery and convenience stores. But it seems souping could stand to dethrone juicing. Whereas juices are often criticized for removing the natural fiber during the pressing process and being high in sugar, these drinkable soups retain the nutrients naturally found in the vegetables. Companies like Tio Gazpacho, Zupa Noma and Fawen are offering soup in a bottle, which satisfies consumers desire for healthy on-the-go snacking. And with younger consumers increasing their intake of vegetables by 52 percent on an annual basis, drinkable soup could be a winning format.

Spices provide a passport for our taste buds.

With globalization, Americans are becoming acquainted with foods and cultures far from their own kitchens. As these barriers breakdown, consumers are becoming more adventurous eaters and more open to experimenting with new flavors, and spices can be a passport for their taste buds to explore all corners of the world. With spices like turmeric, harissa and cardamom becoming more commonplace, Middle Eastern and South Asian spices are poised to take center stage. Le Bon Magot is creating approachable chutneys, condiments and spice blends that play to the company's heritage and experiences in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. And Rumi is tapping into the fast-growing saffron market to deliver a variety of spice blends. As these spices that were once seen as exotic become ubiquitous, the U.S. spice and seasoning market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 6.72 percent a year from 2016-2020.

Plant-based foods hit a fever pitch.

Over the last few years, plant-based food and beverages have been one of the most notable trends in the industry. Venture capitalists have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the market, and the movement has found a devoted tribe. At this year's show, plant-based foods and beverages hit a fever pitch, and companies were showing all the new and unique ways that are transforming staples in the American diet with plants. Siren is taking on the snacking category with cookie dough, snickerdoodle and dark chocolate brownie snack bites made from pea protein. New Wave Foods is taking it to the sea with its plant-based shrimp made from algae, which is already available to food service operators in California and Nevada and will begin a retail rollout this year. With so much noise though, one has to wonder if consumer fatigue will set in with plant-based much in the same way it did with the terms natural and organic. But with $3.1 billion in sales in the past year, it appears that, at least for now, it is more than a passing fad.

Published on: Jan 24, 2018
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