Though the air conditioning is pumping, things are already heating up at the Summer Fancy Food Show taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C through tomorrow. The floor is packed with more than 30,000 attendees and exhibitors who've traveled from all over the world for this celebration of food and drink.
Wading through jammed aisles, I haven't refused samples of goat cheese, okra pickles, cake pops, salmon, fresh mangosteen, raw oysters, sweet tamarind, bacon croutons, popcorn, chocolate, olive oil and one, ok maybe two, margaritas from the Mexican pavilion. But I'm not the only one with a little buzz. Though day one just came to a close, several exhibitors and fellow journalists have commented with excitement on the energy at this year's show. Here are a few things already catching my attention.
Black is back—rice, that is.
While natural foods shoppers have been keen on black rice for years, the antioxidant-rich grain was relatively unknown to the rest of the country until now. After being featured on Dr. Oz, Good Morning America and in O The Oprah Magazine earlier this year, sales for the grain have significantly spiked. Lotus Foods, which makes my favorite organic, sustainable option reports 122 percent growth in 2011. Though the company has shown the grain at previous Fancy Food shows, it wasn't until this year that the company's product was nominated for the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade's coveted gold sofi award.
Yuzu for you?
Yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit, is appearing in marinades, juices and even a new vitamin-C rich gummy bear. The fruit (which is about the size of a tangerine) has an aroma and flavor that's distinctly different from a lemon or lime. It was formerly primarily known for its fragrant rind but now companies are using the juice where consumers might expect orange flavoring.
Move over quinoa, there's a new grain in town that packs even more of a protein punch. Kańiwa has been described as helping to, "sustain untold generations of Indians" in of the world's most difficult agricultural regions." The Peruvian powerhouse is smaller than quinoa but similar in flavor and texture. Zócalo, the company that imports the grain, also offers a kańiwa flour that can be used to make breads, desserts or added to soups.
Here are a few things others are saying:
- "Anything with Asian flavor is huge this year." —Michael Birchenall, editor of Foodservice Monthly
- "Agave, agave, agave, it's finally making its way into specialty and regardless of what some studies say, I think it's a miracle food." —Karen Hochman, editorial director of thenibble.com
- "Pearl sugar [used in Belgian waffles] is debuting at the show. Let's see if it makes a play as a new trend." —Kara Nielsen, trendologist for the San Francisco-based Center for Culinary Development.
I'm hitting the floor for day two today. Look for more Fancy Foods-related stories, videos and galleries this week on NewHope360 or follow Natural Foods Merchandiser on Facebook and @NFM_mag on Twitter.