It's easy to love NASFT's Fancy Food Shows. The atmosphere is cocktail-party festive, suited men with accents abound (the Italian pavilion was a favorite this year) and natural and organic products sparkle like jewels on the show floor. This year was no exception. Look for my gallery of favorite products coming soon. Trends ranged from the typical gluten-free and Non-GMO Project labeling to the completely unexpected. Here are a few themes that caught my attention.
1. Tropical twists
From guava jam to hibiscus coolers, products explored a new fascination with the tropical. Is this an extension of the coconut craze? I suspect it's an easy way to add a touch of sweet (since these fruits tend to be higher in sugar) and the sparkle of exotic ingredients. In particular, look for foods with acerola cherry. The Brazilian fruit is noted for its high antioxidant content and delightful sweet/tart flavor.
2 High-end pints
Not everyone will be willing to drop $6 for a pint of ice cream, but the newest gourmet pints aren't made for the everyday consumer in mind. Using only the highest quality ingredients (think, farm-raised goat's milk) and small batch production, ice cream goes luxe with gourmet-focused flavors that spell indulgence. Perhaps their none-too-modest price will encourage calorie control? Yeah, I don't think so either.
3. Pitch perfect pouches
The BPA-free pouch enjoys its day in the sun (and rightly so) for offering convenience and being able to hold, well, anything. Pouches throughout the floor offered soups, sauces, snacks, Jell-o-like desserts and beverages. Next up? I'm ready for a truly sustainable, recyclable option.
Stevia may be an acceptable option in the natural channel, but in gourmet (where taste is everything) its saccharine sweet aftertaste just won't cut it. Rather than formulating with a stevia blend, manufacturers are opting for healthier coconut palm sugar and nectar. The sweetener offers a caramel like-flavor, lower glycemic load and (big bonus) Dr. Oz endorsement.
5. Organic opt out
As we're seeing in the natural channel, brands are choosing not to pursue organic certification in favor of Non-GMO Project Verification or their own (sometimes fairly inaccurate) growing story. One brand told me that though their product does use pesticide in the field, because the fruit is allowed to ripen on the vine and is picked at its peak it naturally pushes out any of the pesticides it was sprayed with. The juice they were selling was essentially "biodynamic" because of this process. Organic campaign, where are you when we need you?