2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Winter Fancy Food Show, which wraps up today at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
The WFFS is the largest marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty foods and beverages on the West Coast. Some 1,400 exhibitors — ranging from established mega-corps to small indie artisans looking to get a foothold in the specialty food market — participated in the three day event.
Imagine Comic-Con, except with food — aisles upon aisles of food.
With so many food industry movers and shakers under one roof, it also happens to be a great place to spy burgeoning food trends (along with reminding us of fads that just won’t die — we’re looking at you, bacon). Here are just some of the major trends we spotted over the past two days:
Coconut: It’s everywhere — and in almost everything. Which is not a huge surprise considering the skyrocketing popularity of coconut water in recent years. What was mind blowing though, were just how many coco-centric products are now flooding the market, and the wide variety of forms — ranging from water, caramel, chips, cookies, granola, flour, syrups, vinegar, and even beer (Maui Brewing Company’s Coconut Porter). This is a trend that’s at its peak.
Turmeric: Is it the new acai? It would seem so. Touting healthful, anti-inflammatory properties, we spied the pungent root in no fewer than seven products — snack foods, soda, juice and so on — but mostly in tea form, including a new teasan line from Oakland’s Numi Organic Tea.
Chickpeas: These versatile legumes are for more than making hummus — chickpea and hummus-based crackers, chips, and even served whole and crunchy in a variety of flavors including honey, wasabi and Korean BBQ.
Seaweed: An increasing number of roasted seaweed snacks are popping up. We also spied seaweed used as a flavoring in two different popcorns (479 Degrees and Pop Art), sweet snack bars, as well as in hummus form (blended with the aforementioned chickpea) from Hayward’s Azuma Gourmet.
Maple: For more than just pancakes — in addition to syrup form, we saw maple flavoring BBQ sauce, tea, coffee, frozen desserts and caramels (Vosges Haut-Chocolat).
South Asian Flavors: The flavors of India and Southeast Asia are permeating the market in unexpected ways — think masala chai caramel corn and savory spreads, like Portland-based Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters’ garam masala and spicy Thai coconut infused peanut butters.
A few other takeaways: Lastly, from kale chips, paleo-friendly snacks to ancient grain this and that — the “healthy” snack craze isn’t going anywhere. Whether or not this a good thing — you be the judge.