As I sampled the wares of 2,500 exhibitors during the 61st annual Summer Fancy Food Show, which concluded Tuesday in New York City, I was on a mission to pinpoint the culinary trends that were especially relevant for restaurateurs and chefs. Foodservice sales of artisanal and specialty foods now account for 22 percent of the $109 billion in sales racked up by the specialty food industry, according to the Specialty Food Association, which runs the show. And foodservice sales are growing 50 percent faster than retail sales, says David Browne, market research analyst with Mintel.
Restaurants are increasingly tapping these artisanal and small food producers for items that will differentiate their menus. To keep your concept a few steps ahead of the competition, here is a look at what’s next—those products that take a deeper dive in terms of flavor and ingredients into emerging trends.
1. The next Sriracha
At last year’s Fancy Food Show, I reported on how Sriracha was flavoring everything from ketchup to chips. Now that the Asian chili sauce is showing up on chain menus in chicken wings, burger toppings and more, consumers may be ready for the next hot condiment—Gochujang. This Korean fermented chili sauce was spicing up ketchups, relishes and dumpling fillings.
2. The next jerky
Packages of beef, turkey and salmon jerky were everywhere on the show floor last year, several brands handcrafted in small batches. They were still around this year, and as one of the producers explained to me, jerky is a popular grab-and-go snack with the Paleo diet crowd. But a couple of exhibitors touted the next iteration of jerky—dried meat sticks. They look like artisanal Slim Jims, but are made with higher end, natural ingredients like grass-fed beef and heritage pork, and are free of artificial flavors and preservatives.
3. The next shrub
Several small producers sell bottled shrubs—the fruit, sugar and vinegar concoctions created in colonial times that modern mixologists are shaking and stirring into signature cocktails. Now there’s the switchel, another old-fashioned elixir made by brewing vinegar, maple and ginger. Three booths were marketing their small-batch switchels as cocktail mixers or non-alcoholic drinks—one of which was carbonated and on tap.
4. The next chip
At the 2014 show, many exhibitors were hawking chips made of quinoa, lentils, chickpeas and kale. This year, coconut chips were the hot ticket. The crispy vegan snacks were packaged au natural, as well as in versions flavored with bacon and wasabi.
5. The next hot flavor
Cold-brewed coffee has been trending in select coffee cafes, and I’m thinking its cult-like status has made it the selling point for line extensions. I sampled cold-brew coffee ice cream and carbonated cold-brew coffee, plus a couple of booths offered convenient single-serve cans and foodservice-size retort pouches so mainstream operations can easily offer the beverage.
6. The next kale
I’m not saying kale is exactly dead—it’s still in evidence in chips, juices, kombucha and more. But beets made a very strong showing in a number of nontraditional products, including beet yogurt, beet-quinoa-orange salsa, beet hummus and a beet-and-berry energy bar. Coming down the pike: okra, broccoli and carrots.
7. The next technique
Fermentation and pickling, two popular food preservation techniques, are not going away, but barrel aging is inching its way in. One company at the show was using oak bourbon barrels to age maple syrup, imparting it with the complex flavor notes usually associated with barrel-aged spirits. I predict it won’t be long until other ingredients begin to reap the benefits of barrel aging.