The Fancy Food Show hit Moscone on Sunday for its annual massive three-day schmooze fest of specialty and gourmet goods. With 80,000 products shown from 35+ countries and regions, it is the largest marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty foods and beverages on the West Coast.
Strategically avoiding the crowds that formed around every booth with a TV tuned in to the Niners game, we were able to taste an impressive amount of samples from this year’s exhibitors. Here are some trends we picked up on:
1. SUPERFOOD MANIA
We saw proclaimed superfoods like goji, quinoa, and chia seeds in everything from snack mixes to breakfast cereals, pastas, and energy drinks. Despite some unfortunate branding for a few of these products (I’m looking at you, Holy Crap Breakfast Cereal), most of it tasted surprisingly good. In particular, we were fans of the Raw Superfruit Mix from Extreme Health USA. It was a hefty, chewy mix of organic goji berries, mulberries, golden berries, and blueberries. The golden berries were a first for me. Also called Incan Berry, they have a sweet, tart, grapefruit-like flavor that play well with their other super friends in the mix.
2. COCONUT EVERYTHING
It was virtually impossible to go a few steps without running into a coconut something or other. There were coconut oils, coconut beverages, coconut ice cream, coconut chips, even coconut cheese. The most addictive iteration of these coconutty goods was Dang Coconut Chips. Before the branding police raises an eyebrow, let it be known that Dang is named after the company founder’s mother. The chips are made from ripe coconut meat, toasted with a touch of sugar and salt until the intense, golden coconut flavor is baked in. Mixed with granola, sprinkled over yogurt, a salad, or eaten by the handful, it would be easy to demolish an entire bag of these coconut chips.
3. THE ANTI-POTATO CHIP
The whole healthy snacks thing was really prominent this year. Between all the kale chips, and lentil chips, and fruit chips, and seaweed snacks I saw, I was beginning to wonder what a girl had to do to get an old-fashioned potato chip around here. Before I had time to mourn the spud for long, the “Kale is Kool” Kids had me surrounded. I was powerless against their enthusiasm and vitamin-charged perkiness. Brad’s Raw Leafy Kale in the Vampire Killer flavor (a savory, garlicky delight) had me chanting “Kale is Kool” for a good minute or two.
4. GLUTEN FREE GOODIES
Gluten-free friends were not short-changed at the Fancy Food Show. Salted Caramel corn puffs from Cosmos Creations were downright munchable. Pretzels and shortbread cookies from Gratify Foods could have fooled me. Bixby & Co’s To The Nines white chocolate bar was fragrant with cardamom and had crunch factor from pistachios, almonds, and puffed rice. And if it is decadence you’re looking for, turn to Béquet Caramel. Hand crafted in small batches in Montana, these soft buttery caramels are sinfully rich and utterly delicious. All their flavors were fantastic (I did my due diligence and tried about six of them…see how committed I am to you), but the sleeper hit was the Cinnamon Swirl. The cinnamon flavor was deep, with an almost baked-in flavor to it, perfectly complementing the buttery vanilla caramel. For gluten-free folks, if you’ve ever craved a hot cinnamon roll, this may just do the trick. Béquet’s Cinnamon Swirl Caramel has captured the essence of warm cinnamon roll indulgence.
5. UN-TRADITIONAL SODAS
Fizzy drinks had a comeback this year with a large selection of interestingly flavored carbonated beverages. Vignette cornered the wine soda market, with flavors deriving from varietal wine grapes. Q Drinks has expanded from their hallmark tonic to ginger ale and kola. And Joia uses creative combinations of fruit, herbs, and spices (think Grapefruit Chamomile & Cardamom) to bring life to their lightly carbonated drinks. If you’re a soda aficionado in SF, check out The Fizzary, experts in acquiring and distributing craft and vintage sodas.
This post was published on KQED’s Bay Area Bites on January 22, 2013.