Bad Girl, Good Business

Body & Soul Food (Part 3)

As we wrap-up our recap of the Fancy Food Show 2016…

we realize that we barely scratched the surface of the 180,000 products and 2,550 exhibitors. So far, we focused on high-level trends and women-owned brands in our summaries. This last post deals with a veritable trending tsunami — the wave of “healthy” and “natural” foods.

As the Boomer population ages and Millennials become more aware of what they are putting into their bodies, people are turning over their snacks and packaged foods to study ingredients. (If you want to get REALLY paranoid about what you’re eating, read this book.)

Americans  seem to be watching what goes into their mouths and stomachs. The number of Americans with “poor diets” is dropping, according to this article in the New York Times.

From olive oil to snake oil (metaphorically), food manufacturers are jumping on the healthy eating bandwagon…with mixed results. Creating a food that tastes good AND is truly good for you AND has a decent shelf life (without preservatives) is the ultimate culinary art.

The products we saw and sampled at the show all claimed to be healthier and free of one thing or another. We’re not claiming that if you eat them all you’ll be instantly thinner or stronger. But trading your Cheetos for some quinoa is probably a safe bet. (And if you still don’t really get what non-GMO means, this is a great primer. Bet you’ll start looking for that label now!)

  1. Meat and greet.  The jerky craze is still going strong and varieties abound. Americans spent $2.8 billion on dried meats last year according to NPR. In addition, Hershey’s bought jerky company Krave, which is another sign that meat snacks are here to stay. But just as small batch beer co-exists with mega brews, artisanal jerky still lives on. In addition to the typical beef variety, jerky is now being made from fish, poultry, and bacon (of course!). One company even calls their dried fruit “jerky” to capitalize on the trend. About twenty brands were showcasing jerky, including Uncle Andy’s Jerky, Think Jerky, Lawless Jerky and The New Primal. Jerky companies are targeting all segments of the market — from gourmand to Paleo people to what I call products for “jerky girls” in colorful packaging with cutesy names. Click here for the full list of jerky brands.
  2. We all scream for ice cream — with no cream. Just because you’re lactose-intolerant, you don’t have to live through a hot and bothered summer. Dairy-free frozen treats are  a cool alternative Among the summer delights at the show were Coconut BlissGood Pop, Jolly Lllama, and Eat Pops. Some goodies like LifeIce and Ruby Rocket’s even contain vegetables. (See #6.)
  3. You’re drinking WHAT? We found strange drinks to be surprisingly tasty. A couple of years ago, we were all going coconutty over the coconut water craze. Why drink tap water when you can guzzle a magic potion like sap water? Hitting the bottle this year are Health-Ade kombucha (a fermented tea drink that is purported to improve brain function), Cheribundi cherry juice (as part of a 7-day wellness plan), Sapp Birch Water, Switchel and Alor Aloe Vera Juice.
  4. Chips Ahoy! Who doesn’t love to snack? We are a snack culture. Here’s an awesomely frightening set of stats on what kinds of salty snacks people buy in convenience stores. (And I thought I spent a lot on shoes!) The good news is that many options for healthier crunchies are now available and chips are being made with everything from kale to quinoa to jicama. Among our favorite exotic chips at the Fancy Food Show this year were Off the Cob Sweet Corn Chips, ProTings protein chips, and JicaChips.
  5. Grains Gone Wild. The ancient grain craze encourages you to snack like an Egyptian to live longer. Products like BuckWHAT!, Zocalo Andean GrainVillage Harvest Seasoned Quick Cook Whole Grains, and everything from breakfast cereal to cookies on this list transform kamut and farro into gourmet treats. Our ancestors are rolling over laughing in their tombs.
  6. Eat Your Fruits & Veggies! For years, moms have been hiding healthy stuff in creative recipes. But now we are proudly eating our spinach — and seaweed!
  7. Tasting Good AND Doing Good. CSR used to stand for Customer Service Rep. It now is the abbreviation for Corporate Social Responsibility.  To appeal to millennials and other socially-conscious consumers, smart companies are adding a little bit of soul to their kitchens. Here is a list of snack companies that have a social mission.  The same way you read ingredient labels, you can research the companies you buy from to ensure that their cause is coming from the heart rather than just the PR department. Read too how the industry is tackling the issue of food waste.
  8. Gluten be Gone! Every major media outlet has covered the fear of gluten. Here’s a great article from the Wall Street Journal. Whether you’ve abandoned gluten because you have Celiac Disease, just feel better without it, or you like jumping on food trends, you’ll definitely want Goodie Girl Cookies and Meli’s Monster Cookies in your jar.
  9. Now you see it now you don’t.  Gluten isn’t the only thing missing from packaged food these days. Manufacturers are taking out sugar, preservatives, and things we can’t pronounce. Low ingredient foods can be healthier (and you don’t have to spend a lot of time reading the list on the back). RXBar even features their list on the front of the package! There are also new and cleaner alternatives for our favorites, such as mayonnaise. Primal Kitchen takes it to a whole new level with their delicious and healthy avocado mayo.
  10. Matcha Matcha Man. I apparently missed the matcha memo. It was the hot beverage at Fashion Week last year. But this powdered tea is still trending, based on the products we saw from Aiya Matcha to Go and Stash Tea.
  11. Pop art is timeless. Popcorn once came in only two varieties — plain and buttered. Now it’s big, little, flavored, and combined. Is popcorn really a healthy snack? The short answer, according to this article is “it depends.” Avocado, nori, pumpkin praline, lime, and of course kale are just some of the popcorn flavors that have popped up in recent years.

Consumers’ tastes continue to evolve and the industry evolves along with it.  We’re already hungering to see what trends emerge in 2017!

 


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