Fancy Food Show predicts cuisine trends
By Molly Gordy
By Molly Gordy
NEW YORK — Look into my crystal ball. I have seen the future of your kitchen cupboard. It is filled with African spices, organic junk food, cleverly packaged breath mints and dozens of different specialty teas.
The basis for this prediction is not Tarot cards or palm reading, but the Summer Fancy Food Show, a showcase for tens of thousands of products jostling for a spot on the shelves of your local supermarket.
An exhaustive tour of the 171,000 products from 71 countries on display last month at the sprawling Javits Convention Center resulted in blisters, indigestion and the recognition of some volcanic trends:
HOT AND SPICY
The presence of thousands of Mexican-style salsas, Thai-spiced relishes, Indian-inspired chutneys, Southwest barbecue and Jamaican-themed jerk sauces were evidence of Americans' growing affection for spicy food.
But the profusion of similar products threatens to exceed consumer demand.
Which will prevail?
Perhaps those with innovative packaging, such as the "Adjust-Your-Own Heat" bottle of the Costa Rican-made "Dave's Insanity Sauce." Or the Asian-spiced products, which attract young consumers who grew up on Chinese food. Or African spice blends, which offer new taste combinations for the jaded palate and have been given a surprise publicity boost from Angelina Jolie's decision to give birth in Namibia.
Vann's Spices had planned to introduce its new African Collection long before Jolie's trip, representatives of the Maryland-based company say, but the increased public interest in all things African that resulted is giving momentum to its launch.
ORGANIC ALL THE TIME
Organic food consumption is up 22 percent from two years ago, industry groups report and is expected to grow. Accordingly, the show featured all kinds of new organic product offerings, including things you might not have considered at the top of your "healthy" list, such organic gin, scotch and rum; organic cat and dog treats; and even a whole line of organic candy aimed at children.
Luna Roth of the Canadian company Pure Fun acknowledged that their organic, kosher and vegan lollipops and cotton candy will rot your teeth as quickly as the traditional kind. Still, if you're going to indulge anyway, she insists, their product is the better bet.
"It's not what's in it, but what's not in it," says Roth: "No pesticides, no chemicals, no dyes."
NEW TEA IS MATE
Our national tea consumption has doubled over the past five years, with about 127 million Americans naming it as their favorite beverage, according to Tea Council USA.
As befits the only country in the world that drinks 80 percent of its tea over ice, most of the growth in consumption has occurred in specialty drinks.
This was reflected at the Fancy Food Show, where more than 1,000 specialty teas were on display. There were black, white, red and green teas; ginger, licorice and fruit-flavored teas; iced, hot and warm teas; ready-to-drink tea in bottles, quick-prep tea in bags and loose teas steeping gently in clear glass pots.
There were herbal teas designed to wake you, sedate you, cleanse you. There were even cans of an icy-green tea "energy drink," fortified with vitamins and minerals, sweetened with sugar-cane juice and carbonated to a fizz.
Chai, a South Asian blend of tea leaves, milk and spices, has grown in popularity over the past few years. This year it was joined by mate (say mah-tay), a blend of Argentine teas and spices that is being promoted heavily and may be the next chic drink.
The newest breath-freshener is the same-old, cheap-to-manufacture mint of yore, now sugar-free and repackaged with snappy titles in colorful metal tins.
So far, the companies are avoiding saturation by trying to corner separate niches of the market: ArtCoCo Mints, sold in airports and tourist shops, are personalized with the customer's name and a geographically specific logo such as Boston lobsters or New York taxis. HintMints come in flavors such as Irony and Cynicism. Mirror Mints come with a small makeup mirror in a pink box emblazoned with titles such as "Cute," "Hottie," "High Maintenance" and "Neurotic."
But that's not a patch on Blizzard Mints, a Colorado-based company that features purebred canines on its box covers and promises "to make your breath sweeter for kissing your dog."