Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fancy Food Show Winter 2005

In January the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade holds it's winter trade show here in San Francisco. It's a terrific opportunity to try all kinds of products, meet those responsible for the food and see what is happening in the industry.

I'll be writing about many of the products I tried in the weeks to come, but here is a recap of the top 10 major trends that I saw this time around.

1. Fig everything! I saw more products featuring fig than ever before. Jams, chutneys, sauces, pastes, figs stuffed with walnuts, you-name-it. Most of the fig products were actually quite wonderful.

2. Fruit pastes. You may have tried quince paste served with cheese, but now there are lots of other flavors. This seems to be coming from Australia and New Zealand.

3. More exotic Asian sauces and spice blends. First there were Chinese sauces, then Japanese and Thai. Now get ready for Indian, Malaysian, Singaporean, etc.

4. More tropical sauces. Mango seems like an especially popular ingredient.

5. White tea with fruit flavors. Not sure what I think of this one. The antioxidant properties of white tea must be compelling because because it has really taken off and tea companies are creating a multitude of varieties. Personally I think this is such a delicate tea, I'm not sure if I like the idea of messing with it....

6. More bittersweet chocolate. I know I've talked about this before but consider this--Lindt introduced an 85% chocolate bar six months ago and it is now there best-seller. Now do you believe me?

7. Salts. This trend continues to build momentum. I spoke at length with a chef about this and will have a longer report in the days to come.

9. Water. Unusual waters like peppermint water, and ancient health product coconut water but also more emphasis on single source and greater purity. Last year there was a contamination incident with Dasani in Europe and I think people will be looking a little closer at those ubiquitous bottles to see, is that just tap water or something special? I'll have more information on this soon too.

10. Drinking chocolate. I wrote about this recently, but cocoa powder is not the same as drinking chocolate. Chocolate has cocoa butter and is a much richer more decadent (better!) product. Lots of familiar brands are making drinking chocolates such as Sharffen Berger, Joseph Schmidt, La Maison du Chocolate. Fear not, I will taste them ALL and report back!