While it's hard to get the nation's tastemakers to agree on much, food experts at the 35th Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco have pronounced the top five food trends for the year ahead: Good-for-you foods, coconut, gluten-free, exotic citrus, and nostalgic foods.
Their picks are part of the Food Trend Challenge, a contest created by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), involving hundreds of retailers, restaurateurs, journalists, food producers, and farmers. But those weren't the only flavors trumpeted by the show's trendologists, who also sniffed out plenty of Indian sauces, hibiscus, chocolate with spices and the ever-intriguing category of "bacon in new places."
There were also signs that recession concerns are fading a bit in the food industry. "We've got 1,300 exhibitors this year, and that's up a little," Ron Tanner, NASFT's spokesman, tells Marketing Daily. "And attendance, at 17,000, is up about 8%. But even better, unlike last year, we're seeing people actually placing orders and buying products. It's a good feeling -- the show is a lot more energized than last year." The event includes about 80,000 products, he says -- some 1,500 or so of them new -- from 32 countries, ranging from tamarind chutneys to smoked olive oils.
One lasting recession trend, he says, is an increase in the number of single-serving products. "We're seeing single-serve products in things like paté, chocolate, or high-end cheeses. It might be that a cheese that's $20 a pound is still too pricey, but sold in small servings, it's more appealing."
Another change, he says, is that the "Eat Local" movement has taken hold, particularly in refrigerated and frozen products. "Retailers and suppliers are looking more at building their local market -- people want to support their local entrepreneurs."
When the group polled retailers about types of products their customers are interested, Tanner says, "local products came in No. 1, and -- interestingly -- international products came in second."