I spent last weekend in sunny, gorgeous San Francisco attending the winter Fancy Food Show. (Bonus travel trip: This is the third year in a row I’ve visited SF on this weekend for this show, and the weather has been spectacular each time). I attend this big showcase—which I liken to cruising the sample section of Costco on their busiest day, x1000—every year in order to observe upcoming trends in flavors, foods, and drinks and to help prep for our annual Taste Test Awards. It’s a lot of sampling and observing and walking (dork alert: my pedometer logged more than 18,000 steps one day, which is double a normal active day for me), and it’s pretty fun. As my taste buds recover, I’ll share 5 trends I feel are on the rise:
Popcorn: individual-sized bags of this crunchy whole grain (a tasty way to fit in one of the at least three whole grain servings you need each day), snack-time treat were everywhere. Flavors ranged from the traditional (white cheddar, sea salt, caramel) to the creative and trendy (truffle, chipotle, lime).
Coconut: The coco-craze looks like it’s here to stay, from water to oil to coconut chips. Talking to producers and tasting samples made me realize what a wide range in quality these products can have. I can’t wait to examine them more closely for our 2013 Taste Test Awards (look for the results this fall!).
Charcuterie: Maybe it’s the evolution of the bacon craze, but it appears that salumi (and, to a lesser extent, pâté and terrines) are on the rise. Though there are dozens of superb small artisan producers across the United States cranking out quality charcuterie, the trend seems to be branching out to larger, mainstream producers. Though these products aren’t inherently light, they’re the perfect example of how a little bit of a highly flavorful, quality ingredient can go a very long way toward adding huge depth of flavor.
Sea salt: Nothing new about this high-end flavor booster, but it’s becoming even more widespread, flavoring everything from chocolates to snacks. Manufacturers are working to distinguish between types and uses and emphasizing unique origins (I tasted a smoky Alaskan sea salt that was great), as well as flake shapes and sizes.
Coffee: On the artisanal scene, small-batch roasters have been on the rise for the past few years (most mid-size cities now have at least one passionate bean-fiend who’s trekking across the globe in search of the perfect blend), but that’s starting to seep into the mainstream scene. I saw a few manufacturers touting the pour-over method for brewing the perfect single cup (possibly inspired by San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee, of which I am a big fan), that might just give coffee pods a run for their money.
Also spotted in abundance: chia and flax seeds, cherry as a popular flavor profile, and small bites (from empanadas to dumplings to mini pies).
What food trends are you seeing in your area? Any you wish would go away?