6 Things We Learned at the 2020 Fancy Food Show

Recently, a few of us went to the 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco as part of our never-ending quest to learn about the latest and greatest trends, products, and ideas in today’s food world. We tasted our way across the showroom floor, sampling delicacies from every corner of the earth. Our friends at Datassentials taught us about the lifecycle of a food trend — and other speakers presented on how the food industry is addressing issues from climate change to decolonizing the spice trade to food transparency.

But out of everything we learned at this year's Fancy Food Show West, these six insights, ideas, and trends took the cake.

  1. Plant-based 2.0 

Did you know you there’s a plant-based alternative to pork rinds? Well, now you do. What about perfectly creamy soft serve with no aftertaste? Eclipse Foods is on a mission to be the Impossible™ of frozen treats. How about mushroom jerky or cultured non-dairy butter? There are tasty plant-based alternatives to many dairy- and meat-based foods popping up more than ever before — and we didn’t know we needed them until now.

  1. Flavor trends lean toward Korean and Afro-Caribbean

Move over curry and salsa verde — there are new flavors trending! Berbere spice blends and sauces, Jamaican jerk sauce, and kimchi mayo were just a few examples of these emerging flavor profiles. Even a Minnesota-based brand, Mama Kicks, is hopping on this trend train with a line of sauces and marinades inspired by authentic Caribbean, African, and South American flavors.

But, one of our new favorite brands is KPOP Foods with its line of Korean hot sauces, glazes, and that aforementioned kimchi mayo. You can count on us spending the next few months marinating anything and everything we can get our hands on.

  1. Radical authenticity and transparency in the food system

We all know about the fair trade coffee movement — but what about decolonizing our spice trade? Or ending slave labor in the chocolate industry?

Modern consumers are hungry for knowledge when it comes to our food system, and there are some impressive brands who are successfully providing this sort of education. For example, Sana Javeri Kadri, founder of Diaspora Co., explained that pricing for spice farmers has not been adjusted in over 100 years. Sometimes spices can change hands more than 10 times before reaching the consumer, meaning everyone along that supply chain needs to get paid. So in the end, very little profit trickles down to the farmer, which is why Kadri’s spice company works directly with farmers and pays them a living wage. Inspired by Sana, we’re thinking about new ways we can help our clients tell their stories of authenticity.

  1. Building a better beverage

Any grocer will tell you that the single serve beverage category is one of the fastest growing areas in stores right now — and we love this trend. Hello, more cocktail and mocktail mixers! There are options from sugar-free to syrupy sweet, from still to sparkling. Suffice it to say, people are really pushing beverage boundaries.

Some of our favorites were H2OPS™ sparkling hop water, Kimino sparkling yuzu juice, and Bitters & Sodas, a line of sparkling mixers from Hella Cocktail Co. We can’t wait to start playing around in the test kitchen with these products.

  1. Paleo fades as Keto rises

According to Google Trends, there were more people searching for the word “Paleo” before 2018. However after 2018, Keto stole the show — literally. Basically, if a recipe or product wasn’t plant-based, it was probably Keto. There was Keto cookie dough, ice cream, protein bars, snack chips, etc. Name any product, and there was probably a low-carb, high-protein version. While people can’t seem to get enough of the Keto concept, we’re still on the lookout for Keto products that satisfy our cravings for taste and flavor.

  1. Something for everyone

As we zoomed out on our time at the Fancy Food Show, it really felt like there is something for everyone in today’s food industry. Datassentials confirmed our theory in its presentation on food trends. The short version? The age of functional food and genetic testing is here, people are armed with more knowledge about what foods work best for their bodies, and the food industry is responding in a big way.

In other words, trends that used to take 10–15 years to gain widespread adoption are now reaching the mainstream in two years or fewer.

So what’s the ultimate food trend? We argue: trend cycles are shorter than ever.

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