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.


Cake Week: When Recipe Development Meets Digital Marketing

The goal of recipe development is to create food that tastes great. But for a food marketing agency like us, flavor is just the start of the journey.

Yes, our team of culinary content creators tests and retests recipes until the result blows our taste buds away — but they also create dishes that do more than just taste or look great. They also accomplish specific goals for a client. 

This gorgeous lemon chamomile cake you’ve been ogling? Elsa Goldman, one of our content producers, developed this cake for our Southern California grocery client, Gelson’s Markets, over the course of a week. But what exactly went into that weeklong process? 

The not-lemon cake

Plot twist! The lemon chamomile cake didn’t start as a lemon chamomile cake at all. Elsa began with a bright-pink vision of a blood orange and almond tea cake, only to end up with what she would call “a bad testing day,” or what most parents would call “a learning experience.” 

But first things first: why a citrus cake in the first place?

Well, the food world is trend-focused, and so are we. Our team develops a strategy based on what ingredients and dishes are popping up across social media, in cookbooks, etc. We balance that trend-focused lens with what’s in season and what insights we have into the SoCal market in which Gelson’s operates, as well as the interests of its clientele. 

This time around, citrus desserts checked all of those boxes. Whether it’s oranges, lemons, grapefruits, or one of the many citrus hybrids available today, winter is the time to eat citrus — particularly in Southern California. Add that zest and tang to something like cake, and you’ve got yourself a fresh, almost spring-like dessert. We could envision the Gelson’s customer making a citrusy dessert for a special occasion, like a baby shower or even a birthday. With those insights in mind, we (meaning Elsa) could confidently proceed with the development process.

So back to the blood orange cake: The first test was way too sweet. And in order to get the frosting to stay on the cake, Elsa basically had to make what amounted to a thick, orange sugar paste. (Yum?)

But all baking-related frustrations aside, her initial inspiration, as well as the clear strategic benefits of a blood orange cake, just weren’t there anymore. Yeah, blood orange is fun and bright — but Elsa realized it’s actually kind of outdated (in terms of food trends) and polarizing (ask a room full of people if they like puckery blood oranges and see what happens). 

“I had the freedom to just be like, ‘F*** this. I’m gonna do something that I’m excited about,’” she said. “Because if we’re going to spend so much time developing a recipe, you should be excited about it.”

New cake-spiration

In Alison Roman’s latest all-the-rage cookbook, Nothing Fancy, there’s a lemon-turmeric tea cake recipe, and it sparked that inspiration Elsa was missing while also fitting the trend-focused and seasonal content brief. 

“Adding floral and more herbaceous notes into cocktails and desserts is trending right now,” she said. “Like you see tahini in a lot of desserts — and more herbs.”

She didn’t go with turmeric, however. For her new vision, which looked more like an elegant layer cake, something delicate seemed a bit more à propos. Chamomile adds a similar earthiness and herbaceousness as turmeric, but also brings in subtle floral notes to complement the lemon and tone down the overall sweetness. Win-win. 

For the first iteration of the lemon chamomile cake, Elsa used what’s known as the reverse creaming method to get a dense texture… but it ended up heavier than expected. So much so that you (supposedly) couldn’t taste the flavors. In the days that followed, she instead worked towards a happy medium — moist, a bit dense, light but not too light — using a génoise sponge formula.

If you don’t bake (or obsessively watch “The Great British Baking Show”), this method involves mixing eggs yolks with melted butter, oil, sugar, and flour, and then making a meringue that’s gently folded into the batter. With this technique, Elsa could steep chamomile into the melted butter and oil to make the subtlety of the flower, well, not subtle. As for the frosting? She chose a simple Swiss buttercream, but added mascarpone to make it tangy and a bit lighter.

The version you see here

One week from the day Elsa tested the never-to-be-seen-again blood orange cake, it was time for styling and photography. The challenge? The cake was one color: white.

Conveniently, cakes decked in flowers are popular right now — and Gelson’s sells lovely edible marigolds, which added warm, cheery tones to the blank canvas. She also perched some dehydrated, stained glass-like lemons (which are deliciously tart, by the way) among the flowers so people can understand the flavor profile just by looking at a photograph.

After all was said and done, the final cake was bright, lemony, and subtly sweet thanks to the earthiness of the chamomile. Also: it was totally Instagrammable (always a plus for our purposes). 

At this point you might be thinking, “This cake sounds complicated.” Well, yes and no. It does require a dash of patience and a little baking know-how. But it’s actually perfect for the Gelson’s customer: a more advanced home cook who wants to challenge themselves in the kitchen — and maybe show off their culinary prowess to friends and family. After all, recipe development is about creating food for others to enjoy making (and eating).

 

Check out the recipe for the Lemon Chamomile Cake over on the Gelson’s blog.


Candy Talk, Episode 27: Coo-coo for Caramel

Oh caramel. How we love thee? We’ll tell you when we can dig it out of our teeth.

In this episode we’re all about caramel inside candy. And we’re sampling an enormous variety of the stretchy stuff to separate the gooey winners from the eew-y losers.

Join us as we unwrap the big questions. What is caramel, anyway? Does Hershey have its chocolatey fingers into everything?! And which member was almost ejected mid-episode for their controversial caramel opinions? (They’re still on probation.)

And check out the 1989 Caramello commercial mentioned in the episode:

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Why Local Grocers Matter

Grocery Store

By Brian Brown, President, Ingredient

When I was a kid, I’d go grocery shopping with my mom at the Stater Bros. down the street from our house in Covina, California. We’d always go to the same checker, even if she had a line and others didn’t. She’d absolutely fly over those register keys and hardly looked at the price tags on everything as she rung us up and chatted about our lives since the last time she saw us. She knew all the prices in the store (or thought she did) and she knew us and what we liked and what we usually bought. It was a few moments of friendly banter with someone we thought of as a real friend, punctuated with a slightly more generous dispensation of Blue Chip trading stamps at the end of the transaction than we had earned.

Man, does that make me sound old.

Blue Chips stamps and manual registers are both gone, overtaken by newer ideas, but that Stater Bros. is still there. So are thousands of similar local groceries all across the country—and that’s an undeniably good thing, because I think locally operated grocers are part of the nucleus of healthy communities.

Like schools and civic buildings and churches, grocery stores are where communities mix and meet. It’s where you see your neighbors and the parents of your kids’ friends and their teachers. It’s where your kids (or even you) get their first job bagging or stocking shelves. These are companies where you can start as a teenager and work your way up to leading the entire organization. They’re companies whose success depends on knowing the needs and preferences of their communities. They’re knitted into the fabric of their neighborhoods in ways more intimate than most other businesses.

Because of this, I wasn’t at all surprised to see two of our grocery clients recently named by Consumer Reports as leaders in their fieldGelson’s Markets in Southern California was the top local grocer in the entire western United States and Lunds & Byerlys was tied for the highest score in the northern midwestern states.

These stores thrive in the face of brutal competitive pressure by big box and discount retailers because of their obsessive focus on service, quality, and freshness. Their aisles are filled with new and local brands that haven’t yet made the radar of the big guys. They know the farmers and ranchers in the nearby counties and have decades-old relationships that allow them to get the first and best pick of each year’s harvest. Their employees know their customers personally. They’ve watched their kids grow up and know which one has a peanut allergy and remember to ask how the backyard barbeque they bought those steaks for went. And they have this insight into their customers because these companies are places people can work at for years. Decades. That alone is nearly a superpower the big box guys can’t compete against.

As the competition has evolved, local grocers have, too. More ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook options made with the same fresh ingredients are available throughout the store. New technologies like online ordering, in-store pick-up, and delivery give customers options. Yet, by doubling down on investments in store experience, service, and selection, they are tapping into what research has already proven: Many people like to grocery shop. When grocers create a pleasant experience, share inspiration, offer new products, and participate in their communities, they develop the kind of relationships with their customers that most retailers can only dream of.

Local grocers need to continue to connect with their communities both in person and online. They can leverage their local insights into service and product offerings that prove their value to consumers. Companies like Lunds & Byerlys and Gelson’s are doing that right now. At Ingredient, we couldn’t be more excited to work to elevate these efforts and help them achieve greater success.


The Impossible, Possible

Impossible Meatball Sub

The goal of Impossible Foods is nothing less than saving the planet. Pound for pound, Impossible Burger takes 96% less land, 87% less water, and 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions to produce. One day, they hope to totally replace animals as a source of food.

A noble goal! But it will only happen if they can make a plant-based product that tastes and feels and cooks the same as meat. Have they? In fact, yes. And we know that because we got a sneak peek at how Impossible Burger can be used in our test kitchen.

Our client, Gelson’s Markets, was the first retail outlet in the nation to sell Impossible Burger to the public. Prior to that, you could only get it at a restaurant or fast food location. When Impossible was deciding on its consumer roll-out strategy, they partnered with Gelson’s as their first-in-the-nation retailer because of the southern California grocery chain’s commitment to offering customers innovative and high-quality products, along with a best-in-class in-store experience.

To help build interest in the brand with their customers, Gelson’s worked with Ingredient to prepare for the launch. Ingredient’s culinary content director Neil Bertucci and team created three recipes: a Bolognese sauce, a meatball sub, and lasagna, as well as grilling up Impossible Burger burgers with the burger sauce we previously created for Gelson’s.

“I was impressed with its ability to sear — in some cases even better than beef. That’s when the real flavor comes out. The texture is very much the same as ground beef,” Bertucci said. “Over the years, I’ve tried using other meat substitutes, but they never captured the texture and flavor that beef has. If you cook Impossible Burger with a hard sear, 9 out of 10 people would not know that it’s not meat.”

With recipes in hand, Ingredient set to work creating and implementing a content strategy for Gelson’s launch. By creating inspirational content — video and photos paired with evocative writing — delivered across digital and social marketing channels, we helped Gelson’s and Impossible realize phenomenal success.

According to the Valdosta Daily Times, Impossible Burger was the #1 SKU in Gelson’s Markets for the first two weeks of its launch.[

“I think it was great that Gelson’s entrusted us to develop recipes in support of the launch,” director of content strategy Emily Tritabaugh said. “Working in partnership with our clients to help them achieve their marketing goals is so satisfying.”

It’s not every day we get to do something so good for the planet and help launch an incredibly successful product.


Candy Talk, Episode 26: Lolli & Pops

Lolli & Pops is the posterchild of corporate Instagram fantasies; an adorable name, pastel-drenched packaging, high price point and – judging by their rapid expansion – an interest in complete world domination. Bow to your sensei.

In this episode, we rise above the twee and keep it real as only cynical, joyless Gen Xers can. Is it worth the sky high price? Which one tasted better than it smelled? And were these flavors inspired by Sex and the City brunch scenes?

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Candy Talk, Episode 25: Candy Bastardizations

Brands are always trying to find new twists on successful products. Sometimes these extensions work, and sometimes…well, bless their hearts.

In this episode, the Candy Talk team puts aside their better judgement and tries a wide variety of products that range from passable to “you have dishonored my family”, discusses epic examples of brands who took things waaaay too far (Hooters Air, anyone?), and debates when adding gravy flavor to candy is a bad idea (spoiler alert: always a bad idea in every possible scenario, for ever and ever, amen.)

And don’t forget to check out the Museum of Failures mentioned in the episode.

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Candy Talk, Episode 24: Zingerman’s

Do you like your candy bars as though they materialized from 1960s Batman episodes? Zzang! Wowza! Dorf! Ok we made up that last one. But for all the silly-sounding names, Zingerman’s candy bars are some serious confection contenders.

Listen as the Candy Talk team dissects the bars like a delicious high school biology lab, wonders what candy bars we’d make if left to follow our passions, and contemplates if there is an amount of nougat so vast from which there is no return. Don’t miss out: this episode has the Adam West Seal of Approval!*

*not endorsed by or affiliated with Adam West.

And here’s that Zingerman’s video mentioned in the episode:

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Finding the perfect flavor: a conversation with Kerry

Wisconsin-based food science company Kerry is a world leader in taste and nutrition for the food and beverage industry. Boasting more than 900 highly skilled food scientists and nutritionists, along with teams of market researchers, they provide innovative flavor and nutrition solutions for a wide range of companies across the globe.

We recently spoke with Lauren Piek, Kerry’s Digital Marketing Specialist, to get a little more insight on what Kerry’s work is all about and how it impacts the food industry.

Q. What does Kerry do? What types of roles on your team contribute to this work?
A. Kerry began as a dairy cooperative in Ireland, committed to producing real and wholesome ingredients. As we’ve grown, we continue to provide solutions that satisfy a fundamental need: to eat, to eat well, and to be healthy. Kerry’s focus on Taste & Nutrition combines our multi-sensory aroma and texture experience with in-depth knowledge of people, life stage and daily nutritional needs. By partnering with Kerry, customers are taken on a journey to make food, beverage and pharma products that people enjoy and feel better about.

Our teams of chefs, baristas, brewers, mixologists, nutritionists and dieticians, food scientists and technologists, biochemists, engineers, regulatory affairs, sensorial science experts, flavorists, consumer insight experts and marketing experts all work together to address customer challenges and deliver solutions that consumers can feel good about.

Q. Tell us more about what you do.
A. Kerry began as a private dairy company in southwest Ireland before becoming a dairy co-operative in 1974. From there, the company has expanded throughout the globe, with the Beloit, Wisconsin location opening in 2009. Beloit is home to Kerry’s North America Technology & Innovation Center, which is the first of its kind for the company, and laid the foundation for other centers around the world, including our Global Center in Naas, Ireland.

There are nearly 700 employees at the Beloit Center – with a number of research and development labs, customer collaboration areas, and a fully equipped technical center with manufacturing equipment that replicates both Kerry’s and our customers’ production environments.

The Beloit Center is also home to Kerry’s Taste & Nutrition Discovery Center (TNDC), which includes an engagement room and discovery center, where Kerry’s teams work together with customers to brainstorm ideas for concepts, and explore the food and beverage industry through consumer insights and current trends in the marketplace. The space includes a 30-foot interactive screen where customers can explore market research and trends, and a kitchen where Kerry’s chefs can create menu offerings, test flavor options and sample concepts with customers.

Q. What are Kerry’s goals?
A. At Kerry, leading to better is at the heart of everything we do – better taste and better nutrition. We want to help our customers nourish and delight consumers around the globe, through innovative solutions and applications. We are also committed to a sustainable future with our ‘Towards 2020’ program, in which we are working on positively improving our environment, marketplace, workplace and community.

Q: Two hot topics in CPG today are clean labels and sweetening agents. Your Sensibly Sweet study addresses both issues. Can you tell us a little more about it?
A. Sensibly Sweet is a comprehensive study on consumer perception of various sweetening agents, preferences and expectations for new clean label products. We surveyed over 760 American consumers in the United States, utilizing a mix of quantitative and qualitative research techniques in an online survey. The result is a unique insight into consumer preferences of types of sweetening agents, intensity of sweetness and impact on the taste and nutrition of the product.

For more information about the study and to see the results, check out Kerry’s Sensibly Sweet white paper here.


New to Ingredient: Meet Neil Bertucci

Neil Bertucci recently joined us as our new Content Producer, helping to develop and produce recipes for our clients. He grew up in the restaurant industry and has a passion for all things food-related. We can personally attest to his cooking abilities; since he’s arrived, we’ve really enjoyed eating his delicious, creative dishes. We recently sat down with Neil to ask him a few questions and get to know him a little better.

Where did you work before? What did you do there?
Most recently, I was at Bardo Restaurant in Minneapolis. I designed the restaurant and the concept, opened it with a friend, and was the chef there until I left. I grew up in the food industry; my parents owned a restaurant and I owned my first restaurant when I was 23 in Wisconsin.

What made you interested in this job?
I had left Bardo to do freelance photography and help friends with a few restaurant concepts. I found out about this job opening at Ingredient and almost fell out of my chair. If I could design the perfect job, this would be it. I had lived in New York for a while, working for an ad agency and running a restaurant out there, trying to blend my skills. It’s crazy that I found a job that pulled it all together back here in Minneapolis.

Where did your passion for food come from?
From my family, from watching my grandmother. She was a tiny little Italian woman who had 15 kids. She would cook for her whole family, getting up at 5 AM to start rolling out pasta, to make pasta by hand for the whole family. She made insane amounts of food. She was always cooking, and for as long as I can remember, I was right next to her, helping her.

What do you hope to accomplish here?
Of course, I want to create amazing photographs and videos; but even more so, I want to push the envelope. I don’t want to just do what everyone else is doing. I want to create our own niche – to create a trend versus follow a trend. We have all the resources and tons of talent and we are already starting to do that now.

What’s your favorite recipe to make?
I love making pasta!