It’s that time of year again…the sun is shining, birds are chirping and the sweet smell of innovation is in the air. It can only mean one thing: another Summer Fancy Food Show is upon us! Last week’s NASFT (National Association for the Specialty Food Trade) Summer Fancy Food Show was held in NYC and was attended by foodies from around the globe. Check out some highlights below of show sweets that really stood out.
Halloween isn’t one of those “mandatory” holidays like Christmas or Chanukah, so the prediction from IBISWorld research firm that Halloween spending is expected to grow 10.7% from 2011 seems telling of economic optimism. Consumer spending on things like costumes, candy and decorations are expected to reach a record-setting $8 billion this year!
Candy – Halloween’s bread and butter – is estimated to account for $2.4 billion of the sales and this year it isn’t just kids who want to scare up some festive fall treats. Big brands, like Mars, are turning their marketing attention to adults and not just as the purchasers but as the consumers of Halloween candy. So keep an eye out for Halloween-themed Snickers commercials to join the “you’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign.
Not to be outdone, Hershey’s is rolling out ten new candy products for the October holiday – four more than they did in 2011! Further evidence of how they remain the chocolate candy market leader with a 43.3% share of the market. Another new trick up Hershey’s Halloween sleeve this year is to focus less on Halloween-specific packaging and capitalize more on the further-reaching fall-theme which will work to extend the seasonal selling season beyond November 1st, when most Halloween-packaged candy products lose relevance and move to the clearance shelf for a slow, painful death.
With so much new activity on the Halloween candy scene this year, what will you be handing out on October 31st? Here are some of our picks:
The Hershey Company Cadbury Screme Egg: White and green caramel center inside a milk chocolate shell
Mars Caramel Apple Milky Way Minis: Apple-infused caramel over chocolate-malt nougat in a soft milk chocolate shell.
Herr’s Chocolate Flavor-Drizzled Pumpkin Shaped Pretzels: Mini pumpkin shaped pretzels covered in chocolate.
Seattle Chocolates Bloody Orange Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar: Candied orange peel in a deep dark chocolate bar.
Probably the most innovative product I spotted at this year’s Fancy Foods Show was the Brazilian import, Bacon Krisps. Distributed by Acme Import Co., Bacon Krisps are very interesting little snacks. A minute in the microwave, and voila, these little wheat nuggets puff up into perfect little red, white and tan striped bacon-flavored snacks (you know, the kind of striped coloring you wish your at-home bacon actually looked like). And bonus: they’re vegetarian! (To view a pic of this product, check out the Frommer’s blog here.) And on a side note, this was just one of many air-popped snacks for kids and adults on display.
Danielle’s Crispy Veggie Chips sells a line of exotic dehydrated fruits and veggies, including jackfruit, roasted coconut, spicy carrot and okra. What I most surprised by was how popular the durian was at the show. If you’re not familiar with this tropical fruit, the durian is a highly prized fruit of Southeast Asia – even though it is actually banned in most public places due to its pungent odor. But, durian lovers (and there are many), are more than willing to withstand the smell to get to the custard-like filling of this spiny, football-shaped pod. Apparently, Fancy Food Show goers couldn’t wait to taste it either – by the time I made it to the booth, it was all gone…
And speaking of Fancy Food hits, I was lucky enough to sample from the last pint of Vosges’ Bacon Toffee Ice Cream. I’m a HUGE fan of their bacon chocolate bars, so I was pretty excited to sample this new, not-yet-available-in-stores treat. The verdict? Smoky, caramel, and a little meaty. Not sure I could eat a whole bowl, but I imagine a scoop melting atop the right dessert would be pure heaven.
And speaking of chocolate – my main source of sustenance at the show – an unexpected favorite was the Toasted Corn chocolate bar from Philly’s own Eclat Chocolate. And I don’t even like corn-flavored things! But this was excellent – crunchy, toasty and tasty.
Another season, another Fancy Foods Show! Last Monday I hopped the train to New York and breathed in the scents at the Javits Center.
Perusing the booklet before hitting the show floor, I got pretty excited to see one product in particular – black garlic. I first caught wind of black garlic late last year, and have seen it pop up in a number of foodie blogs since then. More recently, it was written up in the Washington Post and Gourmet, but I still had yet to try it. Black garlic is an ordinary garlic bulb that has fermented for about a month, resulting in what you see below. The taste is unexpected – sweet, fermented, and almost smoky. It has a subtle garlic flavor, but not at all overwhelming, and the texture is very soft. I brought a sample back to the office for our chefs to try, and they were blown away by the flavor. While at the booth, I also tried the black garlic jam, which was tasty and sweeter than the actual clove, and experienced a number of visitors running up to the booth excitedly yelling, “we love this stuff!” While I had read about this new flavor phenom in a number of blogs, this was honestly the first commercial product I had found – most foodies have been making it on their own. Expect to see black garlic grow on restaurant menus in the near future. Also, the folks at Black Garlic, Inc. were featuring a black garlic energy drink. Since black garlic claims to be loaded with antioxidants, it’s possible that this foodie favorite may also grow as a healthy ingredient.
Now to the important stuff – chocolate!! Grazing the show floor, a girl could make a mean meal on the stuff (and did, by the way). In flavors, sea salt prevailed, as did varietal dark chocolates, caramel, tea flavors and even some florals, like lavender. But at the Vosges booth, it’s still all about good old-fashioned bacon. Those fabulous cocoa gods and goddesses debuted more bacon chocolate goodness – a dark chocolate version of the Mo’s Bacon Bar, a bacon chocolate toffee, and even, dare I say, bacon chocolate pancakes! Alas, I got to the booth a smidge too early for the pancakes – and I’m still kicking myself…
Now, I’m not much of a honey fan myself (I know, I know…how can I not love honey), but I was impressed by the concept of varietal honey from Savannah Bee Company. These varieties have been specially chosen to pair with tea, cheese and grilled foods.
Of course, there is way more to talk about from this year’s show! Check back next time, we’ll talk about Peruvian flavors and Skyr!
A lot of consumer product companies are pushing some sort of economic relief campaign right now. We’ve all seen the Domino’s commercials. And Wendy’s is trying their best to make “freakonomics” part of our language.
But there is one campaign that’s really caught my attention recently – the Mars Chocolate Relief Act. To say that I am a choc-o-holic is by no means, an understatement. And Peanut M&Ms, which I truly consider to be nourishment and refuse to get on an airplane without, are one of my two favorite candies.
So, when a co-worker (shout-out to account manager Jennifer “Jake” Higdon!) sent me the link to realchocolate.com yesterday, I was literally drooling.
Every Friday, between now and September, Mars will give away 250,000 free full-size chocolate bars (M&Ms included) to website visitors. I’ve already added it to my calendar.
Using the site to promote that Mars’ confections are made with real chocolate, users can share their favorite chocolate-related tales, and even get coupons for more free stuff.
And, the free chocolate is limited to one-per-person, per week. So, I can enjoy my Peanut M&Ms all summer-long. Looks like it’s going to be a great summer!
When I was a little girl, my mom and her fellow teacher friends loved to take summertime day trips to Lancaster, Pennsylvania (a.k.a. “Amish Country”). We’d get lost on country roads filled with slow moving buggies. Walk idly through textbook warehouses, searching for the latest teacher editions. And stare at patchwork quilts for hours. Since the water slides and smorgasbords were reserved for when dad made the trips, you may be wondering why a young gal would want to tag along on these excursions. Two words – whoopie pies!
While lost on those country roads, we’d inevitably stop off at a farm or two, and raid the little shed-like shops where Amish wives would sell their wares. There amongst the fresh eggs, rhubarb and homemade root beer, lay my salvation.
A whoopie pie isn’t really a pie. It kind of looks like a giant sandwich cookie, only it’s soft and cakey. I fell in love with chocolate immediately, and grew to love the pumpkin even more. While mom insisted that the chocolate version was actually molasses – an Amish original, she claimed – my nine year-old self could have never dreamed up the possibilities in store for these delectable treats.
Years later, it seems whoopie pies are suddenly, well, hip. In fact, they appear to be the next cupcake. I was catching up on a little late reading on Bloomacious.com and came across a feature on the treats. Not only was I ignorant of the fact that the residents of Maine stake a claim to whoopie pie, as well (I was convinced this was a Pennsylvania Dutch thing only), but I was painfully unaware of a growing number of bakeries specializing in the treat.
In March, the New York Times ran an article on whoopie pies, citing a number of bakeries – from the fancy to the unassuming – that specialize in them. And the flavors! Wicked Whoopies of Maine sells everything from banana crème to CHOCOLATE COVERED for about $24 a dozen. And Cranberry Island Kitchen gets a bit more adult with Chambord and Champagne varieties.
The hopeful success of whoopie pies, as well as the popularity of cupcakes, is proof positive that we as consumers love what makes us feel good. Simple, childhood treats are what really pull at our heartstrings. Of course, there is always room for improvement and variation, which is why noveau classics are so popular.
Hmmm…I’m feeling a trip to Lancaster…
For everyone that loves bacon, I have another yummy treat for you. You may remember last month we discussed Bacon Salt and the Bacon Explosion. (And I cannot tell you enough, how fabulous the Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar is!). Now, prepare yourself for the (drumroll, please) Bacon Cupcake!!!
Brainchild of Boulder’s Tee and Cakes, this buttery maple cake is topped with decadent chocolate ganache, and bacon pieces. They’re all the rage, and I imagine fellow trendy cupcake bakeries may be quick to catch on.
Walking the floor of the Fancy Foods Show, it was obvious that tea has no intention of giving up its crown as the second most consumed beverage in the world (second only to water).
Zhena’s Gypsy Tea featured their Pink Tea for Women’s Health. This line of Super Berry teas combines green tea and hibiscus with acai, pomegranate, cherry and berry blends to satisfy the palate. My personal favorite, however, was the Cacao Berry – a blend of green tea and red tea with raspberries and dark cacao shells. Not too sweet, but not too bitter – and thoroughly enjoyable. This tea not only meets the needs of shoppers looking for superfoods, but it also contains that hard-to-miss hibiscus.
I “Got Lost” at the Republic of Tea booth tasting their line of Be Well Red Teas. With fun names like Get Clean, Get Gorgeous, Get Maternal, Get Happy and Get Smart, this line is an excellent example of the growing beauty and mood food trend. The teas offer a variety of claims from detox, uplifting mood, focus, weight control, clear skin and more.
Blue tea was also on the radar. What, never heard of blue tea? You probably know this nom de plume as oolong. A few years back, our Beverage Applications lab spotted “blue tea” as a potential trend, and we’ve been watching it ever since. With the extreme popularity of green tea, and the growing excitement for white and red teas, it’s only fitting that blue tea get a little love too. A favorite from the show? Ito En’s Oolong Shot was pretty tasty!
With only one day to take in all the sites, smells and flavors of the annual west coast edition of the Fancy Food Show, I packed my comfy boots, my roomy purse, and trusty notebook to record this gastronomic display!
You’ve Gotta Give a Little
There were a number of themes that permeated the floor. The first and most pervasive of which was “cause marketing.” Booth after booth, products touted their charitable causes, but no one made quite as much of an impact as Project 7. Selling bottled water benefiting seven different causes, Project 7 donates over 50% of its profits to seven areas of need within each cause. How do they decide who gets what? Well, first of all, consumers choose their causes through the products they purchase. Let’s say the environment is at the top of your agenda, simply buy a bottle of Save the Earth water. Consumers also get to vote on the specific benefiting charities through the Project 7 website (www.project7.com). The company also sells three gum varieties: Save the Homeless Mango Mint, Save the Earth Fresh Mint and Feed the Hungry Peppermint Vanilla. Project 7 allows consumers to give just a little bit, purchasing items that are already a part of their daily routine. And in today’s economy, a little bit is a heck of a lot easier to part with for many of us.
From the charitable, to the luxurious, I rushed to the Choc-O-Lait booth for a moment of pure indulgence. Taking what looked like a chocolate lollipop, I stirred the confection in a cup of hot milk for a delicious cup of hot chocolate. The concept reminded me of the Truffle Creamers we showcased at the 2008 Innovation Roadshow (creamer, sweetener and flavor in one truffle).
Want Some Bacon in Your Salt?
Despite the fact that American consumers are demanding healthier foods, personal bacon consumption has actually risen over the past 10 years. The Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar may just be the beginning, and a delicious one at that. (Yes, that would be a chocolate bar.) Check out J&D’s BaconSalt, because, according to the manufacturer, “Everything should taste like bacon.”TM In three flavors, original, hickory and peppered, this artificially flavored seasoning salt is vegetarian, kosher, low sodium, zero fat and zero calorie. The company also offers a natural variety, as well as a number of limited edition flavors. Don’t like salt on your turkey sandwich, not a problem. J&D’s has Baconnaise too!
Of course, there is way more to talk about from this year’s show! Check back next week when we’ll discuss superfoods, super teas and super soda!