New Food Trends from NASFT

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Here are some hot new food trends we spotted at the NASFT Fancy Food Show this week in San Francisco.
Most of the top new items fit one of three themes:
A. Healthy (but tasty) alternatives to unhealthy foods
B. Indulgent treats that are small and fun.
C. Natural nutrients

Healthy but Tasty

1. Reinventing the Potato Chip.
This trend has been building for the past year or so. Popchips have been on a rapid growth trajectory. We see them as perhaps the Vitamin Water of chips. But now there are also dozens of other alternatives hoping to capitalize on this space. Some of the contenders: Baked Lentil Chips from the Mediterranean Snack Food Co., Turbana Plantain chips, Yogavive popped and baked fruit chips, Beanitos black bean chips (made from black beans) and Jan’s mixed roots (made from taro, sweet potatoes and cassava).

2. Reinventing the Cracker.
There are a number of emerging healthy options to replace crackers, too. Mrs. May’s sesame strips (made from seasmie seeds and rice), Horizon foods granola flats, Polka Dot Bake Shop sweet potato crackers. Our favorite, though, took a different approach. It was a reinvention of the rice cake to give it more flavor. The product – Almond Rice Pops, by 180 Snacks of Anaheim California – combines dried fruit and nuts with traditional rice cakes.

3. Vitamin Water without the sugar.
Vitamin water was a good idea. It was a healthier alternative to soda pop. But vitamin water still has a lot of sugar – so now it’s time to flavor our water without sugar or sugar substitute at all. There are a number of products vying for this space. The leader at this point is San Francisco based Hint made with water and natural fruit flavorings – no sugar, sodium or sweeteners. Other interesting contenders are Ayala’s herbal water, purified water flavored with herbs and spices; and ICIO water, fruit flavored water in unique flask-shaped bottles.

4. Bread Alternatives.
Wraps are a low-carb alternative to the sandwich, but for those who want a real sandwich, there are other emerging options. Our favorite is the Ozery Bakery’s Organic Onebun – a hamburger-size bun about the thickness and consistency of a piece of Pita bread – great for sandwiches, burgers, or even pizza.

5. Fruit Rolls Reinvented.
As a replacement to processed, candy-like fruit rolls, Revolution Foods of Emeryville, CA, has come up with Organic MashUps – squeezable fruit. The fruit is the consistency of apple sauce and comes in a squeezable pouch with a screw-on top. We think this has a good chance of passing the kid test.

Small, fun, indulgent treats

1. Small, cute, adult desserts
If you’re going to have dessert, it’s got to be decadent. But if it is small enough, you won’t feel guilty. And if it is cute, too, it’s even better. Cupcakes were hot last year. This year, it’s looking like Macarons – with several companies (such as Galaxy Desserts) introducing colorful new lines with a variety of flavors.

2. Cute, single serve cocktails
The home-made cocktail is definitely making a comeback. The key is to make it simple, colorful and cute (not your parents’ cocktail), and make one small drink at a time – so you’re not overindulging. Our favorite was a line from a company called The Modern Cocktail – a five pack of colorful little 3 oz. bottles. Just mix a bottle with a shot of alcohol and ice and you’re in business.

3. Bacon
Don’t ask why – it’s a trend. The leading new item in the Vosges haut-chocolate line is dark chocolate with bacon (it’s actually pretty good). Then there’s also J&D’s Bacon Lover’s Popcorn, Bacon Lovers salt and Baconaise (mayo with bacon). Yum.

4. Mini-Burgers
OK, all the restaurants have them – and it has actually made hamburgers hip again, so why not at home. Instead of Hamburger Helper, check out August Kitchen’s J-Burger, ground beef mix-ins that add onion, chipotle and other flavors to your gourmet mini-burgers.

Natural Nutrients

1. Aloe Every year there’s a new drink with health benefits. The hands-down winner this year is Aloe. Aloe beverages started in the Asian market – now they’re on their way here. Just as Aloe heals your sunburn, aloe juice drinks supposedly heal an irritated stomach… at least that’s the story they’re telling. We counted five new aloe beverages: Alo, Aloe King, Aloe Plus, Aloos and J1 Aloe Pulp Juice. This is the Coconut Water of 2011.

2. Anti-Oxidant of the Year
Every year there’s a new anti-oxidant, it seems. This year’s winner could be Grain Berry from the Silver Pallet. Grain Berry is made from a proprietary grain grown in Texas. The Silver Pallet claims it has ORAC Values 2-5X pomegranate juice. They’ve made it into a line of cereals called Grain Berry – which look and taste like Cheerios, and all have ORAC values in excess of pomegranate juice.

3. Special Diets.
The whole gluten-free thing has taken off, and even though there’s just a small number of people who can’t eat gluten – a lot of others have followed, deciding they don’t want gluten. Some of the other diet-constrained areas where we’re starting to see more new products are: Vegan, Allergy-free and Low Glycemic. For Vegans, offers Veganaise (a vegan version of mayonnaise), and Vegan Gourmet cheeses and other dairy products. For the peanut-allergic crowd, there’s now Biscoff Spread (a peanut-free peanut butter). And for the Low Glycemic crowd, we have Ultra Lo-Gly juice drinks.

Other Trends

1. Better Breakfasts.
The frozen breakfast aisle is on the verge of a makeover. Most current products are remnants of the 1970s. So say goodbye to Eggo Waffles – now there’s Julian’s frozen Belgian Waffles, available in 4 great flavors – and ready in just 30 seconds.

2. Zero Calorie Foods.
Eat as much as you want – you won’t gain a pound. Too good to be true? A new company, is selling zero calorie noodles. The Noodles are 90% water, 10% fiber. The fiber is super absorbant – so while the noodles look, feel and taste like real noodles – they are in fact almost all water.

3. Cleanse your Pallet
For the serious foodies there is now a new drink out – Santasti. Originally developed for wine tasters, it is a blend of seven different ingredients scientifically proven to remove any lingering tastes from your mouth and stimulate the pallet – so you can better enjoy whatever is coming next.

4. Slab Cooking.
Kind of like Cedar Plank salmon – now we have salt slab cooking. Designed 4 Life, LLC, makers of Himalayan salts is offering salt cooking slabs. You can heat them up on a grill just like the cedar plank, and cook your meat right on the salt slab. Do we see a trend here? What other kinds of surfaces can we cook meat on to give it a new flavor?