Fun Winter Fancy Food in San Francisco!

Food shows are a lot of fun, especially when they take place in the United States. There are so many displays featuring the latest and greatest food trends with millions of samples of snacks, cheeses, drinks and condiments. One of my favorites – The Winter Fancy Food Show – took place earlier this year in San Francisco (January 21-23) and we were lucky enough to be able to attend. This winter version of The Fancy Food Show is normally one of the best exhibitions of new products, ingredients, and ideas in the booming market of specialty and gourmet food. It’s an industry that continues to thrive: sales in the specialty food industry reached $127 billion in 2016, up from $88.3 billion in 2014 with 44% increase.

The best way to explore the trends in specialty foods is to eat, eat, and eat! And with over 80,000 different specialty foods and beverages on display from over 1,400 exhibitors from around the globe, there is no better place to dig in than at the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show.

This year, I noticed three distinctive trends.

1.     Cookie Dough: I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t cookie dough a big thing back in the 90s? While it’s true that it burst onto the scene thanks to Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream in 1991, today’s cookie dough options are much more diverse (The New York Times hailed raw cookie dough as the latest dessert trend in 2017) with plenty of unique ingredients and flavors now available to the consumer – Sugar Cookie, Cookies and Cream, Peanut Butter, Ginger Snap, and Graham Cracker to name a few. Ready-to-eat cookie dough can be made by pasteurizing or leaving out the eggs, and by holding off on the flour or heat-treating it to eliminate the bacteria that a normal cookie dough will carry.

2.     Middle Eastern Cuisine: It’s not just hummus anymore. Americans continue to explore and welcome ethnic foods and cuisine from the Middle East is taking off. The show in San Francisco celebrated ingredients and cooking techniques from many different countries in and around the region.

3.     Meat Snacks: There was a time when jerky was just a stick of mystery meat packed with nitrates, preservatives, and sodium, and available only in convenience stores. Jerky is now so popular that it has taken over the snack aisle. The “new” jerky is often a low carb, high-protein snack that continues to increase in popularity. Flavors range from sour(chorizo and lime) to savory (Thanksgiving-themed) to sweet (maple blueberry). Jerky formats cater to consumers who want the punch of meat with the on-the-go convenience of a granola bar. Most jerky brands now prioritize high-quality meats (usually antibiotic-free and often grass-fed), low sugar, and minimal sodium; so jerky can be a comparatively healthy snack. Some of the companies at the Fancy Food Show showed off innovative techniques such as air-drying for a softer bite and thinly slicing the meat to create a chip-like texture.

Another trend at the show catered to consumers looking to cut back on the booze without compromising on taste. Non-alcoholic drinks were prevalent. From alcohol-free spirits to soft drinks with vinegar-infused flavors, the options in this category continue to explode. More and more consumers are reducing their alcohol intake or giving up alcohol altogether, and the brands are responding. For example, different types of coffee are now available and expected to be paired with food: A refined non-alcoholic alternative to wine.

The other hot topic in San Francisco this year was still sustainability. There were several exhibitors at the show that focus on plant-based specialty food options and/or decreasing food waste via product innovation. Currently in the United States, 30% – 40% of the food supply is wasted. Companies are beginning to grasp the implications of this situation and are seeking ways to minimize waste, such as to using scraps from food production in new products.

Finally, this is why specialty food is important for the U.S. market based on consumer reports: Young people (aged 15-29) eat more frequently and later than any other age group. 32% have breakfast around 10-11am; 26% eat lunch around 2-3pm, and 32% eat dinner at 8 or 9pm. In the U.S. consumers regularly snack throughout the day, but the most popular times for snacking are between 2 and 3pm and between 8 and 9pm. 

In an international survey, the U.S. registered the highest share of respondents who snack at 12-1pm and 2-3pm (20% and 46%, respectively), a time when people in most other nations are eating or have just eaten their mid-day meal. 

Late night snacking is also fairly common in the U.S., with more than one-quarter of the respondents (26%) in the survey reporting regular snacking between 10 and 11pm. This applied to as many as 37% of 15-29 year-olds. Those same young people aged 15-29 snack more than another age group at all times of the day. A staggering 59% and 46% of this age group snacks at around 2-3pm and 4-5pm, respectively. 

To learn more about business building opportunities in the American food industry, contact AFK Strategies Inc., leaders in business strategies and solutions. 

Fun Winter Fancy Food in San Francisco!

The best way to explore the trends in specialty foods is to eat, eat, and eat! And with over 80,000 different specialty foods and beverages on display from over 1,400 exhibitors from around the globe, there is no better place to dig in than at the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show.

 AFK Strategies Inc. is a boutique strategic advisory and business development company that is committed to serving our partners as their associates in China, Turkey, and the United States. AFK consulting services help companies identify and solve their business challenges via an extensive global expertise. The company assists the growth of small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) in the United States at the local level, while at the same time aiding the growth of U.S. companies in China and Turkey. The services encompass three key areas: business development, supply chain management and brand development.  Contact AFK Strategies Inc. to learn more.

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