5 Most Interesting Trends at the 2013 Winter Fancy Food Show

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By the time food trends like cupcakes and bacon-flavored everything reach supermarket shelves, they've already been around a while. A surprising number of them are born each year at the Fancy Food Show, where the world’s food purveyors -- big and small, artisan and mainstream -- come to show off their newest creations.

This year's 38th annual show was bigger than ever: 1,300 exhibitors and 18,000 attendees came to San Francisco's Moscone Center to spot food trends. And so did I: Here are five really fascinating peeks into the possible future of food.

1. Strange things are going on with tea.

2013 teas

This year, I saw a focus on teas with added benefits -- like probiotics and herbs that add to your workout routine (think Vitamin Water, but with brewed tea). But the weirdest of all was a line of savory teas, with flavors like beet cabbage, broccoli cilantro, and spinach chive. Described as "not quite a soup and more than a tea," it seemed to have an identity crisis built right in. But once I tried it, I (surprisingly) didn't hate it.

NEXT TREND: Hemp is hip

2. Hemp: It's not just for smoking any more.

hemp

I recently tried and loved a dish of scalloped potatoes with hemp cream, so I was intrigued by the emergence of shelled hemp seeds this year. It is more of a textural experience (chewy and a bit like teeny-tiny quinoa) than a flavorful one (doesn't add any). You sprinkle them on your yogurt or fish like you would granola. Apparently, they're loaded with health benefits and give you sustained energy. And no, you won't get high off this stuff, so there's no point in adding it to those brownies.

NEXT TREND: Ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb

3. Cherries are the new pomegranates.

cherry juice

Move over, pomegranates: Cherries are getting touted as superior to all your (much-touted) antioxidant goodness. Tart cherry juice reduces inflammation, has naturally occurring melatonin to help you sleep, and fights heart disease. I personally prefer the taste of cherry juice to pomegranate, which can be way too tart for me.

NEXT TREND: You put WHAT on your popcorn?

4. White cheddar popcorn is so passé.

popcorn

Seems cheddar is just too boring when it comes to a bag of gourmet popped corn. I saw varieties like blue cheese, butter toffee, hatch chile con queso, chipotle lime, sun-dried tomato Parmesan, and smoked Gouda. Popcorn has entered potato chip territory with these adventurous new flavors.

NEXT TREND: Squeeze, please

5. Squeeze pouches aren't just for kids anymore.

squeeze pouches

If you have children, you've seen those squeeze pouches of wholesome applesauce. They're lifesavers because of their convenient, mess-free packaging and perfect portions, so why limit them to just kids? Active adults will love smoothies, pureed antioxidant-rich fruit, and even veggie mixtures in squeezable portable pouches just as much as the little ones.

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