At the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco

Many shows ago, I gave up on trying to make trend sense out of what I saw and tasted at the Winter Fancy Food Show. A trade show for gourmet retailers, the show covers 196.000 square feet at Moscone Center in San Francisco, embracing 1,300 exhibiting companies and attracting more than 17,000 attendees.

There’s simply too much real estate and too many disparate offerings to conveniently pigeonhole. So instead of trying, I just walk the show, see what I see, taste what I taste, and refuse to be overly ambitious in what I take away from the experience. Yesterday, I enjoyed the company of @JustinMcNeil of Delin8ted as I walked the show. He’s a new friend I met on Twitter, tweeting about #NASFT and #FancyFoodShow over the weekend.

According to the National Association of Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASTF) the owner and producer of the Fancy Food Show, the $63 billion specialty food industry’s outlook is improving. The organization said that 63 percent of Americans purchased specialty food in 2010, up from 46 percent in 2009.

So, what’s coming to a gourmet store near you?

  • Umami in a tube: Laura Santtini is introducing Taste No. 5 Umami Paste. Umami is the fifth taste (after salt, sour, sweet and bitter) and describes a savory deliciousness. The paste is made of umami-rich Italian ingredients such as tomato, Parmesan cheese and porcini mushrooms that you squeeze out of a tube any time you want to add an extra burst of flavor to your cooking.
  • Gluten-free keeps growing: Kikkoman estimates that 25 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in gluten-free products. So the company has introduced naturally brewed, preservative-free Kikkoman Gluten-Free Soy Sauce, made with rice instead of wheat. The soy sauce has a nice, balanced flavor. Kikkoman was one of countless food companies promoting gluten free.
  • Noodles with a twist: NoOodle is made with soluble fiber from a Japanese yam. It has no calories, no gluten and no net carbs. The noodles with sauce are available in refrigerated, heat-and-eat, single-serve packages. The one I tasted, with Marinara sauce, was quite flavorful and the noodles weren’t rubbery and chewy, the way Japanese shirataki tends to be. The noodles also are available plain, as NoOodle Angel Hair, in 8-ounce packages.
  • Ginger: The Ginger Peopleoffers a line of ginger products, beautifully packaged -- ginger juice to use as a cooking seasoning or in fruit drinks, to ginger beer, candy and cookies. From Brands of Britain, Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Beer has a pungent and lingering ginger bite. Or, from Bruce Cost, Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale, a spicy drink that's nicely balanced in flavor, in Original, Pomegranate with Hibiscus or Jasmine Green Tea.
  • The next generation Filipino food: 1.2 million U.S.residents were born in the Philippines, making Filipinos the largest immigrant group from Asia. Yet there is still low awareness of the cuisine. Filipino food experts say it’s because Filipinos like home cooking, rather than restaurant fare. So it was nice to visit with Ramar Foods International, a company targeting the children of Filipino immigrants with convenient food options. They like the food but don’t want to spend the time cooking it. The product line includes Magnolia ice cream and milk bars made with fruits imported from the Philippines, in such flavors as taro, halo-halo (traditional dessert of shaved ice, evaporated milk, beans and fruit) and macapuno ( a variety of coconut). Savory offerings include adobo (soy-vinegar flavored meats), lumpia (the Filipino egg roll) and a pancit kit (providing fixings for traditional noodles).

The Fancy Food Show started yesterday and runs through Wednesday. I’ll share more from the floor on Twitter @specialforksndy.

Posted: Jan 17th by Sandy_Hu