Better-for-you ingredients come together with flavor at the 2012 Winter Fancy Food Show, held Jan. 15-17 in San Francisco. And this year, the show is more "natural" than ever.
Although it's fondly referred to as the cheese and chocolate show, I'd say quinoa and sweet potato stole the stage at this year's Winter Fancy Food Show. The long-time natural favorites popped up in everything from dips to crackers and chips.
Of course, there were a few puzzling pairings, like an artificially bacon-flavored quinoa pouch and a sweet potato syrup sweetened not with the tuber but corn syrup. But for the few missteps, there were plenty of companies getting it right.
While at previous shows, manufacturers often proclaimed their "natural" status without any third party certifications, this year Non-GMO Project Verified and USDA Certified Organic labels made debut appearences on many brands. I've also never seen so many sprouted grain, rBST-free and gluten-free products before. When clean ingredients came together with flavor, the result is what makes Fancy Food a must-attend for any player in the naturals arena.
New natural products to watch
One product I'm particularly excited about is Eat Well Enjoy Life Hummus, which pairs non-traditional beans such as edamame, lentils and black beans with classic world and regional flavors. Founded by one of the brains behind Sabra Hummus, this new brand hopes to attract a natural audience. Sodium benzoate, the dirty ingredient that keeps Sabra out of many natural products stores, is wonderfully absent in these dips. Other natural quality standards are also apparent. My favorite flavor, wasabi edamame with ginger and black sesame seeds, notes on the ingredient deck the use of non-GM soybeans. The lovely green hue of the product comes from beta carotene-rich spirulina.
Another product on my radar is a tasty new chocolate bar from New Tree. The company uses golden flaxseeds, granola and nuts to deliver omega-3s, protein and fiber. By their taste, you'd never suspect they were designed to be good for you. My favorite, the Belgian Biscuit, disguises flax with crunchy speculoos cookies. The resulting fiber- and protein-dense treat is intended to compete with other nutrition bars, not dessert chocolates.
But these are just the tip of the iceberg. Gourmet shoppers are connecting quality standards and better-for-you ingredients with flavor, and that means naturals consumers can expect continued innovation that also addresses their needs. Stay tuned for my gallery of favorite natural and organic products from this year's winter show.