Pasta is coming back in different shapes and flavors, drinking vinegar is cool, and comfort food favorites like pancakes are being made with new ingredients.
That’s according to the hundreds of items on display at the Summer Fancy Food Show, a trade show that has gained a reputation for being a place to spot the next big flavors and foods that will dominate restaurant menus and grocery store shelves. The show returned for the first time since the pandemic this week, running Sunday through Tuesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.
More than 1,800 exhibitors displayed specialty food and drinks for restaurant owners, foodservice operators and other industry players. The trade show, which is hosted by the Specialty Food Association, in the past has featured up-and-coming trends including fermented foods, floral flavors and packaged snacks made with cauliflower.
Here are some highlights from this year’s show spotted by the trade group and CNBC:
Pasta is back − but in flavors and shapes people likely haven’t tried before.
The SFA’s trend spotters said new noodle shapes are hitting the U.S. market, such as cascatelli, a j-shaped pasta with ridges. Pasta makers are also experimenting with different flavors and ingredients. Greenomic Deli, for example, showed off cacao-infused pasta as part of its Good Hair Day line.
After years of lagging sales growth, noodles in general are staging a comeback, according to the SFA’s preliminary trend report for the trade show. People who had cut back on carbs started eating pasta again during the pandemic as they cooked more at home and sought comfort food.
Plant-based comfort foods
The latest plant-based foods aren’t milk or meat substitutes. Instead, they’re about giving people another way to indulge in comfort foods, according to the SFA.
The up-and-coming category is meant to appeal to people who want plant-based versions of their favorite snacks and treats. Whoa Dough showed off vegan cookie dough bars with four grams of protein at its table, while Rind displayed plant-based cheeses that mimic the richness of blue and camembert cheese. Bean Bops presented its crispy fava beans, with packaging that touts its protein content.
One comfort food seemed to get extra attention from exhibitors: pancakes.
Companies presented their takes on the breakfast favorite, playing with both packaging and ingredients. Happy Grub presented its squeezable instant pancake mix, designed for parents and children to use together. Jus Chill International’s pancake mix swaps out traditional all-purpose flour for a flour made from breadfruit, a starchy tropical fruit it sources from Jamaica.
Vinegar shrub drinks
Wellness culture introduced shots of apple cider vinegar to many Americans’ daily routines. Now some companies are trying to balance vinegar’s health benefits with its sharp flavor.
One way is by reviving shrubs, a once-popular drink that mixes vinegar syrup with fruit and sparkling water or spirits. Its popularity in the U.S. peaked in the colonial era then waned as refrigerators became increasingly common in homes. Shrubs started popping up again in cocktail bars over the last decade, and now drink makers are taking notice.
Tait Farm Foods said its shrubs can be used as a cocktail or mocktail mixer. Newcomer Shrubbly Superdrink showed off its shrubs that add fruit, herbs, spices and apple cider vinegar to its sparkling water base.
Cocktails and food culture have always gone hand-in-hand, but now the relationship might be getting even more intertwined.
Santa Sofia, for example, showed off its agave vinegar, designed to be used in salad dressings or sprinkled on potato chips. It doesn’t contain any alcohol, but the vinegar is made using fermented agave, giving it a flavor reminiscent of tequila. Agave-based spirits have been soaring in popularity in recent years, and tequila is expected to overtake vodka as the most popular liquor category in the U.S. this year.
Andres Confiserie Suisse, a chocolate maker based in Kansas City, Missouri, stuck with the more classic whiskey flavor for its whiskey caramel chocolate drops, which are made in collaboration with a local distiller and can be eaten solo or dropped into hot chocolate or coffee.
Food with extra benefits
The association said foods with added benefits are another trend to watch. The pandemic has heightened people’s desire to strengthen their immune systems, and snack makers are adding ingredients they say have benefits like anti-aging.
Austrian company Beyond Resilience, for example, showed off an array of “nutricosmetics,” which are functional foods that contain ingredients believed to help improve hair, skin and nails. Its products included chocolate-flavored protein spreads that contain biotin and amino acids.
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