NEW YORK — The Specialty Food Association Trendspotter Panel tasted its way through the sold-out 67th Summer Fancy Food Show in search of the products and flavors that will influence the specialty food industry in the months ahead. In their Trends from the Summer Fancy Food Show report, the Panel identified Flavor Fluidity, Salty Snacks, One-Step Convenience, African Specialties, Asian-Inspired Snack Specialties, and Food with an Edgy Attitude as the top emerging trends. Several other trends previously identified by the Panel continue to gain strength. The Summer Fancy Food Show, which took place June 25-27 at the Javits Center in New York City and featured more than 2,200 domestic and international exhibitors, is the largest specialty food industry event in North America.
“Specialty food and beverage makers are innovators whose creativity drives our $194 billion industry,” said Denise Purcell, SFA’s vice president, resource development. “The trends identified at the 2023 Summer Fancy Food Show will influence not only specialty, but the food industry at large, in the months ahead.”
The 2023 Summer Fancy Food Show Trendspotter Panel included Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, Mintel; Osei Blackett, chef/owner Ariapita and Everything Oxtail; Mikel Cirkus, Foresight & Trenz, dsm-firmenich; Jenn de la Vega, Put A Egg on It; Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, CHE, CRC, Drexel University; Thomas Joseph, Martha Stewart and Sur La Table; Chala June, writer; Hannah Rogers, Foresight & Trenz, dsm-firmenich, Stan Sagner, Founder, We Work for Food, LLC; Emily Schildt, founder, Pop Up Grocer; Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., CFS, IFT Fellow, Corvus Blue LLC.
Top Trends from the 2023 Summer Fancy Food Show
Several crossover flavor examples were on display at the Summer Show. “Flavors that are traditionally representative of one category are entering new and not only adjacent ones,” said Trendspotters Mikel Cirkus and Hannah Rogers. Look for more cocktail flavors in snacks, dessert flavors in tea, and savory, even meaty, flavors in sweets. Examples:
- The Barreled Bee Buzz Sticks, cocktail-inspired honey
- Golden Nest Mint Mojito Coffee Latte
- Global Teas ChocolaTea
- Naïve Dry Aged Beef Steak Chocolate
Salty snacks hit the top spot in best-selling retail categories for the first time, according to SFA’s brand new State of the Specialty Food Industry research, 2023-2024 edition. Traditional chips are seeing a lot of innovation but the trend extends to alternative grains and vegetable chips as well. Examples:
- Confetti Snack Mushroom Chips
- Maname Tempeh Chips
- Nantucket Stubby Jamaican Jerk Chips
- Sal de Ibiza Chips La Vie en Rose, potato chips finished with fleur de sel and rose petal flakes
- Wine Chips Furikake Private Reserve Wine Chip, meant to be paired with sake
The post-pandemic consumer trend of still desiring to cook at home but with more convenience is going strong. The Summer Show revealed a slew of one-step products designed to curtail mess, waste, and effort. “Convenience isn’t just on the go. It’s whatever works for you,” said Trendspotter Melanie Bartelme. Some products like Cornhusker Duck Fat Spray make “sophisticated cooking more accessible through convenience,” said Trendspotter Stan Sagner. Examples:
- Black & Bolyard’s Brown Butter
- Cornhusker Duck Fat Spray
- Fine Italian Food Mantova Poke Spray Oils
- Mantis Sweet Heat BBQ Dust in powder form
- Maury’s Hive Tea Tea Bags with integrated honey
- Pasta Noodles Co. Rapid Cook Meals, cooked using steam tech by adding hot water
- Shmallow Aerosol Marshmallow Topping
In a trend that began to emerge at the Show a few years ago with products like Yolélé’s fonio, foods and beverages from Africa showcasing ingredients, flavors, and recipes were a standout. Several of the products are women- and/or BIPOC-owned, and range from sauces with “bold Tanzanian flavor” to nonalcoholic alternatives that use “functional botanicals,” said Trendspotter Chala June. Examples:
- Monatea beverage in Ginger, Peach, and African Olive Leaf
- Chakalaka Mathata, a dry mix of beans, vegetables, and spices
- Zwita Smoky Harissa
- Curio Spice Co. Rose Harissa
- Ubah Hot Hot Sauces in Yellow Tanzanite, Emerald, and Ruby
Asian-Inspired Snack Flavors
Flavors of Asia are cropping up in salty and sweet snacks for a taste of the unexpected.
- Edie’s for Everybody vegan and organic sunflower seed butter cups in dark chocolate black sesame, white chocolate matcha, white matcha Vietnamese coffee, and white chocolate chai.
- Næra Snacks Crunchy Capelin with Roe in Wasabi, made from wild caught sustainably harvested Icelandic haddock
- Tochi Popcorn in Salted Egg, Black Sesame, Black Milk Tea, and Ube.
When Bad Tastes Good
Food and beverage products with an edgy attitude or daring irreverence are trending. Trendspotters have noted an uptick in products “making brazen statements, evocative claims, or even flavor/ingredient combinations that appear to be ‘in bad taste’ but contribute to the brand’s allure by design,” said Cirkus and Rogers. Examples:
- BeeBad Energy Drinks
- Bitchin’ Sauce Heat
- Dirty Cow’s XXXMas Pudding Chocolate
- Sway’s Endless Libido Gummies
- Vegan Robs’ Whale Sperm Tortillas
CONTINUING TO TREND
The alcohol-free, mocktail space has evolved to become a category in its-own-right with nonalcoholic versions of traditional cocktails, packaging innovations, and increasingly broader brand messaging. “Many brands are pioneering in their approach of inviting consumers to explore the positive aspects of what makes their brand unique and less about the ‘lack of liquor,’” said Cirkus and Rogers. “Botanica Kensho by RSRV Collective claims their product complements self-actualization. New brand Melati focuses on how they worked with an ayurvedic specialist and food scientist to pair southeast Asian botanical’s wisdom with modern science to create a ‘fine spirit.’” Examples:
- Abstinence Spirits alcohol-free RTD Sparkling Blood Orange Aperitivo Spritz and Sparkling Lemon Aperitivo Spritz
- Bluestem Botanicals Cocktail and Mocktail Kits
- Botanica Kensho by RSRV Collective
- Fauxmosa, alcohol-free mimosa
- Melati NA Amari
- Sayso craft cocktail tea bag
- Serpahim Social Beverage Cacao Calm + Clear, a wine alternative and wellness drink
- Three Spirit Spark sparkling wine alternative
Pantry Without Borders
One of the Trendspotter panel’s picks for a top trend of 2023, globally inspired condiments, sauces, and seasonings continue to let people travel while dining out or cooking from home. The Summer Show saw an extension into Italian pizza flours and shells, Lebanese sauces, and native fruits. Examples:
- Coma Xoconostle Cactus Fruit Spread from Mexico
- Molino Signetti Regional Pizza Flour blends, mixes for specific types of pizza (e.g. pinsa, classic, Neopolitan)
- Pinsa Love Par-Baked Pinsa Shell for foodservice
- Taha Spreads Toum Spread
Another top Trendspotter pick for 2023 with staying power, brands continue to test new flavors and combinations to enhance heat and spice rather than only overpower with the hottest options. “Complex but with bright flavor and balanced with heat,” said Trendspotter Thomas Joseph. Nuanced heat can be found in hot sauces and beyond, extending to categories like butter and incorporating chili crunches, an emerging trend in their own right.
- Capitana Salsa Machas and Mexican-style Chili Crunch
- Five Star Montauk Scotch Chipotle Glazing Butter
- Hot & Saucy Collards N Ghost Hot Sauce
- Komodo Sauces Black Hot Sauce
- Lighthouse Keeper’s Cranberry Lime Hot Sauce
- Sticker Mule Mule Sauce
- Sauce Up NYC Chili Crisp Hot Honey
Ethically Sourced, Upcycled Products
Brands continue to respond to consumer concern over the health of the environment, developing ethically sourced and produced, sustainable products, many made from upcycled ingredients. Examples:
- Heray ethically sourced saffron
- Renewal Mill’s Seven Sundays Upcycled Corn Flour Cereal, made with an Upcycled Certified white corn flour, a byproduct of the cornmeal milling process.
- The Spare Food Co. Spare Tonic Sparkling Probiotic Elixirs
Seafood alternatives in the form of more sustainable options continue to gain momentum. “Krill, often a food waste and discarded by industrial fisheries, is now packaged ready to serve,” noted Trendspotter Kantha Shelke. Examples:
- Atlantic Sea Farms Sea-Chi (seaweed kimchi)
- CAVIARUM Caviar Alternatives
- Krill Arctic Foods Antarctic Krill Meat
Broader Plant Based
Expanded ingredients, forms, and categories of plant-based options continue to grow. “Plant-based cheeses to date have largely been tackling the spreadable, the slice, those intended for cooking and meal preparation,” said Trendspotter Emily Schildt. “[Now it] targets the cheese snack.” Examples:
- Armored Fresh Almond Milk Cheese in cubes
- EatsBeauty Collagen-infused fruit drinks
- Haitgolou Family Foods Chickpea Butter
- Prime Roots Koji-Deli Meats
- Solspring Specialty Pasta Biodynamic Spirulina Tagliatelle
More trends on the radar…
- In addition to trending as naturally occurring sweeteners in a variety of categories, honey and dates are trending on their own. Honey—hot, premium, flavored, manuka—filled the aisles and dates are emerging not only as an ingredient, but as an energy-packed snack.
- Peach, either as a flavor, paired with other ingredients, or as a pickled fruit, is emerging.
- Calabrian peppers may be poised as the next Gochujang or Sriracha. They appeared in hot sauce, spreads, honey, caponata, charcuterie, and more.
About the Specialty Food Association
The not-for-profit Specialty Food Association (SFA) is the leading membership trade association and source of information about the $194 billion specialty food industry. Founded in 1952 in New York City, the SFA prides itself on being an organization by the members and for the members, representing thousands of specialty food makers and manufacturers, importers, retailers, buyers, distributors, brokers, and others in the trade. The SFA owns and operates the Fancy Food Shows—which are the largest specialty food industry events in North America—as well as the sofi™ Awards—which have honored excellence in specialty food and beverage annually since 1972. The SFA produces the Trendspotter Panel annual predictions, the State of the Specialty Food Industry Report, Today’s Specialty Food Consumer research, the Spill & Dish podcast, year-round educational programming for professionals at every stage in their business journey, and SFA Feed, the industry’s go-to daily source for news, trends and new product information. Find out more online and connect with SFA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok.