Summer Fancy Food Show Picks You Really Should Taste

Discover Some Old Food Favorites, Some Hot New Food Brands and Trends

The top 5 food and beverage flavor trends at the Specialty Food Association's Summer 2015 Fancy Food Show merged healthful with tasty and interesting:

  • Gazpacho, that cold tomato-based Spanish soup. Ready-to-drink (RTD) gazpacho from Tio Gazpacho, bottled like any grab and go juice, fills a "why didn't we think of that?" niche, much as bone broth has for afternoon hunger quenchers. In fact, bottled soup has much room to grow. Get the vision from Seasonal Soups by Brooklyn-based The Splendid Spoon. 
  • Corn in the form of chips and popcorn. Truffle corn and caramel corns were all over. Interestingly while the non-GMO message often preceded exhibitor pitches, there are still specialty food makers using conventional corn.
  • Beets in salsa, kombucha and hummus as well as pickles. 
  • Flowers, herbs and other botanicals in drinks and all kinds of foods, much as with the Winter 2015 Fancy Food Show.
  • Cocktail-inspired partnerships and pairings (most notably Ohio-based Bissell Maple Farm's Pappy & Company Bourbon Barrel-Aged Syrup aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels). I'm lining up to get the maple walnut cream candy made with that maple syrup!

The Sofi award's outstanding product winner, a goat-milk caramel from Big Picture Farm, perfectly represented these trends, blending raspberry and rhubarb. 

For your food buying pleasure, check out my 19 food and beverage product picks, from savory to sweet, snacks to gifts...

1
Cracked Candy Crunches and Cracks. But is it "Crack?"

Crack Candy that crunches and comes in cute tins
Crack Candy that cracks and is like a more healthy rock candy made with xylitol. Susie Wyshak

For me, Cracked Candy, invented by Flora Pringle, a science teacher, and Brooklyn mom, stole the show. "What is it?!" the crowd pretty much unanimously  exclaimed, at the lucite boxes packed with white shards...of something.

Turned out to be a hard, yet not too hard, kind of rock candy. Made of Xylitol from North American birch trees, Flora says this sugar-free  candy is good for your teeth, is diabetic friendly and is even recommended by dentists. The several flavors of Cracked Candy come in flip-top tins and burst with 100% therapeutic grade essential oils. 

Cooler yet, the candy comes from Flora smashing sheets of candy — much like rocks — to produce "shards" of cracked candy.

Cracked Candy is sold at Whole Foods, among other stores, for about $4.99 per tin. I have to admit, the cold, hard yet soft crunch is pretty darn addictive. More

2
Kombrewcha is Low Alcohol Beer Made from Tea - Straight Out of Brooklyn

Kombrewcha - low alcohol beer crafted from tea
Beer crafted from tea - a brilliant twist. Susie Wyshak

Kombrewcha is low alcohol beer doubling as kombucha.  Yes, it is good, tasting mostly like kombucha with a hint of beer.

It's not what happens when kombucha ferments into an alcoholic beverage, the team explained. It really is beer. "With 2% alcohol, only 65 to 75 calories per bottle (less than in light beer), and boatloads of live probiotics, vitamins, and organic acids." the Kombrewcha website explains.

Another genius food straight outta Brooklyn. Get your hands on some. More

3
President Obama still craves Fran's caramels

Fran's smoked sea salt chocolate coated caramels
President Obama's favorite chocolates - smoked sea salt caramels from Fran's. Susie Wyshak

Newer caramels may be winning awards but, according to Fran Bigelow, her Smoked Sea Salt Caramels remain a favorite candy of Barack Obama

And while I have tasted many a caramel in my personal life and while working with the Good Food Awards in the Confections category, there's still something about Fran's Salted Caramels.

They are perfectly soft, perfectly chewy, with just the right amount of salt. The size makes for just enough to satisfy but not overwhelm.

Kudos to Fran for the caramel she developed in 1999.

4
Cello Whisps are All Parmesan Cheese Crackers - Nothing Else!

Cello parmesan cheese crackers are gf and healthy
100 percent parmesan cheese crackers crunch and are a gluten free addictive snack. Susie Wyshak

100% parmesan cheese crackers are a no-brainer but somehow they've been a long-time coming. Cello bakes their Kopper Kettle Parmesan cheese into natural gluten free crunchy rounds packaged in elegant, resealable pouches.

The test: I ate a whole bag in a couple of sittings. Luckily because the parmesan cheese gets so condensed when baked, it's easy not to down the whole bag at once. 

Cello Whisps are a must-have for upscale delis and specialty stores.

Other companies have made crunchy cheese crackers, but these are the first I've seen made in the USA that is GF and designed for the casual snacker. More

5
Tajin Hot Sauce Potato Chips - The Perfect Mexican Snack and Hot Sauce

more spicy potato chips
Tajin hot sauce potato chips. Susie Wyshak

Leave it to POP! Gourmet Popcorn who brought us Sriracha potato chips, through a partnership with Huy Fong Foods to launch a potato chip made and branded with one of Mexico's favorite spicy seasonings, Tajin.

POP! has no shortage of creative and perfect popcorns (love the Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese) and Fire Corn popcorn, with real jalapenos. Reach out to these good people if you want to work with a co-packer / partner to create a popcorn or potato chip brand. More

6
Chocolate Lined Waffle Cups for Coffee and Dessert by Zia Valentina

Chocolate waffle cups invented by Zia Valentina in Los Angeles
Zia Valentina's chocolate waffle cups for espresso and gelato. Susie Wyshak

I stopped at the Zia Valentina booth wondering what was up with the big crowd.

Espresso shots in hand-lined chocolate-lined waffle cups. Yes. The waffle cups have an interior chocolate lining which melts slowly when filled with an espresso. And of course, it perfectly complements a pudding or scoop of gelato. 

Chocolate Waffle cups came out of Zia Valentina's shop at the Los Angeles Farmers Market. Naomi Kashi informed me that my espresso could sit in the cup for 3 minutes before disaster might strike. Just the right amount of time to down an espresso.

Such a simple idea, so well done, the chocolate waffle cups made the news in USA Today, which might have explained the big crowd around the company's booth.  More

7
The Latest Potato Chip Flavor is All About Green

Sexy Pop potato chips
Spinach and matcha potato chips - it's like eating chips is healthy, maybe. Susie Wyshak

Sexy Pop is the brainchild of Pirate Booty founder Robert Ehrlich.

The big idea is to feel sexy regardless of your looks. (Of course, snack food companies can win with a message like that too.)

The company had a Spinach and Matcha Green Tea potato chip out for sampling at the Summer 2015 Fancy Food Show. It's the latest in the "not quite as bad for you" snacking trend* and was a clever twist to keep the potato chip snacking growing.

*often framed as "better for you" More

8
Chocolate Nut Clusters in Snack Packs

Jer's Groupies chocolate clusters
Jer's Groupies chocolate clusters at the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show. Susie Wyshak

Why didn't we (or anyone else) think of packaging up chocolate nut clusters, and other chocolate clusters?

Made with superlative Guittard chocolate, Jer's Groupies come in attractive, punchy packaging made to stand on a shelf or stand out in gift baskets.

The Groupies are pretty pricey at around $8 retail for 4 ounces. However, I predict they will sell well as a grab-and-go premium cluster or hostess gift, at stores where it's hard to find this crowd-pleasing candy outside of the bulk bins.

9
Interesting Caramel Sauces and Molten Chocolate Cake in a Jar

Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery caramel sauces
Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery wildcrafted and smoky caramel sauces. Susie Wyshak

It's hard to mention only 2015 Sofi winning Hot Cakes' Organic Molten Chocolate Cake in a jar OR their naturally amazing caramel sauces.  

As highlighted at the Seattle bakery's camping-themed booth, the dessert product lines (including an S'mores kit) go hand-in-hand whether for restaurants, boutiques wanting to feature just a few products, home foodies and even for camping. 

The Wilderness Collection caramel sauces are especially worth noting. While the flavors may sound strange on paper (or on the Internet), they seriously work:

  • Campfire infuses a smoky flavor.
  • White Sage invokes the sunny dusty desert.
  • Stinging Nettle is wild-foraged in the northwest

Imagine combining Hot Cakes' sauces over roasted nuts. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. More

10
Empire Mayonnaise Adds Flavor To Sandwiches and Burgers

Empire Mayonnaise flavored artisan mayonaisses
Empire Maynnaise - it's hip and good. Susie Wyshak

What if you combined the most on-trend flavors like black garlic and ghost pepper into a staple like mayonnaise?

Another Brooklyn artisan food maker Empire Mayonnaise has turned that idea into a thriving specialty food business based on Good Food principles: "only non-GMO oils, happy cage-free and pasture-raised eggs, and local/seasonal flavors." 

They founded the company in 2011 and have a Brooklyn shop, sell at local food events and sell online. At around $30, the gift pack is a really awesome tour de mayonnaise.

DISCOVER 9 MORE FOODS FROM THE 2015 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW... More

11
Eat Like a Foodie Astronaut - American Chipotle Paste and Harissa Paste in Tubes

Olo's Chipotle Paste and Harissa Paste
Olo's Spicy Pastes in Tubes - Ready for Space Flight!. Susie Wyshak

The Italians were always so lucky having tomato paste in metal tubes. Eating does not get much cooler than squeezing food out of a tube like an astronaut. 

The Olo booth stopped me in my tracks at the Summer 2015 Fancy Food Show. This is not so easy to do given the draw of candy and beverages everywhere.

Olo Foods' American-made Chipotle Paste and Harissa Paste really lit me up, not only because Tessa Lowe makes and packages her totally natural, minimally processed passes in Seattle, Washington. 

Now we can squeeze chipotle paste onto a burger or put a dollop of harissa into a cup of soup at work or on the go. Out of a metal tube, just like the astronauts. One giant step for foodies.

12
Thin Savory Crackers from 34 Degrees of Colorado

34 Degrees Savory Crisps crackers
The line of 34 Degrees thin crackers serve all snacking occasions. Susie Wyshak

34 Degrees continues to innovate its line of super-thin wheat "savory crisps" that stand up to the weight of several appetizer ingredients. How do they do it?

At the Summer 2015 Fancy Food Show, they featured a limited-edition line of Poppy Seed and Onion crackers, both which pack in real flavor into each 9-calorie cracker. Love the idea of limited edition crackers to keep the excitement alive.

The name 34 Degrees refers to Australia, where these classic crackers originated. Good on them! More

13
A Modern Andes Chocolate Mint

Denver Mint thin mint with gourmet chocolate
A specialty food version of Andes Mints - the Denver Mint by Enstrom, at the 2015 Fancy Food Show. Susie Wyshak

In recent years, Enstrom Candies has grown and re-positioned itself from an English toffee gift company to a consumer packaged candy company, with coffee in single-serve packs and in candy bar-sized packs.

At the Summer 2015 Fancy Food Show, their Denver Mints caught my attention, partly because I'm always on the lookout for a better or healthier re-makes of old comfort foods.

The Denver Mint looked and tasted nearly identical to the Andes chocolate mints we used to buy at the drugstore or get at restaurants. Enstrom's owner noted that his mind is made with high-quality chocolate, while The Andes are made with a compound coating designed for long shelf-life and heat tolerance. 

They're a good gift for an Andes fan who wants a better-for-you mint (that might taste better to someone who hasn't spent a day gorging at the food show). More

14
Meaty Beef Jerky with the Coolest Branding by a Marvel Comics Artist

Uncle Andy's Jerky
Seasonal beef jerky flavors with awesome cartoon branding. Susie Wyshak

Uncle Andy's was not a Fancy Food Show exhibitor, but let's say these incredibly delicious, fabulously branded beef jerky fell into my hands.

Aside from kids food or international brands, it seems the American foods don't often feature seriously goofy caricatures (like the  lumbersexual featured on Maple Bourbon Beef Jerky) married with vintage lettering.

I really can't stop looking at this playful and delicious jerky line, which owner Andrew Hanenburg produces in signature flavors and limited edition runs (an awesome idea when using a co-packer).

The jerky does not rest on its branding laurels. It's very well made, with  fulfilling meaty slabs and subtle flavors, including Southern Gent Lemon Mint and Bandito Spicy Coffee.   More

15
Mustard + Onion Chips from Way Better Snacks are Way Good

Mustard and onion tortilla chips
Mustard and onion tortilla chips. Susie Wyshak

The #1 survival rule at the Fancy Food Show is to avoid snacking on snack foods. You really could fill up within the first 15 minutes.

Luckily I grabbed one of Way Better Snacks' Mustard + Onion chips and ate just enough for the chip to really stand out as something new and delicious. 

The nice thing about this sprouted, non-GMO corn chip is that it has organic brown and yellow mustard seeds as well as dijon mustard powder along with the onion.

In short, it's a deli experience in a chip made with real ingredients, not just flavorings, much as 34 Degrees accomplished with their Toasted Onion Savory Crisps. This chip and the whole line of Way Better Snacks leads the trend for the healthier snack foods that consumers crave.

16
Upscale Fruit Sodas and Tonics Made With Stevia, From Spain

Spanish tonic and soda
Spanish tonic and soda at the Fancy Food Show. Susie Wyshak

The use of stevia as an intense sweetener for diet beverages is increasing rapidly, love it or hate it.

At the Summer 2015 Fancy Food Show, Ledger's Tonic, out of Spain, stood out as an interesting beverage not only because of the adorable tiny bottles and vintage-meets-hip branding but because it uses stevia rather than agave or another sweetener.

The name of Ledger's Tonic pays a nod to the man who discovered quinine in the 1800s and, they say, their tonic comes from the very same Cinchona Ledgeriana Tree that Ledger discovered. 

The company makes a broad line of carbonated, stevia-sweetened fruit drinks as well as topics for cocktail mixes.

17
Bissinger Fruit Gummy Pandas - Still a Classic Candy

Bissinger apricot gummy pandas
Apricot gummy pandas from Bissinger's. Susie Wyshak

I'm always on the lookout for natural gummy bears and other animals — like pandas. The Natural Products Expo is a paradise, featuring a ridiculously tasty array of gummy vitamins from this fast-growing market segment (forecast to reach $1 billion by 2017). 

Yet there aren't a lot of creative gummy makers. Luckily, Bissinger's reliably produces gummy pandas in real food flavors that taste great and feel good to eat like Apricot Green Tea, Blackberry Hibiscus, Blueberry Acai and more.

They may not be new, but these gummies continue to be a staple for specialty food stores and eaters.

Side note for aspiring candy business owners: Bissinger's also offered co-packing services as your candy production partner. More

18
Award-winning Licorice Toffee from Laurie & Sons of New York

award winning licorice toffee gift box
sofi award winning toffee from Laurie & Sons. Susie Wyshak

While the word artisan is overused, Laurie & Sons really are just that, Laurie and her young sons, making candy in Harlem. At the Summer Fancy Food Show their genuine enthusiasm and pride in their "not too sweet" toffee candy and a just-sweet-enough cracker stick-like version of toffee called Baked Brittle.

In 2015, Laurie & Sons won a Sofi Gold award for the Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee Minis made with black licorice and star anise. They also landed an International Chocolate Salon Gold award.

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