Really Interesting sofi Specialty Food Award Finalists

These Eclectic and Interesting Specialty Food Finalists Reflect What's Trending

Specialty Award finalist Potlicker Kitchen carrot cake jam in a cake
Vanilla butter cake filled with Potlicker Kitchen Carrot Cake Jam covered in peanut butter frosting and topped with toasted coconut. Potlicker Kitchen

The Specialty Food Association announced 2015 of Award finalists, a list full of exotic and complex specialty food products.

The judges reviewed 2,737 specialty food products across 32 award categories with an eye on several product characteristics:

  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Ingredient Profile (these days focused on the "ingredients you can pronounce" trend)
  • Packaging
  • Pricing

Here are a few stand-outs that really reflect what's trending and popular with foodies in 2015.

Note how the foods crossover between natural, specialty and artisanal (with a small batch, handmade focus).

1. Carrot Cake Jam

Trend: Cross-over in food categories

Potlicker Kitchen describes Carrot Cake Jam as carrot cake without the flour and eggs.

Made in Vermont, this preserve really does feature many ingredients we find in a carrot cake recipe. We can only assume it must pair well with cream cheese.

February 3 is National Carrot Cake Day

2. Taco Night Seasoning

Trend: Cooking at home

The Institute of Food Technologists 2015 trend report highlights millennials wanting to cook quickly,  from scratch at home — at the expense of restaurants. And Just Cook's Taco Night Seasoning (and full spice line) is squarely positioned to benefit from this trend. Their soft finalist is mole-inspired, blending chile and cumin spices with an added twist of chocolate, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

October 4 is National Taco Day

3. Rainbow Trout Caviar

Trend: American-produced

Caviar in North Carolina? Yes! Sunburst Trout Farms Original Rainbow Trout Caviar is the choice of James Beard Award winners Ashley Christensen, Linton Hopkins and Daniel Boulud. These bright red eggs come from fresh-water fish so, the farm ways, don't taste fishy.

On trend as healthful, high in Omega 3s, sustainable, beautiful, and firm, with a fun pop. (There's a smoked version and also blood orange-infused caviar which is even more intriguing for its originality.)

July 18 is National Caviar Day

4. Kleine Schweine (Little Sausage Sticks)

Trend: Clean protein

Ever since tasting Olympia Provisions' natural version of meat sticks, I've found myself taking more road trips as an excuse to take these "peppernuts" on the road. The Portland-made pork sticks come packed in a cigarillo-style box. The meat is dry, chewy and jazzed up with garlic, caraway, coriander and red pepper flakes.

(If you ever wondered if the word artisan is obsolete, it is not. Reserve "artisan" to describe operations like Olympia Provisions' charcuterie kitchen.)

March 7 is National Pork Day

5. Beetroot Rasam Soup

Trend: Ethnic ready-to-eat foods

The inspiration of Chef Hari Nayak, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, roasted beets, pureed in a tomato base, with special ingredients such as tamarind, garlic, chilies, and mustard seeds.

Keep your eye on Cafe Spice, the restaurant behind this packaged Indian-inspired vegan soup. They have a line of grab-and-go meals in Indian and Mexican themes using healthful ingredients that are sync with the major trends in convenience and healthful ethnic foods.

And they work with foodservice. Brilliant!

Stay tuned for National Rasam Day! Or not.

Who are Your Projected Specialty Food Winners?

Check out the 2015 specialty food awards finalists and visit the Summer Fancy Food Show to see the companies in person and attend the awards ceremony.