2017 Fancy Food Show Review

I spent three days wandering around the winter fancy food show in San Francisco this week! Saw lots of the same old same old (popcorn, chocolate, olive oil, cheese, Italian imports) but like every show, there are always a few unique items and up and coming trends that we hope will make it and hit mainstream!

Wellness Tonics
Tonics are beverages or syrups that are based on traditional or ancient methods for natural self healing. Some interesting products at the show included Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks like Sonoma Syrup, Tuber Tonics and African Bronz Honey Tonic.

DIY Kits 

Why buy something ready to eat when you can sort of put it together yourself. Lots of DIY (do it yourself) kits at the show for both adults and kids! My favorite was HummisStir– a package containing three shelf stable sterilized packs of chic peas, tahini and dry seasoning- that you blend together with a cute wooden spoon. The hummus wasn’t bad– although it needed some fresh lemon juice in there.  Home Cranked Ice Cream Mix eliminates one having to combine their own sugar, cream and milk–the base is right in the box so you can be like professional and dump the mixture into your ice cream machine– press go- and impress everyone with your secret non-blending skills! In the health and wellness DIY space, there are now companies that will sell you their special Kefir starter cultures to make your own Kefir at home! You can also go to Berkeley and just ask around town and someone will probably “gift” you some of theirs but its nice to know there is a reliable clean workable version on the market.  And of course Bagels–the company Everything Bagel and Cream Cheese DIY instructs you on how to make both the bagel and the cream cheese.

An Apple Every Day

Apples are showing up more than ever in products from syrups to freeze dried snacks to BBQ sauce. Some examples I saw at Fancy Food show included Gia Russa Buttered Apple Barbecue Sauce  and Apple Butter Syrup from Blackberry Patch. Stonewall kitchen was also demo’ing their Apple Cider Syrup.

Better For You Snacks-Naturally

Lots of snacks out there made from ingredients that are “healthy” for you. The definition of healthy of course varies, but according to those who are selling it– includes Chickpeas (Chick Bean Crisps), ProTato Crisps, which combines potato with rice protein to make a protein rich crunchy snack. Ticky Rice Chips which  they make by steaming thai sticky rice, soaking it in watermelon (??!!) and then crisping it up so it tastes like the brown bottom of the pan rice that is scraped up. They have 30% less fat than regular potato chips. Also saw Chia Cassava Chips. These products combine both our desire to crunch and snack, but provide us with fiber and protein from the ingredients used.

Decadence Never Dies 

The Fancy Food Show would not be what it is without the usual slew of olive oil, chocolate, cheese and other rich not necessarily good for you but tastes great selection! Chocolate products will always be there for us- and this year was no exception. Some unique items included Torn Ranch Chocolate Covered Banana Chips– that are truly “taste inspired”. The chocolate pate from Guthries— AKA “Sin In A Tin”.

The Products We Still Need To Get Used To

Crickets are hot now but we still need to get used to eating bugs as a protein source. Don Bugito has been around for a few years now– helping to increase awareness about bugs– as a protein source.

The Weirdest Product I saw at the 2017 Fancy Food Show

The strangest thing I saw was a beverage called Eggurt– made from fermented egg white. I don’t quite understand the history of this idea (it is not something that is done in other countries, nor is it something that existed in the past) but it tasted good– like a yogurt drink.  I did find the masters thesis of a food scientist who developed a very similar beverage in 1978, I wonder if there is a connection!










I may be imagining it, but it seems like the normal food section of the Fancy Food Show (NASFT) is getting smaller and the start up companies, new products section is getting bigger! It used to be just the 200 row with the new products on the market but now they have the special new products/hot products room AND most of the North Hall at the Moscone center dedicated to new exciting products!

As a food scientist I look for technologically exciting foods- weird imports, unique flavors, special packaging— anything that makes me think about the way it was processed is exciting to me! I also want to see the latest healthy ingredients to replace last years healthy ingredients so we can all get in our fiber, protein and good fats in the proper ratios in the right beverage delivery medium.

So here it goes—my favorite weird products at the Fancy Food Show! Starting with my most curious-I am completely intrigued by a chocolate filled intact egg shell confection called “Real Egg Shell”. This product is NOT new, it’s been around awhile but I couldn’t help but ponder what goes down in that manufacturing facility. I am sure they have to steam clean out the eggshells in a very gentle way (but yet strong enough to kill off any salmonella!) and then fill it with chocolate, put little stickers over the hole (so chocolate doesn’t seep out)- and decorate it.  Then they sell this for fairly cheap- like around $4 or $5 dollars! I want to tour this facility – it’s a food scientist dream plant, Willie Wonka meets the USDA!

sanitized egg shells filled with chocolate!

sanitized egg shells filled with chocolate!

I saw water that is naturally alkaline to a pH of 8.8 (the sales rep explained to me that above 7 is basic and below is acidic.. so glad he cleared that up!) – Now I am no water expert but I always figured water with a pH of 7 is fine- but from now on, its above 7 water for me only!!!

I got to taste Bucha– a natural Kombucha beverage with live Kombucha cultures. What made this particular sparkling Kombucha different from the many others is it actually tasted really good and didn’t have that harsh vinegar taste. Filled with living probiotics, it could actually be beneficial if you drank it every single day , which I probably won’t unless a truck load of it accidently falls in front of my house.

Lastly- sprouted is hot—sprouted almonds are so 3 years ago, now you can get sprouted watermelon seed and sprouted sesame seeds– both are higher in protein than the un-sprouted versions.  The sprouted watermelon seeds are new- I can’t even find it on their website yet!

sprouted watermelon seeds-- lots of protein!

sprouted watermelon seeds– lots of protein!

Other hot trends that I saw and heard about include— Gluten free (of course), lots and lots of seasoned popcorn, lots of half popped kernels (Half Pops, Pop Kerns and my favorite, Qancha—a lightly toasted Peruvian corn nut).

toasted peruvian corn with avocado oil

toasted peruvian corn with avocado oil

My least favorite product this year was a sugar free cookie made with Erythritol- it tasted great but caused all the usual sugar alcohol symptoms that one can expect. The company said that Erythritol causes LESS gastro distress than sorbitol and other sugar alcohols but I don’t believe it!





IMG_4066Every year the Almond Board of California organizes techno/culinary events to remind food scientists like me how great almonds are from both a flavorful and technical point of view. This year we visited Vosges chocolate shop in Chicago, during the IFT conference.

Almonds are really nutritious especially when eaten with cheese, chocolate and wine— all that fermentation (cheese) antioxidants (wine) and heart healthy nuts— It made perfect sense that we ate them all together ! For your own future pairing– do what we did at Vosges


First Pairing

  • BARCELONA  BAR | Hickory smoked almonds + Fleur de Sel sea salt + 41% deep milk chocolate
  • VERMONT BUTTER + CHEESE COMPANY COUPOLE |Crumbly, nutty goat cheese.
  • Parcel  41 Merlot, Napa California | Enormously rich, ripe and concentrated showing layers of blackberry, current and mocha.

Second Pairing

  • NAGA TRUFFLE | 41% cacao deep milk chocolate truffle + sweet Indian curry powder + fresh coconut
  • VERMONT BUTTER & CHEESE COMPANY COUPOLE |This distinct cheese encompasses an amalgam of roasted nuts, citrus and florals as it ages, beginning firm and tangy and gradually transforming into an almost liquid outer layer of creamy bliss as it grows older.
  • NIVOLE MOSCATO D’ASTI| Gentle bubbles rise from this frizzante sparkler with notes of tropical mango, sweet peach and pea, balancing the spicy curry

 Third Pairing

  • WILD OPHELIA |SALTED ALMOND BAR| 41% cacao milk chocolate + chowchilla almonds + smoked Maine sea salt
  • YOUNG PECORINO| moist, milky and sweet, this fresh sheep’s milk cheese from Tuscany resembles fresh mozzarella, with a similar spongy texture but a more pronounced tang.
  • GOOSE ISLAND NUT BROWN ALE | chestnut-hued ale of unusual complexity. Subtle notes of chocolate, honey

Almonds are super healthy— just a quick summary of their benefits:

A one-ounce serving of natural or roasted almonds contains 6 grams of power-packed protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. It’s a top food source of the antioxidant vitamin E as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps the body produce energy, maintain muscle tissue function and regulate blood sugar.[i]

And, it’s a heart-healthy choice: according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. An ounce of almonds has 13 grams of monounsaturated, “good” fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat. 

A 2012 study shows whole almonds may provide the body with 20 percent fewer calories than Nutrition Facts labels currently state – 129 calories per ounce instead of the current 160. The study takes into account the digestibility of whole almonds, and further research is needed to better understand the results of the study and how this technique for calculating calories could potentially affect the calorie count of other foods.[ii]

Putting it all on the table- Food Fete Goods!

Putting it all on the table- Food Fete Goods!

I should be ashamed of myself- for years I too believed that maraschino cherries had formaldehyde in them- the stuff they put in dead people- someone told me this when I was like 8- and now here I am… years and many food science degrees later- still believing that this is the case. Crazy! Turns out that years ago- a writer for a national news magazine confused formaldehyde with benzaldehyde- a flavor that is extracted from cherries, walnuts and almond pits. Well, Cherry Man Farm To Market Maraschinos put a stop to all that nonsense— not only are they NOT made with Formaldehyde- but they don’t even have any artificial colors or flavors in them. It’s a whole new world of Maraschinos out there!


All Natural- No Artificial anything and no formaldehyde!

Its been a few years since I attended Food Fete- the special fancy event that happens AFTER the fancy food show and is exclusive for companies that want more product exposure and want to mingle with elite members of the esteemed press. I was AMAZED at how BIG this event has become! There must have been 60+ companies there! Most brand new companies that I had never heard of- and a few established  companies that were launching their latest flavor/product concept. For example, Pepperidge Farms was demo’ing their Goldfish Mac & Cheese products.


And here I thought Kraft and Annie’s had that market covered— enter Pepperidge Farm! They also had some cool puffy spicy goldfish crackers too! Lucky for you I am posting a picture because I can’t find it on their website!!! See, Food Fete Works!


Puffy and spicy– and flavorful!

Entering into the show, they were serving Ole Smokey Moonshine cocktails- I passed on that because I don’t do the booze (read here why) – but great packaging right!?


Moonshine – glass jars

I always though Kohler only made kitchen sinks and faucets- but now they make chocolate. I was more impressed with their press kit though, it was a fancy key USB in a box- I will cherish that key thing forever.


the coolest of all media kits- a USB that looks like a key– in a box

The sneaky chef is sneaking vegetables into your marinara sauce and into the pasta- Now, while I don’t totally understand why they have to be SNUCK in –why can’t kids just be OK with it- at least they are there- and being eaten and that’s all that matters. But here is the part I am not clear on- they have a new veggie pasta on the market but I can’t find any online information—as a food scientist, I want to know how they got the veggies into the pasta. Stay tuned!!!


Jama Cocoa is a start up company run by Jamasen Rodriguez and five other undergrads- the company combines modern, urban art world with the realm of delicious chocolate confections. They achieve this by partnering with both upcoming and established artists and featuring their artwork on their chocolate boxes. I think they should feature the artwork by Zariart.com who designed the cover of my new book!  The Food Business Tool Kit For Entrepreneurs (mini plug for my book here!)

my awesome book cover- of my great new book!

I also really liked the Jcoco Chocolate from Seattle– more cool packaging (beautiful women featured on the labels) and cool owners.

sexy women on the package!

sexy women on the package!

They promised to attend my RCA chocolate event in a few weeks in San Francisco-being held at Charles Chocolates with a microbiologist speaking about food safety and confections.

I think Lamb is like this forgotten meat in the U.S. – we should all eat more of it and if you visit the lean on Lamb website, they have tons of great recipes!


eat more lamb!

I have to give a shout out to all California organizations (since I LIVE in California)  because they are just trying to support the farmers!  – the Almond Board of California , the California Milk Advisory BoardCalifornia Olive Ranch, and the California Olive Committee! I felt right at home at this years Food Fete!

Go All Things California!

Go All Things California!

I left the show with two heavy bags – took a taxi across town to meet my friend for dinner- he took a bunch of my chocolate bars, my veggie pasta (now I will NEVER know how they did it!) and some of my half popped popcorns!

sort of like corn nuts-- but not..

sort of like corn nuts– but not..

I got home and lay everything out on the table- wondering which items would come with me to Canada and then back to San Francisco.

Mom took the Lucini olive oil – so I don’t get to keep that– and more chocolate bars were removed from my bag when I was not looking– I did get to eat the Two Fold Foods Savory nuts for breakfast- trying to do the Paleo protein thing— so nuts work for that!

Nuts for breakfast

Nuts for breakfast

Mom snagged this shwag bag item

Mom snagged this bottle—









I want to thank Jeff Davis for putting on a great event- Great to be exposed to new products on the market- Glad to be able to share the information with my readers!  There were tons of other great products at the show but I can’t write about every single one— they are all listed HERE  because I thought everything was delicious!

I met my Chocolate-Maker hero Oriol Balaguer at Madrid Fusion 1.2011 (photo credit Gerry Dawes)

All I have to say is Oriol Balaguer did it first! Back in 2007 I was lucky enough to try his chocolate “Mazcleta” at the World of Flavors in Napa and now that I have read his biography it all makes sense that he was working with Adria and involved in the molecular gastronomy world! Oh wait, chefs say I can’t call it that since its not really what they do, what they actually do is play with industrial ingredients and apply it to their cooking!

Oriol was the pioneer with his pop rock infused candy and since then several other chocolate makers have done it as well including Chuao Chocolatier who pretty much copied Oriol but he calls his “FireCracker” instead of Mazcleta, the spanish version of the same word.

They can’t call it poprocks, probably because it is trademarked by the company that makes them but I plan to find a chocolate supplier who can make me a popping candy chocolate confection that I can show at IFT this summer as a way to demonstrate how great walnuts can be in chocolate. The popping candy will help the experience become a memorable one!

The guy who invented poprocks was a food scientist by the name of William Mitchell, he worked for General Foods, he retired in 1976, had quite a few food patents out related to cool whip, tang, and jell0. He died in 2004 and I hope that the world appreciates what he did for us!

the patent that explains how it is made-can be found on this website.

Turns out the spanish company Zeta Espacial sells the stuff unflavored and in bulk. They work with all kinds of manufacturers who want to incorporate poprocks into their products. you can put it in cookies, yogurt, baked goods…. I am VERY curious to know how they prevent the carbon dioxide from deflating out after it comes in contact with liquid ingredients.

Check out their site for industrial manufacturers here!

Apparently you CAN mix it with soda and it won’t explode in your stomach!