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!

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The Fancy Food Show was in town this week! I love wandering around the show, checking out the trends and secretly searching for false claims, labeling violations or stuff that is just misleading! That’s what food scientists do, and then we pick up the phone, call the FDA and make sure violating entrepreneurs are BUSTED!!

But the reality is, there are just way to many products out there for the FDA to inspect for compliance and unless your product is under USDA jurisdiction, you don’t even have to have it inspected or approved before putting it on the shelf. This is all the more reason to do your diligence and make sure you don’t accidentally lie, mislead or omit any important information.

Here are a few common mistakes that start up food entrepreneurs make that could result in a product recall or even worse—causing someone to get sick or die!

Allergen Labeling– It is very important that you clearly state any of the 8 major allergens that are in your product. They include Milk, Eggs, Fish, Shellfish, Tree-nuts, Peanuts, Wheat and Soy.   Double check every ingredient that goes into your product to make sure they don’t have hidden allergens (like dry seasoning blends that may have soy or nut powders in them). Just check out the FDA recalls and you will see how many products are recalled almost every day for accidently not listing an allergen.   By the way—coconut is considered an allergen in the U.S.A., and Canadian allergens include sesame seeds and mustard.

Serving Size– Unfortunately, your 1-lb muffin that delivers 9 grams of protein is not an honest serving size! The FDA has what is called RACC (Referenced Amounts Customarily Consumed) and they say a normal muffin size is 55 grams (that’s about 2-oz). You may not consider this a portion, but the FDA does. Watch your sizes and base your nutritional information on what is the reference. Its all right here in Title 21 of the CFR part 101.12

All Natural? The FDA does not have an actual definition of “all-natural” and there have been plenty of class action lawsuits. The rules are vague and there are lots of ingredients that may seem natural- like modified food starch and alkali processed cocoa- that are not. You have to figure that if big companies like Trader Joe’s and Ben and Jerry’s are getting sued then you can get in trouble too. Your best bet is to just stay away from the “All Natural” term. The All Natural terminology is just so 10 years ago anyway- try to focus on other ways to market your product in a more measurable and certifiable way (Gluten Free, Kosher, Organic—etc)

Net Carbs– This is a made up word used to indicate the total number of carbohydrates minus soluble fiber and sugar alcohols. The term is not based on sound science and can give consumers the false impression that they do not contribute any calories or raise blood sugar levels. The FDA has not has not yet taken a position on words like “net carbs” on your food package- however they will evaluate labels on a case by case basis to ensure that the brand owner is not “characterizing” the amount of carbohydrates in a product. For example saying your product “ONLY” has 5 carbs per serving is characterizing it—you are doing more than just stating the facts. If you do want to market your product as having a lower carbohydrate level and imply that it will help with weight loss, be very careful of your wording and run your final statements by a regulatory lawyer expert!

Keep it real- I know that all food entrepreneurs have the best of intentions and want to make sure that their creations are healthy and clean. However, there are many tempting and alluring food science shortcuts that will make your product taste great or last longer on the shelf… but can all of a sudden make your product not as “real” or as “clean” as you want it to be. Don’t try to hide what you are doing! If you are going to jack up your fiber levels with soluble corn fiber then just put it on the label and fess up! Calling your natural flavors as “extracts” is not fooling anyone (ok maybe it is, but you know deep down that you are misleading!) -Don’t try to downplay your protein sources or bacteria inhibiting preservative levels.

Before you put your product on the market have the entire package reviewed by a regulatory lawyer or food scientist. Hidden mistakes can result in millions of dollars lost as well as your brand name reputation.

 

Comments?

Its official I no longer have to buy my own cheeses and make a party platter- I discovered LASSO at the Food Fete party this week and they will take care of everything for me- the wine, the cheese and more! They also told me that anyone who reads this blog can get $20 bucks off their next order at www.lassoit.com (minimum order $60 but still …. its a good deal!) I am all about simplifying my parties—-

$20 bucks off--same day delivery!

$20 bucks off–same day delivery!

This was just one of many interesting items that I got to taste and experience at Food Fete– the post fancy food show special party for food companies and the media!  We all meandered around the room sipping Prosecco from Italy  and tasting gourmet chocolates made by a company that is known for making the kitchen sink….(Kohler). Other specialty items included the all american couture unique chocolates from Jcoco- (Edamame and Sea salt and quinoa) and more chocolate from Seattle Chocolates (their parent company) a responsible company that uses ethically traded cocoa. New from Manchester Farms were Quail Eggs and boneless quail – so you can make mini scrambled eggs whenever you want.

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I love nuts — so was excited to see that Sante- a company that sells roasted and seasoned nuts is making unique flavors like chipotle almonds, cardamon cashews and sweet and spicy peanuts.

Thanks to all these companies for coming out to San Francisco and showing us all the new and exciting products that we can now buy- so much variety and so little time!

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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!

 

 

 

 

True Lemon-So many uses!

True Lemon-So many uses!

The NY Fancy Food Show was PACKED this weekend. I had to push my way through the rows and aisles to get to the food-and had to fight a crowd of hungry attendees to get a sliver of the award winning American Artisan English cheddar cheese from Fiscalini.  All the usual players were in town, the gourmet popcorn, the beautiful chocolates, olive oil from every country, the foreign pavilions and all the cutsey mom and pop companies making various culinary kits. There were chefs, food scientists, culinologists , and of course the usual slew of non food industry people that managed to trick NASFT into letting them register, even though they have nothing to do with the biz! I saw amazing products this year at the

As a food scientist I was especially interested in companies that have caught on to the fact that one can successfully sell industrial ingredients directly to consumers –if marketed correctly. For example, I tried this product called True Lemon that is basically cold pressed crystallized citrus packed into tiny 0.8 gram packs (also sold in bulk 80 gram jars) with a little bit of citric acid, bulking agent dextrose and citrus oils packed in. WOW-Its totally natural, has no calories, no sodium, and comes in lime, orange and lemon. Finally all you food scientists out there can stop raiding the lab supply cabinet for citric acid, citrus oleoresins and dehydrated lemon powder-true lemon has created a bare bones rather basic “flavor” that you can buy.  Nielson Massey  is another company that has caught on, making their industrial vanilla powder available to the retail market in 2.5 oz jars. Vanilla powder is no big deal to food scientists and manufacturers who see it as a way to save money (not shipping water)  and maintain product color (liquid vanilla is dark brown can affect final color of a product) but for a non industry home cook-it’s a fun and novel concept. 

Vanilla in Powder Form-Not just for industry anymore!

Vanilla in Powder Form-Not just for industry anymore!

An added benefit to these ‘industrial ingredients gone retail” is it brings the retail buyer closer to our world, our secret world that normally scares or confuses them is now becoming a bit clearer with the introduction of these ingredients into the retail marketplace.  ANYONE can be a food scientist now with their own dehydrated flavors and citric acid on hand! Maybe now when my non food industry friends start asking me what “oleoresins” are or trying to understand what all those scary ingredients like maltodextrin and citric acid are-I can use basic products like True lemon and vanilla powder to educate them on these matters!

Stay tuned for more Fancy food show coverage including a list of American (who needs cheese from France and Italy when we have great stuff right here at home-in California, Upstate New York and Vermont-lets lower our carbon footprint and support our local farms.. let’s all do our part!) artisanal cheese, natural raw honey (don’t feed to infants ever!) and a few mentions of Serbian jam products that are made with fruits grown in the mountainous regions of Serbia and cooked on wood burning stoves.