Sample the latest innovations at the gourmet Fancy Food ShowJanuary 18, 1999
Web posted at: 2:45 p.m. EST (1945 GMT)
From CNN Senior Editor Dave Rickett
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Herbal teas and coffee alternatives are brewing. Crunchy biscotti is broken into bite-sized bits. Marinades, sauces, oils and vinegars are ready to be sopped up with pieces of French bread, and elegant chocolates tempt you at every turn.
No, it's not a scene from the most super of supermarkets -- it's the Fancy Food Show. If you consider yourself part of the gourmet food industry, it's the only place to be from January 17-19 at San Francisco's Mosconi Convention Center. This year, over nine hundred exhibiting companies have turned out to display, communicate, sell and offer samples of their latest food products to specialty gourmet food and gift stores, supermarkets, restaurants and other related businesses.
It's also a good place to get a peek at some of the upcoming food trends for the new year.
Neutraceuticals: Eat AND feel good
Foods that are consumed for their medicinal value or healing properties as much as their taste are called neutraceuticals. Common ingredients in such foods include ginger, ginseng and echinacea.
While such herbs and roots have been used in tea for decades, they're becoming much more common in mustards, dressings and marinades as well.
Why the movement toward meals that heal? "You can look great on the outside, but if you don't fix the inside it's no good," says Ann Stettner from Wild Thymes which carries such delicacies as Chili Ginger Honey Sauce and Sesame Ginger Scallion Mustard. Stettner believes shoppers are reading labels more than ever. "It can taste good, but it's not the first and only criteria," she says.
Tea and honey are two beneficiaries from this latest surge in neutraceuticals.
Tea: Chai something new
The coffee craze may soon be overtaken by its consume-it-all-day cousin: tea. Herbal, organic, decaffeinated, black, green and every combination thereof presented a formidable alternative to coffee at the show - with the emphasis on the word alternative.
The folks in the tea industry have not stood idle while caffeine feinds pounded cup after cup of specialty java drinks, such as lattes and mochas. Their secret weapon: Chai.
A chai is a combination of tea, spices and milk served steaming hot. "It's a bridge between coffee latte and tea latte," says Julie Matter, the Minister of Chai for The Republic of Tea.
Chai companies are keying into the health benefits associated with tea and using that perception to market their creation to twenty-somethings looking for hip thirst quenchers that don't have as many negative side affects associated with them as caffeine drinks. "Chai goes across the board -- not only the coffee (drinkers), but also the non-coffee (drinkers) and the tea drinkers" enjoy it says Lori Spencer, V.P of Marketing for Oregon Chai.
Honey: Stick with natural
The healthy living trend has also fueled a surge in products sweetened naturally with honey, as well as innovations in the old standard honey in a jar. From mustards, dressings and syrups to spreadable creams, jellies and honey in a straw, the bee is busier than ever before.
"It's really become a hot button as far as a health food," says Sales Manager Jack Myers from The Virginia Honey Company. Myers says customers claim honey helps cure everything from allergens to mystery illnesses. "The whole honey market is looking at the growth being in the neutraceutical end, rather than the gourmet end, "says Eugene Brueggeman, president of Honey Acres.Judging from the number of products at the show containing honey, many in the specialty food industry are hoping that honey will bring them a sweet profit.
The Fancy Food Show was founded and is sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). With more than 2,000 members, this not-for-profit trade association hopes to foster interest in specialty foods. A winter show is held on the west coast and a summer show on the east coast. In March 1999, a spring show is scheduled to debut in Chicago.
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