Monday, February 6, 2017

Top 5 Beverages Trends Seen at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show

I was pleased to attend the Winter Fancy Food Show held by the Specialty Foods Association from January 22 to 24, 2017 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. The trade show hosted over 1,400 exhibitors representing specialty food and beverages producers from over 25 countries. In this article, I will highlight noteworthy trends in beverages that I saw at the show. You can read my previous article on top 5 food trends seen at the show.

Drinking vinegars as cocktail mixer, health tonic, and soda alternative

The use of fruit-flavored vinegars goes back to colonial America when shrubs were used to preserve fruit for the winter. More recently, drinking vinegar mixed with water has been popular in parts of Asia as a digestive aid. At the show, Crafted Cocktails targeted at-home mixologists with its shrubs that they call a “cocktail enhancer” in Asian Pear, Blackberry, Ginger, Pineapple, and Strawberry flavors.
Andy Ricker, Chef/Owner of Pok Pok restaurants, has helped to popularize drinking vinegar in the United States, by introducing drinking vinegar-based sodas in his Thai restaurants. After they proved popular, he introduced line of Pok Pok Som drinking vinegars and sodas for retail sale. At the Fancy Food Show, Pok Pok offered the drinking sodas in ginger, grapefruit, Thai basil, and turmeric flavors as a healthier alternative to soda with less sugar than traditional soda and 90-100 calories per 12oz bottle. Cold-press juice maker Suja Life, LLC, partly owned by The Coca-Cola Co, introduced new flavors to its line of drinking vinegars: cucumber ginger, hibiscus ancho chile, lemongrass lime, and peach ginger.The Suja vinegars also contain vegan probiotics - Ganeden Inc's Bacillus Coagulans GBI-30 6086.  
Makers of drinking vinegar in the concentrate format seek to promote its products as health tonic, cocktail mixer, and soda alternative. As US consumers increasingly out spicy flavors such as Sriracha and gochujang hot sauces, beverage makers are introducing more spicier varieties. At the show, Fire Cider offered a number of products including Fire Cider Original which contains garlic, onions, and horseradish in addition to apple cider vinegar, raw wildflower honey, oranges, lemons, ginger, turmeric, habanero pepper). Fire Brew’s apple cider vinegar-based health tonics also contain raw organic vinegar, garlic, onions, and horseradish in addition to herbs and spices.

Cold brew coffee options multiply

The rising popularity of cold brew coffee, produced by immersing coffee grounds in cold water for 12 hours or more, in coffee shops has led to a large number of cold brew coffee products for the retail market. At the show, producers of cold brew coffee offered numerous options including liquid concentrates in glass and bag-in-box, pitcher filter packs, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee, and RTD coffee with nitrogen. Fogdog Cold Brew Coffee and Tea offered cold brew RTD coffees and teas produced using a patent-pending hydrodynamic brewing process. The hydrodynamic cold-extraction process uses very cold, fast-moving water and is able to extract flavor notes from both coffee and tea. Chameleon Cold-Brew offered a cold-brew coffee ale, developed in cooperation with Shiner Brewery, in honor of Shiner’s 108th birthday.

Within cold brew coffee, nitro coffee with a creamy foam, similar to Guinness, has become popular among millennials. Offering nitrogenated coffee has required coffee shops to use a tap machine, nitrogen tank, and kegs. Califia Farms showed a prototype of its Nitro Cold Brew & Draft Latte on Tap machine that is keg-less and tank-less. Without using a keg and nitrogen tank, the Califia Farms nitro tap system uses a 1 gallon bag-in-box Cold Brew, connects to a waterline, and uses proprietary technology to create nitro coffee.

Gazpacho as juice alternative and drinkable soup

Gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup, has long been popular in Spain while Americans are more familiar with hot chicken noodle and tomato soups. A number of companies at the Fancy Food Show sought to appeal to consumers looking for a lower-sugar alternative to juice. Sonoma Brands’ ZUPA NOMA focused on the low-sugar and high-fiber message with signs showing its slogans, “Sugar is out. Soup is in.” and “We blend all the seeds & skins in to pack the fiber in.”

While most gazpacho including ZUPA NOMA are refrigerated products, Mucho Gazpacho and Spain’s BioEcoNija, S.L.’s Bioterraneo offers the convenience of being shelf-stable. The packaging for Mucho Gazpacho emphasizes that it contains 2 full servings of vegetables.

Pour over coffee in a single-use format

Pour over coffee has become widespread in “third wave” coffee shops in urban areas as a way to bring out individual flavor notes of single-origin coffees through the use of Chemex or ceramic drippers. At-home adoption of the pour over method has been slow because it is seen as a fussy coffee brewing method. Two companies at the Fancy Food Show offered a convenient way to make pour over coffee through the use of single-use paper filter packs that are placed inside a coffee cup. Both products aim to blend the convenience of instant coffee with the taste of pour over coffee.
Lee’s Sandwiches, a chain of fast food restaurants serving Vietnamese-style sandwiches and iced coffee showcased its pour over coffee in New Orleans and Parisian varieties. The folks at Copper Cow Coffee offered a kit with premium Vietnamese ground coffee, a pour over coffee bag, sweetened condensed milk packet using milk from California, and a spoon.

Superfood teas: moringa and mushrooms

Teas with their high level of antioxidants are already viewed as healthy beverages. Producers of tea are further raising teas’ health profile by adding superfood ingredients such as baobab, moringa, mushrooms and pitaya (cactus fruit). Choice Organic Teas introduced four mushroom-based Wellness Teas at the show including Reishi Detox, Reishi Matcha, Shiitake Mate, and Shiitake Turmeric varieties. The Republic of Tea offered a number of superfood-enhanced teas including Organic Mushroom SuperHerb Tea in baobab and Reishi mushroom varieties.

Companies are also introducing moringa-based teas and promoting moringa as the latest superfood that offers a complete plant protein and can anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits. Moringa is a plant whose leaves offer high levels of nutrients including protein, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. Though few Americans are familiar with moringa, knowledge about moringa is likely to increase as exhibitor Kuli Kuli received $4.25 million funding from eighteen94 capital, Kellogg Company’s venture capital fund, in January 2017. Kuli Kuli offered moringa in the form of tea bags, vegetable powders, energy shots, and snack bars. Miracle Tree offered moringa-based tea bags and powders.