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Grazing, guzzling and tracking trends at Summer Fancy Food Show

| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The curtain rose with much applause on the 60th iteration of the Summer Fancy Food Show.

Sponsored by the Specialty Food Association, 2014's trade-only event was the largest since its 1995 inaugural — 2,730 exhibitors, from 49 countries, with 28,000 buyers and 900 journalists from here and abroad. The sold-out event crammed more than 180,000 products into 361,000 square feet of exhibition space in New York City's Javits Center. It was especially busy.

A 3-D printer, Chef Jet, spewed forth intricate confections, including a sugary human skull. Ito En (www.itoen.com) debuted a smart bench constructed from recycled green tea leaves. Di Bruno Brothers (www.dibruno.com) offered the chance to win your weight in cheese spread. Master chocolatier Vivien Reimbelli, freshly arrived from Italy, gave live demos of the iconic Baci chocolates (www.Perugina.com), coupled with his new ganache that substitutes olive oil for dairy.

Food celebrities — Martha Stewart, Gayle King — NFL heroes and star chefs roamed the aisles.

Cronut King pastry chef Dominique Ansel hosted the red-carpet ceremony awarding the sofi (Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation) winners. Called the Oscars of the food world, this year's sofis drew 2,737 entries in 32 categories.

Specialty food is an $88.3 billion industry, with robust growth in the past four years. The association's brand is Craft Care Joy, referring to its vision, as well as the aspirations of member food makers, importers and entrepreneurs. Add to that Abundance Ambition Surprise, and it's no wonder the show offers fertile ground for trend-spotting.

Of course, the long aisles were flanked by multitudes of cheeses, chocolates, condiments, snacks, charcuterie and beverages.

But, as always, there were many arresting, non-mainstream products. Organic Beetroot Noodles (www.organicnoodlekitchen.com.au), Pork Dust (www.theporkdust.com.au), crushed pork rinds to substitute for bread crumbs, Birthday Cake-Flavored Gum (www.extragum.com) and Draft Beer-Flavored Jelly Beans (www.JellyBelly.com) commanded attention.

Perhaps most telling, out of 459 entries, the sofi for Outstanding New Product went to a vegan Lentil Rice Crispbread, with toasted sesame seeds and pink salt (www.easthamptongourmetfood.com). Hmmm.

But on to the trends, of which there were many.

Perennial favorites stay modern

Chuao Chocolatier (www.chuaochocoltier. com) introduces four new chocolate bars, combining current taste obsessions with childhood memories: Sweet & Salty, Ooh Ahh Almond, Oh My S'mores and Pretzel Toffee Twirl.

Blue Hill (www.bluehillyogurt.com) enters the yogurt wars with a delicious version made from their farm's grass-fed cow's milk in four savory flavors: beet, tomato, carrot and butternut squash.

Effie's Homemade (www.effieshomemade.com) enlarges their biscuit line with caraway-infused Walnut Rycakes. Callie's Charleston Biscuits (www.caliesbiscuits.com) takes the gold with its sharp Cheddar Cheese and Chive gems.

Belle Chevre (www.bellechevre.com), an artisanal goat-cheese maker, offers a dreamy, creamy goat-cheese cheesecake.

John Wm. Macy (www.cheesesticks.com) makes superlative twice-baked sourdough CheeseSticks and now offers smaller CheeseCrisps, as well as SweetSticks in chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla.

Fat Toad Farm (www.fattoafarm.com) extends the collaborative process by wedding Stumptown Cold Brew coffee with its much-lauded goat-milk caramel sauce.

Health concerns fuel the marketplace

Gluten-free, all-natural, GMO-free, organic, low-sugar, fat-free, vegan, kosher — how long the labels grow! But these are sales-drivers, and many of these purity products taste really good.

Garden Lites Veggie Muffins (www.garden-lites.com) are not only vegan and vegetable-rich but also produced in seductive flavors — Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip, Carrot Berry, Blueberry Oat — and frozen for convenience.

Mary's Gone Crackers (www.MarysGoneCrackers.com), a longtime leader in the gluten-free, organic market, combines great nutrition with amazing flavor. Newly released Everything Pretzels serves up crunchy whole grains and seeds in flavors such as onion, garlic and sea salt.

Kitchen Table Bakers (www.kitchentablebakers.com), crisps made entirely of cheese, proves that gluten-, wheat-, sugar- and transfat-free can still be addictive.

Lotus Foods (www.lotusfoods.com), established as a major leader in fabulous rice products, now moves into the gluten fray and ramen frenzy with rice ramen.

Even candy becomes a guiltless indulgence: CocoaPlanet (www.CocoaPlanet.com) aims for more taste and less sugar in its small-portioned chocolate disks: A single serving counts fewer than 100 calories. Both Torrie & Howard (www.torrieandhoward.com), organic hard candies and Goody Good Stuff (www.goodygoodstuff.com) all-natural gummies, are brightly flavored and practically virtuous.

Ancient grains, seeds and nuts

This product category holds a magical fascination for health-minded consumers.

Pereg Gourmet Natural Foods (www.pereg-gourmet.com) boasts a large line of grains — quinoa, faro, basmati rice, couscous—plus premixed, chef-designed combos of grains and seasonings.

Nature's Habit(www.natureshabit.com) produces astonishingly wonderful granolas and trail mix. Seeds, nuts and dried fruits augment taste and nutrition in blends such as Granola with Cranberries, Cherries, Almonds and Pecans.

Amoretti (www.amoretti.com) elevates the traditional Italian Hazelnut and Cocoa spread with silky Noisina.

Superbutter (www.superbutter.com) solves the lunchroom PB&J prohibition by making its spread, not from peanuts, but from roasted sunflower, flax and sesame seeds, in several flavors.

Bobbysues's Nuts (www.bobbysuesnuts.com), a mother-and-son-run company, coats almonds, cashews and pecans with sophisticated spices. A portion of profits is earmarked for building animal shelters.

Beverage revolution

Sugary drinks circle the drain. More imbibers reach for naturals: La Croix (www.laCroixBeverages.com), a sparkling water just lightly perfumed with fruit flavors; Red Jacket (www.redjacketorchards.com), cold-pressed, all-natural juices, cloudy with fiber.

Coconut water, said to be a super, low-calorie hydrator, soars in popularity across the globe. Try VitaCoco (www.vitacoco.com).

Tea rallies to seize a large beverage niche — hot, cold, bottled, to-brew, loose leaves, ingenious sachets, both a beverage and an ingredient in everything from cookies to cocktails. Some favorites:

Pukka Herbal Teas (www.pukkaherbs.com), a U.K. tea just entering the U.S. market, reflect Ayurveda medicines and, as its India-derived name implies, aims for superior quality.

Numi Organic Tea (www.NumiTea.com), purveyor of premium, organic, non-GMO and Fair Trade teas, announces a new line: Indulgent Tea, a collection of chocolate teas made with real cacao powder.

Owl's Brew (www.theowlsbrew.com) lends a fun twist to tea time. Basically, it's crafted from different teas, spices, fruits and herbs, and it is mixed with booze as a cocktail ingredient.

The spice is right

Some, actually many, like it hot! Sriracha reigns, but other fevers hover in popcorn, rubs, sauces, condiments and more.

Musashi Foods (www.musashifoods.com) — all fresh and natural — perks up dishes with a Midori Green Sriracha Sauce, made with hot green chiles, and authentic Spicy Japanese Mayonnaise.

Formosa Hot Sauce (www.FormosaSauce.com) comes from a long-executed and extraordinarily well-balanced Mexican family recipe.

Gustus Vitae, (www.gustusvitae.com), maker of gourmet salts, spice blends and condiments, puts forth: Ancho Chile Salt and Taste of Thailand.

The Gracious Gourmet(www.thegraciousgourmet.com), usually associated with more restrained jarred goods, captures a silver sofi with Hatch Chile Pesto.

The Spice Lab (www.thespicelab.com) expands its extensive product line with Candied Bacon Rub in four flavors: Asian Sesame Sweet & Spicy, Country Style Pepper, Caribbean Island Jerk and New Orleans Cajun.

Classy condiments

Victoria Amory (www.victoraamory.com) designs enticing, highly evolved condiments: Almond and Garlic Romesco, Sherry Ketchup, Fine Herbs Mayo, Green Chili Peri Peri, Smoky BBQ Ketchup.

Sir Kensington's (www.sirkensingtons.com) spices ketchup and whisks chipotle chiles into mayonnaise.

Green Mountain Mustard (www.buymustard.com) brings a smile to your taste buds and a giggle to your fun bone: Atomic Rooster (Sriracha Mustard), Deli Dirt (Everything Bagel Mustard), Horse Power (Horseradish Mustard).

Battle of the oils

The show's booths burst with fine olive oils, but new contenders in the oil arena expand possibilities.

Stoger (www.culinary-imports.com), an Austrian producer working in the European tradition, sets the bar for fine cold-pressed seed oils: Cherry Seed, Chile Seed, Pumpkin Seed and Tomato Seed.

La Tourangelle (www.latourangelle.com) employs traditional, artisanal French techniques of oil-making, producing a full range — olive, canola, grapeseed, coconut. But the company shines brightest in superb roasted nut oils: walnut, pistachio, pecan, pumpkin seed and avocado.

Carrington Farms (www.carringtonfarms.com), well-known for its flax-seed snacks, also carries the banner for an ascending cooking medium: coconut oil — in liquid and sold forms.

Popcorn proliferates

Companies use this snack as a blank canvas for other currents moving through the specialty-food world. But it's huge.Here are just a few.

J & D Foods (www.jdfoods.net), originated with BaconSalt (and, yes, bacon is still hot.). But the founders' empire now encompasses seasonings, spreads, Truffle Crisps, croutons, dressings — and popcorn: BaconPop, Sriracha, Ghost Pepper and CajunPop.

G.H. Cretors (www.ghcretors.com), a revered name in popcorn since 1885, pops organic kernels to a light, fluffy and reduced-calorie result — simply salted or with extra-virgin olive oil.

Quinn Popcorn (www.quinnpopcorn.com) reinvented microwave popcorn by using organic ingredients, no chemical coatings on the bags and six simple, real flavorings. The company also produces farm-to-bag corn — Kale & Sea Salt and Cheddar & Chipotle.

Angie's Boomchickapop (www.angiespopcorn.com), all-natural, caters to sweet and spicy tastes.

Popsalot (www.popsalot.com), air-popped, with all of today's healthful credentials and poetic names, appeals to the sweeter, romantic side of the market.

Other trends to watch for

• Bourbon infusing even chocolate (Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Co., www.oliveandsinclair.com, Bourbon Nib Brittle)

• Smoking found everywhere and many pickles (Rick's Picks, www.rickspicks.com, Smokra, smoked okra pickles)

• Coconut as the flavor favorite (Klara's Gourmet, www.klarasgourmet.com, Coconut Macaroons, finalist for best cookie).

• Preserving and fermenting, an explosion of vinegars — especially sipping vinegars, beets, more ethnic flavors — especially Korean, Peruvian and Malay-sian

And after...

At the close of the show, volunteers swept through the exhibition halls, collecting all the high-quality leftovers. More than 90.000 pounds of food — seven-and-a-half tractor trailers — was delivered, through City Harvest, to 12 hunger-relief stations throughout the city.

Ann Haigh is co-host, with husband, Peter, of www.onthemenuradio.com.

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