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Top 5 food trends of 2012 – specialty food is back!

Posted by Steve Sorensen, senior category manager grocery, dairy and frozen
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to bring our buying team out to the 37TH Annual Specialty Food Show in San Francisco, sponsored by the NASFT (National Association of the Specialty Food Trade). All we can say is that the specialty food industry is back and roaring out of this recession!

When 2007 arrived, one of the early signs that a recession was looming was the downturn in sales of specialty products. In the years that followed, we witnessed this specialty food trade show shrinking in business partner representation and attendees. Fortunately, the 2012 show announced a record in attendance of both exhibitors and buyers - the highest in its 37-year existence!

This three day event was attended by more than 18,000 buyers, 1,300 exhibitors and more than 80,000 products. With 206,000 square feet of exhibit space, the show was a massive undertaking for the crowds to simply push through all the booths and the people. Being the first show of the year and on the west coast, several trends for specialty came out of this event.

This year our top 5 trend picks are:

  1. Healthy snacks
    Sprouted, lentils and humus are just some of the new healthy snack ideas coming out. We saw Kale chips and seaweed chips as well. New popped popcorn lines, kettle, flavored and natural were also noted.
  2. Rice, ancient grains and legumes
    These products continue to grow and several new lines were introduced at the show. Look for future whole grain sets showing up in local grocery stores.
  3. Raw products
    Raw continues to be introduced in energy bars, health drinks and fermented sodas all trying to meet the consumers’ desires for digestive balance and immune system support.
  4. Natural flavors
    Natural flavors in olive oil, vinegars, syrups and fruit spreads are improving the quality and the experience. The products being turned out are an improvement over past flavored oils and vinegars that never really tasted acceptable.
  5. Gluten-free
    Gluten-free finally gains respect. When star chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry introduces a gluten-free flour blend, you know gluten free has finally landed. The show introduced better tasting improved products for those who have to avoid wheat. Several vendors were introducing new gluten-free versions of their brand that actually were very comparable to their wheat-based products.

We’re excited about the specialty outlook this year following the vibes and trends we saw from the show. Look for some exciting new products on our shelves following these trends in the near future!


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