The Specialty Food Association recently hosted its 44th Winter Fancy Foods Show. The show gathered thousands of specialty food buyers and distributors at the Moscone Center in San Francisco for the largest marketplace in the West Coast exclusively for specialty food and beverage. Much attention was paid to this year’s show due to the huge increases in specialty food sales; between 2016 and 2018 specialty food sales jumped 9.8 percent.
Innovations in the industry and a wider availability of specialty foods in the conventional marketplace meant that the specialty foods industry saw great success, outpacing the growth of all food at retail – up 10.3 percent vs. 3.1 percent. This rapid growth was driven by a few popular trends, namely functional beverages and refrigerated plant-based proteins.
Refrigerated plant-based alternatives to animal products have seen astronomical growth, exemplified by the likes of the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat. In fact, plant-based meats have grown five times faster than animal meats. Industry experts insist that this is not another fad. Even large food chains known for their animal-sourced foods have embraced the trend. Burger King has started selling their ‘Impossible Whopper’ to great success with even bigger plans ahead. The company also released their ‘50/50’ burger in Sweden, where customers are given either an impossible burger or a meat-based burger and then must use an app to find out which protein their burger was sourced from. As the methods for making these plant-based patties become more efficient, we can expect tastier and cheaper alternatives to animal-source meats.
Other trends that have endured are functional beverages and specialty waters. Sellers have started adding different enhancers to their water drinking experience. Popular additions include oxygen, electrolytes, nutrients, alkaline, plant-based flavors, and even hemp CBD. According to SPINS data, the U.S. enhanced waters segment is up 11 percent from 2017, and is expected to keep growing at the same rate.
Steve Gaither, president of C.A. Branding, admired what Laird Superfood was doing at the show. Laird Superfood, named after the legendary surfer, is a company that is riding the functional beverage wave with their new fortified creamers. 62 percent of Americans drink coffee daily and consumers are looking to get more nutrients and benefits from their beverages. By adding a healthy fat in the form of coconut oil or red palm oil to their creamers, Laird’s creamers will give its consumers a sustained energy rush without the crash. Adding healthy fats to their creamers is a similar concept to the popular functional coffee brand Bulletproof, which uses MCT oil to achieve this effect.
The Fancy Foods show has given the specialty foods industry even more hype and excitement for what is to come heading into 2020.