Maura Judkis ,2019, The Washington Post
NEW YORK - Every year, at an event called the Summer Fancy Foods Show, purveyors of specialty foods hawk their wares in New York, and try to catch the attention of buyers from major supermarket brands such as Whole Foods. But it's also a great place to spot trends - stuff you see at Fancy Foods inevitably pops up on grocery store shelves by the end of the year. (Not to mention the free samples are out of control - it's like the world's biggest Costco.)
Plenty of trends from last year are still hot - ayurvedic and functional foods, tinned fish and moringa are still going strong. What will we be eating and drinking more of in 2020? Here are some ideas.
For a few years now, drinks and supplements containing collagen - a protein that provides the structure for our skin and organs - have been bubbling up on beauty blogs. But 2019 may be the year they go mainstream. These functional foods and beverages claim to be able to give you smoother and more supple skin, but dermatologists are sceptical.
"Evidence for their effectiveness on human skin outside of the laboratory setting is still scarce," one dermatologist told Elle magazine. Many of the studies citing the benefits of collagen consumption were done by the brands themselves. "Supplements are the Wild West," another dermatologist told Self magazine. "They are not well regulated, so you can pretty much claim a lot of things that aren't substantiated in science or in proof."
But hey, don't let pesky science get in the way! Collagen-infused products were one of the biggest trends at Fancy Foods this year, with beautifully packaged snacks and drinks marketed toward women 30 and older. One is Coco Luxe, a line of pastel-packaged functional coconut waters, one of which contains collagen and acai, for a "daily lift to your beauty regime," according to the product's marketing materials. Garden of Flavor, a maker of cold-pressed juices, has a line of Energy Elixirs, which contain probiotics and guayusa leaf, a cousin of yerba mate. One of the flavours is aloe and collagen.
Reneva is another collagen drink line that makes a lot of bold claims: Its Fit collagen protein drink allegedly helps "increase lean muscle mass and strength" and the Fresh protein drink, which contains biotin, helps "improve the health of skin, hair and nails from the inside out." Glow, a collagen-infused water by a Swiss company called Dr. Herb, goes further: The drink can "reverse signs of aging and photodamage," and "promote stronger, thicker, softer and shinier hair." Drinks aren't the only applications for collagen: Radiant Beauty is a non-dairy frozen dessert that contains "gold caviar collagen," which I have just learned is not just a name - it literally contains caviar. On that note, many collagen drinks are not vegan, because the collagen can be derived from cows.
Boozy and booze-adjacent tea
Aside from maybe a glass of warm milk, tea is just about the tamest beverage there is. But in 2019, specialty foods companies seem determined to give tea a new attitude. For example: Wouldn't it be rad if tea could get you drunk? That's the premise of a new drink from Owl's Brew, a canned sparkling beverage that combines tea (white tea, English breakfast or Darjeeling) with a malt base, for a 4.6% ABV light, summery drink. It's sort of like a hard seltzer. Another canned tea doesn't actually have booze in it, but it's still in this category for a good reason: Hoplark's sparkling HopTea is brewed with hops, and is halfway between an iced tea and a craft beer. It was kind of mind-blowing - the taste of beer and tea, but no alcohol! It would be a great non-alcoholic alternative. Which brings us to our next category . . .
Sober living: It's not just for pregnant ladies and alcoholics in recovery anymore, as the New York Times pointed out last week. Being "sober-curious" is a lifestyle choice, like doing a cleanse or going to Burning Man. So, it's no surprise that there are plenty of companies ready to capture those temperance dollars, making festive beverages that are booze-free but are more sophisticated than seltzer or soda. One is Töst, a dry, effervescent drink made of white tea, cranberry and ginger. It comes in a wine bottle, so it will feel appropriately celebratory for a special occasion. There's also O. Vine "wine water" - go ahead, make your Jesus jokes - a sparkling water made with grape skins, so it mimics wine. A company called Mingle makes sparkling mocktails in flavours such as melon mojito and cranberry cosmo, and Hella makes a brilliant non-alcoholic canned drink consisting of bitters and soda.
The basis for this trend seems to be: What if Cheez Puffs were vegetables? There's a surge of puffed-up, crunchy snacks on the market, and with ingredients like chickpeas, beets, quinoa and kale, companies want you to feel like it's okay to eat a whole bag. One of the leading makers of puffy snacks is a company called Vegan Rob's, which has an entire line of better-for-you puffs: There are sorghum turmeric puffs, spicy probiotic "dragon" puffs, spinach puffs, cauliflower puffs, beet puffs and even Brussels sprout puffs. New this year are Burger Puffs, which emulate the flavor of vegan burgers like the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger. They pack an umami punch. And the Mushroom Benefit makes puffed mushrooms in such flavours as salt and pepper and barbecue. They look a little like dog treats, we're not going to lie. But they're surprisingly tasty and an interesting twist to this crunchy trend.
A subcategory of puffed snacks is peanut puffs, and there were a lot of them at Fancy Foods. P-nuff Crunch makes protein-rich baked peanut puffs in flavours including cocoa and cinnamon. Nutibles Puffs are peanut-butter coated baked corn puffs. Mighty is another brand of puffy peanut snack. And Earth's Best Organic makes organic peanut butter baked corn puffs that are geared toward kids, with Elmo on the bag.
Popped lotus and water lily seeds
Close on the heels of that puffed snack trend is another interesting ingredient that's on the upswing: lotus seeds. They've long been a part of traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, and when they're popped and coated in flavours, they become a crunchy and addictive snack, sort of like popcorn. They're also marketed as a source of antioxidants, and they are related to a big trend from last year's show that has continued through 2019: ayurvedic medicine. The snacks are sometimes called by their other name, foxnuts. Roast Health Foods makes them in three flavours: sea salt, cheesy jalapeño and barbecue. Mr. Makhana comes in six flavours, including butter tomato - like a good butter chicken. With a caramel jaggery flavor, Yoga Pops will satisfy a sweet tooth. There's also Bohana (flavours: Himalayan pink salt, "soulful spice" and "wild white cheddar"), which the company points out are water lily seeds, not lotus seeds. The plants are similar, though.
If your $45 S'well bottle isn't enough of a signal to the rest of your SoulCycle class that you're better than them, try this: new, more-virtuous sports drinks designed for people who want Gatorade, but without the sugar and artificial colours. Halo Sport is an electrolyte drink for "wellness warriors," with Stevia instead of added sugar, and amla berry, an antioxidant from traditional Indian medicine. It's certified organic. There's also Recover 180°, a sports drink that boasts herbal extracts, including trendy ashwagandha and L-Glutamine. Both companies also touted their products as being great for hangovers, in case you haven't transitioned over to the sober-curious side yet.
No big surprise here: CBD, one of the fastest-growing categories of the year, was well-represented at the trade show. But even though its legality is questionable, and research is still determining how effective it is at addressing all the maladies companies claim it can soothe, the CBD gold rush continues apace. In case you don't know: CBD is the non-psychoactive compound in hemp, so it won't get you high - but many of the companies marketing CBD products claim it can treat anxiety. CBD drinks have been popular since late 2018, and kombucha maker GT's now has a line of drinks called Dream Catcher, with hemp, caffeine and apple cider vinegar. But more interesting are the companies taking CBD into snackier territory. A company called A Boring Life - based out of Boring, Oregon - makes rather sophisticated CBD lavender-flavoured almonds. Great River Hemp Co. has CBD-infused whipped honey. And Hillside Lane Naturals has granola bites and lemon poppy seed cookies infused with CBD.
Oat milk everything
Oat milk has emerged as the golden child of all the alternative milks - it's great in coffees, and for a time, baristas could barely keep it in stock. So, it makes sense that companies are piggybacking off its success and launching other oat milk products. Rise Brewing Co., which makes canned coffees, introduced one of the first ready-to-drink canned oat milk coffees. It also comes in mocha, and to be honest, I think I prefer it to dairy-based canned coffees. Chocolatier Raaka has an oat milk chocolate bar, sweetened with maple sugar. And Oaté - it's pronounced oh-uh-tay, the website helpfully notes - makes an oat milk ice cream that is free of several of the most common allergens: dairy, egg, soy, gluten and nuts.
Cheese takes new shapes
For when you're workin' on your night cheese, here are a few new ways to do it. Want cheese you can eat out of a bowl with a spoon? Try Rifraf - single-serve ricotta cups with a flavor you can stir in. They can be sweet (wildflower honey, Meyer lemon) or savoury (serrano pepper honey, sun-dried tomato). Want cheese you can throw back like popcorn? Try dehydrated cheese snacks, which are another extension of the fancy cheese puff trend - they're crunchy, and the cheese flavor is extra concentrated. There's Moon Cheese and Cheese Pop. Want your cheese to taste like a candy bar? grab a Speka, a chocolate- or caramel-coated hunk of cold cottage cheese. It's kind of like a better-for-you 3 Musketeers.
Balls are big this year. You have probably seen a version of these products in your local coffee shop: They're a snack item made of ingredients such as dates, nuts, peanut butter and coconut rolled into a ball, often geared toward the keto and paleo crowd. Now, packaged versions are gaining wider distribution. Some of these products come in cube shapes or blobby "bites," but what the heck, we'll include them. Packaging is critical for this trend, because, honestly? This is a category of snack that looks a little bit like animal droppings, no matter who makes it. I'm sorry I put that image in your head. I am just here to tell the truth. Anyway! The Protein Ball Co. gets points for having a mascot that is just a brown ball with googly eyes. They have oat balls for breakfast, and snacking balls in flavors such as raspberry brownie and lemon pistachio (a really good combo!) that could be a good afternoon snack. Sattva Vida makes date-based energy bites, and Nutri-Pop markets its fruit and seed balls to the paleo crowd.