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3 hot trends from the Summer Fancy Food Show

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The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s 58th annual Summer Fancy Food Show is back in town, and I hit the show floor to check out some of the 2,250 exhibiting companies. All of the usual suspects were represented, but among the gourmet coffee, artisan chocolate and decadent jam and spreads, a few trends stood out. Here’s a glimpse of some of the fresh flavors and formats to look for this season.

When it comes to chips, potatoes are passe. Chips will probably always be one of America’s favorite snacks, but as more people look to nosh on something a little healthier and think outside the box when it comes to flavor profiles, the standard potato chip just isn’t cutting it anymore. There were dozens of companies offering chips, but a few stood out thanks to unusual flavors and unique star ingredients. Ozery Bakery displayed its Crispy Pitas chips, which entered the marketplace six months ago. “We looked at the pita chips that were out there, and we saw an opportunity for some inclusions,” said Paul Vlahos, vice president of sales. The chips come in four flavors, including a delightfully different cranberry-pumpkin-seed variety.

While Ozery’s chips are just arriving on the scene, two other snack companies were years ahead of the healthy-chip trend. Plocky’s Fine Snacks rolled out its hummus chips in 2005, and Beanitos sold its first bag of bean chips in 2010. Plocky’s uses chickpea flour to give their chips the same hearty zip as the dip from which the chips take their name, and the myriad flavors mean the chips can stand on their own. “The plain ones people like to put with a dip, but the rest have so much flavor, you don’t need to dip,” said Paul Cipolla, president and CEO of Plocky’s.

Beanitos also come in plain and flavored varieties, but no matter which one you pick, the “first ingredient is always whole beans,” said Betina Foreman, retail ambassador and wife of Beanitos co-founder and President Dave Foreman. The bean-based chips pack a major hit of protein and fiber, which helps keep snackers full, and they are gluten-free and low-glycemic. One ingredient that you’ll never find in Beanitos is corn. Betina Foreman said the chips are non-GMO certified, which would be difficult to do with a corn chip, “since corn is one of the top genetically engineered crops, it’s difficult to obtain identity preserved corn that is non-GMO.”

Figs are fresh. You might expect to see figs in jams and jellies, such as the Cranfig Chutney from the Virginia Chutney, but the sweet, earthy fruits also popped up in some savory items as well. Coach Farm showcased its Fresh Goat Cheese with Fig, and Good Tastes Kitchen‘s lineup of macaroni and cheese products included a Brie & Fig Mac & Cheese. The fig flavor, which also includes aromatic rosemary, was the first variety that owner Sarah Pike came up with in 2008. Pike said she was inspired to create her line of deluxe macaroni and cheese flavors after watching a documentary about Ben & Jerry’s, in which the ice cream makers state that ice cream is a great platform for flavor exploration. “Well, I thought, so is mac and cheese,” Pike said.

African fare is the next big thing. While only a small number of eateries seem to be experimenting with African flavors (a reader poll in a recent Restaurant SmartBrief Special Report showed that less than 4% of respondents rely on African flavors when jazzing up their menu), that could be about to change, thanks to a few bold brands with a focus on making African foods accessible to the masses. Taste of Ethiopia, founded less than a year ago, featured prepackaged foods such as Injera, the traditional Ethiopian flat bread, and Misir, a spicy red lentil dish. Founder and CEO Hiyaw Gebreyohannes created the company with the goal of “making Ethiopian food as popular and widely eaten as sushi.”

North Carolina’s Satisfy Your Soul offers a line of global sauces and seasonings, including Egyptian Dukkah, Ethiopian Simmer Sauce and Harissup, a mixture of ketchup and harissa, a spicy sauce popular in North Africa. Company founder Susan Hearn, who is a chef and nurse, was inspired to create the line after spending a few months in Africa. “I try to actually live with the people. … I try to eat what they eat,” she said. Hearn sources spices from around the globe, but more than 50% of her ingredients are sourced locally from North Carolina. She strives for authenticity, and Harissup is the company’s only “hybrid” product, since a traditionally produced harissa would not meet FDA requirements. “The only way I could figure out to have harissa the way that I loved it was to mix it with something acidic,” Hearn said. Ketchup provided the perfect base and makes for an easy transition for diners who are feeling just a bit bold.