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The Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter panel covered the recent Winter Fancy Food Show, held in San Francisco, Jan. 13 – 15, to report on new and emerging trends among the 90,000 foods and beverages on display. Among their findings, long-term movements in sustainability, plant-based ingredients, and protein continue to proliferate with new ingredients or expanding categories.

Here are some of the trends from the Winter Show with examples of each. For a full list of the Winter Show trends go to


The Winter Fancy Food Show Trendspotters included:

  • Polly Adema, PhD, director & associate professor, Master of Arts in Food Studies, University of the Pacific San Francisco Campus 
  • Reem Assil, chef/owner, Reem’s California, partner, Dyafa
  • Andrew Freeman, founder, af&co.
  • Lawrence Jacobs, specialty and grocery buyer, Oliver’s Markets
  • Kara Nielsen, vice president, Trends & Marketing, CCD Helmsman 
  • Tu David Phu, chef/owner, AN – a Vietnamese Dining Experience
  • Wendy Robinson, buyer, Market Hall Foods
  •  Melina Romero, manager, Trend Practice, CCD Helmsman

#1 Upcycling and Biodiversity Trends Drive Sustainability Movement

Many companies and products powered by environmental and social concerns were visible throughout the show. More producers are getting serious about product development that addresses food waste, creating upcycled products. Additionally, there is growing awareness about foods made from diverse crops to ensure a variety of crops and animals that makes the food system more resilient and exposes consumers to an assortment of foods and flavors.

Here are some examples identified by the panel:

  • Believe in Bambara Beans and Flours, made from bambara, a biodiverse crop
  • Render Foods LLC Bryner, vegetable drink upcycled from leftover pickle juice; Weyla, sparkling fruity beverage upcycled from whey
  • Renewal Mill Extra Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie, made with okara, a superfood harvested from the pulp of organic soybeans that is created during soymilk production
  • Terviva Pongamia, a long-living tree that produces seeds similar to soybeans
  • Ugly Juice LLC Good Use Ugly Juice, cold-pressed juice from imperfect fruits and vegetables
  • Yolélé Foods Fonio, a biodiverse, gluten-free, ancient African supergrain

#2 Kelp Is the New Ocean-Harvested Star Ingredient

Another driver of sustainability, and intertwined with the plant-based movement, kelp has emerged as the latest sea-based superfood. Examples include:

  • Barnacle Foods Kelp Salsa and Kelp Pickles
  • Blue Evolution kelp-based pasta and salad
  • New Frontier Foods Ocean’s Halo kelp-based superfoods drink

 #3 Nut-Based Dairy Expands

Almond and coconut milk are still prevalent among plant-based dairy alternatives, but more varieties are coming to market. Examples include:

  • Earth’s Own Food Happy Planet Oat Milk
  • Elmhurst Milked Oats Barista
  • Kotatsu Cashewmilk Cheese
  • Milkadamia Macadamia Buttery Spread and Coffee Creamers

#4 Everything’s Coming Up Roses in Edible Beauty Products

The Trendspotter Panel named Edible Beauty a top trend for 2019, driven by the inclusion of collagen and argan oil in more foods and beverages. At the Winter Show, the latest edible beauty ingredient emerged—rose water or rose petals, noted for their antioxidant and hydrating properties. Examples include:

  • Deep Rose Deep Petal Lemonade
  • Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. Rose Water
  • Petal Sparkling Botanical Blend beverage

#5 Jerky Revolution Spurs Protein Trend

With the growing popularity of protein-rich diets, plus the plant-based alternative protein phenomenon, this trend isn’t fading anytime soon. Innovation and new applications continue. Examples include:

  • Bovino Crispy Beef Jerky
  • Maruden Co. Ltd. Cod and Salmon Jerky
  • Shima’s Jerky Chips
  • True Jerky Jerky Trail Mix

#6 Single Serve and On-the-Go

More producers are emphasizing portions and packaging designed for single servings and convenience. Examples include:

  • Lotus Foods Rice Ramen Noodle Soups, individual cups
  • Rustic Bakery Pecan Shortbread 3-Pack, snack pack
  • Split Nutrition LLC Almond Butter and Strawberry Spread, individual split fast pack

#7 CBD, Fermentation, and Adaptogens Propel the Latest Beverages with Benefits

Often referred to as functional foods, many products at the Winter Show correlated to a variety of health interests: energy and recovery, detoxing, stress relief, gut health, antioxidants. Examples include:

  • Buddha Teas CBD Ginger and Turmeric Tea
  • Lumen Hemp Elixer, with adaptogenic and Ayurvedic herbs
  • New Age Beverages Marley, Marley+CBD Mellow Mood
  • Numi Tea, Daily Super Shot, with adaptogenic plants and herbs
  • The Republic of Tea SuperAdapt Burnout Blocker Herbal Tea Supplement
  • Purely LLC Q-Soo Sparkling Fruit Tonic, fruit-infused drinking vinegar (shrub) and sparkling water

*More states have legalized sales of hemp-derived CBD products. The segment has its challenges as cannabis is still illegal at the federal level.

#8 Plant-Based Extends to Flour Alternatives

The latest expansion in plant-based foods is an array of produce-based flours for baking or blending into smoothies. Examples include:

  • AvoLov Avocado Powder
  • Kaibae Organic Baobab Fruit Powder
  • Hearthy Foods Flours, including apple, banana, spinach, and broccoli

Denise Purcell is editor of Specialty Food Magazine.