Recreating Travel and Tradition, Product Stories Among Trends at Specialty Food Live! Event

Denise Purcell | 28 Sep 2020

Replicating food experiences at home is an overarching trend amid COVID-19, said the Specialty Food Association Trendspotter Panel, who spent last week exploring showrooms and talking with exhibitors at the SFA’s inaugural Specialty Food Live! virtual marketplace event. That replication can take the form of comfort food and family traditions or recreating restaurant or travel experiences.

Three representatives of the Panel spoke Thursday at the session, Trendspotters Take on Specialty Food Live!, and discussed their picks for food and ingredient trends the industry will be seeing in the fourth quarter and into 2021.

Participants included: Clara Park, corporate chef of culinary innovation for Chelten House Products, which creates sauces, dressings, soups and more for the nation’s top grocers; Sheree Williams, owner of V. Sheree Creative Enterprises, a boutique consulting agency, and publisher of Cuisine Noir magazine, which connects the African diaspora through food, drink and travel; and Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, a global food analyst for Mintel, who provides insights on innovation and consumer trends across a number of food categories.

Here are some of the trends they highlighted in the session. A full list of official trends from Specialty Food Live! will be released in the coming weeks.

Global and regional American “travel” through food. With consumers sticking closer to home, global flavors are of strong interest. Scandinavia, Cambodia, and Senegal were on display at the event. Nordic cuisine has been on the radar, said Bartelme, and interesting ingredients showing up at Specialty Food Live! included sea buckthorn and birch crystals.

Other global flavors noted by the Trendspotters were Cambodian chile pastes and fonio, an ancient grain from Senegal, which continues to gain attention.

“There is an effort to preserve culture through food and have that taste at home,” noted Williams.

The trend extends to regional American as well, noted Bartelme who pointed out the concept of road trips and discovering what’s here in your backyard is increasingly appealing in the wake of COVID-19.

Connecting products with the stories behind them. This movement encompasses cleaner more authentic ingredients and consumers wanting to know where their food is coming from, not only the product itself but is the company women- or diversity- or LGBTQ-owned. “Consumers are making more conscious decisions about who they are supporting with their food dollars,” said Park.

Holiday 2020: Recreating traditional foods and giftable staples. “With everyone trying to figure out what the holidays will look like this year, I think we’re going to see more recreating traditions even if it’s in a smaller way, but with a twist,” said Williams. Park agreed: “We’ll see familiar things but made more special, like Mexican hot chocolates or filled candy canes.”

“It’s also an opportunity to talk about a lot of pantry staples as gifts,” noted Bartelme. “Items like pasta, rice, you can bundle up some of the nicer ones and feel like you are giving that love to your friends and family.”

Among continuing trends the Panel noted: Plant-based in new formats, including a meatless mix for at-home cooking; cocktail kits and ingredients like simple syrups; keto-diet foods; upcycled foods like watermelon rind pickles; and low-sugar and alternative sweeteners like monkfruit.

The SFA Trendspotter Panel consists of retailers, chefs, foodservice professionals, market researchers, journalists, food educators and other industry professionals who apply their expertise in their individual channels to help predict trends for the year and at various events like the Fancy Food Shows. Other members of the Specialty Food Live! Trendspotter Panel included Jonathan Deutsch, professor of culinary arts and science in the Department of Food and Hospitality Management at Drexel University in Philadelphia; Chris Styler, chef, culinary producer, and cookbook author, including the soon-to-be-released Golden Girls Cookbook; and Dawn Padmore, food event producer and cultural programmer.

Related: Consumers Treat Food as Medicine During Pandemic; Kroger Drives Plant-Based Meat Sales in Integrated Sets.