Melanie Bartelme
Melanie Zanoza Bartelme is a Global Food Analyst at Mintel, providing insights on global innovation and consumer trends across a number of food categories
Share
+1

At a show traditionally teeming with cheese and charcuterie, this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show, presented by the Specialty Food Association, was dominated by plants. With an increasing number of consumers interested in living cleaner and healthier lives, according to Mintel’s 2017 Global Food and Drink Trend ‘Power to the Plants,’ perhaps it should come as no surprise to see the trend impact the burgeoning specialty foods industry. Plants touched just about every category highlighted on the show floor, including snacks, desserts, broths and seemingly everything in between.

Here, Global Food Analyst Melanie Zanoza Bartelme shares insights on the ways specialty food and drink companies are harnessing the power of plants and how some categories are tapping into this trend.

Aquafaba finds new formats

Aquafaba, the brining liquid left over from processing chickpeas, has long been used by vegans as a dairy-free wonder ingredient. Last year, condiment brand Sir Kensington’s incorporated it into its Fabanaise, an egg-free mayo. This year, Fora Foods debuted its own aquafaba product, Faba Butter, a spreadable dairy-free butter which offered a smooth mouthfeel. Since one in five US consumers avoid dairy, according to Mintel’s report on free-from food trends in the US, high-quality alternatives with a familiar taste and feel may convince vegan and flexitarian consumers to experiment, especially when they contain a buzz-word ingredient like aquafaba.

Meat alternatives enter new waters

Much has already been said about meat-free beef and chicken products, with companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat extending their reach into more restaurants and retailers. But this year’s Fancy Food Show highlighted alternatives for another kind of protein: seafood. New Wave Foods sampled what it claims is the world’s only algae- and plant-based shrimp, available in “naked” and breaded varieties. The company says it is also working to develop lobster, crab and fish fillets. Meanwhile, Good Catch introduced its crabcakes, fish burgers and Fish-Free Tuna, a plant-based flaked fish with the texture of canned or pouched tuna. With 88% of US consumers saying plant-based proteins are healthy, according to Mintel’s US report on plant-based proteins, there’s plenty of ground—and ocean—left to cover in this space.

Nuts spread in new directions

Nut (and nut-type) butters abounded at the show, and it was interesting to see new nuts being incorporated into this category. Two companies showcased pistachio butter, while Wellnut Farms debuted a walnut butter, which it claims is an industry first. The Amazing Chickpea launched three chickpea butters that are intended to offer a nutty-tasting alternative to peanut butter. Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters moved peanut butter into new territory with savory flavors, such as garam masala, sriracha and harissa, which could serve as a base for cooking sauces or simply be used as a dip or spread. These new products show that the spreads category is continuing to innovate and offer consumers ways to enjoy plant-based proteins while engaging their adventurous sides.

Frozen desserts go fruity

Frozen desserts are among the fastest-growing specialty food categories and plant-based offerings are helping to drive this growth, according to Mintel’s own David Lockwood, Director of Mintel Consulting, who presented at the show. One company working in this category is Hakuna Banana, which blends bananas, coconuts and dates into the base for its plant-based “nicecream.” Meanwhile, Izza Pops are made from coconut milk and cashews and contain no more than six ingredients. These free-from indulgences should appeal to the 26% of frozen treat consumers who consider natural ingredients an important purchase factor, according to Mintel’s US report on ice cream.