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.

The Specialty Food Association held its first virtual conference, SFA Live, September 21-24. This show was intended as a way for specialty food purveyors to connect with buyers following the cancelation of the 2020 Summer Fancy Food Show this summer. Global Food Analyst Melanie Zanoza Bartelme served on the show’s Trendspotter Panel and chose five innovative products that will help home cooks keep their meals novel and exciting in the months to come.

Runamok Maple Sparkle Syrup

Runamok Maple’s latest limited release syrup is intended to bring joy to weary consumers. Its sold-out Sparkle Syrup combines pure maple syrup with food-safe pearlescent mica to create a “shimmery breakfast.” The company notes on its website that “life has been very, very serious lately, and it is safe to say that 2020 has left no one unscathed. And while we can’t fix the big stuff, we can offer this little bit of whimsy to help make everyone smile.” The pandemic has encouraged consumers to seek comfort from their food, with nearly half of US consumers saying they are regularly eating indulgent foods as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bettye’s Seasoning Blends Smoked Watermelon Salt

Bettye’s Seasoning Blends Smoked Watermelon Salt is intended to serve as a shortcut for consumers who may be missing out on a trending foodservice experience: smoked watermelon. This seasoning blend cuts out the eight hours required to smoke a watermelon and instead draws on smoky peppers, watermelon and tangy herbs to create a sprinkle for fruits and veggies. Products like these should be especially appealing to home cooks tasked with finding ways to be creative in the kitchen day after day. And they could help make eating the right amount of vegetables easier to bear: one in five US vegetable users say that eating enough vegetables feels like a chore.

Spirit & Co. Vodka & Italian Tomato Ketchup

Tomatoes and vodka are not a new combination. They pair well in the Bloody Mary and the traditional vodka sauce. But Spirit & Co. Vodka & Italian Tomato Ketchup is bringing that pairing to a new space: condiments. The brand-new brand is made with premium spirits for an updated take on a classic table sauce. Products like these will appeal to consumers who are trading down from restaurants but still long for a special compliment to their at-home meals. In the US, nearly two in five consumers say they have dined at a restaurant in the past three months, putting increased pressure on consumers to re-create the restaurant experience in other ways, according to Mintel research on COVID-19’s impact on foodservice.

Old Salt Merchants Cocktail Kit

Old Salt Merchants Cocktail Kit includes six delicious ways to kick cocktails up a notch: lavender sugar, black lava salt, chili lime salt, whiskey sugar, rose sugar, and extra smoked salt. This kit was joined at the show by a range of other cocktail “helpers,” such as Tillen Farms’ Old Fashioned Syrup and Runamok Maple’s Maple Bitters. These shortcuts are especially timely, as consumers are likely reducing their intake of specialty cocktails — and perhaps not by choice.

Urban Accents Plant-Based Meatless Mix

Consumers are increasingly interested in plant-based products, and the show was filled with innovations using oat milk, fava beans and aquafaba. But the most interesting and convenient plant-based product was Urban Accents Plant-Based Meatless Mix. This powdered product is simply mixed with water to create the equivalent of one pound of ground meat — in just 15 minutes. This mix puts the consumer in control and can alleviate concerns about being able to access chilled products should retailers experience another round of shortages this winter. According to Mintel research on US plant-based proteins, two in five consumers who used plant-based meat alternatives typically have them available at home.