Gluten-free products dominate Fancy Food Show

6/27/2012

Specialty and imported food shows have long been the bastion of gourmands and chefs (professional and home).

With the advent of organics and gluten-free products over the last few years, these exhibits are attracting a slew of new attendees, including hippie types and holistic medicine practitioners.

In fact, the Summer Fancy Food Show at the Washington DC Convention Center last week was heavily populated with a combination of Ben & Jerry’s groupies and people in comfortable shoes preaches the evils of nightshade vegetables.

Along with more than 5,000 olive oil distributors, restaurant owners, salsa makers and brand spokesmen, these visitors saw a lot of new and somewhat new trends in specialty foods.

There were different versions of healthy and low-calorie snacks in each aisle, most of which were targeted to a younger audience. There were chips made from every type of potato grown, including lentils, sweet potatoes, coconut, hummus, falafel, pinto beans and more.

Gluten-free products have been at the show for a few years now, and this year it seemed every other booth was featuring something without wheat. There was even a tea merchant with a big sign reading “Gluten-Free Tea!”

There were also a variety of drinks made from aloe, and a brownie brittle that looked and smelled great, but didn’t taste all that good. Opposite that, something that sounded disgusting and actually smelled okay, was bacon lip balm.

Show producer National Association for the Specialty Food Trade said there were more than 150,000 SKUs in the exhibit hall; so eating your way around the room was not a problem.

There was a definite overabundance of the four Cs: cheeses, crackers, candy and cookies. In years past, there seemed to be more proteins and centre plate items, so you could sample your way to a full meal.

This new concentration on sweets and snacks, while anything but a bad thing, made it a little more challenging to find something interesting. Still, there were new artisan varieties of everything from preserves to tea that could certainly capture the imagination of a supermarket merchandiser.

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