I head into the Winter Fancy Food Show (a trade show in San Francisco that showcases the latest and greatest in food trends) every year with comfortable walking shoes and fingers crossed that my stomach won't be too unhappy with what I'm about to put it through. Over the course of a few hours, I probably have at least a hundred tastes of various snacks, cheeses, drinks, and condiments. It's overwhelming but always fun to see what companies are launching and what surprising new products are on the horizon.
This year was no exception. Here are the five of the biggest trends I saw that will make their way to store shelves soon!
Note: Not everything is available yet, but we've included buying info wherever possible.
1. Plant-Based Jerky
Jerky and meat-based snack products covered the aisles, as Paleo and Whole30 diets are still popular, but plant-based jerky has started popping up too. The previous year's show darling, Bak Kwa, is launching an eggplant jerky in addition to their popular meat-based line, and there were lots of soy-based options that had a chewy texture similar to Asian faux meats. My favorite was Pan's Mushroom Jerky, which is made from shiitake mushroom stems and has a pleasant chewiness and a slightly sweet, meaty flavor. One note: Not all plant-based jerkies are actually vegan, as Pan's Mushroom Jerky contains egg whites.
Buy: Pan's Mushroom Jerky, $7.50 for 2.5 ounces
Banana chips are nothing new, but there were a lot more banana-based snack products like this irresistible Peanut Butter Banana Brittle from Barnana that tastes like a cracker version of a fresh banana covered with peanut butter. Other favorites were thin, crispy, flavored Banana Chips that ate like kettle potato chips and Tcho Chocolate's just-launched Dark Chocolate Banana Nut bar.
3. Alternative Spreads
Think beyond plain peanut butter or butter — there are a ton more newcomers vying to be spread onto your bread slices. Roland's Quinoa and Basil Spread uses chewy quinoa instead of pine nuts in this pesto variation. Eliot's Spicy Thai Peanut Butter is like fragrant Asian peanut sauce in spreadable form. And Wellnut Farm's Salted Caramel Walnut Butter does a good job of taming the bitter tannins found in walnut skins into a creamy, salty-sweet caramel-y spread.
Buy: Spicy Thai Peanut Butter, $9 for 12 ounces at Eliots Adult Nut Butters
Our love for chickpeas has no bounds. And now we can have them covered in dark chocolate from Saffron Road or in spreadable form from The Amazing Chickpea (I recommend the version that also contains sunflower seeds). The most mind-blowing new chickpea product? Faba Butter, a plant-based butter which contains aquafaba (chickpea cooking liquid) that is incredibly creamy and spreadable.
Buy: Chickpea Butter Spread, $8 for 12 ounces
Sticking with the trend of gluten-free products are all the new rice-based snack foods. Dang's Sticky-Rice Chips are slightly sweet and light as air, but with a good toasty flavor. Lotus Foods' Rice Delights are an alternative to regular Rice Krispies Treats, and there were crispy Mochi Rice Bites from SunTropics in a tamari soy sauce flavor that I could snack on all day long.
Have you started noticing these trends around already? Which one are you most excited about?