The What, Where and Why at This Year’s Winter Fancy Food Show

Posted by Ted Curtin on January 29, 2018

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This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

San Francisco’s annual Winter Fancy Food Show is a foodie’s dream! From tempting sweets, to power-packed proteins, to exciting new products like hot honeys and boozy snacks, there are enough gourmet indulgences to delight the taste buds for days. Beyond new flavors, variations and packaging, we saw the industry’s answer to key questions being asked in the food space this year, including what new buzz ingredients are going into foods, underlying trends on why certain types of foods are growing in popularity and where food exists and the role it will play in our everyday lives. After sipping and savoring our way through the gourmet food extravaganza, here’s what ProdigyWorks found.

The What

There are a few new “it” ingredients emerging as main players in food products this year. Following the plant-based trend dominating the show, notably visible were plant-based products containing beets, bananas and mushrooms.


Today, beet juice is being marketed as a natural energy drink and slices are being dried as chips. Baby beet leaves have gained popularity as a salad green in recent years and roasted beets are known as a superfood. High in fiber and vitamins A and C, beets are also rich in antioxidants, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and folic acid, making them a stellar ingredient to incorporate into food products.


Bananas have popped up in a bunch of sweet and savory foods at this year. From banana crisps to ice cream to brittle, the fruit is found in lots of food products and desserts at the WFF show. Our personal banana crazy favorite, Nancy’s Fancy Roasted Banana Gelato, made with slow-roasted caramelized bananas and bourbon and pecan praline, it’s hard to resist.


Mushrooms may lack the deep green or rich red colors that people associate with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, but they are a “powerhouse of nutrition”. Besides being low in calories and fat and cholesterol-free, mushrooms contain over a dozen minerals and vitamins, including copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc and a number of B vitamins such as folate.  Food innovators are taking note and many products are now infused with mushrooms including coffee, chips and jerky. Varieties such as reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane will be starring in unlikely products, such as bottled drinks, smoothies, and teas, Whole Foods predicts. “The rich flavors also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate, or coffee flavors,” Whole Foods said in a press release.

The Where

Times are changing, people are busier than ever before, and we don’t always have time to cook or even pick up a meal that’s both satisfying and nutritious, which can leave us making decisions that aren’t exactly the healthiest. Food companies are trying to curb this trend of unhealthy eating by making products – and packaging – more conducive to an on-the-go lifestyle. Being able to add fresh ingredients into products and sell them in handy, portable forms allows consumers to enjoy a meal or snack on the move without losing necessary nutrients for a balanced life.

Here are some products we see doing just that:

Unwrappable Bars

Easily held and consumed in a throwaway packaging, bars are the perfect boost for an early morning commute or a mid-day office snack. Using natural ingredients and no added sugar, RXBAR touts itself as a whole food protein bar that you can finally feel good about. Besides tasting great, protein bars offer a ton of nutrition that will keep you feeling fuller longer. Easily held and consumed in a throwaway packaging, it is the perfect boost for an early morning commute or a mid-day office snack.

Re-sealable Snack Bags

Snacks stored in a re-sealable package allows for individuals to indulge their cravings and store their snacks on-the-go. As a reliable supply of nutritious protein and fat, salmon has long been at the heart of the culture and livelihood of our coastal dwelling ancestors. To compliment the amazing flavor of Alaskan Salmon, EPIC mixes this nourishing cold water fish with maple, coconut oil, and a hint of dill. The end result is an amazing tasting jerky bite unlike anything you have experienced!

Peel & Go Snack Container

We’ve come a long way from Lunchables! Being able to peel open a snack and have a place to hold your food as you eat and enjoy is both convenient and sanitary. Protein-packed meat snacks, which are now outpacing potato chips in terms of sales growth, make up the third biggest category of salty snacks in the United States, (according to research from Mintel). As Americans look for high-protein, satisfying foods to get them through the day, they have more choices than ever when it comes to “Peek and Go” snacks, from flavor to format, like these Columbus Peel & Go Meat Snack Packs.

The Why

The future of food is changing, and it’s being heavily shaped by some of the largest growing segments in the economy. Listening and responding to these growing target markets’ concerns and desires is a necessary tactic for companies as they continue to come up with new, innovative solutions to meet these targets’ needs. We are already seeing how millennials and individuals with food allergies are informing the future of the industry.

Here are a couple of ways how:

Vegan and Non-GMO

With packaged food innovation focused on clean label, vegan and non-GMO have become all-star package callouts, raising the ante on organic and all-natural. Vegan is a positive cue even among those who are merely friends of vegetarians or vegans, as has also been the case with gluten-free.

Healthier Snacks

Millennials are outspending other generations on restaurants and are forking over more than $96 billion a year on food. Food companies are tracking several trends of this target demographic, one being eating healthier. For example, the search for healthier alternatives to sugary drinks—which has caused a decline in traditional soda sales—has led to growing enthusiasm among Millennials for drinking vinegars, artisanal tonics, and kombucha, launching a segment of the beverage industry that is increasing in volume to meet consumer demand.

Takeaways from this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show

While we saw a lot of familiar products at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show, we also noticed a growing shift in the focus of the industry. As consumers continue to become educated on the importance of nutrition and a well-balanced diet as part of their busy lifestyles, it is clear the industry will not only have to continue to react but also anticipate and prepare for the changing tastes of consumers and the ways they are purchasing and consuming their foods.

ProdigyWorks is focused on future trends and sustainable innovation in the food space. Since 2006, we’ve worked with some of the most iconic brands in the world helping them stay ahead of emerging industry trends.

By tapping into our global network of diverse, high-IQ thinkers, companies have access to rapid, outside thinking to quickly solve their toughest innovation challenges. Adding a lens on futuring allows us to look at how (and where) various societal, cultural and health-focused trends will intersect and detect how that will affect your industry’s competitive landscape.

As Chief Marketing Officer of LMCA, Ted leads marketing and brand strategy for one of the world’s largest brand extension licensing agencies. Ted also runs LMCA’s subsidiary ProdigyWorks, a unique high-IQ innovation think tank, representing a global network of creative geniuses that bring rapid, outside thinking to tackle innovation challenges for some of the world’s best-loved brands. Ted is an international speaker and active member of LIMA, LES and the American Marketing Association’s Executive Circle.